Eurovision exemplifies that only God can satisfy human desires

Eurovision exemplifies that only God can satisfy human desires Switzerland's Nemo who won the 2024 Eurovision song contest.

The controversy surrounding Eurovision 2024 led me to recall Fr Michael Paul Gallagher SJ’s commentary on St Paul’s visit to Athens. On arrival, St Paul “was deeply distressed to see that the city was full of idols” (Acts 17:16). Yet despite this, he searched for something in the Athenians’ worship of pagan deities that he could use as a ‘hook’ to proclaim the Gospel. Gallagher sees in Paul’s approach a model for genuine discernment of contemporary culture rather than the mere adoption, on the one hand of a stance of tense hostility, or, on the other, of innocent acceptance. Along similar lines, I want to consider the Eurovision performance by the winner, Nemo Mettler from Switzerland, and by Ireland’s Bambie Ray Robinson, aka Bambie Thug, who came sixth. The desolation these performers expressed and the desires they evoked clearly resonated with many people and therefore can shed some light on the cultural landscape in which we seek to proclaim Christian faith today.

The desire for the perfect

The winning song, entitled ‘The Code’ is reported to have been a source of personal healing for Nemo. “Finding myself has been a long and often difficult process… but nothing feels better than the freedom I have gained by realising that I am non-binary,” Nemo said.

Both Nemo and Bambie allude repeatedly, on and off stage, to their desire for love, freedom, compassion, happiness, authenticity and self-acceptance”

So, Nemo invites “everyone to crack their own code and enter the kingdom of authenticity”. The song’s lyrics, it is reported, articulate a journey from loneliness and uncertainty to happiness and self-acceptance: “I went to hell and back to put myself on track”, Nemo sings, adding that “somewhere between the 0’s and 1’s (sic) that’s where I found my kingdom come… Now I found paradise.”

Bambie Thug also identifies as non-binary and, like Nemo, claims to have gained freedom in realising this, accusing critics of being “jealous of the freedom I live in”. This freedom notwithstanding, however, Bambie has admitted in an interview that “everything I do is going to be dark”. There’s a chilling shrillness to ‘Doomsday Blue’, the Irish Eurovision 2024 entry. It is all crucifixion and no resurrection, as ritualised by Bambie’s wearing of a crown of thorns and ceremoniously crowning Nemo with it as the Swiss win was announced. The song is born, apparently, out of the pain of a relationship that turned toxic: “For your romance, I’d beg, steal and borrow. It’s draining me hollow, I guess you’d rather have a star than the moon.” Both Nemo and Bambie allude repeatedly, on and off stage, to their desire for love, freedom, compassion, happiness, authenticity and self-acceptance.

True desire is for God

The Areopagus at the time of St Paul’s visit was a centre of altars, shrines and temples and in this respect perhaps not all that different from the Eurovision. As Michael Paul Gallagher points out, Paul’s address to the Athenians, recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, is surprisingly generous given the initial sense of revulsion that seized him when he arrived there. Paul begins by praising the Greeks for their religiosity, telling them that their many altars to different deities demonstrates a deep desire for God. He then explains how God has created humans precisely so that they would search for Him “though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For ‘in him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’” Here, Paul cleverly uses the Athenians’ own poets to make his point. Then comes the clincher: the God whom you desire has been revealed in the resurrection of Christ from the dead.  On hearing this, we are told, some scoffed but others indicated a willingness to hear more (Acts 17:32); all things considered, not a bad outcome.

Created to desire God

In today’s Areopagus, and perhaps learning from St Paul, we too need to begin by affirming as good the desire, shared by so many young people today and articulated in these Eurovision performances, for love, freedom, compassion, happiness, authenticity and self-acceptance. At the same time, we might want to gently bring them to recognise as true two key Christian insights. The first is that we humans are incapable of attaining what we desire by our own efforts. The second is that, in any case, the attainment of what we desire will always be incomplete in this life.

Each of us comes from God with a hole in the heart, an emptiness which we are always seeking to fill”

Let me say, in passing, that I am concerned that many of our wellbeing programmes in schools and colleges, even those that are Catholic, fail to acknowledge these two insights sufficiently. Instead, they confirm many people’s belief today that a life without suffering or limitation, is somehow possible and that happiness, here and now, is theirs by right. Rather than alleviating the wellbeing crisis, this presupposition only tends to make it worse.

As St Paul told the Athenians, humans are created to search for God. And so, Christians know that no ‘thing’, nothing that is created, no object or possession, not even friendships and relationships, can satisfy the deepest of human desires. Only God can do this. Enda Lyons explained this well: “Each of us comes from God with a hole in the heart, an emptiness which we are always seeking to fill… Despite our best efforts … nothing but love that knows no limit will fill the hole fully because our capacity for love knows no limit.”

If we forget this, St Augustine cautioned, that if, for instance, we task even the most loving and durable of human relationships with filling the infinite cavity in our hearts that only God can fill, then we run the risk of damaging and even destroying these relationships. If, on the other hand, we permit God to fill what is an infinite capacity for infinite love, then everything else falls into place. We can form relationships with other people that are non-possessive and enjoy friendships that are grounded both in love and in freedom. We can enjoy finite things, whether belongings, achievements, a career or whatever, appropriately, that is, without expecting these limited realities to provide us with a level of happiness or satisfaction that they simply cannot.


Contemporary culture tends to ‘frame’ human life in immanent, that is ‘this-worldly’, terms only. If there is no God, and the existence of a transcendental or ‘other-worldly’ dimension to life is illusory then happiness and fulfilment are entirely pinned on the present. This, of course, intensifies the pressure on our lives to be ‘successful’, whatever that means.

Increasingly, however, fewer people are opting for a ‘pure’ atheism. Instead, as Tomáš Halík, says, the wall between ‘believers’ and ‘non-believers’ is collapsing and there is “a growing number of those in whose minds and hearts faith and unbelief are intertwined”. This explains to some extent the melange of spiritualities, myths and legends behind the witch persona adopted by Bambie Thug. At most, however, such a melange of beliefs is likely to demonstrate a self-selected openness to the transcendent rather than an encounter with it.

If this life is all there is, then the pressure to live it in a state of perfection is all the greater”

Some 80 years ago, the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre wrote that to be human means “to choose oneself”. He said that there is nothing outside us that we can receive or accept. This is what we see at play today. We are disposed to believe that we can and must invent for ourselves what being human means, and that authentic freedom is achieved precisely in doing so. If nothing is ‘given’ or predetermined, then everything is, indeed, ‘fluid’. And if everything is fluid, then it seems possible and even plausible to pursue what seems the perfect human state, modifying our minds and bodies as we see fit, gender included, and using all that science and technology has to offer to enable us to do so. If this life is all there is, then the pressure to live it in a state of perfection is all the greater.


The difficulty, however, as Sartre recognised, is that, in his words, “making ourselves to be, down to the slightest detail” becomes “an intolerable necessity”. It becomes intolerable because we are simply not built for it. Rather, as the philosopher William Desmond has put it, we are “given to be” before “we give to be”. There is no getting out of the Creator-creature relationship, much as we would like (think, Original Sin). Life is not something we manufacture for ourselves. Rather, it is a response to a gift and a calling. Happiness is found in accepting our dignity and destiny as dependent creatures. So long, however, as we ourselves occupy the throne of God (“my kingdom come”, sang Nemo), God cannot reach us. “So long as we play at God, or we put something in His place”, writes Halík, “we cannot encounter God.”

This led him to realise that true happiness comes from following Christ and so he returned to the Church”

One Eurovision 2024 performer, Marko Purišić from Croatia, who came second in the competition, recently gave an interview in which he exemplifies what Halík is saying here. The Pillar reports that Purišić came to the realisation that: “I was a god to myself, and everything was subordinated to me. And inside? Darkness, brokenness and sadness. I cried for days on end sometimes.” This was despite considerable career success. While in a particularly dark place his father took him to meet a priest friend. “Having met with him, the darkness slowly began to disappear, and happiness and a feeling of fulfilment took its place.” The Pillar reports that in prayer Purišić came to recognise God as a living person who was saying to him “you are mine”. This led him to realise that true happiness comes from following Christ and so he returned to the Church. “With God I got myself back,” he says. Purišić’s performance came second in the Eurovision.


There are two ‘takeaways’ worth reflecting upon from Eurovision 2024. The first is that, paradoxically, the desolation and desires expressed in the performances validate the Christian insight that only God can satisfy human desires. The second ‘takeaway’ is the invitation to channel our own ‘inner St Paul’ and engage with renewed confidence with whatever we see as the Areopagus of our own era.

Fr Eamonn Conway is a priest and Professor of Integral Human Development at the University of Notre Dame Australia.