Wednesday, September 30, 2009


we’re offering proof you can’t refute
the world is flat and the sun is our slave
a backward leap ten centuries
blurring the line between fact and faith
one source has the information
a literal interpretation
every metaphor's ignored with every bone
that’s underneath this floor
heresy in stone

we only discuss what fits for us
distrust (disgust) for he who hasn’t found the way
same frightened old world
reason unfurls
a new age for the righteous (credulous) and the afraid

those rules are clear:
no pork* and no queers**
shellfish, no***
wool and linen can’t be mixed****
celebrate a plague that culls the strays*****
compassion’s another of Satan’s tricks
one source has the explanation
no faith in these excavations

Lucy looks nothing like eve
no Scopes will taint what my child believes

just give me that ol' time intolerance
blind faith in a confused text
that was written and rewritten with mortal hands
all in for the bonfires

*Leviticus 11:7
**Leviticus 20:13
*** Leviticus 11:9-12
****Leviticus 19:19
***** and who could forget

As a species, we're pretty fond of ourselves. One need only take a look at the monuments of staggering size that blot the globe, or between the pages of the millions of philosophical and literary tracts that we've written about ourselves, to get a sense of how truly great we think Homo Sapiens are. And we've had this opinion for quite some time. Roughly two thousand years ago, Ptolemy wrote a treatise on astronomy called the Almagest. In it he declared that the earth was the centre of the universe, and that everything, including the sun, orbited it. Needless to say, it was an extremely popular model for more than a century. It wasn't until Copernicus stepped in, somewhere in the mid-1500s, with his theory of a heliocentric solar system that challenged the accepted geocentric model, that human beings were faced with the notion that not everything revolved around them. It caused quite a stir too. The church had a big problem with it, and that led to a shit load of persecution: the imprisonment of Galileo, his forced renouncement of the Copernican system, and Giordano Bruno being burnt at the stake.* The way the church saw it, humans were God's crowning achievement - it says so in his book. To suggest otherwise was to spit in the face of the creator. And because of this kind of thinking, there is no better example of how our arrogance as a species manifests itself, than in the realm of religion. All three of the monotheisms of our time assure their followers that they are God’s favorite. Even today, Christians, Jews and Muslims all hold tight to the notion that in an infinite universe, on a tiny planet teeming with life forms, the actions of a few billion bipeds would warrant the attention, much less the adulation and wrath, of an all-powerful deity. It may sound ridiculous, but this is a very popular worldview. People (lots of people) still believe that the creator of everything spends his time reading the minds of creatures whose entire lifespan as a species won’t register as anything longer than a pussy fart on the universe’s timeline. The question is why?

Worship of our respective gods stems from our awareness of our mortality. Quite simply, we invented God because we are afraid to die, and we long to be immortal. And that's just what religion offers. Submitting to this or to that impossible being (or to his emissaries on earth) will allow you to purchase real estate in heaven and live forever - just as long as you don’t step out of line. While this may have been a seemingly rational system of belief centuries ago, when the superstitious writers (and rewriters) of the holy books were constructing their texts, our more recent history of inquiry, critical thinking and observation has proven such groundless notions to be mere foolishness. Simply put, we’re not that important and there isn’t a shred of proof that our actions in the corporeal world will gain us eternal life in a supernatural paradise that no one has ever seen.

We can debate faith vs. fact, but it’s a pretty one-sided argument. In order for me to accept any theory (theological or scientific) there needs to be some evidence provided that supports it. One book, the author’s of which are shrouded in mystery, is a pretty poor foundation for a system of belief. The credulity that is necessary for religious faith is not a virtue, and it makes for a weak argument. There is no evidence that a super being helped write the Bible.** There is no proof of divine inspiration. Christ's biographers Mathew, Mark, Luke and John were human, and never even met him (Jesus had been dead for several decades before they even began writing about his life). The New Testament is a very human book. If you love Christ, that’s cool, but you should realize that the recorded accounts of his life that survived and made it into the canon, which you, as a Christian, must believe to be factual to a certain degree, are suspicious in terms of their consistency and historical value. The gospels are so riddled with inconsistencies (only two of the Gospels mention a virgin birth) and contradictions (in the gospel of Mathew Christ heals two blind beggars outside of Jerusalem, but in Mark he only heals one blind beggar)*** that, had they actually been divinely created, they prove that god is a horrible writer/editor and far less perfect than we could have imagined. These problems that plague the first four books of the New Testament are made that much more apparent when one learns that for every word in the Bible there is a textual variation among the thousands upon thousands of manuscripts that have survived the ages. These textual variations are mostly the result of how books used to be produced. Printing presses didn't make an appearance until the 1400s. Everything before that was written by hand. It's understandable then that scribes would make errors while they were copying the text. And once those errors were written down they were later copied by someone else and so on and so on. Thus, you have a lot of variation within the same text. Not all variations were the result of some scribe’s fuck up, however. There's evidence that some would deliberately alter the text, adding and omitting certain tales about Jesus that meshed with their particular notion of Christianity. Because of this, some ancient manuscripts contain the story of Jesus and the adulterous woman****, and some don't. And once again, as soon as the new tales were added or the old ones erased, that particular version of the New Testament was reproduced, adding to the confusion and hassle of modern day textual critics. It is impossible to sort out which Bible is the true word of God, simply because there are just too many different versions. God's various books then raise some pretty big questions about his existence. Why are there so many different versions of his masterpiece? Why couldn’t an all-powerful deity keep his words intact? Why didn’t he protect them from scribes who accidentally or deliberately altered the text? It was a book about his son for fuck's sake! The answer is obvious – He didn't write it. He isn't watching. No one (except for those who have been suckered by this myth) cares if you masturbate, eat pork, or have bum sex. We are not that important.

I spend a lot of time writing and singing about religion, and, to the chagrin of many (including my band mates) babbling about it on stage in between songs. If you're at all familiar with the band, that's no secret, and it will come as no surprise that this topic is raised frequently on our album. I've been asked, quite a lot actually, what the fuck is it all for? What's your beef with God? Why all this religion bashing? My primary reason is pretty unromantic - I just find the topic interesting. I'm fascinated by people who really believe that there's a man listening to their thoughts! Seriously, that's fucking fascinating to me (not to mention, hilarious and horrifying). I have no atheist agenda, beyond speaking my mind. I'm not out to convert anyone to unbelief. That would be, above all else, silly. I suppose I do feel a moral imperative to speak out against something I see as being a source of great pain, stupidity and misery in the world. But that smacks of self-righteousness...the last thing anyone needs to do is act more like me. I got problems, man. Bearing that in mind, however, I find it pretty much impossible to hide the anger, frustration and derision I feel when I see the Scopes' Monkey Trial re-enacted on the evening news; or when I’m delicately accosted on the bus by smartly dressed homophobes that want to tell me about John smith and Jesus; or when I read about a young girl having acid thrown in her face for trying to go to school. Tolerance of other people's beliefs does not mean I have to accept those beliefs, or remain silent for risk of offending. This world thrives on ideas and this song is far less offensive than a woman being whipped for committing adultery (yes, that still happens on this planet), or a person being denied basic civil liberties, or a book being burned for asking questions.

I would never suggest that people should be denied their right to believe in anything. Every human being should be allowed to think freely and speak their mind as they see fit. This does not mean that their claims about the machinations of the universe, and the meaning of life, automatically demand respect and are exempt from criticism. If you're going to tell everyone you have the answer to all of humankind's questions then you had better be able to back it up. Groundless claims, no matter how intensely you believe them to be true, deserve criticism and ridicule, particularly ones that have formerly been defended with torture and the live cremation of skeptics. The burning of heretics (i.e. free-thinkers) at the stake is a pretty infrequent event these days, but the claims of religion are still having an impact on our pursuit of knowledge. The proponents of intelligent design are still lobbying to have it taught as an alternative to the theory of evolution in classrooms across North America. This is a pretty big problem. It is nothing short of arrogant to think that we have all the answers to our biggest questions about life and the universe, but beyond that, it is utter intellectual laziness to simply attribute all the things we don’t yet know or understand to the actions of a supernatural being. Just because there is a gap in our knowledge about things, does not mean that that gap can be filled with God. Anyone that tells you they know the meaning of life and the answer to the question, “why are we here?” is lying. They may be deluded, and actually believe that they know these things, but more often than not, they are offering you their answers in order to control you or to take your money. The easy answer is not always the right one. Teaching a child that everything in the universe was created with the snap of some fingers and the molding of some clay places that child on a path leading backwards through time, away from all that we have come to understand, and have yet to understand, about ourselves and what surrounds us. Our fantastic beliefs about our beginnings and our place in the universe may seem harmless, but it is precisely this willful ignorance that has guided us to destroy ourselves and our environment for centuries. With the exception of the thinkers that have worked to expand human understanding, a great deal of our species has clung to a vision of us that is completely false. There is no evidence, aside from a few archaic manuscripts, that proves we are not the vanity project of a supernatural being. We are not separate from, or superior to, nature. We are not going to live after we die. All of these claims have no proof. They're simply not true. We are (as far as we know) the product of a chemical/electrical reaction that happened millions of years ago which instigated a slow process of evolution. But we don't know for sure, and here is where we see the division that exists between science and religion. Science admits when it doesn't know something. It is constantly changing, challenging and refuting theories of the past, expanding upon them and altering them as new information is acquired. Religion, on the other hand, is stagnant. It claims to know everything and refuses to change its central theories in spite of what new information is presented.

There is so much that we don't know about, well, everything. And a lot of it will never be revealed. We should, of course, keep trying to learn more about ourselves and the universe, and we should stop accepting the easy solutions to tough problems that we have been championing for so long. Paradise is not beyond the clouds; it is underneath them and has been for thousands***** of years. Our gaze and concern needs to be redirected from the heavens to the biosphere. The bonfires that have burned throughout our history are still raging, perpetually fanned with superstition, fear, and arrogance. These flames may provide comfort for some, but their fuel has been the theft of freedom, the destruction of art and literature, and the silencing of voices whose only concern was learning the truth.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

*There is some debate about whether or not Bruno was burned alive for defending the Copernican system, or for some other offense. Regardless of what his actual crime against God was the Catholic Church still executed him in a particularly brutal fashion.

**I am, by no means, an expert on theology. I've read a great deal about religion, but to be honest, most of it was criticism. I've tackled the bible, but have always found myself skipping the genealogies of the Old Testament, and struggling to remain awake through the repetition of the New Testament. I made it through the Gospels, but Paul, or Saul, of Tarsus is such a boring, hate-filled read that I just gave up. I enjoyed a fair chunk of the Psalms, particularly how they begin:

"Blessed is the man who does not walk in the council of the wicked."(KJV)

That’s a beautiful line. What a great way to say, "The guy who doesn't hang out with dickheads is pretty smart and is probably going to have a pretty good life.” I think this one form the 69th psalm is pretty awesome as well, and not just for the irony:

"More in number than the hairs of my head are those who hate me without cause." (NRSV)

Had I the ability to come up with something as poetic, Hostage Life may have had a realistic shot at winning some of the awards we were nominated for a couple years ago when the radio decided to like us, and we seemed like a band that deserved some kind of nomination.
I grew up in a small town that was home to 14 churches and 1 library. On Sunday afternoons the only movie theatre at my disposal became a Sunday school that played exclusively Christian movies. My grade six teacher told our class that people who were never baptized (people like me) were doomed to spend eternity in pain, bobbing in a lake of fire. That teacher was eventually dismissed for slapping a student that took the lord’s name in vain. Regardless, her threat of never ending torment kept me awake at night for a long time. All of these factors are the reason that the focus of my ranting is aimed at Christianity. Geography and experience make it the most familiar faith. This does not mean, however, that I am trying to frame it as being worse than the other two monotheisms. I consider all three to be equally vicious and ridiculous. But Christianity drew first blood.

***This may be a small inconsistency but it nevertheless illustrates the existence of said inconsistencies.

****"He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." (John 8:7 KJV) It's actually a great story, and Jesus comes off as brilliant and awesome as he totally outwits and exposes as hypocrites the Pharisees and Scribes that are persecuting the adulterous woman.

*****For the thousands of years that we've been here, at least. 2 billion years ago this place wouldn't have been so great for us.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


As someone that never made friends with an instrument, but needed to contribute something other than a marginal singing voice to his bands, I have always felt that a song's lyrics were incredibly significant. I used to love it when I went to shows and bands that I had never seen, much less heard of, were handing out lyrics sheets at their merch table. (Keep in mind I'm old and the internet wasn't always as accessible as it is now.) I loved it even more if the lyric sheets contained little blurbs about the writer's motivation or inspiration for what she/he had written. Only at punk rock shows have I ever seen this behaviour in musicians. And while I know that punk rock hardly has the market cornered on socio-political commentary, it's prevalence in the genre, and the accessibility of these ideas, was one of the things I found so appealing. I haven't come across many handouts beyond political pamphlets and gig flyers at shows in more recent years. I don't have anything against political tracts, or necessary self-promotion, but when I started writing the lyrics for Centre of the Universe I knew I wanted to get back to this tradition of expanding upon the ideas contained in a song and sharing it with the listener - one nerd to another.

Hostage Life doesn't give out lyric sheets at shows, of course. Photocopying is too expensive, I'm too lazy to haul my ass to the copy shop, and really the last thing the world needs is more ready-to-discard paper products. It's much easier, and far less wasteful, for me to post lyrics and their accompanying essays in a blog and let anyone with internet access and an interest in witnessing some self-indulgence have a look.

Every day or so we'll be adding song lyrics and essays...until we run out. From then on we'll find something else to type about. If you've found yourself here and have no idea what the hell I'm talking about, then go to and download our new album Centre of the Universe for free. Cheers.