Extraterrestrial Jesus

So in the past week, there has been quite a bit of excitement after the discovery of Kepler-452b (aka Earth 2.0) was announced. The most interesting discussion for me was Benjamin L. Corey’s response to Jeff Schweitzer’s claim that the existence of alien life would spell the end of religion. Ben refutes Schweitzer pretty comprehensively, so I’m not going to take too much time on that, but the topic did leave me absolutely fascinated with all the questions it would open up.

As Corey shows in his response, I think that Schweitzer’s main issue is that he picked the wrong proof to base his article around, mainly because he seems to believe that every Christian (and religious person for that matter) is a young earth creationist. This is already a rather poor “proof” to base a whole opinion around though, because it has already been long established that you can be Christian without taking the creation account literally. It’s also rather silly to insist that, because the Bible never mentions extraterrestrial life, then therefore the Bible is wrong if they are discovered. I assume the logic of this notion is that Schweitzer can’t understand why God would hide knowledge from us, but this just seems like a poor assumption to me. Considering that nearly everything in the Bible was written to, and about, a specific time, place and peoples, why the heck would they mention “oh yeah, by the way, there are aliens out there too. Have fun!”

While Schweitzer’s article is fundamentally flawed, that’s not to say that the topic is not entirely without merit. While I sincerely doubt that alien life will spell the end of religion, it would certainly cause a shift in some traditional dogma and cause a small percentage of religious people to abandon their faith. For example, young earth creationism would be dealt a major blow and would become even more of a joke than it already is (and yet, despite Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research stating that alien life is impossible within a creationist’s belief system, they will definitely change their tunes to save face). This, of course, doesn’t even take into account all the people who will ignore or deny these discoveries.

Personally, I think Schweitzer would have been far better served if he had tackled his thesis by asking theological questions about the impact alien life would have on religion, because I believe this is where peoples’ faith will be tested the most (since I understand it the best, I’ll focus on the impacts on Christianity in particular though). For example, if we discover an intelligent species, then are they capable of attaining salvation (aka, did Jesus die for the aliens too)? Or what if we discover an intelligent alien species which has very similar Christ-like narratives – would this mean that God’s son had to come and die multiple times for each species? And if not, then how much sense does it make for Jesus to only come to one life-bearing planet and leave all the others in the dark (this, of course, assumes that all of creation is sinful)? If all discovered species have animal-level intelligence, then can we just ignore them in terms of their theological impact? Will alien life debunk Christian dogma, or are our beliefs meant to be tied to humans and our planet only? Perhaps most dangerous is the following question that all Christians will have to ask themselves: am I just twisting my beliefs so that I don’t have to deny them?

In any case, I think that these sorts of theological/philosophical issues would be far more likely to lead people out of religion if we contact alien life, rather than any supposed “incompatibilities” with the Bible and extraterrestrial life. I do find it quite interesting though that, in the past 10-15 years, belief in alien life has gone from being a crackpot idea to a very plausible possibility (that said, believing that Earth has been visited by alien life is in a whole other league – there’s a big difference between probability and an unverifiable lack of concrete evidence). Of course, just like how these attitudes have adapted over time, the religious response will surely evolve and become more sophisticated as we inch closer and closer to the possibility of extraterrestrial contact. With any luck, Christianity will be progressive enough to be open to the possibility when the time comes and have the proper responses to deal with it.

Oh, but screw the young earth creationists. They’ve had it coming for a long time.

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IC2S Playlist Update 29/07/2015

So I’m trying something a little different this week and going with a bit of a loose theme in my song selection… I’ll let you figure it out, because it should be pretty obvious when you listen to them. First up is “Just One Dance” by Caro Emerald from Deleted Scenes From the Cutting Room Floor. This might just be the absolute best Caro Emerald song, and I’m actually kind of surprised that I like it so much. I’m usually not a huge pop music fan, but I can see this slotting into a Top 40 playlist very easily. The song is just really catchy, with Caro’s fantastic singing voice and extremely classy style (in spite of the decidedly seedy subject matter) leading the way.

Second this week is “Maybellene i Hofteholder” by Volbeat from Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood. Guitar Gangsters… might just be my favourite Volbeat album, and “Maybellene i Hofteholder” is definitely my favourite song from it. Besides sounding awesome, the lyrics are also really interesting and tragic, in a kind of a strangely pathetic way. The song is told from the perspective of a creepy old bastard who becomes obsessively infatuated over an exotic dancer at the local club, Maybellene. When he tries to tell her how he feels, she rebuffs him. He doesn’t take this particularly well, and he chases her back to her apartment, where she locks him out. In desperation, he sets a fire to try to smoke her out of the house, but accidentally ends up burning down her home and kills her in the process. For whatever reason, the fact that the main character is such an obvious idiot endears me to this song quite a bit. Perhaps it is because it’s such an unorthodox, self-aware, tongue-in-cheek “love” song.

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Album Review: Laniakea (2015)

So I was very excited the other day when I saw that my copy of Laniakea by Sovereign Council had arrived (and earlier than I had expected no less)! I have written in the past about how excited I was for this album, so I busted it out and have listened to it a few times now. Unfortunately, I’m not a very learned music reviewer, so this will probably be more impressionistic and less in-depth than my movie or video game reviews (not to mention that music might be the most subjective medium to attempt to review), but I’m going to try to tackle this anyway.

If you’re familiar with Sovereign Council’s debut album, New Reign, then the first thing that will probably strike you about Laniakea is just how ambitious it is. It’s obvious the band decided to step things up and pour their souls into this release, because it really shows in basically every facet of the production. This shows perhaps most clearly in the lyrics. Most of the songs on Laniakea follow a non-traditional structure (as in, they do not feature rhyming couplets and don’t necessarily follow the verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus structure that typifies most popular forms of music). While the lyrics were the sole weak point on New Reign, the songwriting has been stepped up quite significantly, and the non-traditional structure works quite well. There are still a couple awkward moments (most notably on “The Human Condition”, where the line “I only see one constant failure to perfect” doesn’t flow very well and makes the song stutter for a moment), but these are just as often offset by some very cool songwriting (“Decima” features the epic repeated verse “it’s the only way to enjoy the slow ride into the afterlife”, which just makes me want to sing along). In addition, Laniakea also happens to be a concept album, a feature which I did not expect going in. This cohesion actually makes the individual songs feel more meaningful. I’m usually pretty bad at deciphering concept albums, but on a very basic level, the album seems to follow the life of a man who seeks knowledge and wants to overcome human weakness – particularly the ultimate equalizer, death. To that end, the album remains quite consistent and slots into the power metal genre very comfortably.

While ambitious is the buzzword that I’d say most clearly typifies Laniakea, Sovereign Council have also clearly matured since New Reign, and wisely keep themselves from overstuffing the album in the pursuit of ambition. They have refined their sound in a very deliberate manner, making Laniakea‘s sound feel very polished and cohesive, while also allowing for some diversity to keep things fresh from song to song. While the album features 14 tracks, none of them feel like filler. The vocals have also gotten far more diverse. There is far more interplay between Alex and Lisa now, and when they join together in vocal harmony, we get some of the absolute most powerful moments on the album. Also, I have to give a shoutout to whoever the band member is doing the death growls (I regret that I don’t know who it is), they really punctuate the lyrics whenever they appear, particularly on “Nona”.

As for some track highlights, the album opens with “Rise”, which de-emphasizes the vocals in favour of showing off the expertise of the musicians and the guest violins. It’s a good preview of the rest of the album to come. “The Burden of Life” is definitely one of the stronger songs on the album, with the vocal harmonies of Alex and Lisa mixing with the death growls to create a very pleasing sound. “The Human Condition” is, I think, meant to be the “Bring It Down” moment on this album, and is probably the most relentlessly heavy and fast-tempo song on the album, while also tackling some pretty interesting themes. However, as far as I’m concerned, the real crown jewel of the album is the trifecta of “Morta”, “Nona” and “Decima”. While they are technically 3 separate tracks, as far as I am concerned they should be viewed as a single 10-minute epic. “Morta” opens slowly, building up appropriately to make the heavy stuff later more effective, while the death growls on “Nona” are contrasted fantastically with Lisa’s much softer vocals. Finally, “Decima” just blows the doors right off as the vocals and music get raised to equal prominence and we get a passionate and aggressive conclusion.

All-in-all, if you have any interest in hard rock or metal music and are in the market for something distinctly ambitious, I recommend giving Laniakea a look. While there is probably still some room for improvement in the future, Sovereign Council has poured their all into creating a really professional product, and the results do not disappoint.

8/10

UPDATE: Okay, I just saw Sovereign Council in concert for their album release celebration, and they were fantastic. If you get a chance to see them live, then just do it. I want to clarify a couple things though. First off, the person doing the death growls/screams on the album is Alex, which is even more impressive than I first thought. Secondly, I want to clarify that my thoughts on the lyrics on New Reign were just my opinion, confined to a handful of songs which stood out, and even then I really love that album regardless. Just figured I’d mention that because I was super surprised (and humbled) when it turned out that people had actually read this review and I don’t want anyone to get the wrong ideas because of my potentially crappy impression.

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Quick Fix: James Bond Will Return…

Way back in my very first post on this blog, I wrote up a short article about how Skyfall killed the “James Bond is a code name” fan theory and basically destroyed any chance of seeing Idris Elba as Bond without breaking with the newly established canon. However, with the Spectre trailer releasing yesterday, it seems like an appropriate time for me to lay down the speculation I have had to legitimize both sides of this argument and make way for far more inclusivity in the Bond franchise from here onward.

Since they very rarely brought up any sense of continuity, the previous James Bond films were able to get away with their changing actors and tones with little suspension of disbelief required. This is where the code name theory came from – each “James Bond” was simply filling in a code name when they were promoted to the position of 007. This theory made a lot of sense and, up until Skyfall, it looked like the most reasonable way to explain why we could have the same M in the Brosnan era and the “origin story” Casino Royale. However, Skyfall unexpectedly grounded the current 007 in a very specific place and time and established pretty conclusively that this Bond actually is named “James Bond”. It’s pretty well known that Daniel Craig is contracted for 1 more James Bond film after Spectre, but after that whoever follows up him is going to have to figure out some way to keep the narrative intact (while simultaneously having some pretty big shoes to fill in). However, I think that there is a perfect solution that should be pretty easy to incorporate into Bond 25 which will make the series so much more interesting in the future.

If I was in charge of writing Bond 25, I would have the film end with Craig-era Bond dying. Yes, for real, especially because this is a fate that has been foreshadowed throughout his tenure, and would fit his arc pretty well (or, if we can’t have him die, then at least have him fake it for good). As a result, M declares that from this point forward, all agents with the 007 rank will be known by the code name “James Bond”, in honour of their greatest fallen agent. It could even end with the next James Bond being introduced if they have them cast by then, similar to what they did with Ralph Fiennes’ M.

This proposed ending would be perfect for a number of reasons. First of all, it would shake up the series quite a bit and probably break the Internet if they kept it secret. Secondly, it would keep the character development that has been built up throughout the Craig era intact, while also paving the way for future James Bond films to do something different. Thirdly, making the code name theory official opens up the Bond series to so many possibilities. There have been rumblings about casting Idris Elba as Craig’s follow-up for years, and serious discussions have been brought forth even within Sony Pictures. Having Bond’s character rooted in a very specific person kind of ruins this possibility, and you know that if they went forward with it then there’d be lots of asshats saying that Bond is white and therefore can’t be played by a black man. However, if this development went forward and the code name theory became canon, then I imagine that significantly more people would be accepting of non-traditional Bond portrayals. Suddenly, it wouldn’t feel out of character for the new Bond to be non-white, or asexual, or less serious… hell, we might even see a female Bond someday if this were implemented. The possibilities are endless, and I’m going to be absolutely grieved if EON productions don’t go forward with this proposed ending. It just seems to perfect to me and sets up Bond’s future to go forward indefinitely.

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IC2S Playlist Update 22/07/2015

EDIT: Well shit… I just noticed that this has been up here for 2 months now and I had forgotten to add “Southern Man” to the playlist. Worse, it looks like it isn’t even on Spotify yet. I guess this one will just be a gap in the playlist for now, although if Spotify gets After the Gold Rush on there sometime soon then I’ll be sure to add it.

Starting off this week with something a little different for me, we have “Southern Man” by Neil Young from After the Gold Rush. Considering that my last post was all about the current Confederate Flag controversy, I felt that it was an appropriate and timely inclusion. It might also be my favourite Neil Young song (although “Powderfinger” is up there too), and is just such a scathing indictment. It’s unfortunate that things haven’t gotten much better in the last 35 years…

Moving on to something a tiny bit more upbeat, we have “Paperthin Hymn” by Anberlin from Never Take Friendship Personal. I have always considered NTFP to be one of Anberlin’s lesser albums, so I actually don’t listen to it all that often. However, I listened to a live version of this album recently and it reinvigorated my feelings towards this album and “Paperthin Hymn” in particular. That said, I still think it’s one of their weaker albums, but the fact that I quite enjoy NTFP just shows how solid their entire catalogue is. I’m still pretty sore about the shitty weather that caused them to cancel their last live show in Toronto though…

Geez, all of that and I haven’t even gotten to the song itself yet. Lyrically, it’s very well-written and sombre. It deals with the sense of loss, and apparently it was written as a response by lead guitarist, Joey Milligan, to the death of his sister (hey, I did say it was only a tiny bit more upbeat).

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