No band is an island. The best songwriters tend to be sponge-like soaker-uppers of music, film, fine art, literature and other forms of culture, be they popular or obscure, and these influences often find their way into the music, helping listeners branch out and develop new interests. With Points of Departure, we use our favorite groups as springboards for broader cultural investigations and highlight some of the cool things you might get into via your record collection. This week: Bad Religion.

  • Atheism

    The Los Angeles punks -- who celebrated the 30th anniversary of their first record this year -- aren't all that into religion. Just check out their name. And over the years, they've preached belief in yourself, your family and your friends over blind faith in a deity that may or may not exist. Not that they're out there burning Bibles or anything like that; in fact, singer Greg Graffin has referred to the band's anti-religion stance as a general metaphor for resisting conformity. He's written some books on the subject, including 'Is Belief in God Good, Bad or Irrelevant?: A Professor and a Punk Rocker Discuss Science, Religion, Naturalism and Christianity' and 'Anarchy Evolution: Faith, Science and Bad Religion in a World Without God.' He's also taught a college course on evolution.

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  • Left-Wing Politics

    Over the years, Bad Religion have taken up many left-wing political causes, ranging from anti-war to pro-choice. Songs like 'American Jesus' and 'Let Them Eat War' blast the United States' recent skirmishes overseas. Their 1990 song 'Operation Rescue' is sardonically named after a Dallas pro-life organization. And their 2004 album 'The Empire Strikes First,' featuring cheerful ditties like 'Boot Stamping on a Human Face Forever,' is basically a 14-song attack on George W. Bush, a man guitarist Brett Gurewitz once called "one of the worst leaders in the history of world leaders."

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  • Paleontology

    Singer Greg Graffin likes all kinds of rock: punk, indie, the solid aggregate of minerals you find outdoors. He holds a master's degree in geology and a Ph.D. in zoology. He's way into old rocks, fossils and, presumably, dinosaurs. There's even an ancient bird fossil discovered in China that's named after him. Sadly, there are no Bad Religion songs about the total awesomeness of the Ankylosaurus.

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