Diablo Cody: How would religious people react to life on Mars?

If a bunch of freaky-looking extraterrestrials actually made contact with us, I think that might blow a few minds. Can you imagine the reality show? ‘What happens when this Kansas family befriends a sassy Uranian? Here Comes Beezeltron XV14.’

A few weeks ago, I was wide-eyed and wired at 3am. As the mother of a toddler who shrieks in the night as new molars breach his virgin gum tissue, being awake at this hour is not terribly unusual for me. However, on this night, I was Out (which is terribly unusual for me).

I was sitting on the terrace of a hulking Italianate McMansion with a friend of mine, a Nasaemployed doctor who invented a prosthetic hand that sends actual sensory input to the wearer’s brain. Obviously, I’m much more impressive than he is, since I write movies. I mean, I guess the godlike ability to replicate nerve impulses is OK, but it’s no Jennifer’s Body.

My friend and I were, appropriately, looking at the stars. Not the actual stars, but fake laser galaxies that were projected on to the walls and floor of the terrace via a contraption from the mailorder gadget firm Hammacher Schlemmer.

The universe swirled around us, illuminating the gaudy ironwork and Venetian plaster that made the house look like a theme-park pavilion. The real stars were reduced to background players, winking dimly in the polluted California night. Two storeys below us, a group of revellers soaked in a colour-changing Jacuzzi, passing a wet cigarette back and forth and laughing about something.

My friend suddenly turned to me and said: “Do you know what event would completely change the world?”

I thought hard. “If someone brought us another round of vodka-grapefruits?”

“Well, yeah, that would be great. But really, there would be a huge mass consciousness shift if only we had proof of life outside earth,” my friend said, getting all Nasa on my drunk ass.

“Sure,” I said. “If a bunch of freaky-looking extraterrestrials actually made contact with us, I think that might blow a few minds. Can you imagine the reality show? ‘What happens when this Kansas family befriends a sassy Uranian? Here Comes Beezeltron XV14.’”

“I don’t even mean a full-on alien invasion,” my friend said. “I mean just proof that they exist. Even though most people can intellectualise that there are planets in the sky, the mere idea that something exists beyond us could trigger a spiritual revolution.”

I got what he was saying. In earth’s most popular religious traditions, the concept of God is wholly human-centred.

As a Catholic, I was raised to believe that God created me in His image; if you think about it, this teaching infers that God has nostrils, ear wax, tibiae and fibulae, a butt, and so forth.

That’s pretty arrogant. How would the world’s believers reconcile the idea of God with, say, a sentient vapour from Mars? Or the idea that we’re not the “perfect creation” we believed ourselves to be, that there are 200ft star-gods who stalk Alpha Centauri Bb?

I’m not even comfortable with the existence of Angelina Jolie, let alone a throbbing telepathic brain stem from the outer edge of the solar system. I need to feel that I am a superior being, not a primitive, stinking flesh-poppet from a stupid mudball called earth.

I write movies, after all.

Diablo Cody is a screenwriter, producer and director who wrote “Juno” and “Jennifer’s Body”

Diablo Cody. Image: AFP/Getty

This article first appeared in the 23 October 2013 issue of the New Statesman, Russell Brand Guest Edit

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Why have men become so lonely – and how does it affect their health?

New findings show the consequences of having a lonely heart.

Go out and get some friends. No, seriously. Hop on the Tube and act faux-interested in the crap-looking book your fellow commuter is reading, even if it's on their Kindle. Chances are it's better than the one in your bag, and they're probably a decent human being and just as lonely, like you and me.

A new slate of facts and figures are showing just how widespread loneliness, is while simultaneously being amazingly terrible for your health.

Research led by Steven Cole from the medicine department at University of California, Los Angeles is showing the cellular mechanisms behind the long known pitfalls of loneliness. Perceived social isolation (PSI) – the scientific term for loneliness –increases the exposure to chronic diseases and even mortality for individuals across the world.

The authors examined the effects of loneliness on leukocytes, also known as white blood cells, which are produced from stem cells in the bone marrow and are critical to the immune system and defending the body against bacteria and viruses. The results showed loneliness increases signalling in the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for controlling our fight-or-flight responses, and also affects the production of white blood cells.

Recently, the Movember Foundation, which focuses on men's health and wellbeing, carried out a survey with the help of YouGov investigating friendship and loneliness amongst men. The results are alarming, with only 11 per cent of single men across the spectrum in their early 20s to late-middle age saying they had a friend to turn to in a time of crisis, the number rising to 15 per cent for married men.

Friendship has shown not only to be important to a person's overall wellbeing, but can even add to a person's earnings. A previous study involving 10,000 US citizens over 35 years showed people earned 2 per cent more for each friend they had.

The Movember Foundation survey comes soon after the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that men in Britain make up 58 per cent of the 2.47m people living alone between the ages of 45 and 64. The reasons behind this figure include marrying later in life and failed marriages, which usually result in children living with the mother. Women still make up the majority of the 7.7m single-occupant households across all ages in the country, at approximately 54 per cent.

Chronic loneliness seems to have slowly become a persistent problem for the country despite our hyper-connected world. It's an issue that has made even Jeremy Hunt say sensible things, such as "the busy, atomised lives we increasingly lead mean that too often we have become so distant from blood relatives" about this hidden crisis. He's previously called for British families to adopt the approach of many Asian families of having grandparents live under the same roof as children and grandchildren, and view care homes as a last, not first, option.

The number of single-person households has continued to increase over the years. While studies such as this add to the list of reasons why being alone is terrible for you, researchers are stumped as to how we can tackle this major social issue. Here's my suggestion: turn off whatever screen you're reading this from and strike up a conversation with someone who looks approachable. They could end up becoming your new best friend.