Bad Religion released their first record, a self-titled EP, in 1981 on Epitaph Records, a label Gurewitz started after borrowing money from his father. The band released their first full length, "How Could Hell Be Any Worse?", in 1982. Midway through the recording for the album, Ziskrout quit the band and the record was finished with drummer Pete Finestone. In 1983, the band abruptly shifted gears, issuing the keyboard-heavy, prog rock influenced "Into The Unknown", on which neither Bentley (who quit during the recording of the first track) nor Finestone appeared. The results were disastrous, with the band facing considerable backlash from fans and Epitaph immediately pulling the album off record store shelves. For his part, Gurewitz blamed his participation on his increasing drug habit, although he was quick to point out that the sober Graffin had no such excuse to fall back on, and has disowned the album. With Epitaph out of money and the band's reputation in tatters, Gurewitz quit and the band split. Graffin soon moved out of state for college, but returned to California in 1984 and was convinced by Circle Jerks guitarist Greg Hetson to reform Bad Religion with him on guitar. Recruiting Pete Finestone and bassist Tim Gallegos, the band issued a 12" EP, called "Back To The Known", with Gurewitz producing but not playing on the record.
Graffin and Hetson spent the next few years playing sporadically with various line-ups. Eventually, Finestone and Bentley returned on a full-time basis. In 1987, a newly sober Brett Gurewitz returned to the fold and the band continued as a five-piece. In 1988, Bad Religion issued a new LP, "Suffer", to enthusiastic fans and critics. This lineup released 2 more albums before Finestone departed in 1991. He was replaced by Bobby Schayer. In 1993, immediately following the release of their 7th LP, "Recipe For Hate", the band jumped from Epitaph to Atlantic Records. Following the release of 1994's "Stranger Than Fiction", Brett Gurewitz left the group. Officially, it was said that his reason for leaving was to concentrate on Epitaph following the huge commercial success of the album "Smash" by The Offspring, and he also expressed displeasure with the band's deal with Atlantic. However, it was later revealed the Gurewitz's primary reason for leaving was due to tension with Bentley (in 1996, Gurewitz released a single with his new band, Daredevils, whose A-side, "Hate You" was written about Bentley). Graffin and Gurewitz also publicly feuded for a short time after the departure. Gurewitz was replaced by Brian Baker (ex-Minor Threat and Dag Nasty). The band would record 3 more albums for Atlantic with Graffin as the primary songwriter, although 1998's "No Substance" featured significant contributions from the other members of Bad Religion. However, the albums were met with largely mixed critical and commercial responses. Meanwhile, Gurewitz had relapsed into drug abuse and faced a number of personal and legal problems. In 2000, a cleaned-up and sober Gurewitz made a guest appearance on the band's LP, "The New America", prompting rumors of a reunion. The album was the group's last for Atlantic.
Following the release of "The New America", Bobby Schayer exited the group, as a shoulder injury barred him from playing drums. His replacement was Brooks Wackerman (ex-Suicidal Tendencies). In 2001, it was announced that not only had Brett Gurewitz rejoined the band, but that they would also be returning to Epitaph Records. It turned out the Brett's role would be mostly limited to songwriting and production, as his work with Epitaph makes extended touring impractical, although he would make appearances with the band when they performed in Los Angeles. It was also revealed that since the reunion, Gurewitz rarely actually plays guitar on the albums. Most of the guitar parts are recorded by Brian Baker as he is the most proficient guitarist, although Gurewitz does record parts if he wants to. The band has continued to record and tour steadily since returning to Epitaph. In 2013, Greg Hetson stopped touring with the group due to undisclosed personal issues. Guitarist Mike Dimkich stepped into fill the role and in early 2014, it was announced that Hetson had left the group and Dimkich would be a permanent member. In the fall of 2015, drummer Brooks Wackerman left the group and joined Avenged Sevenfold. He was replaced by Jamie Miller.