by Brett Abrahamsen
I have 80,560 children. Most of them live on colonies on Mars, or in underground tunnels.
I have spent most of my life hooked up to reproductive devices. The purpose of these devices was to get as much sperm from the objects they were hooked up to as they possibly could.
The Dictator of Mars declared that anyone who removed themselves from their reproductive devices would face capital punishment – an order which produced children at alarming rates. Sometimes, there was so much consciousness that one person experienced two people’s thoughts at the same time. There was enough consciousness that no one could really tell whom it belonged to anymore.
What did the Dictator of Mars do with all of his subjects? He started a religion.
He called his religion the Holy Church of the Religion that Hasn’t Been Founded Yet. He explained his reasoning as follows: religions were constantly dying out and being replaced with better ones. Hence, it was obvious that in the future, a religion would be invented that was better than any religion that existed in the present.
He declared The Holy Church of the Religion that Hasn’t Been Founded Yet as the official state religion, the 100% truthful religion of the future. It was obvious that at some point a religion would be invented that was 100% theologically correct, even if it would take millions of years – and even if there were many more imperfect future religions (though getting progressively closer to perfection) yet to be invented.
It was also important to note the existence, or the lack thereof, of an afterlife. If there is no afterlife, to everyone who isn’t alive it will seem to them as if the universe never existed at all. All of the good fortune that caused them to be alive would seem not to matter.
The truth was this: the thing that happens after you die can be described as a burning sensation. However, no one knows whether this burning is the result of a very sadistic god, or the result of the process of death distorting the remnants of consciousness, so as to create a burning sensation.
Of course, this was the most theologically accurate piece of information in the entire Bible. However, everyone felt it – Christians and non-Christians.
The promise of eternal burning did not prevent anyone from believing in the Holy Church of the Religion that Hasn’t Been Founded Yet, since everyone – as is always the case with religion – wanted to believe in the Absolute Truth, not in what was convenient or pleasant.
At church meetings, children played games, and guessed at what the exciting Future Religion might be. “The truth”, said the Dictator of Mars.
One of the games looked like a particle simulation. The Dictator of Mars told us that if we tried very hard, we could simulate how the first particles came to exist in the universe, from seeming nothingness.
“I still don’t get it”, I said.
“By trying very hard – that is how the first particles came to exist”, the Dictator of Mars said.
One of the ironies concerning the Holy Church of the Religion that Hasn’t Been Founded Yet was that the discovery of any kind of truth would end the religion entirely. There wouldn’t be any more future truths to believe in.
The universal symbol of the Holy Church of the Religion that Hasn’t Been Founded Yet was this:
It was a sacred symbol. People placed it on the bumpers of their mini-cars. The fertilization wards were inscribed with it, too.
The universal symbol of sacrilege and blasphemy was the symbol of certainty, of closure. The symbol was this:
Another thing we used to think about was: who the discoverer of this future truth might be. We had to pray to this person, even though we didn’t know who they were yet.
The adherents of the Holy Church of the Religion that Hasn’t Been Founded Yet weren’t sure at all. They knew that any kind of certainty would most likely make them wrong, like all the past religions had been.
It should be noted that theology was very important to the Dictator of Mars. If there was no God, the Dictator of Mars was the most powerful thing in the whole universe. If there was a God, the Dictator’s power was close to irrelevant.
The Dictator of Mars did not like this. He said, “It is now the future, and I have discovered the truth”. And he started the Holy Church of the Religion that Has Now Been Founded.
Brett Abrahamsen resides in Saratoga Springs, NY, and has written a number of speculative fiction stories. His favorite topics include alternate histories, philosophy, and evolution. He prefers the flash fiction medium, at under 2000 words.
Although I understand that some of the generalizations about religion described here are couched within the perspective of the Dictator, it’s difficult not to take issue with them. Religions are not always being replaced by “better” religions because later generations frequently revive, or try to revive, traditions practiced by people from centuries ago. And if “better” is meant to mean “more true” how is truth established here?
Although a great many traditions strive for certainty or think they already have it in the form of revelation, this is by no means universal: the dharma in Tibetan and Zen Buddhism is, ultimately, not something one can be certain of because it’s not propositional; it is often approached by questioning. So too with some apophatic traditions in Christianity and Islam. Much of Judaism today is focused on questioning and discussion; truth comes through Oral Torah, which develops through generations.
I think you’ve hit upon some trends common to many traditions here, but without keeping in mind the exceptions, I worry that you end up painting a skewed picture of religion.