To illustrate the nature of religion, let us suppose that somewhere on the planet there is an island called Slib. Upon this island of Slib, there live two tribes. Both worship a different god.
One cult worships the god Ye-Heh, who created this universe and its people for no reason other than as a cruel prank. Jokes are holy proverbs. Communions involve heavy drinking and ritualistic tickling. Their clergymen are clowns and jesters. But the gravest blasphemy for a follower of Ye-Heh is to be caught weeping, be they not tears of laughter. For did not the prophet of Ye-Heh have a vision long ago, and in that vision, did not so many people weep that their tears melted the earth? This is why Ye-Heh commands his children to promptly exile a crier from the tribe, leaving her to die in the wilderness.
Across the island of Slib, there dwell the worshippers of Boo-Hoo. They believe their deity created the universe out of the sheer despair in his heart. The oath of a Boo-Hooite priest is one of lifelong asceticism, celibacy, and silence. These people place their only hope in the prophet of Boo-Hoo, who declared that in the day all people wept, God would hear them and appear among them forever. Laughter is believed to be blasphemy – too much laughter will shake the earth apart, and enrages a sober God. That is why all laughers are promptly hung in the village square.
As you might imagine, Ye-Hehites and Boo-Hooites don’t get along. Wars were fought between these cults until they built a huge wall across the island. Yet each side never quits sending suicide bombers and death squads to harass the other people.
When I first moved to Jamestown in October 2014, I already had a bitter taste of this city’s rough reputation – my car’s window was smashed in The Post-Journal parking lot the previous week. I was prepared to carry pepper spray, to lock my doors and keep one eye fixed over my shoulder, just in case I needed to crack out my rusty karate moves. But what happened to me recently surpassed the grimmest of my expectations.
It was a mid-September afternoon. I was basking on the Prendergast Library lawn under the shade of a tree, engaged with writing and web-surfing on my laptop, when I looked up and found a band of teenage ruffians had closed in around my turf. I ignored them, yet they lingered. After a brief episode of jeers and taunts, which were actually rather funny, one lunged to wrench my laptop from my hand. My grip prevailed, but another thug swiped my backpack. I stood and watched as they howled and fled with their booty behind the chapel across the cobbled street.
I send my gratitude to the library staff, the director, the police personnel and the citizens present at the crime (special thanks to the man whose cane they kicked out from under him, who later found my pack for me; I hope you get well). Everyone responded swiftly and aided me in the recovery of my possessions, which had been dumped behind a nearby house like so much garbage. I am extremely fortunate nothing was stolen, and that the act appears to simply be a part of their dirty game. I would rather recount this incident as one which highlights the altruism of this community, the overwhelming presence of people who look out for one another and heed each other’s need. Yet my optimism is clouded.
As time passes, events become history, history becomes myth, and myth becomes legend. Nations coalesce and cleave asunder. And in an age long before humanity’s conception of history, the Great Empire of Glasentia united the tribes and nations of mankind under one throne.
I’ve had an idea for another novel. It’s against my better judgment, but I’m going to pitch it right here, to anyone who will bother reading it.
I want to write my own action-political-thriller about the “End Times” foretold in the Book of Revelation. Yes, it has been done: “Left Behind, ” series of Tim LaHaye, “Chronicles of Brothers” by Wendy Alec, and probably many others. But this time, I would like to tell my own version, one that is critical, bittersweet, and grounded in reality.
I would like to write this book about Christians, and other people, standing for their faith against insurmountable odds. But I don’t want prophecies of doom, angels and demons, or the spectacular return of Christ. I don’t want shadowy occultists or socialists who hate Christians for absolutely no reason at all. No. I want a story that stems from true political issues and reflects the reality of a conflict between religion and science I see only growing worse in the next 100 years.