Most atheists will say that religions are a dime a dozen. From a distant perspective, that’s very true. Could you tell the difference between a Gala and a Fuji apple from a hundred yards away? The answer is probably a resounding no. Even when you get up close, it’s still hard to tell if you’re not an expert in apples. Both are red, decently shiny, tasty and can be bought in bulk for relatively cheap. Likewise religion. From a distance, Methodists, Catholics, Lutherans, Mormons and many others have the same routine. Wake up Sunday morning, put on some nice clothes, take the family to the ornate building, and do their thing. Even up close there’s not much difference. In the typical church-going family, the dad wears a nice suit, the wife wears a modest dress, and the children are neatly polished so as to brag about their parents without uttering a word.
Now let’s suppose you’re an expert on apples. You can list at least twenty differences ranging from nutritional content to coloration to shelf life. The same applies to religion. There are some basic similarities, but that’s where it ends. The difference between religion and apples is that I can not recall anyone who was killed over a discussion on apples. We’ve got the crusades, three of them well documented and dramatized in film. And that’s just the friction between Christianity and Islam. Throw in all the other world religions, and you’ve got a powder keg. Atheists are no exception. That is their credo, the absence of a divine superior being. They may say otherwise, but at the end of the day we’re talking about peoples’ core beliefs, the sacred truths they hold above all others. For atheists, it’s simply religion by another name.
You may be asking why I’m writing an editorial on religion, and in truth it’s just a conversation starter. The ornate spearhead on the coffee table that I planted there because I want to talk about Incan culture and their demise as Europeans entered their world. In this case, I want to talk about the Khazan Archdiocese. I hope that word makes it into a national spelling bee soon, it’s a doozy. Anyhow, the archdiocese for those of you who don’t know, is the local governing authority for several Catholic churches. You may have six or seven Catholic churches in a city, but they all report to the same governing body, the archdiocese. It’s a dintiguished group to be sure, often made up of wealthy lay members of the church and reitred priests or priests who simply do not take the pulpit every Sunday.
For Khazan in particular, the archdiocese was a very dintinguished and corrupt group. Gunther Schultz, cousin of the deceased Adolph Schmelz, was appointed to replace his departed cousin. Little did most people know that Gunther also inherited his brother’s criminal empire. A crippled empire because of what a certain Mortician did, but a network of that many people was too strong to roll over and die.
Leland Allen, a decorated professor of physics from Khazan University, and secretly a weapons developer for Schultz and others, was another member. People made so much of the fact that he was a scientist and still a Christian that they didn’t bother to think that he could have a bad side. Indeed he did, and together with Gunther Schultz has wreaked havoc and destruction in Khazan for years now.
Carrie Finneran, owner of the ever-growing cosmetics giant, Simply Glamorous, was also on the board. She was the token female, and truth be told the men would have preferred her not be there if they could help it. But no woman on the board meant that the church would be perceived as sexist. And while they were sexist, being seen that way was bad for business. Yes, church is a business, and that’s how Carrie approached it. Should built her cosmetics empire from the ground up with good product and clever marketing, and she built her church the exact same way.
Jesus Ordonez was the director of several orphanages around town. He was also a master at corrupting children from an early age with his access to their young, impressionable minds. His indoctrination of the children left them susceptible to growing up as upstanding citizens while having seedier, more dangerous alter-egos. Not as rich or renowned as the other board members, he was the token lay man on the board. Still, he was just as effective at evil and conniving as the others.
Father James Murphy was the last member of the group. He grew up in Boston, old school. A fire and brimstone preacher, he could loosen the tightest purse strings and crack the toughest stone on a good day. He also had a penchant for altar boys. He was implicated in over two dozen separate incidents, but nothing was ever proven. Since a priest with his clout would lose a lot of members should he be excommunicated, it was decided that he should handle administrative duties. Little did they know what he could do without so much public attention. Not constrained to rectories and private offices anymore, he has only become more brazen. He even preached on occasion, all the while keeping a straight face and not believing a word of it.
Together, these five people controlled the Catholic church in Khazan. They controlled it to do just enough good to allay suspicion, yet their subtle machinations behind the scenes undid the good and then some. Though any of them could have cause enough damage on their own, they all recognized that the sum of the parts is greater than any five individuals working on their separate ambitions. Simply put, they were evil to the core and running a church was the best way they had found to spread evil.
Go My Children With My Blessing
Commander: superior (rank 2)
There were four Catholic churches in Khazan. There was St. Jude’s in the slums which catered to the lowly, down-trodden denizens of the city. St. Thomas was a block from Khazan University, and had a farily large following of young, and very eager minds. In the suburbs, St. Catherine’s catered to the upper crust and every Sunday seemed like a contest to see who was the best dressed. Last, but certainly not least, was St. Paul’s in the industrial sectors, right there for the working man who needed a refuge from his hard life. All four churches were known throughout the community as bastions of hope for many, and a welcoming safe haven for anyone who was willing to receive love.
According to recent statistics, the world holds nearly one billion Catholics. Khazan did not have nearly that many, but each church had a membership of at least two thousand apiece. Unlike their archdiocese, most of the members were good people. They were upstanding citizens who were doing the best they could by their families and fellow man. In fact, I’d say about ninety percent of the church populace was not evil. Maybe not good upstanding citizens, but not evil, not actively trying to cause harm. However, the other ten percent more than made up for this.
The best description I have is a chocolate cake. Suppose I cooked you a beautiful chocolate cake. I used Duncan Hines mix, premium sugar and flour, awesome baking pans and a state of the art oven. I even consulted with Gordon Ramsay and Tom Colicchio while cooking it. Would you eat it? Of course you would. Now suppose the exact same situation, but that the caked I baked was ninety percent premium ingredients, and ten percent dog shit. Would you still eat it? Likely not. Same thing with the church. The ten percent or so of corrupt members undid the owkr of ninety percent of good people.
We Are Hungry
Illusion Control: standard (rank 1)
St. Jude’s was Jesus Ordonez’ joint. Sure, he ran various orphanages around the city, but the bulk of his work was in the slums. Besides, how would it look for the director of an orphanage to have a Victorian Mansion in the suburbs? It wouldn’t look good at all, not one bit. He was there every Sunday, and every day during the week. He had the church partner with the orphanages and bring the kids in to play, meet potential parents, and even serve the church in the case of some of the older children.
In addition to partnering with orphanages, St. Jude’s also housed the largest soup kitchen in the city. Thousands were served three square meals a day in the basement dining rooms, and when the weather was bad, the dining rooms turned in to a barracks for people to sleep. No donations were asked, and very few were given. On the outside, this place looked to be the very essence of the church.
That’s where it ended. The food was so unhealthy, many people were slowly losing health. You know how food companies can make food and claim “Made with Whole grains”, but there’s really no nutritional value? Well St. Jude’s cooks took it one step further. They took unhealthy food and made it even more unhealthy. Not poisoned, dead people can’t sow chaos. Aspartame, Splenda and several other additives were used to keep the people feeling lousy and mentally unstable. In turn, they would not contribute to society and the mentally unstable ones also turned criminal. St. Jude’s the patron saint of lost causes. Pretty ironic.
Onward Christian Soldiers
Illusion Control: standard (rank 1)
St. Thomas’ was the place where Leland Allen came. Every morning at 7:00 AM, he and his wife would come for Mass and confession. It was like clockwork, and by 8:05, he was happily teaching his graduate molecular physics class at the University. Two things though. First off, his wife was just as corrupt as he, if not moreso, and her talents were used accordingly. Neither of them believed in Mass or confession, but appearances are everything. The church had a fairly transient population as students graduated, but the population was always strong.
Leland’s wife, Darcy, helped her husband organize science fairs at the church. They had a large community section of the building, and what better way for their charter member to contribute. For a small price, the members of the community could come see amazing science projects made by some exceptionally bright collegians. In addition, many leterary contests were held. The prizes were not spectacular, often a donated gift certificate to a local restaurant or store. But for the students, many potential future employers also attended the shows, and what better way to get your name out there than a showcase? Seems like a win-win proposition right?
Here’s the rub. Each and every project had to pass Leland’s inspection before it was deemed suitable. That means that all the students submitted formulas, equations and literature for him. Every so often, he was find one of their ideas that would improve an existing weapon for Gunther, or create a jumping off point for a new invention. The literary contests were a cover, but some literature was passed along to certain atheist activists for their uses. They in turn would start debates against the church and create more problems. It’s all about chaos, and who’s organizing it. Am I right or am I right?
We Give Thee But Thine Own
Illusion Control: standard (rank 1)
Carrie Finneran frequently St. Catherine’s in the Upper East Side. Talk about posh, this building was ornate and decorated to death. 100% debt-free, the structure would rival St. Peter’s Basilica for majesty and splendor if it had the same history. Unfortunately, it was a little over thirty years old. Still, the church looked good, and the members looked better. There wasn’t a family who didn’t wear designer labels, or drive any car that wasn’t luxury. Brian St. Claire once got a rental car while his was being detailed, and was laughed at for bringing a simple Toyota to the church.
At the center of it all was Carrie, as gorgeous now at fifty years old as she was at twenty with a mere twenty dollars to her name. Consistently one of the best dressed, she was always organizing fundraisers. All the people here recognized they had it good, better than many people. They also had money to spare. To them, a thousand dollars was a day at the beach. Love thy Neighbor, one of the principal tenets of the chrch, was in full effect. They donated to everything from medical research institutions to some of the orphanages Jesus ran. All told, this was probably the most famous church in town, even outdoing many rival denominations.
The problem is that with that much money, there are a hundred ways to skim off the top. Since Carrie hand her hands on all the money, she and her crooked accountants could skim some large chunks of money rather easily. Say a particular fundraiser made $700,000. Tell the congregation that they made $550,000 and pocket the rest. Give the accountants a cut and give the rest to Gunther or Leland to finance some chaos, or buy some bad food for the soup kitchen. The board members also kept some for themselves, being evil was exhausting work and the extra money helped take the edge off.
I Know That My Redeemer Lives
Illusion Control: standard (rank 1)
St. Paul’s was in the industrial sector of the city. Paul was a working man, a journeyman, the day by day trekker in the early days of Christianity, so the name was appropriate. Gunther Schultz was the main man here. Since most of his clients were blue-collar workers who had been hurt on the job or hurt in a serious car wreck, his office was located about half a mile from the church. The church itself was located less than a mile from a dozen major manufacturing plants and shipping companies. It was old school rustic, plain yet elegant at the same time.
Gunther was there every single Sunday morning, singing it out. He was raised in a traditional home where you sang loud in church regardless of how bad your voice was. He didn’t believe it, but he had to keep up appearances. The trademark of this place was community barbecues. They had a monthly barbecue at on of the large parks. They hung out, drank some beer, ate some food, and played whatever sport was in season to their hearts’ content. They also talked with each other. Gunther was a lawyer, and a thumping good one. He was always bragging about some huge case he won for a client, but spinning to make the client look like someone who had been wronged and desrved all the money they won because of his work. He was generally loved by his fellow members, and he loved them, but not for the reasons you think.
First, Gunther worked for damages. That includes pain and suffering. And since the companies that his clients worked for had deep pockets, judges had no problem awarding thousands of dollars in damages. Since since Gunther worked on commission, the larger the judgment, the more money he made. More money to finance the chaos machine. But it didn’t stop there. Gunther had a reputation as a winner and would talk with as many people he could at the barbecues, even people who weren’t members. That resulted in a lot more frivilous lawsuits, which in turn drained companies of the money they could have used to expand and hire more people. Gunther was doing his part to stunt the economy and appear as a noble citizen.
So there you have it. They were the four Horsemen in a manner of speaking. Father Murphy was the unofficial coordinator in all this. He was the only person on the board without another day job. Don’t let that fool you, he worked as hard as any of the others, harder at times. He was also a roaming guest priest at each of the churches. Each church had him once a month and his lectures were seen as inspiring. He fed the yearning masses, and they adored him and dispelled the allegations of sex crimes as just that, allegations.
So much chaos in a powerful engine, seen as a beacon of hope for the world. It proves the saying true that truth mixed with lies can make the lie that much stronger.