I ignored emails from my brother-in-law Ed. They were all variations on “Get right with God or go to hell”. I-Don’t-Care-Ism suited me just fine as a belief, but then for several days in a row I read articles like “People of faith have better relationships”, “Religious people have more success and money” and “New proof for intelligent design”. Maybe there was something worthwhile about faith or religion after all.
On my next day off, I went to “The Highest Court” which was our local religion mall. All of the major brands and their recruiters were present. Before I started, I looked at their banners:
The first monotheism (If you don’t count an Egyptian so-called God)
Up to four wives
Marijuana and peyote are legitimate parts of our worship
If it wasn’t for us you’d probably be a Catholic
We would have sorted it out without the Reformation
What makes you think all of the miracles ended 2,000 years ago?
We invented heaven and hell
I visited the booths in the order of their banners. At my first stop they explained how their religion started with the creation of the universe by God about 6000 years ago (I decided not to ask about carbon dating). On the other hand they told me that maybe their holy book was just a myth. It depended on which branch of their religion that you chose. It would help if I spoke Hebrew (I have trouble with English) and I needed to go through a conversion process (what’s that about circumcision?) and I should be prepared to be subjected to persecution.
“Thank you. You’ve given me a lot to think about.”
I moved on.
When I first asked about the four wives, I was told “You might have to move to another country first, unless we can change the laws here quickly. There are a few things that you might consider. You may be called a terrorist. It would help if you read Arabic and I hope that you are not a drinker.”
I just had my three martini lunch. “You’ve given me a lot to think about. Thank you.”
At my next stop, I was already thinking about my stoner years in high school and college before I became respectable. “I’m sure that you’ll get a lot out of your vision quest that initiates you into our faith. This requires going out into the wilderness and bedding down into a rocky hollow for several days without food while your mind goes on a journey. What tribe do you belong to?” There are rumors that there was an American aborigine in my family a couple of hundred years ago, but I can’t go more than a few hours without my easy chair.
“I’ll think about what you’ve told me.”
At the next stop I asked about the beliefs and requirements of the religion. The representative said “If you want, you can view the three and a half hour video explaining the differences between our major divisions.”
“I’ll have to come back later; I just remembered that I have a dental appointment in an hour.”
I looked at the next booth and thought about their liberal policy towards drinking and that they let you beef and pork, and then thought about recent scandals and their attitude towards birth control and gave it a pass.
At the next booth, the representative started off with “The Garden of Eden was close to present day Independence, Missouri. Native Americans came from the Middle East. In 1823 Joseph Smith found gold plates which explain our religion.” Lucky for me, I had the rare ability to fall asleep standing up with my eyes open. About fifteen minutes later, I woke up and noticed that he wasn’t speaking anymore, but he seemed to have expected a response from me.
“What you’ve told me is something to think about.”
The next representative, who to my taste was rather oddly dressed, told me that the troubles of the world were due to cars, friends, money and desire. I should try to extinguish all of my ambition and motivations to attain perfect peace. His talk had the opposite effect and I started to think about how much money I was likely to spend on Andrea that evening. What about the conflict between your religion and Muslims in Myanmar? Not very peaceful.
“Thanks a lot. I’ll be thinking about what you told me.”
I ran out of time and interest before I got to the last booth.
Because her husband and my wife were out of town, I spent the whole evening with Andrea, rather than just a quickie at the office. While I drank my third scotch on the rocks and ate my ham sandwich with her that evening, I was humming the Curtis Mayfield song “(If There’s A Hell Down Below) We’re All Going To Go”.
Readers may think that the writer knows nothing about religion. Those readers are very astute.
Appeared in Donut Factory (print on hiatus), Story Shack (online on hiatus with illustration) and Short Humour