This may sounds strange…. but about 25 years ago, I created my own religion. Sadly, I have forgotten some of the details… including the name I gave for the religion. Now, you may wonder why I would create my own religion. Classic reasons could be:
- Religious experience
- Desire to reform or syncretize
- Hating a religion (or religion in general)
- Tax evasion
But for me, none of these applied. Actually, I was (and am) a committed Christian in faith and practice. I do not believe the religion I created. Nor do I seek others as adherents. I used to discuss religion a lot in the Compuserve Religion forum. I found that people had trouble talking about religion because people are emotionally invested in their own religion (even people who claim to reject all religions, are invested in their own non-religion). For example, I was surprised at how quick Mormons were to take offense (“Mormonbashing”) about almost any challenge of their beliefs or basis for their beliefs. Rather than dealing with these issues of hypersensitivity, it can be easier to talk about religious issues that are not directly tied to a specific religion. It helps to have a religion that no one believes in, or hates. I used it on a couple of occasions… but eventually during one of my many computer upgrades I lost the information I had, and then Compuserve shutdown and data dumped.
But I remember it something like this.
The religion’s prophet had the name “B.B. Blitt.” He believed in a god, but I don’t remember the name of that god (the name started with a “B” like most aspects of the religion).
Essentially, that god, for lack of a better word, “blew up,” ceasing to exist as a sentient being. However, that explosion created the Universe, essentially from what might be loosely described as the “body” of that god. The life force and mind of that same god is fragmented and exists in the living beings scattered throughout the Universe.
The end of the Universe results in the big crunch as the “body” reforms and the life force and sentience returns to its source and coalesces.
Up to that point, it is an incomplete theological structure because it only answers a small number of the great questions. What fills it out is the belief of B.B. Blitt that we have a part in the character of the reforming god. As we do evil, that small spark of psychoemotional lifeforce in us becomes more evil and that evil spark ultimately will join up with all of the other sparks to make up the reformed god. As we seek peace and good, that heals that spark and positively transforms this god. B.B. Blitt sought to teach people how to positively transform this god.
As such, this simple theology provides the basis for a functional religion because it seeks to answer the Great Questions:
1. Why are we here? We are fragments of god… somewhat of an accident, yet with ultimate purpose.
2. Where are we going? We are returning to god as a tiny drop in the great sea that is god.
3. What is my purpose? To be part, ultimately, of god, and to live a life that makes god better.
4. What happens when I die? My lifeforce ultimately returns to god… perhaps losing personal identity, but joining in the overall identity of god.
I had not worried about my little testtube religion until my son, Joel, noted some similarities between it and a more recent fictional religion. That religion is on the website, the SCP Foundation. “The SCP Wiki is a collaborative urban fantasy writing website about the fictional SCP Foundation, a secretive organization that contains anomalous or supernatural items and entities away from the eyes of the public.”
One of the creations in this world is “The Church of the Broken God.” There are numerous differences, really, but still interesting to me: “The Church of the Broken God is an anomalous religious organization which worships mechanization and believes flesh and life to be inherently evil or “broken”. Though its origins are unknown, Broken God-related artifacts have been recovered from archaeological digs dating back to the Greek Classical period, and church dogma asserts its existence predates the appearance of life on Earth. Central to their theology is that their deity has been scattered, dispersed or otherwise rendered inert. Through the use of technology, often anomalous, Church followers seek to bring together the components of the body of God, thereby allowing the Divine a physical form to utilize and bringing about some sort of techno-organic apotheosis. Several SCP objects have been attributed to this group since its discovery. Personnel may reference items indexed under “broken_god” for a restricted list.”
So what? I guess a few things come to mind.
1. I have long (always?) believed that we are inherently hard-wired religious beings. Perhaps 60 years ago (roundabouts) there was a common belief that religion was dying away and the future would be unreligious. That has not happened because we appear to be designed to seek to find meaning. Empiricism simply does not provide meaning… merely facts (or at least probabilistic “facts.” This leaves people with the need to seek meaning elsewhere.
2. It is interesting to me that people have in recent years incorporated interesting spins on religion in science fiction… and not simply some form of technopagan “swords and sorcery” variety. Religion is sometimes attacked for focusing on old stories and old books. It is interesting to see the interest in not only “future religions” but the interest in some of the beautiful messiness found in religious life. In the case of the Church of the Broken God, there are already three major factions with very different beliefs and structures.
3. I do wonder if there may be theological value (as a Christian Contextual Theologian) in studying intentionally fictional religions. Because of their intentionally fictional nature, their highly fanatical adherents don’t actually exist… allowing for one to deal with them contextually in somewhat of a laboratory setting. I know we have used case studies in cultural anthropology to aid in applied work. Case studies are commonly realworld… but one can imagine situations where fictuional case studies could be of real value. I know we have used games like “Rafa Rafa,” a fictional cultural simulation, for issues of acculturation and comunication. Perhaps learning from intentionally fictional religions (philosophical basis, canon, culture, and ethics) may help us understand how our faith affects who we are, and how we can and should relate to others of different beliefs.
Missions is not only about understanding one’s faith, but understanding the faith of others… even those whose faith stretches one’s own credulity. We need to find ways to learn and grow. Perhaps testtube religions (and cultures) can help.