“One true Church,” He recited, grinning mischievously. “It is mine, obviously. The Church of Me—I, my and me, now that’s a trinity!”
I smiled, which only encouraged him. He poured. “Para todo mal, Mezcal, y para todo bien, también!”
We both drank–with lemon and a pinch of chili powder. The Mezcal was beyond serviceable, a true delight that might very well prove to be the colony’s savior—although I suspected it also had something to do with the arrival of Bach and his slobbering rabble.
Svarog blathered on, “Faith is faith, brother; but look—look here: there are four Catholic churches beyond Rome—five popes—five and six if you count those Olympian Catholics.”
“My mother would have told you there’s just one,” I chuckled. “Right after she marked up your arse with her wooden spoon.”
He pounded once on the table, filling the glasses once more with a bit of a splash that he quickly wiped up with his shirt sleeve, lifting his arm to his mouth and sucking the alcohol from the cloth.
“To your mother, may the fifty-fletching-thousand gods bless her!” He threw down the drink, winking, and added. “Or, just the one, if that contents her.”
“One was always more than plenty,” I said.
“So closed-minded, and the universe awash in Anglicans, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Edenites and all the others that split from that lot. Don’t get me started on the Protestants. Thousands of them, seems like. Thousands of Baptist churches alone. There’s a desk on Earth where a little man sits all day, registering Church names, keeping ‘em from stepping on each other’s toes—and he’s busy all day long, day after day.”
“You’re an expert?”
He nodded, and went on. “Mormons come in three flavors: Latter Day, Revised, and Restored—but that’s just the mainstream. Adventists, Witnesses, Annoited Universals—which have nothing to do with Universalists or Unitarians, I like to point out—and that’s just one point of the middle east trident. Jews and Muslims in all their varieties, all fighting with each other as only siblings can. I don’t even want to think about Buddhists and Hindus, Neo-Zorastrians– and still my head hurts! Fractures and Reformations, Revisions and Restorations, derivations, offshoots. Hades, brother—I know folks who bow to Zeus and that whole antique Greek lot.
“The way I see it, the trouble with religion and God is that we’re people, simple men, and lacking in subtlety. There’s some that hold that God appears to peoples in the forms best suited for them—might be that’s the Universalists—which leads me to wonder how God might decide some Aztec fellow needed to dissect Virgins on the roof of a pyramid. What I’m guessin’ is that he don’t.
“I settled on my faith because it matches the version of the word I grew up with and holds to my peculiar sensibilities. Maybe a thousand years from now I’ll seem just as wrong-headed as the Inquisition, or those nimrods who used the Christian bible to justify centuries of war, slavery and more centuries after of bashing in the heads of folks different than them.”
“It’s a lot harder to choose a religion than it is to reject one,” I said. “Doing either ineffectively can have grave consequences. Spiritually speaking. Brimstone and whatnot. That’s why I follow the path of least resistance.”
“I doubt God will judge us on the Church we choose,” he answered. “As long as we choose love. Jesus spoke of deeds, after all. Now, if that’s the case there’s plenty of Buddhists going to be bellying up the big table, having walked the walk so to speak, idolatry or not—but…”
“Shit.” I interrupted him, a laugh forming deep behind my diaphragm. “You’re a damned missionary, aren’t you?”
From “The Irishman’s Tale”–a novella. Two men went into a bar… The Irishman, having survived being marooned in a barren desert, reaches the planet’s sole settlement only to find the hardscrabble community of a few hundred has been taken over by the very same pirates who seized the colony transport ship upon which he’d been traveling. Faced with no other options, and determined to avoid heroics at nearly any expense, he is reluctantly working to protect his fellow survivors and find allies with the will to stand up against the violent criminals, who have set themselves up as an ad hoc aristocracy, vowing not to kill as long as the settlers continue to labor in what promises to be the first truly bountiful harvest in the colony’s 9-year history. In this segment, the Irishman is feeling out the settlement’s Water Master, named Svarog–a functional alcoholic who seems to know everyone in the community–as a potential ally. What the Irishman doesn’t know is that Svarog is a devout layman missionary whose kind irreverence will prove a test to the Irishman’s own cynical fatalism. In very broad strokes, Svarog is intended to be a very loose cross between Friar Tuck and Little John–although the Irishman would be the first to tell you, “I’m no goddamned Robin Hood.”