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Our future, our universe, and other weighty topics

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Church of the Future: A Science Fiction Story

In the early 2020's more and more of my friends started to join the Church of Mystical Bliss. The sect seemed to be opening up branches in every town, and it was gaining many millions of members all over the country. My friends kept urging me to go to one of the Sunday church services, so finally I agreed, mainly out of curiosity to see what was the big attraction.

My friend Alan took me to one of the local churches, and inside it looked pretty much like an ordinary church like I had attended as a boy. There were a bunch of people sitting in pews, and the front of the church had some nice-looking arches and stained glass. There were no religious symbols that I recognized.

The church service began with some electronic music. Then I saw something I had never seen before in a church. There was a burst of light at the front of the church, and then I saw a huge, glowing, floating head. The head began talking various soothing, mystical words for several minutes. 

church of the future

The floating head faded away, and another floating head appeared at the front of the church, speaking more soothing mystical words. This glowing head was the head of a male.

A robed person then came to the front of the church.

“It is time for us to partake in the mystical communion,” the robed person announced. 

People began to come up from the pews to the robed person, who had a container filled with small wafers. The robed figure put the wafers on the tongues of those who had come to the front of the church. It reminded me of a ceremony of the Catholic Church, although I would eventually find out this ceremony was very different.

“Can I try one of the communion wafers?” I asked my friend.

“No, you can only partake of communion if you have participated in Holy Confession first,” Alan explained. Alan then joined the line, and ate one of the wafers.

When Alan came back to his pew, he closed his eyes. I noticed that other people who had ate the communion wafers also closed their eyes, and seemed to be enthralled in some type of strange ecstasy.

After another half an hour, the service ended, and Alan and I left.

“That communion wafer seemed to have an odd effect on you,” I observed.

“When you partake of the mystical communion, it's like no experience you've ever had,” said Alan. “You close your eyes, and you can see all kinds of lights floating by. You feel like you are one with everyone, at one with the universe. It's like a river of bliss is pouring through your soul.”

I was intrigued by Alan's statement, so I went back to the church and asked what I needed to do to be able to try one of the communion wafers. I was told to go into a dark booth that was marked Confession Chamber.

When I went into the small dark room I heard a deep, pleasant voice.

“Confess your sins, my son,” said the voice.

“Uh...I stole a jelly roll from my co-worker's cubicle,” I said. I figured I could get by with confessing just one trivial sin.

“Please confess more,” said the voice. “Tell me about the worst sins you have ever committed.”

I told some more sins, but this still wasn't enough. The voice kept asking more and more questions. It asked if I had ever cheated on my wife. It asked if I had ever used software I hadn't paid for. It asked me if I had ever cheated on my income taxes.

Finally after I had answered many additional questions, and confessed to quite a few serious sins, the questions ended.

“Go in peace, and sin no more,” said the voice. I was given a ring I could wear to show I was ready to eat one of the communion wafers.

The next week I went back to the weekly church ceremony at the Church of Mystical Bliss. I stood in line to receive one of the communion wafers. They placed it on my tongue, and I went back to my place in the pew.

Suddenly I felt like I had never felt before. I closed my eyes, and saw all kinds of strange, beautiful lights swirling around. I felt a wonderful sense of union with everyone in the church. I felt like I wanted to hug everyone in the world, and everyone in the universe. My body also felt wonderful, as if I was sitting on the most comfortable beach chair on the most beautiful beach as the sun sank into the ocean and the sea gulls sang all around me.

After twenty minutes the strange feeling disappeared. Some robed figures came by and collected money from those in the pews, using a plate attached to the end of a long metal pole. The plate was placed in front of me, and I threw a few coins on the plate. The robed figure shook the plate in front of me, signaling that I needed to give more. I put a dollar on the plate. The robed figure again shook the plate, and wouldn't stop until I had put 40 dollars on the plate.

Finally I left the church. I went back home and told myself: that was worth trying one time, but I'm not really a church person, so I'm not going back.

But when it got to be Saturday night I felt a strange craving in my body. It was as if I desperately needed something. I sensed that what I needed was another one of the communion wafers.

So I went back to the Church of Mystical Bliss the next day. They gave me one of the communion wafers again, and immediately my craving went away. I enjoyed the same bliss as before, and felt no more craving for another six days. But the next Saturday night I felt the same urgent craving as before.

I kept coming back to the Church of Mystical Bliss week after week, always having the same blissful mystical communion on Sunday, and always feeling the same urgent cravings on Saturday, which I could end only by going back to the church on Sunday and consuming another communion wafer.

I finally became convinced there was something wrong about the Church of Mystical Bliss. I began doing research on it, and heard about a critic of the church named Russell Trent, who I arranged to meet.

“Let me tell you the truth about the Church of Mystical Bliss,” said Russell. “Let's start with the communion wafers. They contain a drug. It's a highly addictive drug. It's a derivative of opium. Some scientists invented it in a chemistry lab, using some very clever chemical engineering. The drug produces twenty minutes of bliss, kind of like the effects of the drug Ecstasy. Then if you haven't taken the drug in six days, you get the withdrawal effects. Your body starts craving the drug. That's how they get people to come back to their churches every week.”

“So I'm a drug addict?” I asked.

“You sure are,” said Russell.

“But I see those mysterious floating heads at their church services, so they must be in touch with some type of higher power,” I said.

“The floating heads are just holograms,” Russell said. “They project those using machinery at the front of each church. The Church of Mystical Bliss is basically just a big drug selling operation, kind of like your corner street pusher, but a lot more sophisticated. They give you the drugs in the communion wafers, and they make sure you pay for them by aggressively shaking their collection plates in front of you until you've paid 40 or 50 dollars each Sunday.”

Seeing the light, I was infuriated. “Why doesn't the government shut them down?” I asked.

“The government can't shut down a church or even regulate a church,” Russell explained. “They're protected by the First Amendment. The church even gets a huge tax break, the exemption from property taxes.”

I told Russell that I would go to the press and tell them all about what Russell had told me.

“Did you confess your sins?” said Russell. “Some serious sins?”

“Yes, I confessed some serious sins,” I admitted.

“That mysterious voice you hear in the Confession Chamber is a chat bot,” explained Russell. “It's computer software designed to get you to confess as many juicy sins as possible. Everything you said was recorded. If you try to publicly denounce the Church of Mystical Bliss, they will reveal that information to try to harm you. I've heard of people who confessed tax cheating, and then got audited, because the IRS got a tip on its tax cheating hotline.”

“So what can I do?” I asked.

“Forget about saving other people from this church,” said Russell. “Just work on fixing yourself. You'll have to go Cold Turkey to overcome your drug addiction. It will be a week of hell, but with my help you can do it.”

With Russell's help I went Cold Turkey. The first Sunday that I didn't go to the Church of Mystical Bliss, the craving was almost unbearable. The next five days were pure hell. But with Russell urging me on, I finally got to Saturday, and the cravings ended. I was done forever with the Church of Mystical Bliss.

Now when I want to get a blissful feeling of oneness with the universe, I just go hiking in the mountains, and look up at a clear sky ablaze with a thousand stars.