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What is the perfect world? A world without war or conflict? A world without poverty or famine? Why is this world not perfect? I ask of you to contemplate the imperfection or imperfections and get to the root of the issue. What is the underlying cause of this imperfection? Whatever the case may be, it can most likely be partially or completely attributed to religion and/or the separation between people because of a belief system. What would the world be like under a single, unified religion where Jews are not persecuted for thinking differently and where there are no wars over religion?
Imperfection is a natural thing. In nature, there is no “perfect organism” that can withstand all of nature’s ferocities and arbitrary moods. There is no perfect society or perfect person, but can there truly exist a perfect world? If imperfection is natural, is it unnatural to create a perfect world? Enough with the questions, and for a brief moment of your time, I would like to explore with you a simulation of a world with a single unified religion, or perhaps no religion at all. Throughout, I would like you to ponder three main ideas: Is this world perfect, has the human race developed into this society or how far away are we from becoming like the society in the story, and who does the speaker represent?
When the bell rang, the rest of the class hurried to their seats, knowing that the teacher will not be happy if there is another day beginning with class disorder of any form. As the children scurried, I saw that the teacher seemed to be in a content mood, rather than having a disdain toward everything that took in his oxygen. “Class, sit up straight! Pencils down and give me full attention while I lecture you about being late to an autopsy!” Yes, Senior Rosenthal did seem to be in a more pleasant mood than usual.
At around three p.m., my friend, Andrew, asked me, “Psst! Did you notice that S.R. was incredibly pleasant today?”
“Yes I did. Hmm . . . What’s today?” I replied.
“It’s either the first or second of April,” Andrew said. “Wait, so that must mean E-day is just a week away. Oh no! I completely spaced on what to present to her. What did you get her?”
“Don’t look at me. I was going to see what my parents got her first, and they just picked it up today. I’ll call you with the details later. See you later.” I needed to think of something fast, because I haven’t seen my parents in three days, so I figured they were not going to be present for E-day this year. Two years ago, they skipped out on E-day and the police came looking for them. When they returned three weeks later, they were found and captured. They told the police that they were present and they had proof. Later, they presented the information proving they were there. I don’t know how they did it, but somehow they did and got away with it. They promised me they would never do it again, but I’m not so sure this time.
I figured I needed to find something to get the Community president, Mrs. Vile. She is the most, well, vile president we’ve had for twelve years. Hopefully, she will not be reappointed next term, but that seems unlikely because nobody is willing to be a Community president. They cannot drink, they cannot gamble, they cannot do most things that normal people do, which is why nobody wants to be the president. As far as I know, Vile is the one of the only people that actually takes pride in E-day, and our Community is mocked for it.
I began searching and searching for things to give Vile and could not find anything that she wouldn’t criticize me for. “I heard V likes antiques . . . I could give her the vase in the attic with the large ‘t’ inscribed on it. It’s not like my parents use it,” I said to myself that fateful afternoon. I went up to the attic and began looking for the Artifact. It was odd though, because I found all kinds of jewelry with that “t” inscribed somewhere along with miniature statues of animals and oddly looking star shapes. I found the vase, although it was smaller and more cup-like than I remembered. It was nothing exquisite, but it looked old. And I was hoping that she would just quickly glance at my information card as the vase went through, but no such luck availed me. But this is not for a couple of days.
I called Andrew and told him, and he thought it was a good idea and said he might try and dig up something similar. As I was putting it in my room, I looked at my watch and it was already midnight. I went to bed, not knowing of the chaos that would arise from the actions of the day.
But before falling asleep, I love to read. That night, I read The History of the Ancient World. Although it technically is a fictitious book, sometimes I wish the world would transform into the world in this novel, but I know such a unique place can only exist in the infinite world of print.
I woke up the next morning to the sound of my parents yelling at each other.
“At least they’re home,” I said to myself. I went downstairs and into the kitchen where they were sitting, looking exhausted. They came up and hugged me and started acting like they weren’t fighting.
“How was your day yesterday?” both of them asked.
“Fine. I finally found an object to give to Mrs. Vile. It’s the vase from --”
“Well that’s good,” replied my father. “At least you didn’t wait until the last minute, like you did last year. Shelley, do you remember how hectic that was?”
“Ah, yes. Our child is always the procrastinator,” my mother said. I always hated it when she referred to me as little, but she continues to do it anyway. “Gerald, what should we get Mrs. Vile this year?”
“Hmm . . . I think we should get her the same thing we got her last year. It’s not like she keeps track of all of the individual items she receives from everybody or anything like that,” my father said. I know that they really don’t get her anything, but they don’t know that I know. I don’t know why they pretend to give her her annual demand, but they do and I don’t care why.
“So, where did you guys go?” I asked, knowing very well what the answer will be. They always say they go some place that is dull, but I know they don’t actually travel to those places because they sometimes bring back Artifacts.
“A little town about 40 miles south of the Community of Des Moines, Iowa. We heard there was a band, from when your father and I were kids, playing there. But it turns out we were a day late, so we decided to just get acquainted with that Community,” my mother said as though she was telling the truth. “Oh, you better be off to --”
“I don’t have to go today. It’s Saturday. Besides, I figured I’m just going to deposit my Arti-- item to the collection box for Vile. Do you want me to drop off yours as well?” I asked while I was walked upstairs because the answer was be the same as it always is.
“No, we’ll drop off ours ton--” as I closed the door to my room. While I was getting ready, I turned on the television, and as always, the news was on.
“--aking news: Another small cult was found late last night thanks to a tip caller. It appears that the cult was engaging in the same ceremonies as all of the other cults that have appeared recently. Thirteen people were caught who claimed that they were ‘following God’s wishes.’ Apparently, this God character is the leader of this cult, and these cults will not stop until God is caught and apprehended. The whole story tomorrow at eleven a.m. Also, if you have any tips regarding the whereabouts of God, call the tip line at 555-0394.” I thought to myself that I wouldn’t be watching this stuff if it weren’t for the beautiful news anchors.
As I put on my coat, I slipped the vase and my book in my pocket, turned off the television, and headed out the door. As I turned on my car, I was flipping through the radio stations and found that all of them were talking about either local E-day festivals or the cults that have been springing up lately. As I passed the body bin (I can always tell I’m close to the Community center if I can smell or see the big blue body bin), I kept on driving until I got to Main Street. I parked and walked to the central Community building to check in my Artifact. I glanced at my watch and found that the time was 2:37 p.m. I then remembered that the central Community building closes at 2:30 p.m. I was late and started running to the building and hoped that it was still open, but it wasn’t. And they are not open on Sundays either so I could not drop off my Artifact until Monday. I figured, though, while I was out, I could read more of The History of the Ancient World. I was on the chapter entitled Erde, which was a foreign word and nobody knew what it meant. As I was reading, I came across the word God a few times, and was wondering if it had any connection to the cults that have been forming lately. Since the book was fiction and written over fifty years ago, I thought it was doubtful. I also came across other odd words such as Shiva, Jehovah, and one of the banned words. I was surprised to find that word in a public book because hundreds of years ago, the communities burned everything that had to do with that word and from that point on, that word could not be said or written down in public without facing the utmost punishment of the law. After reading on the grass for a couple of hours, I went home and ate some dinner. I decided to go to bed early that night so I could wake up early and get my Community duties done for the week.
I woke up about 5:30 a.m. to get ready for my Community duties at 6:30 a.m., and I kind of took my time because every week, I have the same shift as Hailey, who is nice, but talks all of the time which makes me unfocused and unable to accomplish much, so I was simply procrastinating. I’ve tried to take it up with the Community Organizer, but she said that Hailey is my superior. I have yet to understand why, but that is how it’s always been and always will be. Hailey is younger than I am but she was born into a higher status family . . . Anyway, today was the Library shift, so I had to go to the library and do whatever they asked of me. To my surprise, Hailey was not there. The Community Organizer said she had not seen Hailey nor heard from her, so it was just me and three other people that day. I really enjoy my Community duties shift because my hours of 6:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. is also the shift of 90% of the Community because that is the time in which most of the Community has nothing going on. Sunday is the day for pure personal enjoyment without the stresses of the outside world (excluding the Community duties of course). After my duties, I started the car and went home. As I was driving, I noticed that there was a corpse near the body bin. I know I shouldn’t have done anything, but I find it disgusting if someone is to murder somebody else, the least they could do is dispose of the body properly. I parked the car and went toward the body to dispose of it, hoping I was doing it correctly because I had never done this before. In fact, before that, I had never seen an actual corpse. The body was only about four yards from the bin, so I just dragged it to the bin. As I was picking it up, it moved. I was startled and accidentally dropped it. I attributed it to my imagination, because it wasn’t breathing and it was stone cold, so I tried it again. I picked it up, and the next thing I knew, I was here . . . . .
“So, now that I told you my story, can you tell me where am I exactly? And who are you guys?” I asked calmly, yet forcefully. I heard indistinct whispers among the group of people. I was laying down, blindfolded, but I could discern between at least four voices, if not five. As soon as I spoke, the voices hushed. I felt a presence come nearer, and he or she unveiled my blindfold. As I was opening my eyes, I could see seven or eight figures standing around me with more off in the periphery of my vision. None of the faces look familiar, I thought to myself.
“Hello, my child. You are a very curious person, aren’t you?” The voice and the face were not familiar to me, and his approach seemed rather odd. “Tell me, do you remember where you last set the cup --- I mean vase that you were talking about earlier?”
“I think I set it in my room. I never took it out of my coat. Who are you guys and what do you want?” I tried to wriggle free, but I was bound to the bed with locks around my ankles.
“You may call me Father Matthews. And as for your residence, would you be so kind as to tell us exactly where you live so we can finish this as quickly as possible?” As light was flooding into my eyes, I could see the people more and more clearly. It seemed as though most of the men, and not the women, were dressed up in a special uniform, and rest of the people there were dressed up rather nicely.
“And what if I refuse to cooperate? What then?” I have not known myself to be a rebel or to be difficult, so to be honest, I don’t know what came over me. But I just felt like I needed to take authority, which is unlike most males of this Community. I heard in other communities that men also had very little authority, if any, but I have not travelled to another Community to actually see for myself.
“We are not necessary a hostile group of people. We just want what would be best for the Community.” That voice sounded familiar, but I could not place it. He was covered by a hood leaving only his lips exposed to the light. “We feel that the Community . . . No, the whole world, would be better off if the people had hope, had reason to be alive, rather than drifting through life, unaware of what lies beyond. In essence, we want to establish a . . . a . . .” And he stopped. The last word he made did not produce sound. I got a puzzled look on my face, so he came closer and mouthed the word slower. Then I understood what he was trying to say and why he could not say it. It was one of those banned words that was associated with Shiva in The History of the Ancient World.
“Why are you trying to do that?!” I asked. “You do know the Community President will stop you at all costs. Even thinking of creating that is a crime, you all should know that! Why are --”
“You of all people should know.” A person came forward. It was a woman that I did not see before and was dressed up in the special suit similar to that of a couple of the other men. “I have seen your eyes buried in that book of yours.”
“I have no idea what Calculus has to do with this, ma’am. And that was about three years ago,” I replied slyly.
“Not that book, the other book of yours. The special book. It’s the The History of,” she started to say.
“The Ancient World? But that book is fictitious. The publisher even calls it fiction, and there is no way that whole countries existed. It is hard to believe that groups of people get larger than simple communities. I don’t know where you are getting your information from, but you best check the sources before you state claims.” I was getting agitated by the obliviousness of these people.
“Actually, that book was never meant to get out. We wrote that book exclusively for people of our group. One of our members was doing her Community duties about two years ago in the library and --,” the familiar voice seemed like she was getting agitated as well.
“So you guys are with the Community?” I asked calmly. I suddenly felt a little safer knowing that I was in the company of relatively civilized people.
“Yes we are, now don’t interrupt. Anyway, this woman was doing her Community duties about two years ago, and she was reading the book at the time. She accidentally left it in the library when she left to go home. After she left, a regular Community member took the book to the librarian because he noticed that it did not have a library tag on it. So then the librarian put a tag on the book, making it property of the Community. Since the library is extremely meticulous, as you know, in their bookkeeping, we found that it would be quite impossible to remove the book from the library. And we could not create a fake book because the book had the tag on and it would have invited a great deal of risk to remove it from there. So one day, we sent another member of our group to the library to add some more details making it seem like a fictitious book so that if the Community leaders got a hold of it, they would not suspect anything and cause alarm. Then one day, you picked it up and have read it relentlessly, am I not correct?” After that, I think I remembered who the voice was. It was the manager of the Community cafe, where I go to read my books. “Ever since I saw you with that book, I have kept an eye on you, wondering what would happen if a normal Community member read the book. Apparently you are enjoying it.” She chuckled slightly.
This was a lot to take in at once, considering my near-memorization of the book. Countries, continents, Shiva?! Is it all true? Are the pyramids of Ancient Egypt real? Did people actually have faith in the absent? “Wait, wait, wait . . . So you’re telling me, that --”
“The book is true? Well, metaphysical belief, which is a fancy way of saying the banned word, is simply belief. That is all it is, but that is what we want to instill in the people. We want them to have faith in something other than the Community. But the ancient Aztecs, ancient Hollywood, all of those things are indeed true.” There were a couple of moments that were filled with awkward silence. I wanted to scream, I wanted to cry, I wanted to smile, but I could exert no energy on emotion.
“Okay, so what about this vase of mine that you were asking about a while ago. What importance does that have?”
“Well, to be honest, it’s not a vase. It’s a cup -- No, it’s the cup. The cup that we will use to help prove our cause. We have the science to prove that a metaphysical being does exist somewhere in the universe, but nowadays, people do not believe in pure science. They need physical proof of something before they believe it. This is what the Communities all over the world has instilled in everybody for the past thousand years.” This was a new voice, but very familiar. Looking around, I found that it was Senior Rosenthal. “There was a cup in your house that your parents brought back, am I not correct. This cup is of the utmost importance. We need you to bring it back to us as soon as possible. Am I clear?”
Thinking this is way too much to absorb at once, I just replied, “Yes,” wanting to get out of there. “So, if you tell me where we are, I can leave and go get the vase-- er, cup.”
“I’m afraid we cannot let you go. We will have to put you back in your car, sleeping, so you can just drive home and get the cup. When you have the cup, come back to the body bin. Only then will we escort you back to here.” As I was trying to sit up they tightened my restraints and gave me the same sedative they did before. As I was drifting into unconsciousness, I saw it again, that “t”.
I awoke in my car, driving home. It was kind of scary waking up to oncoming traffic, but somehow I managed to make it home. I immediately went to my room because I wanted this to be over as soon as possible. I found my coat, but it was empty. I went looking around for it and could not find it. Then my mother came into my room, and asked what was wrong.
“Nothing, just trying to find something that I need for tomorrow.” I resumed my search and could not find it. I went back up to the attic to search for it and could not find it. As I walked back to the main floor, my parents were sitting at a table, waiting for me. “Is there anything you need from me?”
“Sit down, please. We need to talk. What was this grail doing in your room?” My mother always became stern on Monday mornings. “Hmm? What was it doing there?”
“And why were you out so --,” my dad began.
“I’ll handle this Gerald. Go do laundry or something,” my mother said demandingly. When my dad left, my mother became even more stern, which I thought was impossible. “What do you know exactly?”
“What do you mean ‘What do I know’?”
“Don’t play dumb with me. Where were you last night?”
“I was out with Andrew and Br--”
“I’m going to ask you one more time, and this time, it better be the correct answer! What do you know?” After an awkward pause, I began telling her what happened the day before. She seemed like she knew it all and it was no surprise. Then something strange happened. She went on to give me a brief history, to explain why metaphysical belief is bad. “Over a thousand years ago, there was a civilization much like ours today. They had automobiles, telephones, etc. Yet, there was one thing they had that we don’t have: religion.” At this moment, my heart seemed to quadruple in the number of beats per minute. It was racing so fast, I thought the blood was creating a pressure so large that I would have exploded at any time. How is it that she can say it and nobody else can say it? Why did she use a banned word?
“Yes, I said religion,” she continued. “As you know, I’m one of the Community President’s advisers. I have the authority to do things that normal people cannot. Anyway, religion is what destroyed their society. In their year of 2009, which is about a thousand years ago, but we do not keep track of years anymore, there was a terrible war that was waged between three religious sects: Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam. These three religions had conflicting belief beyond the physical realm, and constantly fought over whose religion was the correct religion.
“After this war, very few people survived. The people that did survive made an oath to ban religion. The final day of the war was the most terrible. 90% of the Earth’s population was wiped out that fateful day. That day is commonly referred to as E-day, or eradication day. That is the day that the eradication of religion is celebrated, although not too many people know the true reason behind it. We just pass it off as a Community holiday in which we give thanks to our leaders for leading us through the tough times, but really it is a holiday celebrating another year of religion being kept out of our lives.
“Anyway, throughout the history of mankind, religion has caused wars and countless deaths that were unnecessary. At the beginning of this era, women were made into higher ranking positions than men. Women have a lot more to endure during their life, so they thought it was only just. So in order for this perfect world of ours to exist, we cannot have religion because it only inspires trouble. Do you see the point I’m trying to make here?”
“Yes but I have one question: Where is it that you and Dad go for days or weeks at a time?”
“We go out and try and exterminate known areas where people are practicing religion.”
“Exterminate? I thought you just captured them?”
“That is what we tell the news to report. We don’t want to set a precedent for other people to exterminate people for no reason. That is what religion is for. Come here and look in my manual given to me by the city.” Reluctantly I came over, and looked in the book. “If you look at what it says here,” she said, “you can see that --” At that moment, my mother collapsed. I yelled, and my father came running in, trying to call an ambulance. But at that moment, he collapsed too. It looked like they just collapsed . . . I yelled again, and then I saw Senior Rosenthal out of the window. I went running to him, trying to hold back the tears.
“Did you see what happened in there? They just . . . they just . . .”
“I know, they’ll be fine in a couple of hours. Now where is the cup,” he enquired.
“The cup? The CUP? What happened to my parents?”
“They were working for the Community, killing helpless people and taking their right to free speech away. We needed to exter-- sedate them until you got us the cup.”
“Fine. If I get this cup, will the killing end?! I just want it to end. There is no point to it and it won’t solve anything. Please, just let it stop.”
“Yes, it will stop after you give us the cup. Now please go get it.” I ran inside the house and hugged my parents’ unconscious bodies, and left. I ran outside toward Senior Rosenthal when he was suddenly abducted by people in a black van. The people in the van also ran after me as I retreated into the grass. After running for about five minutes, they were still following me. Then I noticed that some of the people that abducted me earlier were chasing me as well as the people from the van. As I looked ahead, I ran into a metal bar and became unconscious.
Later that day . . .
I woke up in a place different from the last place I was in. There were people all around me, all of whom were unfamiliar. I could not move any part of my body except for my eyelids, and I could only hear one person talking to me.
“You do not know where you are, and you probably don’t want to know where you are. I just wanted to tell you that your part is over -- We have won the war. This thousand year war that has been waged between religion and non-religion is finally over, and we can thank you for that. We thought that the other team was going to win for a minute, but because of your spectacular display, you made us win. The Holy Grail is ours, and not theirs. Team, we have finally won. We have won the war, and now we can all live in peace. And we can attribute it all to this kid. So before the kid loses any memory of any of this, you may want to extend your thanks.” As things were starting to turn hazy and white, people began crowding around me, thanking me. Then I saw someone familiar -- It was then I knew.
“Amen, and peace be with you.” It feels different to exchange peace with somebody now, but I know I have been doing it all of my life. For a few months now, it seems that life has been a lot more clear, and I can’t seem to remember much before that.
As mass was letting out, a man came running in through the doors. “I am a messenger of God! He sent me a vision, telling us that we are practicing religion incorrectly. We must follow these new rules in order to worship correctly or we will be condemned. Then the strangest thing happened. It seemed as though about half of the people in mass went out with him and half of them stayed in the church to discuss what to do about the newly-designated traitors. Where do I stand? Now, is that really appropriate to discuss my religious beliefs - You should know them all by now. I’ve only been worshiping God all of my life.