Ever try to write a story in which religion plays a huge, big important part of it, and come to realize that, while you’ve got a good idea of the general system, you’re really, really short on specifics?
If you have been, please tell me, because that’s kinda where I am right now and it’d be nice to know that I’m not the only one! 😉
Anyway, this is where I try to get my little duckies all in a row and figure out what the heck is going on with this whole “religion” thing, before I get myself into big trouble in the story. I can’t hope to answer EVERY question about religion in this post, especially since the Checkylist asks so many questions about religion, but what I hope to do is paint the religion in broad strokes and fill in the details in the Checkylist and story posts.
And an all-purpose disclaimer: I’m stealing creatively reappropriating materials from many religions (Roman Catholicism is the big one) in my conception of the Wrightian faith. I’m not trying to offend anyone here. Think of it as a compliment — your religion is so cool, I nicked borrowed some stuff from it! And while yes, there will probably be some snarky comments, I’ll try to tone it down for the sake of any religious folks who might be reading this.
But that’s enough of that. On with the fun stuff — the heaven/hell hierarchy, and the founding of the Wrightian faith.
The Basics: Who the Wrightians Believe In
The Wrightian faith is centered around the worship of the Lord Wright, Creator of the Sims Universe and the Sims themselves. It’s a strictly monotheistic system (like Islam and Judaism, and not at all like the trinitarian system of most branches of Christianity). The Lord Wright is it, the Lord and Creator of the universe, the final court of appeal, the Alpha and Omega, etc., etc.
However, just because the Lord Wright is THE supreme being does not mean that he’s the only supernatural creature out there. (And I’m not talking about the fae and the vampires and the zombies here.) The Lord Wright has three orders of angels underneath him to do his bidding, you know — make the coffee and order the pizza and basically make sure that Heaven’s running smoothly so the Lord Wright can concentrate on the rest of the universe. The lowest order of angels are the souls of departed Sims who died in the Lord Wright’s good graces. Their job is to return to their descendants and spook them if they’re doing things deemed to be upsetting to the Lord Wright, and they look much like the deceased did in life. Only, you know, transparent and floaty.
The next-highest are the Maxoids. They helped the Lord Wright with the creation of the Universe, and created patches miracles and such after the initial creation period was over. In Wrightian iconography, they’re depicted as traditional angels: long hair, very pretty, wings, the whole nine yards. Think of a Christmas tree-topper and you’ve got the idea.
The last and highest order of angels are the Most Holy Llamas. These are the Lord Wright’s closest companions, his confidantes, his best buds. Their role is so specialized and ineffable that even the most sophisticated theologians aren’t sure what they do. No one knows what the Most Holy Llamas look like, but in artwork they are often depicted as four-legged, shaggy-furred mammals. This is to represent their holiness and ineffableness, and also that the Lord Wright works in mysterious ways.
But things aren’t all fun and games in the supernatural world; there’s an opposite side to every coin, after all. If there’s a Heaven for the Lord Wright and his angels, there’s a Hell for … well, actually, there’s some debate over who’s in charge down there. Most of the lewd and uneducated folk of Albion and beyond believe that Hell is run by the Grim Reaper and his hula zombies. However, the visions of many a well-regarded mystic has thrown this once universal truism into doubt. The Grim Reaper and the hula zombies generally only show up to guide a Sim who has lived an excellent life to the afterlife — could this mean that the Lord Wright is sending these Sims to Hell? Or is the Lord Wright humiliating the Grim Reaper and the hula zombies by forcing them to act as ferrymen (and women) for the most favored Sims — forcing them to view Heaven over and over, but never to be allowed to enjoy it? While the leading theologians of the Church try to argue this out, they leave the regular teaching — i.e. that the Grim Reaper is in charge of Hell, and the hula zombies are his minions — intact, rather than subject the normal folk of the Church to complex theological puzzles that would probably fry their puny brains.
However, luckily the Church agrees that there are other denizens of hell: the souls of Sims who died out of favor with Wright, and the demons. There are many, many types of demons (so many that more cynical Wrightians suspect the Church higher-ups of making up a new one whenever they need to denigrate someone or something). However, theologians insist that the multiplicity of the demons establishes an important doctrinal point. The Lord Wright stands for order, unity and hierarchy: hence, there are only three orders of angels, all of them are well-defined and have clearly defined (with the exception of the Most Holy Llamas) duties. In Hell, however, there is confusion, disorder, and chaos.
Out of all the possible demons, one is held up as the worst: the cow demon. Why, exactly, cow demons are so bad is a mystery to much of the populace — but since most of the theologians who make these sorts of distinctions are college-educated … well, I’m sure you guys get why the cow demons are so hated.
The Book of Wright and St. Robert the Crumpled-Bottom
The Book of Wright is the main holy book of the Wrightian faith — there are other influential works by saints and sages, but this is the MAJOR book that nearly every Wrightian has some familiarity with. Most of them don’t own the book, of course, but they’ve heard the stories described therein. The Book of Wright details the tale of the creation of the universe and lays out the hierarchy of heaven. It also tells the story of the early days of the Wrightian faith. Most of it was penned by the most holy prophet, St. Robert the Crumpled-Bottom, though some sections, detailing St. Robert’s death and the founding of the Wrightian church in its founder’s absence, were written after his death. Where St. Robert’s authorship leaves off and his followers’ begins is a matter of some debate.
Some one thousand years before the founding of Albion, St. Robert the Crumpled-Bottom was born in the Dousa Desert, in the far reaches of the Reman Empire. Little is known of his early life, though the Book of Wright records the visions of llamas his mother, St. Brandi the Broke, had shortly after his conception and before his birth. It is also mentioned in the Book of the Wright that he was born some time after his father died in a drowning described as “suspicious” at the oasis where the tribe was staying at the time. Because of this, some more daring theologians theorize that “Crumpled-Bottom” is a Dousa euphemism for bastardy, though all agree St. Robert was actually legitimate, and that any imputations of bastardy were the result of gossiping neighbors and Reman smear campaigns.
He lived rather inoffensively — and quite lucratively — as a dowser for most of his early adulthood, until approximately the age of thirty. Then, he too had visions of llamas and a direct line of communication to the Lord Wright (or so he claimed). He began to move about the Dousa Desert, preaching the good news of peace, salvation and permanently platinum aspirations for all. He brought with him his wife, St. Agnes, and a train of followers that grew by the minimum.
When he arrived at Downtownium, the Reman metropolis on the edge of the Dousa Desert, things started to get ugly. His fame had preceded him, and though he was welcomed into the city with great ceremonies, the Reman officials were rather alarmed. In their minds, such large groups of subjugated people could only mean one thing: potential rebellion. Within a week, they had St. Robert arrested and put to death by crucifixion.
It didn’t stick.
Less than forty-eight hours after his demise, St. Robert was spotted walking about the Forum of Downtownium. Specifically, he walked up to the Governor’s house, knocked on the door, and made moose ears when the shocked Governor, summoned by his slaves, came to the door. St. Robert informed the Governor that the Lord Wright had allowed him to die simply in order to resurrect him and thus prove that his might was supreme. The Governor didn’t give a damn and swiftly re-arrested St. Robert, but was stymied when the courts ruled that, since he had already been put to death for treason, rebellion and all the rest of it, the government could not re-prosecute him. The fact that St. Robert informed them that they could kill him as many times as they liked, and the Lord Wright would keep bringing him back, probably helped them in coming to that decision. While still imprisoned, St. Robert struck a deal with the Governor, allowing he and all his followers to be transported by boat to Glasonland, where they would try to make converts in a new land. Glad to have this particular band of potential rebels out of his hair, the Governor agreed. As soon as they were gone, he went about mercilessly executing the many, many converts St. Robert had made in Downtownium who did not wish to remove to Glasonland. Of course, some slipped through the cracks and went about spreading the Word of Wright in Reme.
Note: Some years after his death, the Mashuga Heresy claimed that the Lord Wright did not, in fact, resurrect St. Robert, but that instead he had discovered a mystical object, called the Resurrect-o-Nomitron or “bone phone” some years before his preaching began. This object allowed the user to open up a direct line of communication with the Grim Reaper. Sylvia Marie the Mashuga, the originator of this heresy, claimed not only that a wealthy backer of St. Robert, having been given this object shortly before St. Robert’s execution, used it to bring St. Robert back, but also that she herself was in possession of this mysterious “bone phone.” Sylvia Marie the Mashuga was sentenced to death by secular leaders, but somehow escaped prison before the sentence could be carried out. The “bone phone,” if she ever had it — if it ever existed — has not since been found. Interestingly enough, though, this whole debacle went down in the area that today is known as Albion …
While on ship, St. Robert dropped two bombshells. The first was that his death had effectively dissolved his marriage to St. Agnes — after all, vows only last “until death do us part.” This wouldn’t have been much of a problem, since another bought of wedding vows would have re-tied the knot. Then came the second bombshell. In his many conversations with the Lord Wright in the afterlife (conversations that he would refer to, sporadically, throughout his life, often when the fledgling Church was divided or facing challenges), the Lord Wright had indicated that, while normal married life was expected and encouraged for normal Sims, those whom the Lord Wright called to special service were to be celibate. Thus, the vows between he and St. Agnes would not be renewed. St. Agnes shocked the whole ship by taking this news with relatively good grace. St. Robert thus formed the first order of monks of all the men on board ship who were willing to become celibate (or who were forced into it when their wives opted to become nuns), while St. Agnes formed the first order of nuns from the women who wished to become celibate (or who were forced into it when their husbands opted to become monks).
Their ships were sighted some time before they landed and were met by a delegation from the King of Glasonland, Brutus I. The delegation, upon hearing the pilgrims’ story, instantly conveyed them to the King, where St. Robert, according to the Book of Wright, was inspired by the Lord Wright to speak in such an eloquent manner that he converted the King and all his court that very day. (Secular histories, most of which have been suppressed by this time in Albion’s history, claim that Brutus was a staunch follower of the proverb “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” — thus, anyone who pissed off Reme as much as St. Robert did was well worth cultivating as an ally — and moreover wasn’t that attached to his religion anyway.) In any case, the land that would eventually become Camford University was ceded to St. Robert and his followers, and they were licenced to preach and convert throughout the country. Thus the slow work of converting the country folk of Glasonland, many of whom were unreasonably tenacious in their former, erroneous beliefs, began. Some of the Church’s first martyrs came about as a result of violence from the country folk, or at least the first martyrs the main body of the Church knew about — Wrightians were still being slaughtered in droves back in Reme, but owing to slow communication speeds, it was a while before the Glasonland branch of the Church got to hear about it.
While in Camford, St. Robert and St. Agnes founded the original chapter houses of their respective monastery and nunnery, naming them oh-so-creatively “The Monastery” and “The Nunnery.” After their deaths, they became known as the Order of St. Robert and the Order of St. Agnes, respectively. As the original chapter houses, these two houses are theoretically the mother houses of all orders of monks and nuns in Wrightendom — theoretically.
St. Robert lived to an astonishingly old age: eighty-five. Up until his last years, he continued to travel about the countryside to preach and convert, as well as send relief and comfort to the struggling Reman church. Before he died for the second time, he informed his followers that since his time of life had run out, the Lord Wright would not be resurrecting him again. Apocryphal accounts of his death date it as one of the first sightings of not only the Grim Reaper, but the hula zombies — and certainly the first time the Grim Reaper had given a Sim a nice little umbrella drink to sip along the way to the afterlife.
St. Agnes disappeared from her nunnery shortly after St. Robert’s death. Her fate is still a matter of much debate: was she instantly translated into Heaven by Lord Wright? Did she move into the hinterlands between Reme and Glasonland (i.e. Albion) to preach and convert there, and die peacefully eventually? Did the senility that was gradually overtaking her lead her to wander outside at night and fall down a well? No one knows. There is a fourth theory, that St. Robert, realizing that St. Agnes would be sure to go to Heaven after her death, petitioned the Lord Wright to never let her die, but this is held to be borderline heresy. However, there is a strange old woman in a nun’s habit who haunts the northern coastline of Albion, whacking with her purse couples who are engaging in public displays of affection … and St. Agnes was always a foe of sexual impropriety, particularly after she became a nun …
In any case, the Wrightian religion survived and even thrived following the deaths of its founders, growing to the point where even the Reman Empire realized the religion would be much better co-opted than persecuted (approximately five hundred years before the founding of Albion). The Church today is a powerhouse, with a finger in virtually every pie, and continues to do the work of preaching, teaching and shepherding Sims along the path of life.