Absolute knowledge is a fictional creation, as is the idea of an absolute truth. And so, while I have professed to be an avowed atheist over the past five or six years, I have slowly acknowledged within myself that I more agnostic than atheist. Of course, since the former merely allows that a God (or many Gods) might exist, it may not seem like much of a distinction after all, but it is enough.

The crux of the matter lies in the perspective one looks upon the world with. Do I take a reasoned stance that allows for the existence of the unknown, for gaps in my knowledge, or do I take an immutable stand on my stated beliefs, never to recant or change my opinions on what I accept as “truth”. And stated in such manner, most people it would seem, would choose the former. But in practice, it implies that my existence as an atheist is as rooted in blind faith and stubbornness as is that of a religious zealot. I say, “I do not believe in the existence of God because I have seen no proof that he exists. My powers of perception and reasoning have not revealed God to me and so I deny his (or her for that matter) existence.” But what we learn is that our perceptions and sense are severely limited, that we do not in fact, see everything, hear everything. My reasoning is so startlingly similar to that used against the mind bending claims of Darwin or Galileo that at first it horrified me. Our senses so clearly tell us that the sun moves around the earth, and that monkeys remain monkeys, that the absurdity of any claim that states otherwise is obvious to even the most simpleminded of simpletons.

But that is the very point of scientific thought isn’t it? To ask questions of the most obvious beliefs, and above all to never dismiss any claim out-of-hand. Yet that is what I have done most of my life; this is what we all do. What got me thinking about this was (of all things) the recent South Park controversy about Issac Hayes (the voice of Chef) quitting over an episode making fun of Scientology. A couple of friends and I were making fun of the guy and Scientology on the whole, when I suddenly realized I actually knew close to nothing about the so-called religion. So after everyone left, I fired up my computer, did a trusty Wikipedia search and sat down for some hard reading and thinking.

In the spirit of my newly purchased perspective of not reflexively dismissing outlandish and unfamiliar ideas as absurd delusions, I stopped for a moment to imagine a world where the claims of Scientology are true. Much like how true Christians believe that we are all the sons of Adam and Eve, and Judgment Day is around the corner (I’m trying to say this with as little sarcasm and skepticism I can, believe me), what if I truly believed that all of humanity is merely a pawn in a galaxy-spanning space-opera and that we have been brainwashed by a galactic dictator named Xenu some 75 million years ago? How would I react to what I see in the world around me? How would I go about sharing my privileged knowledge with the world? If we take Scientology to be true, and accept that its founder, Ron L. Hubbard had access to this knowledge of human history that has remain hidden from the rest of humanity by design, then the world at large takes on a very different face.

What secrets, I would ask, does the church of Scientology conceal from all but its most advanced members, revealing them only out in the middle of the ocean on the mysterious ship Freewinds? What need have we to look to Science Fiction and Fantasy when such a world of wonder and variety exist within our very own time and reality?

“A strange and rapidly expanding religious cult gathers power as its highly visible members begin proclaiming their beliefs on the world stage, their status in popular culture giving them voices that resound across the globe. As their existence becomes widely known, growing ridicule and persecution against them gives them more credibility than ever before, as it did the Jews and the Christians and the Muslims.

At the same time, a religious politician is chosen to lead the greatest and most powerful nation on earth, waging war against his one-time spiritual cousins, who believe in his same God, his prophets, and his faith’s history until very recently. And out of this chaos and destruction, the people turn to the wild proclamations of the small cult that promises them a different future, which tells them that their decades of discontent is caused by money-grubbing pharmaceutical companies and their psychiatrist lackeys. It promises the masses a true, scientific path for the redemption of their souls (for despite peoples earnest professions to the contrary, Science is the true religion now) and the world sees its previous folly, and repents.”

Perhaps I paint a rather fantastical picture, but one must never forget that such far-fetched events have occurred again and again in human history and pre-history. Their grad and epic sweep overwhelms the mind, and we who live through such times never truly grasp their import until they have already passed us by. I wonder what the majestic Romans first thought of the puny cult of Christianity and its absurd ideas of a singular God. How frail and misunderstood the Christians must have thought themselves in the face of the mighty empire that receded so far into history that it dwarfed the lifetime of their recently crucified prophet. Yet Christ came to rule and judge over that mighty kingdom; he survived its collapse (though some say he was the cause of that particular catastrophe) and saw another usurp his role as the last prophet of the Lord God. Yet today his followers live their daily lives, walking about calmly buying groceries, gossiping and cheating and living, without a moments thought as to how they came to be where they now are.

Who knows? Maybe a day will soon come when their long prophesied Apocalypse will arrive, and they shall look to the sky expecting to see the (four?) dark horsemen that shall mark its coming, and see instead the ominous face of Xenu, riding in on his trusty Douglas DC-8 aircraft. Then, we shall truly know that the Apocalypse has arrived.