A hypothetical dilemma...
The City held out as long as it could. The citizens endured unspeakable privations and pushed themselves to startling extremes. Yet, in the end, the beleaguered City fell to the pressure of the conqueror.
After the surrender, the great conquering general led a procession of fierce and victorious soldiers through the city directly to the now-vacant throne. One of the general's first supplicants was the City's high priest. The priest had come to beg that the City's temple be spared, so the rituals and customs might continue uninterrupted under the new regime.
'Tell me of your religion, priest.' ordered the general.
So, the priest told the conqueror about the faith of the City. He spoke about the importance of prayer, worship, and the great teachings of their holy scriptures. The priest described the hope people found in their faith, and he extolled the benefits the faith brought to the people and the City.
The general pondered the priest's request for several long minutes.
'I have no use for religion, oh priest. I believe in the law and order,' the general finally responded. 'But, I am no monster.'
'Of course not, General' agreed the priest.
'Though I care for the plight of your people,' said the General, 'I cannot ignore the fact that your religion sustained the rebellion for too long. Only a fool would ignore a smoldering fire.'
'Can we not have both at once, my Lord.'
'No.' Then, the general offered a proposal to the priest. 'You must consider, priest, whether your religion is more concerned with the good of your people or with the worship of your god. Now, you must choose. If you choose to relinquish your religion, I will use my Empire's vast resources and guarantee that the hungry will be fed, the naked will be clothed, and justice for all will wash over the City. However, if you choose to retain your religion, I will enslave every citizen to the service of the Empire. You can have your religion, but you will worship as oppressed slaves that survive on the crumbs and scraps of the imperial table. Many of the City's children will starve and the people will constantly know the constant feel of my boot on their throat.'
The priest considered his options, staring at the ground between his feet.
'What say you, priest?' demanded the General,
The priest wet his lips, looked up, and staring directly into the conquerors eyes he expressed his decision.
How did the priest answer? How would you answer? What is or should be a religion's central concern? The social good? Religious tradition? Theology?
Join us this Wednesday at Short's Brewing Company, 7pm. We will discuss the religious dilemma.