I came across this passage during editing, near the middle of the book. The spiritual leader of Vidura's largest religious sect is speaking at a university commencement a few weeks after a physics experiment confirms the doctrine of an immortal soul.
Brahmarsi mounted the stage from behind the dais. He was clad in a Cadre senior officer’s uniform, black jacket over black kilt, absent of decoration except for brass fasteners and four gold pips on one sleeve.
The Prefect waited patiently for applause to subside, hands folded in front. Finally he raised one hand, bringing the stadium to near-silence.
A single voice shouted out, “Murderer”. Groans and hisses made a wave through the audience. The offender shouted again, first in anger, then in pain. Brahmarsi stepped closer to the edge of the stage.
“Let’s give the faithful time to teach that man about manners, and then I’ll answer the accusation.” The stadium erupted in laughter. Brahmarsi lifted his chin toward the upper levels. “Sir … up there. Yes, thank you. That’s enough. Let him go.”
He peered into the crowd. “I see a few signs. Let’s get this out of the way. ‘Do Vanya have souls?’ Yes. ‘Religion promotes violence.’ Absolutely — all beliefs promote violence. The person carrying that sign wishes violence on everybody who believes anything he does not believe. That is our nature, why would I deny it?”
The stadium was now so full of silence, frogs could be heard on the lightposts, calling their mates. “And we are all suddenly in a twist about our true nature, are we not? A thing we imagined is now too real, and we have a decision to make. What shall we believe or reject, and how will we explain whatever choice we make to ourselves and to others? What will we do with this information?”
He snuffed loudly enough for everyone to hear it. “The news services will have you reject it. It is divisive, they say. Controversial, unsupported by reason, nothing but fuel for war and misery.”
The Prefect paused, eyes glaring through the footlights. “Really? That seems … overly dramatic to me. It makes me wonder, what are they upset about, that makes them say such stupid things? Why are they so intent on tearing at the sincere beliefs of others? That sign reads ‘Teach science, not religion’. The bearer thinks that what other people believe is unimportant, that only those things he cares about have value. He will deny it, and then frame an argument that is about nothing except what his truth allows him to impose on the rest of us.
At the root of it all is jealousy of another tribe’s success, and the worry that his own might be inferior. When news arrived that believers may have reason to hope, he was offended by our joy and the only thing he found in his heart was a desire to show contempt for us.
Sir? Yes, you. Do you want to be a member of my tribe? Entry is not as complicated as you fear. You don’t have to believe in the soul, or pray, or tithe. All you have to do is stop being such an asshole.”
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