The Way of Cross and Dragon (1979) by George R. R. Martin

A fantastic short story, definitely one of the best in Martin’s “Thousand Worlds” setting. Full of fascinating worldbuilding, strong character writing, interesting plot movements, and great lines like “freedom is cold and empty and frightening, and lies can often be warm and beautiful”.

I don’t personally share the same sort of atheist ideology the story examines, but the story works excellently as an examination of faith, truth, deception, and human nature regardless of one’s personal beliefs, at least in my experience.

The way the themes of the story are interwoven through multiple levels is impressive – the ideas of heresy and self-deception resonate from the personal level, the Inquisitor’s inner monologue speaking plainly to this, the institutional, with the various Christian denominations all believing themselves sole arbiters of the truth when there are more than seven-hundred of them at that point in time, to a cosmic, species-spanning level, with nearly all sentient beings sustaining themselves off various lies and, if one subscribes to an atheist worldview, an ultimate lie that is religious faith.

A fascinating, and deeply enjoyable story. I give it four new denominations, and a heretical text.

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