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Uriah Olathaire

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Uriah Olathaire was a human priest of the Church of the Lightning Stone who lived on Terra at the time of the Unification Wars in the late 30th Millennium. He is the man Imperial history refers to when it is said that "The Emperor cast the last stone of the last church upon the body of the last of the Terran priests after engaging and besting the resident unbeliever in a match of ideas, wit and dogma". The truth of the matter is slightly different, for while it is true that Olathaire met with the Emperor of Mankind in person, and was overwhelmed by his depth of knowledge and experience, he chose to die with his church of his own volition after issuing the dire and prophetic warning to the Emperor to be aware that his subjects would start to see him as a god if he deprived them of the benefits of religion.

HistoryEdit

"- No gods ever created art."
- "In an earlier age, some might have considered such a sentiment blasphemy."
- "Blasphemy, it is a victimless crime."
- Despite himself, Uriah laughed. "Touché!"
— Excerpt of the discussion between the Emperor and Uriah Olathaire.

Uriah Olathaire was born on ancient Terra in the mid-30th Millennium shortly before the start of the Unification Wars. The only son of wealthy parents, he spent his youth drinking and rebelling against authority, especially that of the Emperor whose forces had begun to assume control over ever larger portions of Terra. After a difficult encounter with a squad of Thunder Warriors who whipped his dislike of the Imperium into hatred, Olathaire made for the town of Avelroi, where the local governor had rebelled against the Emperor, and participated in the Battle of Gaduare, where the rebels were slaughtered almost to the last man by a small force of Thunder Warriors. Wounded, Olathaire fled, and recieved what he believed was a vision of God Himself, who healed him and told him: "Why do you deny me? Accept me and you will know that I am the only truth and the only way."

The shaken and broken Olathaire then returned home, only to discover that his family had been murdered and their holdings plundered while he was away. Remembering his vision, he entered the Church of the Lightning Stone, and started a new life as a priest, one of preaching kindness and offering assistance to any who came into his sanctuary. This he did daily for almost forty standard years as the Unification Wars slowly came to their conclusion, and the atheistic creed of the Imperial Truth favoured by the Emperor spread across Terra, and fewer and fewer faithful came to Olathaire's church.

Such it was that one day, a strange, noble but warlike man garbed in plain clothes, escorted by a group of Thunder Warriors, arrived at the church just before midnight's sermon. Introducing himself only as "Revelation", the stranger said he wanted to speak with Olathaire and understand what kept him chained to faith in the light of the advances of science and reason. Unbeknowst to Olathaire, the man was actually the Emperor Himself, veiled by a psychic illusion to appear as a normal human. However, the Master of Mankind had been so long removed from normal humanity that Olathaire immediately sensed that something was amiss about this visitor, although he could not understand what.

Emperor of Mankind 1

The fresco of the Emperor of Mankind defeating the Void Dragon seen in the last church on Terra

Despite this initial misgiving, Olathaire graciously invited his visitor inside, and led him to his church's most treasured possession, a masterfully painted mural fresco depicting mythic events from Terra's past and future. Ironically enough, one of the scenes was a stylised depiction of the fight between the Emperor and the C'tan known as the Void Dragon which occurred millennia earlier in what was once known as ancient Libya. Uriah used the fresco's resplendescence as a proof of divinity, stating that the artist had been touched by the divine to bring into being such grandness. Revelation was moved by the fresco's beauty, but bluntly countered Olathaire's argument by stating that while the artist certainly had been a woman of incredible vision and talent, what had moved her was money and not the power of God.

The Church of the Lightning Stone

The Church of the Lightning Stone

Refusing to be daunted by Revelation's lack of faith, Olathaire led him to his quarters where they could continue their discussion more easily, sharing a bottle of wine. Revelation confirmed that Olathaire's church was the last one on Terra, and that he had been tasked by a decree of the Emperor to destroy it, but he offered no violence, and once again reiterated that he wanted to understand humanity's need for faith first. Uriah then attempted to explain how faith appeared from unexplainable facts as a reassuring explanation of the course of events in a human life, citing the history of his own Church of the Lightning Stone: it had been founded by a man who was blind, deaf and mute but recovered the use of his eyes and ears after lightning struck the stone he was sheltering under during a thunderstorm. To thank God for this miracle, the man had founded the faith, and many visitors came to the stone to pray in hope for a cure for their own ails. Yet Revelation was unconvinced, and explained that there was a scientific cause to the miracle: the "holy man" who had founded the Church of the Lightning Stone had probably been mentally addled instead of physically impaired, and the shock of the lightning strike had altered his neurochemistry, repairing his brain's damaged state. Revelation then bluntly stated that the founder of the Church of the Lightning Stone might have believed that he had been the recipient of a miracle, but that believing something does not make it true or real.

Faiths of the PastEdit

"- What made you think it was God? Did you not hear what I said earlier about the brain’s ability to perceive what it wants to? You were a dying man on a battlefield, surrounded by your dead comrades and you were having an epiphany of the futility of the life you had led. Surely you can think of another explanation for this vision, Uriah, a more likely explanation that does not require the supernatural?"
- "I need no other explanation. You may be wise in many things, Revelation, but you cannot know what goes on in my own mind. I heard the voice of God and saw His face. He bore me up and set me into a deep slumber, and when I awoke, my wounds were healed.
"
— Excerpt of the discussion between the Emperor and Uriah Olathaire.

Irritated by Revelation's attitude rather than his words, Olathaire then stated that he too, had received a spiritual vision in his youth. Revelation once again stated his warning that belief did not equate with reality, but told Olathaire to explain himself nevertheless. Olathaire then started by saying he had been at the Battle of Gaduare. When Revelation said that the rebellion at Gaduare against the forces of the Emperor had been a pointless waste, Olathaire answered by saying that Revelation was too young to know what had happened at Gaduare. Revelation looked up with sadness, and they locked eyes again, and again Olathaire felt that strangeness, and no longer doubted that when Revelation spoke of Gaduare, he spoke of events about which he possessed personal knowledge, despite his youthful appearance. Even more shaken, Olathaire then explained how in his youth he had been a rebel, and had fought and almost died at Gaduare. He then explained how he had been wounded, had witnessed God and been healed, and how this had given him a valuable purpose in an otherwise wasted life.

Again, Revelation was doubtful. He began to speak of the human religions of old, and how they had so often been used as an excuse to justify cruelty. Olathaire retorted that they had also been the cause of much good, but Revelation stated with finality that the evil done by human religion far outstripped the good, citing examples from old and recent religions built on terror, repression, crusades and human sacrifice to keep whole populations in check and in chains. An unbelieving Olathaire then pointed to himself, saying he had done nothing else than spread kindness since he became a priest, giving comfort to the living and easing the passing of the dying, basing his life on the message of tolerance contained in the holy scriptures of his religion. Revelation praised him for these actions, but told Olathaire he had lived according to his own interpretation of the content of the text, for if taken at face value, the sacred text of the Church of the Lightning Stone was a bloodthirsty call to spiritual superiority and warmongering rather than a book promoting peace and tolerance. Revelation further compounded his condemnation of religion by citing examples of the times in history when prominent humans had interpreted holy texts to better their own position and abuse their fellow human beings, rather than bring prosperity to their community.

RevelationsEdit

"- Nothing of such grand scale can be achieved without a singular vision at its heart, least of all the reconquest of the Galaxy."
- "Didn't you just tell me of the bloody slaughters perpetrated by crusaders? Doesn’t that make you no better than the holy men you were telling me about?"
- "You misunderstand, Uriah. I have seen the narrow survival path that is all that stands between humanity and extinction, and this is the way it must begin."
- "It is a dangerous road you travel. To deny humanity a thing will only make them crave it all the more. And if you succeed in this grand vision of yours? What then? Beware that your subjects do not begin to see you as a god."
"
— Excerpt of the discussion between the Emperor and Uriah Olathaire.

Finally angered by his guest's behaviour, Olathaire bade him leave, and went to continue his interrupted midnight prayer. The Emperor then simply dropped his psychic veil, and an astonished Olathaire recognised the face he had seen in his vision on the killing fields of Gaduare. The Emperor simply bade him to follow, for while He was still baffled by humanity's desire for faith, He had been impressed by Uriah Olathaire's intelligence and assertiveness, and would gladly offer the man a place in His new world despite the fact that he had been a priest for the best part of his life.

Gazing around dazedly, Olathaire at first felt a keen sense of despair, stemming from having lived a lie all of his life. But then he reconsidered, thinking of all the good he had done and brought to his parishioners. His own personal idea of God might have been false, but the good it had brought was still tangible and very real. His despair made place for a familiar sense of accomplishment, and he listened to his august visitor, who spoke of His grand vision for Mankind, and offered Olathaire a place in it. For the last time, Uriah Olathaire gazed into the eyes of the Emperor and looked deep into the core of a being who had lived for long millennia, witnessed countless wonders and horrors and was possessed of an unfathomable sum of knowledge. Olathaire saw both the limitless compassion and the ruthless core of violence of a being who ultimately no longer was even remotely human, if He ever had been. Olathaire came to understand that the Emperor simply could not comprehend the human need for faith, for He had never encountered a question He could not answer. Bereft of the need for the reassurances only faith could bring to mortal men and women, the Emperor found it a wasteful and extremely dangerous distraction, and Uriah Olathaire was at a loss as how to explain the comfort it brought to mere human beings. Understanding that he could never follow such a being, Uriah Olathaire bade the Emperor the best, but warned him that His subjects might come to see Him as a God if He deprived them of religion. The Emperor nodded and simply left, before His Thunder Warrior escort opened fire on the church with flame lances, razing both the building and its last inhabitant from the face of Terra.

PersonalityEdit

A deeply devout and faithful man, Uriah Olathaire had been shaped by the events of his wasted youth into a kind and caring priest. Intelligent and open-minded, he was able to discuss with the Emperor without sounding too dogmatic or intolerant. He attempted to explain humanity's need for religious faith to the Master of Mankind, but proved unsucessful. During this momentous discussion, he was deeply troubled by the apparent duality of his august visitor, not understanding how a man could be so wise and possessed of so much knowledge on one side, and yet so blunt and intolerant as to sound like the most uninformed anti-religious bigot on the other. It was only in the end that Olathaire came to understand that the Emperor simply could not comprehend the human need for faith, for He had never encountered a question He could not answer. Bereft of the need for the reassurances only faith could bring to mortal men and women, the Emperor found it a wasteful and extremely dangerous distraction, and Uriah Olathaire was at a loss as how to explain the comfort it brought to mere human beings. Ironically, his last warning would prove prophetic, for the Emperor would mere centuries later become His Imperium's living God as the Imperial Truth was replaced by the Imperial Creed.

SourcesEdit

  • Mechanicum (Novel), by Graham McNeill
  • Tales of Heresy (Anthology) edited by Nick Kyme and Lindsey Priestley, "The Last Church" by Graham McNeill

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