With the Church Of England having appointed a bearded hippy pacifist, homosexual friendly, Welsh druid as its new Archbishop of Canterbury – in a desperate attempt to appear ‘relevant’ and modern and attract new followers – we ask just what is it that religion really has to offer, and does it make good on its promises? Does religion actually deliver the kind of superstar lifestyle being enjoyed by the celebrities – including Cliff Richard and Tony Blair (Church of England), Cat Stevens (Islam), Richard Gere (Buddhism), and John Travolta (Scientology) – endorsing it? To try and find out, The Sleaze confronted the Reverend Adrian Proddo, a typical C of E vicar on the steps of his church in Chatham and asked him directly – “Just what is it you God botherers are selling?” His reply was vague and evasive, claiming that they weren’t actually selling anything as such. “We merely offer the hope of salvation and entry into the Kingdom of Heaven,” Proddo claimed.

At face value – free entry into a nightclub, albeit a gay one – this sounds like good value. However, we knew there had to be catch – there’s no such thing as something for nothing in this world – so we pressed the priest further and were horrified to learn that the real price of entry to his club was death! “Obviously you can only enter God’s Kingdom once you depart this earth,” he blustered. Whilst the price of entry seemed high membership does appear to have its advantages: “All those who enter are granted eternal life in paradise and freedom from worldly pain and want.” But still there was a catch. “Only those souls judged worthy are allowed entry,” he told us. “Ideally you should have led a life in accordance with Christian principles and regularly attended services of worship in the House of God.” We were appalled, it seemed that the C of E was operating some system of racial discrimination, barring Jews, Moslems, Buddhists, Hindus and the like from entry into their club. Furthermore, Proddo admitted that he hadn’t actually been to Heaven itself, nor did he know anyone who had, and was unable to give us an exact location, opening times or tell us whether it was a licensed premises. We put it to Proddo that he and his church were attempting to get innocent people to part with their immortal souls under false pretences – he had no proof whatsoever that this so-called paradise of Heaven existed. His reply was to tell us to “Bugger off” and threaten us with hellfire and damnation, before slamming the church door in our face – the typical reaction of fraudsters the world over when they find themselves exposed.

Disappointed with the duplicity of the local Anglican church, we decided to see if the nearby Roman Catholic church offered a better deal to prospective parishioners. We had high hopes, having heard that alcohol was freely available at services and that their clergy had an open-minded approach to sexuality – hardly a day goes by without a press report of Priests cavorting with young choir boys, for instance. Moreover, we’d also been told that the Catholics were broad minded on the issue of wrongdoing, with virtually any kind of sin being forgiven. “Whilst it is true that sins can be forgiven provided that they are confessed to God through the medium of a Priest, the sinner still has to perform an appropriate penance,” Father Michael Teague told us.  We were astonished to learn that these penances didn’t involve being publicly flogged or put across the knee of an attractive Nun and severely spanked, but instead simply involved the saying of ‘Hail Marys’ and prayer. Still better, according to Teague, any confession made to a Priest would remain confidential – wild crime sprees and grossly perverse sexual deviancy could be forgiven without fear of apprehension by the Police!

However, just when we were beginning to warm to Catholicism, Teague dropped a bombshell, telling us that far from taking a liberal approach to sex, the church actually frowned upon any form of sexual relations except those between man and wife, and prohibited the use of contraceptives such as condoms. We were appalled to learn that this meant that hordes of Catholic priests were having unprotected sex with young boys – irresponsibly risking the transmission of a wide variety of sexual diseases! Teague stressed that the church didn’t actually approve of child molestation on the part of Priests, viewing it as a sin, but conceded that if they were to confess such a sin to a colleague, they wouldn’t be turned in to the authorities. It also turned out that the only alcohol available to parishioners (in spite of Teague’s well-stocked private liquor cabinet), was weak and vinegary communion wine, and even then only one glass each was allowed.

So, does religion actually offer the consumer a good deal? In terms of tangible product, we have to say that, on the basis of our investigations of the local Christian community, it is pretty doubtful. Indeed, rather than offer any form of material improvement to its adherents here on earth, religion instead holds out vague promises of eternal salvation and spiritual riches in the hereafter. Does following the faith guarantee a superstar lifestyle? The sad fact that is whilst the top religious leaders, Bishops, Cardinals, Ayatollahs and the like, seem to live in palaces and wear designer robes, their ordinary priests and parishioners seem to live in modest means, sometimes even penury. Even when religion does make promises of earthly improvement, it fails to deliver. Peace on earth? Most of the world’s wars and conflicts seem to be inspired by religion! In fact, there are some who think that religion is a bad influence. “I blame the Bible for all this sex and violence,” says committed atheist Ron Punce. “It is just chock full of begatting and divine retributions, sacrifices and the like – that sort of thing can’t possibly be a good influence on kids. They should ban it from schools immediately!”