One thing that religion is not short of is options. Whatever your preference there is a religion out there to suit your particular needs. Having said that, if you happen to be on the lookout for a truly bad-a$$ religion with a God who eats fire and craps lightening you should really check out ancient cults and religions. These are the religions that are filled with monstrous demons and insanely cool leaders. The further back in history that you venture the more bad-ass the religion will be.
1 – Mithraism
Mithraism is a religion which has a god who was born out of stone for one reason. So he could kill a bull then dance naked in the blood of the beast.
Can you think of anything more manly than dancing naked in the blood of a bull? I didn’t think so. Any religion that has a god capable of dancing naked while covered in the blood of an animal that he has just killed is sure to be manly and macho.
To make this religion even more awesome there is no one out there who knows where this faith originated from. No one knows if it had any prophets or saints or lessons to live by. All that is known is that it seemed to just appear from nowhere in the second century AD and the god likes to kill animals and dance in their blood. One day it is not there, the next it was spreading all over the Roman Empire feeling its way like a blind man at an orgy. Within no time at all nearly every Roman soldier was a follower of Mithraism which was hardly surprising since you had to be a soldier to follow the religion. No women were allowed to be part of the cult and the few emperors and politicians who became members probably only gained power because of their close ties to the army.
Not only were followers of this religion required to be a soldier during one of the most brutal periods of history, you also had to be initiated. There were seven levels to complete before anyone was considered to be a fully-fledged member and the initiation process was probably as manly as the religion itself. What we do know of the initiation process was found engraved on several drinking cups where we can see pictures of high level Mithrian members pointing a bow and arrow at a potential recruit. It is worth considering that having an arrow fired at your face was only the first step in the initiation process and there are 6 more levels to get through if you don’t wind up dead trying to complete the first level.
2 – Greek Orthodox
When it comes to religions, Christianity is far from the manliest of them. Many religions have a “fight to the death” belief when it comes to getting to heaven but Christians tend to be more or less focused on love and turning the other cheek. A religion based on love they neighbour and letting people walk all over your sorry ass is hardly the foundation for bad ass initiations and bad ass attitudes. There are however exceptions to every rule and Christianity certainly has its own exception.
This is where Greek Orthodox monks from Meteora come in. These monks are the guys who decided to find the most remote and God forsaken peaks in all of Greece. Once they found such places they then decided to live in stone cracks that were barely the size of their bodies.
Originally the only way to reach the caves where these monks lived was by climbing hundreds and hundreds of meters up sheer rock while praying to God that the trip would be worth it. When the monks eventually decided to create whole monasteries up there they used ladders and pulleys made from ropes. The ladders and pulleys were only replaced when the good Lord decided to “let them break.” The problem with this is that there is always going to be one poor guy in the rope basket when the Lord decided to let the pulley’s or ladder break. At least the unfortunate soul would have plenty of time to pray before he slammed head first into the rocks below.
In today’s modern world the monasteries that the monks built are huge tourist attractions and you can still find dedicated Greek Orthodox monks on Mt. Athos, where not only did they survive centuries of pirate attacks. Not only do these monks still exist they also happen to be able to grow the most awesome beards the world has ever seen.
3 – Tengriism
If you have ever wondered what the Turkish Empire, the Bulgarians that conquered Asia Minor, Genghis Khan and much of Eastern Europe have in common the answer comes in two questions. Firstly they were all incredibly efficient at killing Christians and they also followed a real hard-core and bad ass religion.
The religion all of these groups followed was called Tengriism. The tengriists believed that the gods of the earth and sky gave the power of the wolf to anyone willing to follow their teachings. These powers were given on the strict condition followers performed actions that praised their name. Actions that praised the name of the tengriists required followers to defeat all one thousand guards of the enemy warlord.
The tengriist faith is not only about killing people and war. One of the most important festivals in the tengriisrt religion involves all the men climbing to the top of a hill and gathering around a sacred Birch tree (for the record the hill in question did not actually have a Birch tree, they would dig one up from a nearby location, transport it and replant it on the hill.) Once all the men were at the top of the hill and all gathered around the sacred Birch tree they would sacrifice sheep. The sacrifice of the sheep was pretty straight forward with then men ripping the heart straight out to the sheep’s body with their bare hands.
To make this religion even more hard-core the leader of the Turkic or Mongolian tribes had the god given purpose of gathering all the tribes under their rule together and like a pack of wild wolves, attacking Christian sheep. Anyone who failed to do this task was considered a bad leader and your followers were then permitted to kill you.
Never since the Welsh people created their first religion has a faith been so hard-core or fixated with sheep.
4 – Thuggee
Not many people realise that the insane, skull worshipping Indians in the second Indiana Jones movie were actually based on a real life religion. Not only was the religion those guys followed based on a real faith those who followed it were so hard-core that they would have probably killed Indiana before he had the chance to adjust his hat.
The movie use a religion named ‘Thuggee’ as the basis for the movie. The Thuggee was an ancient Indian cult whose members prayed and worshipped Kali, the goddess of insanity and every type of violence you could possible imagine. The Thuggee were also the first to create and organised crime cartel that used complex paramilitary techniques, complex props and misinformation so that they could kill over 30,000 travellers. The Thuggee did not just kill people because they were horrible people they killed them as a way to give sacrifice to Kali.
As a follower of Thuggee you would have the right to kill people at night with a yellow scarf. The scarf was twisted into a noose and you were never allowed to spill any blood in the killing process. Despite having the right to kill people there was a long list of people that you were not allowed to kill including lepers.
The Thuggee society was so secretive and well organised that it took the British government near to 200 years to figure out something was wrong. It then took them a further 50 years to break the organisation apart. The word ‘Thug’ entered the English dictionary as a direct result of the power of the Thuggee.
5 – Sikhism
If killer facial hair and a handlebar moustache is your thing but you have never been able to justify growing it then there is hope out there. You could join a religion which requires great looking facial hair. As an added bonus the religion we are talking about also requires you, once you are baptized, to carry a sharp dagger with you at all times. The dagger is not just there for show either. It is with you so that you can fight anyone who dares oppress you such as the Mongols, the Muslims or the British. The fact that you may be outnumbered is supposed to just make fighting all the more fun for everyone. If this religion still doesn’t sound bad ass enough it is worth noting that Sikhism decided that there was no martial art in existence intense enough so they went out and invented their very own, named Gatka.
Still not convinced? Well, during the first and second world war the Sikh battalions won a record breaking amount of medals. The British have always said that these Sikhs would enter heavy gun battles with no other protection but the turban on their head. The turban being a symbol of their faith.
Even Winston Churchill spoke of the bravery of the Sikhs. He once said “In the war, they fought and died for us, wearing the turbans.” Sure, that might sound a little racist by today’s standards but it is a small price to pay in order to keep Britain Nazi free.
A handful of medals is not enough for your average Sikh so they have also fought in what is generally accepted as the “the greatest stories of collective bravery in human history,” namely the Battle of Saragarhi where 21 Sikh soldiers chose to fight against 10,000 Afghan soldiers.
6 – Shaolin Monks
If the idea of killer facial hair or carrying a sharp dagger to attack people is not something that appeals to you perhaps you would rather shave you head and turn your bare hands in to deadly fighting tools. If this sounds like your cup of tea then it might be time for you to take a look at Shaolin Monks.
Shaolin monks are people who have trained themselves to ignore what they consider minor inconveniences. Things like being attacked with razor sharp swords or pointy spears all fall into the bracket of minor inconveniences. Heck, a Shaolin monk can even find themselves hanging in a noose without annoying issues such as dying. On top of all this it is nearly impossible to find any form of martial art that is not in some way connected with the Shaolin temple. This is no doubt part of the reason these monks spend a good chunk of their time breaking ridiculous objects with their heads.
Do you still need more proof that the Shaolin are one of the most awesome religions on the planet? How about looking back to 1732 when the Chinese emperor was out to defeat the monks and imported Tibetan Lamas (the holy men not the animals) who happened to have knowledge of a secret flying weapon. Yes, you did read that correctly. Back in 1732 the emperor of China had to use helicopters to defeat the Shaolin. Amazingly, despite being burned down repeatedly by the Chinese, the monastery was always rebuilt and is still accepting new members to this very day. How awesome is that ?