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The Machined Bible in Warhammer 40K

The Machined Bible in Warhammer 40K

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Published by Mark-Anthony Fenech

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Published by: Mark-Anthony Fenech on Nov 15, 2011
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12/23/2013

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The Machined Bible in Warhammer 40,000
1
 
The above excerpt, taken from the second graphic novel in the Daemonifuge series published in2002 is but one of the myriad references to religion in Warhammer 40,000, some obvious, other moresubtle like the above strip which echoes the following excerpt from the Book of Revelation:
Revelation 10:9
I went to the angel, telling him to give me the little book. He
said to me, “Take it, and eat it up. It will make
your stomach bitter, but in your
mouth it will be as sweet as honey.”
Revelation 10:10
I took the little book outof the angel's hand, and ate it up. It was as sweet as honey in my mouth. WhenI had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter.
[Apk:10:9]
U mor
t ħdejn l
-
anġlu u għedtlu jagħtini l
-ktejjeb. U qalli:
“Ħu, uibilgħu, u jsirlek imrar ġo fik, imma ġo ħalqek jiġik ħelu għasel.”
[Apk:10:10]
Jien
 ħadt il
-ktejjeb minn id l-
anġlu u blajtu, u ġo ħalqi ħassejtu ħelu għasel; iżda
meta kiltu, mlieni bl-
imrar ġo
fija.
 
The story of Daemonifuge centres on Ephrael Stern, a warrior nun of the Adepta Sororitas. TheSororitas form the militant arm of the Ecclesiarchy, the Church of the God Emperor. Stern is endowedwith mystical powers, the result of being imbued with the accumulated knowledge and consciousness of 
1
Kev Walker et al., p 86-87,
Daemonifuge Book Two: The Lord of Damnation
, (Nottingham: Black Library 2002)
 
around seven hundred fellow sisters who were tortured unto dismemberment and had the remnants of their bodies and anima to construct a screaming cage, a living sculpture of skin and bone which echoesthe wor
ds of the madman of Gadarenes “My name is Legion, for we are many.”
2
This story, alongsideothers such as the duel between Horus and Sanguinius (albeit reversed), the Emperor and his Primarchswhich mirror Jesus Christ and the Apostles, the monastic mien of the Space Marines, the very presenceof a Church replete with cardinals and priests and so on point out to this religious influence. There is acontinuous interplay between the religious and the technological; sometimes the two areinterchangeable, sometimes the former serves as a ward by the superstitious masses against the latter.There are other, sometimes less subtle, references such as the already mentionedcontemporary
3
religious debate in the Horus Heresy novel
Prospero Burns
:
‘I’m sorry. It’s easy to mock religion,’ Murza said.
 
‘It is,’ Hawser agreed.
 
2
Mark 5:9.
3
Although by no means limited to our time, especially when cosidering that this debate has been raging since, I
believe, the publication of Charles Darwin’s
On the Origin of Species
, it is still very much in vogue with the likes of 
the New Atheism in 2007 propogated by the “Four Horsemen”:
Richard Dawkins, Daniel C. Dennett, Sam Harris,and Christopher Hitchens.
Horus defeats Sanguinius, detail from The Emperor versusHorus (Adrian Smith)Archangel Michael defeats Satan
 
‘It’s easy to scorn it for being old
-fashioned and inadequate. A heap of 
superstitious rubbish. We have science.’
 
‘We do.’
 
‘Science, and technology. We are so advanced, we have no need of spiri
tual
faith.’
 
‘Are you going somewhere with this?’ Hawser asked.
 
‘We forget what religion offered us.’
 
‘Which is?’
 
‘Mystery.’
 That was his argument. Mystery. All religions required a believer to have faithin something inexpressible. You had to be prepared to accept that there werethings you could never know or understand, things you had to take on trust.(...) Science deplored such a view, because everything should be explicable,and that which was not was simply beneath contempt.
4
 This goes in line with
the following extract from Fr. Ray Francalanza’s thesis
Sign and Signification
where he writes about the call for reflection in discerning the mystery:
“... each model, age or scholar carries its own tension. Moreover schools of 
thought are transient phenomena that ebb and flow with the times. (...) Thenthere is what I call the tired debate between faith and reason.(...)So immediately and I would add unfortunately, the theme of conversation anddialogue is taken out from the binary path of the sacred and the awe
experience of grace in every day living...”
5
 The spiritually gothic and the medieval are reflected through the iconography and very presenceof the Inquisition and the concept of the Great Crusade earlier in the chronology of Warhammer 40,000.The most direct reference to earlier forms of religion which pins the situation spanning theentire Imperium is found in an earlier passage in
Prospero Burns
, where one of the characters is of theCatheric faith, Catheric being a play on words with the word Catholic and Cathar:Catheric had a strand of Millenarianism in it. The proto-creeds that had givenrise to it had believed in an end time, an apocalypse, during which a saviour
4
Dan Abnett, p139
Prospero Burns
(Nottingham: Black Library, 2011)
5
Rev Dr Ray Francalanza OSA, p25, 37
Sign and Signification: Networks of Discernment in the Church
(University of Malta, 2009)

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