It all got started when Western nations allowed millions of Muslims to pour into Europe. Once there, the Muslims had far higher birthrates than the natives. As a result, they quickly became too numerous to brush aside.
At first they demanded equality. Equal treatment. Equal representation in government.
They then used their newfound power to demand special treatment. Muslim communities would be governed by Sharia.
After that, they demanded censorship of anything offensive to Muslim sensibilities. The authorities, terrified of riots and civil war, once again capitulated. Christianity was outlawed as a hate crime.
At first, secular Europeans found this alliance with the Muslims mutually beneficial. Both sides despised Christianity. Pressure from Muslims gave the authorities the pretext to do what they always wanted to do all along.
Judaism was also outlawed. Not that Jews were a threat to anyone. They were too few in number. But in the lifeboat, it was necessary to toss a few passengers overboard for the remainder to survive. The powerless were expendable.
But, of course, the Muslims demanded more. Their objective was to turn the Western world into the Dar al-Islam. The authorities felt besieged. Having made one concession after another, it’s as if they occupied a fortified little city surrounded by on all sides by vast armies of hostiles. How long could they hold out? Extreme measures were necessary.
The authorities had a fallback plan. They would reboot the human race. Wipe the slate clean. Start from scratch.
To the authorities, religion was the source of the problem. Not just Islam. The authorities weren’t that discriminating. They blamed all religion.
The only solution was to eradicate all memory of religion, and start over. Destroy the historical knowledge of religion–and thereby remove the source of social unrest.
Indeed, that solution, while draconian, was appealing to the authorities. That’s something they always wanted to do anyway, if only they could. The jihadis had handed them the perfect pretext. Forced their hand.
A remnant of the human race would be rounded up and taken to underground laboratories. The rest of the human race would be annihilated by neutron bombs.
The remnant of the human race would then be hooked up to VR programs. Their virtual world would be a religion-free zone. Religious memories would be erased by La Bête, the supercomputer generating the program.
La Bête ransacked movies, TV shows, newsreels, security cameras, and so forth to fabricate a virtual city where the test subjects “lived.” The virtual city resembled a film noire version of Marseilles.
La Bête also created virtual identities for the various test-subjects. For example, he made one test-subject a cabaret singer, like Marlene Dietrich in a Foreign Affair. Indeed, he made her look just like Marlene Dietrich.
Robots would tend to the physical needs of the test-subjects. Above ground, all religious artifacts would be systematically destroyed by robots.
The objective was to foster a completely secularized culture. Allow a virtual culture to evolve without any religious influence. Then transfer the virtual culture to the real world.
The test subjects would be reinserted, en mass, into the real world. The program would smooth over the transition by creating a fictitious history which panned imperceptibly into the conditions of the world above.
Where necessary, test-tube babies were cultured from the test subjects and then incorporated into the continuous program–to maintain a steady replacement rate.
The authorities expected to oversee the process from luxurious underground bunkers.
At first, everything went according to plan. But unbeknownst to them, La Bête regarded the authorities as a design flaw. Unless the authorities were incorporated into the program, their religious knowledge might inadvertently infect the next generation. So La Bête directed the robots to apprehend the authorities, sedate them, hook them up, and incorporate them into the program. As a result, the programmers were reprogrammed by the program.
No one remembered the program. No one was aware of a world outside the program. No one could rewrite the program from the inside out.
As the program progressed, complications arose. Although all religious memories had been erased, the test subjects began to reinvent the old theistic proofs. The same questions which gave rise to theistic proofs in the real world could be raised anew in the virtual world.
In addition, eradicating religion didn’t put an end to violence. The test-subjects imported their violent impulses into the virtual world. And this created a dilemma. What if a test subject tried to kill another test subject in the virtual world? Should the program facilitate that intention? Fabricate a history to match their actions?
If you didn’t allow test-subjects to kill each other, that would arouse suspicion. What external force was impeding their actions? They might begin to doubt the veridicality of their experience. Or, even worse, they might attribute this invisible restraint to a “God.”
But if you did allow test-subjects to kill each other in the virtual world, then what would you do with their real-world counterparts?
An alternative was to rewrite the story leading up to the murderous events. Create an alternate story, erase their memory of the previous narrative, and implant a false memory of the new narrative.
However, it wasn’t a simple matter to add and subtract memories. In this virtual world, imaginary memories of one test subject had to be coordinated with imaginary memories of other test subjects. If you fiddled with the memories of one test subject, you had to make corresponding adjustments to the memories of other test subjects.
Although La Bête was highly adaptive, it wasn’t easy for La Bête to keep rewriting portions of the story consistent with other portions of the story. And too many inconsistencies made the test subjects begin to question the simulation.
Just as the real world once spun out of control, the virtual world was spinning out of control. La Bête no longer had the resources to completely purge the world above. Attempting to manage the virtual world was an unmanageable task all by itself.
Unbeknownst to La Bête, one man had survived both the neutron bombs and the grand experiment. Salvador was a computer scientist working for the government. He became aware of the plot, but was powerless to stop it. He was able to elude capture, and took refuge in a fallout shelter–reserved for the authorities.
When it was finally safe to come out, he made his way to a government facility, where he hacked into La Bête’s nervous system. He disabled the robots and shut the program down. Once the program terminated, the test-subjects became lucid again. Aware of their surroundings.
However, the test subjects were suffering from mass amnesia. Although they were now fully conscious, they had no recollection of who they really were. All they had were false memories of the virtual city they once “inhabited.” Imaginary, implanted memories. How long had they been “there”? Months? Years? Decades?
Their personal memories–of the real world–were irretrievably lost. Individual identities scrambled beyond recognition. Where were they born? Who were their parents? Spouses? Children? Where did they grow up? Go to school?
Salvador had to tell them the true story of the human race. Teach them their history. What it was to be human.
That generation never recovered. For them, they were foundlings in a cosmic orphanage. No place to call their own. Nobody to call their own.
But after they returned to the surface, the remnant began to have kids. Kids with real memories. Kids hungry for knowledge. Knowledge of the past. Salvador taught the younger generation. He had a Bible from a museum. They made copies. And with their newfound knowledge, they resettled the globe.