FINDLAY, OH—Local resident Owen Pritchard's recent downward spiral into drug addiction, unemployment, and complete and utter hopelessness has sparked the intense interest of several top world religions, each of which is vying for his services as a devotee, the 39-year-old uncommitted prospective convert reported Monday.
"I've finally reached a point in my life where all the big religions want me," said Pritchard, whose two failed marriages and mounting gambling debts have left him penniless and in a state of blind despair. "Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism—you name it, they've come to me. I have no job, no family, no direction whatsoever. So right now, I'm totally in the driver's seat."
After declaring his intention to drink himself into oblivion two months ago, Pritchard received pamphlets, letters, and VHS tapes from various religions, all urging him to join their faith. Most deals reportedly guarantee a lifetime of salvation, with additional incentives such as entrance into paradise, the promise of a new and better life, and the ineffable reward of union with a supreme deity. Christianity emerged as an early favorite to land Pritchard Tuesday, after confirming that it had offered him an eternity-length contract with a signing bonus of everlasting bliss.
Pritchard, however, said he was in no rush to accept just any offer, as he expects to remain at the end of his rope for a long time.
"Obviously, I bring a lot to the table," Pritchard said. "I'm a broken shell of a man with nowhere else to turn and I will believe just about anything at this point, so if a religion really wants me, they're going to have to sweeten the pot. For instance, Hinduism is promising me rebirth as a king and the unlocking of all the secrets of the universe. But at this stage, that's not enough. How about throwing in some final redemption, or a car, or complete and total spiritual transcendence?"
"You're going to have to do better than eternal life," Pritchard added. "Everyone's offering that."
Pritchard has been showered with gifts as the religious institutions attempt to curry favor and sway his decision. He has received a free Book Of Mormon from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a 2008 wall calendar from the Christians, and was even visited at his home by two representatives from the Jehovah's Witnesses, which Pritchard said was flattering, but "came off as a little too desperate."
"The Catholic Church has been wining and dining me," said Pritchard, who was personally invited to attend a spaghetti supper at a local rectory last Tuesday. "If I'm getting free Italian dinners today, just think what they'll give me when I tell them that Islam is promising me lofty mansions, lush gardens, and 4,000 virgin companions in the afterlife. I'll be eating like a king!"
Pritchard has recently visited a number of churches, synagogues, and tabernacles to check out the facilities and meet with members of the various belief systems. The Mormons reportedly showed great interest in Pritchard, saying they would be happy to welcome him to their faith, while a Columbus-area priest is rumored to have informed Pritchard that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself "loves" him.
"Not to brag, but having lost all shreds of self-worth, I'm in a position to actually turn down offers," said Pritchard, who recently rejected a bid from the Hare Krishnas. "I didn't spend a month scouring dumpsters for food to be offered nothing but an emancipation from suffering through the realization of one's true nature. Do I look like a sucker?"
"And while the joy of self-possession without universal trembling is okay, I think the Jews can do better," he added. "Nirvana would be a nice start. Tell you what: Offer me nirvana, then we'll talk."
Pritchard announced Tuesday that he has narrowed down his choices to three religions, but has refused to divulge which ones. Many speculate that the frontrunners are Catholicism, Buddhism, and Taoism, which has offered a comprehensive package of everything and nothing. The dark-horse Presbyterians, however, have come on strong in recent days after offering Pritchard $13.75 million and a private jet.