"What could be done to improve Christianity?" is a question that the church has never, ever asked us. But if they did, we'd tell them to bring back the era of the ass-kicking saints.
Did you even know there was such a thing? Sure enough, history books are full of men who could quote the Bible and beat you to death with it, at the same time. For instance ...
Living in the early 1500s, Ignatius spent a good chunk of his life as a military man. A gambling, barroom brawlings military man. Oh, did we mention the whoring? Or as he put it in his autobiography "wenching."
During a huge battle with the French, his own men knew they were doomed and proposed a surrender. Ignatius would have none of that shit. He fought on and, shortly thereafter, he was shot with a friggin' cannon.
The ball passed right between his legs, tearing one open and smashing the shin in his other leg. When he was carried to town to be treated, his broken leg had to be set, rebroken then set again. A chunk of bone sticking out had to be sawed off. When it was discovered that whoever set his leg had fucked it up so bad it was now shorter than the other one, they used weights to try to unsuccessfully stretch it out.
"Boy, we are just not good doctors."
When you consider this was around 1520 and they didn't have frivolous luxuries like sterilization and anesthesia, you realize the guy was more hard-core than entire countries' worth of today's pansies.
It was during his recovery, when his cannon wound made the whoring and brawling inconvenient, that he was forced to read stories of Christ and eventually decided to devote his life to God. That led him to one day found Society of Jesus, what most of us know as Jesuits. You may know them from their statues of a guy giving the finger to a cannonball.
Yeah, this guy had his own army of Vikings. We could probably stop right there.
Before becoming a saint, Vladimir Svyatoslavich enjoyed a career as a marauding pagan. One day he decided he wanted to be the Grand Prince of Kiev, so he amassed the aforementioned army of Vikings to go storm the city and depose the asshole who currently held the title (his brother).
Along the way he decided getting married might be fun and he sent some people to ask for the daughter of a nearby royal. After all, isn't that the time when men first start to think about settling down? When storming across Europe with hordes of Vikings to kill their own brother?
"Anyone else have a craving for wedding cake? I have a craving for wedding cake."
Sadly, the would-be bride declined the offer so he took a detour, killed her father and married her by force. Presumably there was a break for a nice dinner and some dancing before he got back to the task at hand and killed his brother, becoming ruler of Kiev.
Over the years he expanded his territory and his inventory of boobies, reportedly taking somewhere in the neighborhood of 800 concubines and several more wives.
So how does a guy like that become a saint? Well, the neighbors who he hadn't taken over kept badgering him about abandoning his pagan ways and adopting some manner of respectable religion. After deciding that Islam's stance on pork and booze wasn't to his liking, he settled on Christianity, mostly because it offered him some decent political footing in the area.
He was baptized and, possibly so they wouldn't make fun of him, had everyone else in Kiev baptized too. Thus they were heathens no more, and Vladimir secured himself a position as a saint. He may or may not have celebrated by grabbing each of the 1,600-plus boobies at his disposal.
Unlike those first guys up there who kind of stumbled into sainthood and badassery due to extreme circumstances, Symeon chose both willingly. >
The man had a real hate-on for the pussified way all the rest of us live and decided he couldn't take it any more. At first he tried to shun the luxuries of mid 5th century life by shutting himself in a little ramshackle Unabomber-style hut for three years, where he figured not eating or drinking anything at all for the entire period of Lent would be a good idea.
After the hut proved too expansive and extravagant for him, Symeon packed up his loincloth and moved to a crevice in a rock in the desert. In a space about 20 yards in diameter, he set up shop but soon learned that when you decide to live your life as a religious sideshow, you're going to attract attention. Soon pilgrims arrived to watch him presumably just sitting on his rock. They asked him for advice and prayers and probably threw peanuts and tried to get him to do tricks.
Realizing the rock was still too awesome a place to spend his life, Symeon raised a stone pillar with a little platform on top, climbed up and sat there. He went through a couple of these pillars before he settled on one over 50 feet high where he stayed ... for 36 years.
He continued to get visitors and for a while each day, a ladder was used so people could come up and chat with him while those below waited their turn and tried to avoid getting pooped on from 50 feet up.
If you're still not clear on the badassery involved here, keep in mind this was all taking place in Syria, where summer temperatures can get over 100 and in winter dip below 50, which is probably just slightly more awful when you're on a stone pillar 50 feet off the ground.