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Author Topic: EP220: Come All Ye Faithful  (Read 10849 times)
kibitzer
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« Reply #20 on: October 20, 2009, 12:26:25 AM »

I really wanted to say some awesome stuff here, but y'all have said it already :-)
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MasterThief
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« Reply #21 on: October 21, 2009, 03:13:44 PM »

Yes, the "farting in the airlock" and "preaching to the converted" lines were classic.  Yes, I do appreciate the fact that religion was treated with due seriousness.  (And, being Catholic, I have actually met a couple of priests and brothers who were astronomers... and I've met priests who were biologists, psychiatrists, engineers, and economists as well.)  The life of a priest was described very well, and in both this and in "The Legend of St. Ignatz" the author has created more than a stock character.

But the last five minutes strained... and forgive the irony of this term... "suspension of disbelief."  There are two things you need to know about the Vatican.  It is very slow, and it is very thorough, particularly when it comes to miracles or visions.  If the priest had actually reported a Marian vision, even on Mars, they WOULD send more people up there to verify it, and they would probably ask some of the avowedly secular Martian colonists to come along just to make sure they saw some physical presence indicating a miracle.  (The apparition at Fatima involved a "miracle of the sun" that was witnessed by between 40,000 to 100,000 people http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Miracle_of_the_Sun.)

But aside from that, it was a wonderful story.
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Talia
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« Reply #22 on: October 21, 2009, 03:35:39 PM »

Yes, the "farting in the airlock" and "preaching to the converted" lines were classic.  Yes, I do appreciate the fact that religion was treated with due seriousness.  (And, being Catholic, I have actually met a couple of priests and brothers who were astronomers... and I've met priests who were biologists, psychiatrists, engineers, and economists as well.)  The life of a priest was described very well, and in both this and in "The Legend of St. Ignatz" the author has created more than a stock character.

But the last five minutes strained... and forgive the irony of this term... "suspension of disbelief."  There are two things you need to know about the Vatican.  It is very slow, and it is very thorough, particularly when it comes to miracles or visions.  If the priest had actually reported a Marian vision, even on Mars, they WOULD send more people up there to verify it, and they would probably ask some of the avowedly secular Martian colonists to come along just to make sure they saw some physical presence indicating a miracle.  (The apparition at Fatima involved a "miracle of the sun" that was witnessed by between 40,000 to 100,000 people http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Miracle_of_the_Sun.)

But aside from that, it was a wonderful story.

I seem to recall the story said he forwarded his statement to some media sources at the same time. (maybe remembering it wrong tho).
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DKT
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« Reply #23 on: October 21, 2009, 04:03:30 PM »

Yes, the "farting in the airlock" and "preaching to the converted" lines were classic.  Yes, I do appreciate the fact that religion was treated with due seriousness.  (And, being Catholic, I have actually met a couple of priests and brothers who were astronomers... and I've met priests who were biologists, psychiatrists, engineers, and economists as well.)  The life of a priest was described very well, and in both this and in "The Legend of St. Ignatz" the author has created more than a stock character.

But the last five minutes strained... and forgive the irony of this term... "suspension of disbelief."  There are two things you need to know about the Vatican.  It is very slow, and it is very thorough, particularly when it comes to miracles or visions.  If the priest had actually reported a Marian vision, even on Mars, they WOULD send more people up there to verify it, and they would probably ask some of the avowedly secular Martian colonists to come along just to make sure they saw some physical presence indicating a miracle.  (The apparition at Fatima involved a "miracle of the sun" that was witnessed by between 40,000 to 100,000 people http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Miracle_of_the_Sun.)

But aside from that, it was a wonderful story.

I seem to recall the story said he forwarded his statement to some media sources at the same time. (maybe remembering it wrong tho).


That's how I remember it, too, Talia. CNN, I believe.

I totally hear what MasterThief's saying about sending more people. I wouldn't be surprised if the church did. The problem for me is, if those other people didn't have the vision, you still have the original priest holding fast to his claim and it very much becomes questioning what God has revealed to him. (Which is what he was doing in the first place with the televangelist, but still.) It's a dicey proposition for people of faith. And the non-Vatican pilgrims, well, everyone sees something or other.

I could very much see the whole thing becoming a big controversy, which of course would probably bring more tourism to Mars.
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El Barto
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« Reply #24 on: October 27, 2009, 11:27:55 PM »

When the main character went ahead and faked seeing a miracle I could not help but wonder "how many times in history has it happened that a person in power (or wanting power) claimed to see a miracle, or claimed to hear the word of god?"   

I suspect it has happened many many times, and was/is often done by people with pure motives -- wanting to help their family, their community, etc.   

Nevertheless, however, The Cake is a Lie.
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Gamercow
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« Reply #25 on: October 28, 2009, 09:45:44 AM »

Another enjoyable story, made all the more so by Mike Boris' excellent narration.  It did a good job of inserting religion into a SF story, and I think did a reasonable job of representing what I would imagine an astronomer-priest living on Mars' behavior would be.  And yes, he did change thousands of peoples lives, but if a little lie brought faith to Mars, then it was probably worth it, in the grand scheme of things, for the church.  7/10
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eytanz
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« Reply #26 on: November 01, 2009, 05:40:59 AM »

What I really liked about this story is how well it representes the dichotomy of institutionalized religion - I came to believe that the narrator's faith was entirely genuine. He believes in the words of his church. While at the same time advancing the same church by lying. He does feel guilty about it, and is smart enough to know that if he did, others in the past may well have done the same. But that doesn't stop him from believing.

I also liked how subtly the ending was telegrapheds by the beginning. The narrator is willing - indeed, happy - to marry non-believers, because for the church, and for him, going through the ceremony has value regardless of whether the participants are interested in it. And this value is twofold, as he himself makes clear - on the one hand, a nice ceremony may attract people. But, more importantly, he points out that the churhc wants people to be married using its vows, making a commitment to God, whether or not the people being married give any value to those vows.

It is a small step from that to the ending - it is important, both to his personal sense of worth and to the church, that people come to Mars to worship. The fact that this worship is based on a false miracle is less important than the fact that the people go through with it. 
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CryptoMe
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« Reply #27 on: November 13, 2009, 01:28:49 PM »

... the churhc wants people to be married using its vows, making a commitment to God, whether or not the people being married give any value to those vows. 

Just a side note, but this is the exact opposite of my experience with the Catholic church. My observation has been that the Catholic church won't marry you unless both parties are Catholic, attend pre-Cana classes, and promise to raise their children in the Catholic faith. And it wasn't clear to me why these strict rules were relaxed on Mars.

But, that minor point did not detract from my enjoyment of the story. Like most people, I thought the story was fine up until the priest lied. It didn't mesh with his character up until that point, and so seemed incongruous.
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Alasdair5000
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« Reply #28 on: November 13, 2009, 03:42:50 PM »

I think Eytanz said it best when he pointed out the internal dichotomy of faith as presented in the story.  I especially liked how the main character was clearly a very decent, very stand up guy but at the same time does what could very well be a very bad thing for some very good reasons.

As an aside, I'm Catholic, my wife isn't and we got married at a Catholic service.  We were married by my then parish priest and a priest from the island who's an old friend of the family and he was amazed to discover we'd only attended six meetings with our local priest before the wedding.  So, as near as I can tell, the Church's approach to weddings varies wildly but on this side of the Atlantic at least, they're pretty accepting of Catholic/Non Catholic couples.
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niallmor
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« Reply #29 on: November 15, 2009, 12:24:09 AM »

As a Catholic myself, I found this story just another example of the old, "Religion is superstitious nonsense, but SCIENCE will show us the way!" trope that runs through way too much SF. I do give the author credit for knowing something about Marian apparitions and the inner workings of the Vatican and the Curia, but he really didn't break any new ground or have anything interesting to say about the interaction of science and religion. I find it particularly troubling (bordering on offensive) that a priest would lie outright to a cardinal about a Marian apparition on Mars solely for the purpose of ginning up a Catholic presence on the planet and a congregation that loves and appreciates the priest. I think the story might have been far more interesting if the priest REALLY HAD seen something extraordinary that could have been a Marian apparition.
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Jagash
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« Reply #30 on: November 15, 2009, 07:14:11 PM »

I just listened to this piece and would like to mention some elements that appear to be unnoticed my a few.  The priest is an unreliable narrator.  We do not know if the colony was _truly_ that atheistic and mocking or if that was just the bias of the priest's point of view expressing itself.     

Additionally, there might be more then a bit of selection bias with regards to the colonists.  Even if you ignore the science vs religions conflict (which might lead to more atheists on mars compared to theists), there are other practical difficulties for someone of faith.  Without a Priest prior to his arrival, there would have been no means for Mass, Confession or even Last Rites.  Even beyond that, it is uncertain if the dead could even be buried on consecrated ground and the idea of a devout catholic being denied a means to cleanse the soul nor even a sanctified funeral...  That would scare a number of the Christmas Catholics, let alone the devout. 

As for the final decision?  You have to view it through the lens of classical science fiction.  It is not a decision to lie to the cardinal to gain a larger parish.   It is a decision to use a lie to call the faithful and the Church into space and the future.
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CryptoMe
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« Reply #31 on: November 16, 2009, 02:29:42 PM »

It is a decision to use a lie to call the faithful and the Church into space and the future.

Sure, but I still don't see how that makes it okay....
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Jagash
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« Reply #32 on: November 17, 2009, 08:00:02 AM »

For a priest, preservation of the faith over the long term is key and space is the future.   It's not necessarily that it is objectively moral, but rather that it is a legitimate motivation for that decision which is so very human.
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Scattercat
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« Reply #33 on: November 19, 2009, 01:11:49 AM »

What I really liked about this story is how well it representes the dichotomy of institutionalized religion

I was going to say something about this story, but I'm just going to point at eytanz' entire comment and nod vigorously.  That's pretty much exactly what I was thinking.  (And I loved the priest for being such a lovably self-deluded pragmatist about the whole thing.  I love that the last line is about his uncertain and unfulfilled need for absolution.)
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simplewhimsy
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« Reply #34 on: December 03, 2009, 08:33:47 PM »

Heh.  What I liked best was how far removed the priest was from any other Catholics.  It could have been treated like a missionary post, and yet there were absolutely no sisters or brothers sent?  I work in a missionary diocese, myself, and even with a shortage of clergy there is still ample support lines open, even with little money.  There are many, many well educated clergy, religious and even seculars who could have been sent with him (not even a deacon for mass?  some mass parts are hard to do on your own...), hell, even with a "short supply" of religious I find it hard to believe that no one could have been procured to go with this priest.  Catholics are really, really good about donating money.  I'm sure they could have made it work. . .so I find it kinda difficult to believe...

But what made me smirk is how the Vatican in the story felt the need to have an untrained priest in the matter of miracle processing go to the site and reassure them "yeah, no, the guy was lying.  No apparitions here!" before they could get their own team off the ground.  So typical of people in politically charged situations.  And really, it doesn't matter if the Vatican approved the miracle or not (though in the time frame given the Vatican would not have had the time to do a confirm/deny): Catholic/Christian pilgrims go to miracle sightings regardless.

In the end I can't blame the priest.  He said himself that he was not as theologically gifted/trained as some other priests -- and you would have to be in the midst of scientists, to keep up with them in debate! -- so I presume he wasn't a very convincing person in such discussions.  He was all alone, in the middle of non believers with absolutely no backup.  So he made a mistake to rectify the situation.  He may be a priest, and he may have made vows, but he's still a human.

Another thing.  Four years have passed, apparently there are still millions of believers on Earth, but they are so scarce in clergy that no other priest was sent despite tens of thousands of pilgrims coming to mars?  Uh, yeah, you can't tell me that absolutely no order of priests could have sent someone up. >>  Just sayin'. 

For all that though, I enjoyed the story.  Found it to be very mellow.  Good narration.
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« Reply #35 on: January 18, 2010, 02:54:34 PM »

Regarding the question of why Catholicism is always used in such stories, I think the reason for this particular one was the visibility and rigid structure of Catholic hierarchy, and that hierarchy being able to reinterpret religious interpretations to adapt to the times.  If I understand correctly, if the Pope says that "Simon sez ____" then Catholics everywhere are supposed to listen to him.  I don't know of another religious as widespread as that which has a centralized boss.  For instance, I'm Lutheran by upbringing and there's nobody at the top of the church hierarchy that can redefine religious interpretations for all Lutherans everywhere.

I loved the farting in the airlock line!

One detail that I especially appreciated was the young man who kept throwing his disbelief in the priest's face simply to get a rise out of him.  My dad is a Lutheran pastor, and he's mentioned one thing that bugs him:  people who seem to be swearing for the sole purpose of getting a rise out of the pastor.  Dad doesn't swear that I've ever heard, but swearing in general doesn't really bother him.  "That's just how some people talk." and he has no problem with that. But sometimes there are people who continually throw swear words into everything they say and then they pause and watch him for a reaction as if they're waiting for the pastor to lose his temper and call down God's holy wrath on them or some such thing.  So that detail in the story was especially appreciated, very true to life.

Anyway, on to the story:  I enjoyed this one.  I've never ever understood why it's such a commonly held belief that religion and science can't mix.  Assume there is a higher power.  The higher power creates scientific rules to govern the universe.  Voila!  Science and religion coexisting.  Was that so hard?  It's harder to do if every detail of the religious teachings needs to be a fact--I see the Bible not as a documentary, but as a book of stories to teach a set of morals.  And it was written by the hands of men and retranslated a bajillion times, so some of the morals may be skewed by the humanity of those involved in its proliferation.

I didn't think his choice at the ending was out of character at all.  He is very pragmatic, and he wanted to do what he could to strengthen the church and the church's influence.  In this case that influence is spread further by lying than by telling the truth.  Is the action itself morally wrong?  Yes, but Catholicism doesn't teach that humans must be infallible; forgiveness is an important aspect of the religion!  I'm not sure if it will have a positive effect or not, but I can see how he would consider that effect to be positive.  he's afraid that religion will fall completely by the wayside as humans begin to colonize other heavenly bodies, making religion less and less relevant to daily life and he sees that as a tragedy.  So he's doing what he can to prevent that from happening.

I do have trouble relating to the masses that flock to "appearances" of the virgin Mary in random events like water leakage under a freeway overpass.  To my eyes, that looks exactly like water leakage under a freeway overpass.  I mean, it's not like we even have photographs of Mary to compare to, so how could anyone possibly know if a random smudge looks like her or not?

Elvis potato chips, on the other hand, are totally legit!
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Swamp
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« Reply #36 on: January 18, 2010, 05:29:50 PM »

If I understand correctly, if the Pope says that "Simon sez ____" then Catholics everywhere are supposed to listen to him.  I don't know of another religious as widespread as that which has a centralized boss.  For instance, I'm Lutheran by upbringing and there's nobody at the top of the church hierarchy that can redefine religious interpretations for all Lutherans everywhere.

My religion, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, is led by revelation from a Prophet and Twelve Apostles.

(By the way, you're so right about Elvis.)
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« Reply #37 on: January 19, 2010, 10:15:14 AM »

If I understand correctly, if the Pope says that "Simon sez ____" then Catholics everywhere are supposed to listen to him.  I don't know of another religious as widespread as that which has a centralized boss.  For instance, I'm Lutheran by upbringing and there's nobody at the top of the church hierarchy that can redefine religious interpretations for all Lutherans everywhere.

My religion, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, is led by revelation from a Prophet and Twelve Apostles.

(By the way, you're so right about Elvis.)

I hadn't known that, I don't know much about that religion.  So perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the Catholic church is the only religion I know of whose boss is widely publicized beyond the religion itself.  I'm not Catholic, but when the Pope make a big announcement, I'll probably hear about it on the news.  So it's an obvious (if not the only) target for making religious proclamations because the whole world would hear about it when the Pope announces it.
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Jago Constantine
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« Reply #38 on: March 14, 2010, 07:22:51 AM »

We listened to this last week in Second Life - it was popular, although someone had a technical issue about the feasibility of the final transmission to two locations
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