Tuesday, 8 March 2016


In Poul Anderson's Terran Empire, we expect - and find - immense diversity of religious traditions. Of course, this is helped by diversity of intelligent species. Some human members of Avalonian choths even practice the Ythrian Old Faith.

Jerry Pournelle's Second Empire of Man seems lass diverse. So far, I have found only Catholicism, Islam and (new) Himmism. Of course, this timeline so far has only one nonhuman intelligent species, not discovered until 3017. In fact, it was an effect of Motie technology that indirectly caused the founding of the Church of Him.

Protestantism seems to have disappeared. Churches separated for centuries have few doctrinal disagreements. When McKinnie installs a missionary Bishop in the Temple on Makassar, the Bishop styles himself "...His Ultimate Holiness, Primate of all Makassar, Vicar of Christ, and Archbishop of New Rome." (King David's Spaceship, p. 224) Surely those last two titles apply exclusively to His Holiness of New Rome?

The Bishop would say, and I think somewhere does say, that he has come for the good of men's souls. Many would respond simply that they believe neither in souls nor in any other supernatural entities such as a deity. So far, I agree with them. However, I also think that any society benefits from access to teachings about the value of reflection on mental states and motivations. This need not be linked to belief in the literal existence of supernatural beings although such beings remain central to much mythology, art, literature and fiction. I would not join the Bishop's flock but would welcome debate with him.


  1. Paul:
    Not Catholic myself, but I would've said "His Ultimate Holiness" is a title that should be exclusive to the Pope. "Vicar of Christ" is usually understood as a Papal title, but one could argue that here it's short for "Vicar of Christ on Makassar."

    As for "Archbishop of New Rome," that might be simply a author's slip, where it was actually meant to be the name of Makassar's principal city, or "of" in this case might be used to mean "from" or "representing." Not a phrasing I'd be comfortable with, but I can see the possibility.

    Something is definitely odd about the use of those terms, anyway.

  2. Gentlemen (David and Paul),

    Some of my comments here will be addressed alternately to either David or Paul.

    Paul: Correct, in Poul Anderson's Terran Empire we find a wide spectrum of religious and philosophical belief--ranging from orthodox Catholicism to the crude and revolting paganism of the Ythrian Old Faith. But I don't recall mention of HUMANS believing in that Old Faith (I don't remember Tabitha Falkayn saying she believed in it).

    Paul: Again, I have to speak from memory about KING DAVID'S SPACESHIP, THE MOTE IN GOD'S EYE and THE GRIPPING HAND. I do have a vague recollection of Protestants like the Baptists still existing (but I might be wrong). And Mormons are mentioned and seen in THE GRIPPING HAND.

    Paul and David: your comments about the eyebrow raising titles used by the Primate of the Church on Makassar reminded me of my own essay "Andersonian Themes and Tropes," where ceremonial is discussed. (Smiles) The titles used on Makassar were not invented by the missionary bishop sent by the Pope to reestablish contact and communion with the Church on Makassar, the titles arose there in the centuries of isolation Makassar endured after the Secession Wars and the Fall of the Old Empire.

    In fact, some of the difficulties the missionary bishop had
    were caused by him being TOO modest and respectful. The naive semi-barbarians of Makassar might have taken him more seriously if the bishop had been more ornately flashy.

    David: re your comments. The exaggerated titles seen on Makassar developed during centuries of isolation.

    Paul: and many, many people would have taken seriously what the Bishop said about coming to Makassar to further the salvation of souls. Esp. if they were already Christians.

    Paul: I think your comment on the "...teachings about the value of reflection on mental states and motivations" refers to your owe meditation practices. It seems to me that meditation not centered on God seems rather aimless. No offense is meant!

    And I think the Bishop would have been willing to discuss such matters with you, Paul. My memory of him from Pournelle's book was of him being learned, kindly, and patient.


    1. Sean,
      Tabitha Falkayn says, "Most of us keep to the Old Faith..." (RISE,p. 502)

    2. Sean,
      But, if we don't believe in God, then we just have to get on with it ourselves. We find meditation beneficial. If God does exist after all, then He must be working in the background.

    3. Kaor, Paul!

      Noted, what you said about Tabitha Falkayn. However, her comment is rather non-specific. However, it COULD mean some human members of her choth were Old Believers.

      Of course anyone who does not believe in God "[has] to get on with it." Altho I don't think many atheists are as philosophically articulate about it as was John Wright before his conversion.

      And I do believe God works patiently in the background for the good of all (while still respecting their free will).


    4. Sean,
      In the case of honest believers, their unbelief results from their reasoning and assessment of the evidence, not from their free wills.

    5. Sean,
      That should, of course, have read, "In the case of honest unbelievers..."
      When I have said that I see no reason to believe, some Christians have replied, "God doesn't force you. He grants you free will...," which is not the point.

  3. Sean:
    "In fact, some of the difficulties the missionary bishop had
    were caused by him being TOO modest and respectful."

    OK; it's been a long while since I read this book, but I HAD recalled the Bishop being, as you told Paul, "learned, kindly, and patient." (One scene that stuck in my mind was his offering MacKinnie confidential advice within the Confessional -- I particularly remember the Bishop kissing the stole as he explains the sacrosanct nature of Confession.) Your explanation about the high-flown titles is something I didn't remember, but it corresponds with what I did recall. Thanks.

    1. Hi, David!

      I definitely do plan to reread KIND DAVID'S SPACESHIP after I finish reread James Blish's Okie books.

      You are correct about what the bishop said about the sacrament of confession and the kissing of the stole (to symbolize that power of the priesthood). Priests have preferred to die rather than violate the seal of confession.

      Compared to the honorifics heaped on Kim Jon Il, current ruler of the weird Kim "dynasty" of North Korea, the titles used on Makassar don't seemed so bad. (Smiles)