Thursday, 27 April 2017


Readers of SM Stirling's The Sunrise Lands will understand the title of this post. The world does not need any more fanatical churches in reality. Did we need another even in fiction? No, not exactly "need." But it is all too plausible that such organizations would be reborn after a disaster like the Change. So far, we have met one Wiccan and two Christian groups and here is another Christian Church (Universal and Triumphant) with assassins who kill each other or commit suicide to prevent capture. Straight to Heaven, no doubt?

Some people are so attached to a single world-view that they are unable to consider any alternative to it. Alternatives are not only argued against but, more fundamentally, not understood. A former friend once asked me, "What does tolerance mean? Does it mean that you don't care what people think?" I told a political activist that my trade union branch secretary had given me advice ("You must not carry this problem around with you") that parallelled the advice that I would have received from a Buddhist monk. The activist replied, "No, Nigel bases his advice on his political philosophy, not on Buddhism!" Of course, I had said that Nigel's advice parallelled, not that it was based on, a Buddhist perspective but my argumentative activist was determined to deny any value in Buddhism and any parallel between it and a secularist philosophy. I once said that all states should be secular, therefore no state should be Jewish, and was taken to advocate a Muslim state!

These culpable misunderstandings are not as problematic as a Church Universal and Triumphant but they are not helpful either. The very first requirement of any dialogue is to understand the other person.


David Birr said...

I read somewhere — I can't recall the source, not even whether it was fiction or non — of someone who considered the concept of "tolerance" to itself be bigoted. This person felt that "tolerance" automatically was CONDESCENSION: "You're wrong, of course, but because I'm tolerant I'll PERMIT you to continue being wrong."

Now, I've met some people who actually DID think that way, but the person I read about evidently felt ANY use of the term "tolerance" was expressing that attitude. I don't remember if he offered any alternative description for the lack of a desire to shove one's own values down other people's throats, or if he confined himself to saying, more or less, "If you say you want to be tolerant, you're a bigot!"

Paul Shackley said...

Someone thought that Sheila and I were "patronizing" Asians by living on the same street as them.

S.M. Stirling said...

BTW, the C.U.T. -- Church Universal and Triumphant -- isn't actually Christian. It's Theosophist, tracing its origins to Madam Blavatsky in the 1870's. Theosophy (and its multiply crossbreeding splinters and descendants) sort of lifts chunks from Hinduism and various schools of Buddhism and combines them with stuff from the Western esotericist tradition (folks like the Golden Dawn) and stuff that Blavatsky just made up. It's full of Ascended Masters (more or less bodhisattvas), spirit guides, multiple layers of afterlives, reincarnations, and so forth. Gardner took some of the same stuff and folded it into his "Old" Religion -- as an actual Buddhist monk Rudi meets later notes. (He specifies that he's not accusing Wiccans of "stealing" the theology, because that would imply that someone -owned- the Noble Eightfold Path.)

Paul Shackley said...

Mr Stirling,
Thank you again. I have been misled by the word "Church." A Theosophical CUT is much more interesting. I know about Theosophy because I used to dig their former Vehicle of the World Teacher, Krisnamurti, before I arrived at the conclusion that Zen makes more sense as a practice.

S.M. Stirling said...

Interesting, isn't it? 8-). A minor spoiler: at the time of the Change, a convention of Buddhists was meeting in an off-season resort hotel in Wyoming and was stranded there. As they include a number of Tibetans and others with useful survival skills, they become the center of the local cluster -- Chenrezi Monastery.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Mr. Stirling beat me to pointing out the so called Church Universal and Triumphant was not even a heretical Christian sect, but NON Christian.

For that matter other non Christian religious organizations use the word "church." Examples being Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church or the Church of Scientology.