Thursday, March 5, 2009

Super-Aliens and the Church of Rome

A friend of mine from high school now lives near me, thousands of miles from where we graduated. We get together occasionally. In high school I never appreciated exactly what a smart guy he was, or how Catholic he and his family were. When we began discussing this, we started getting into some of the organizational and personnel shifts in the church in the last century. You know, the usual discussion - about Vatican II, statements released about evolution, current controversies about Benedict and the Pope selection process itself, etc. (I had been betting on a Latin American Pope; politically, that would be a smart move for the Church.)

My friend was (not unreasonably) surprised that I would know about such things, or care; after all, I'm not even "ethnically" Catholic - my last religious ancestors were all Lutherans or Presbyterians. But I find the Church fascinating for many reasons, chiefly among them that it can be looked at as the first multinational, multicontinental corporation, arguably better and more intelligently organized during the Age of Exploration than some of the national governments who were its vectors to the New World. I find it fascinating that the organization persists today, a two-thousand year old priesthood with roots deeper than that (the word Pontiff comes from an Etruscan word. Frickin' Etruscan!)

Of course, appreciating the history of the organization and the beauty of some of the buildings and paintings it's inspired doesn't diminish the damage it's done and continues to do in the name of revealed knowledge that is frankly no less absurd than alien clam gods living in volcanoes. But the bottom line, which I asked my friend, is this: all the kinds of political shifts and grumbling and bureacratic, administrative snafus we were discussing were extremely Earthly things. They wouldn't be out of place at, say, the Department of Defense, or IBM. And yet this was not IBM. This was the organization on Earth that represents the most powerful being in the universe. And still He can't make us stop with the infighting and political favoritism! I asked my friend if this didn't strike him as strange when he was grumbling about Church politics with his coreligionists, and my question brought him up short.

Let me phrase it this way, in a way that puts you in his place. Let's say you know that there are superhuman, almost infinitely powerful aliens in the universe, because you've met them. You have the direct evidence of your senses of these beings and their vast powers - telekinesis, immortality, teleportation, creation of matter out of vacuum, the whole nine yards. Let's say that they've so far only revealed themselves to a select few humans. You meet another human who claims to have met the super-aliens also, in fact he claims to be their official representative on this planet. He has even started an "embassy" for them in Washington.

And then - this guy comes to you and wants to borrow two thousand dollars, because he has to pay rent on the office the embassy is in. Or, he needs airfare to get there. Or, he's being sued by his admin for sexual harrassment. Or their server crashed, and he has to hire an IT person to save the data.

What!?!?!? If you've had direct contact with the super-aliens and you've seen what they can do, you would be right to be suspicious of a guy who needs your money to make his computer run. The super-aliens could make time run backwards and stop the computer from crashing! Or, they would just know the information already from observation of the state of the universe. Or, they would just communicate directly with the President themselves when they wanted to, and they wouldn't need our help!

You see what I mean? Why the worldly needs and double-talking shifting policies and Papal Bulls and petty politics, if this is really the organization of super-aliens, or a super-being?

I don't know that anyone will become an atheist on account of this thought experiment, but anything to create doubt about the organization, drive a wedge between a religious organization and a religious person is politically good. I can't get as annoyed with one-off "spiritualists" who don't influence elections and force their sparkly New Age myths and conspiracies on my kids.

1 comment:

Dan said...

I thought they had this covered under the "The Lord works in mysterious ways," clause.

I know for a fact that your friend was on the Science Olympiad team in Junior High.