Silenced: Chapter 17: Why Not Lie?

Paul talks to Enzo on his skull phone, and they discuss the loyalty oath that will be announced in just a few days:

“I cannot imagine my staying in place with the NPO long after Monday’s announcement.” [said Paul]

Why not?  Because Good Christians Don’t Lie, of course.

Except to their wives, I mean.  And to everyone, as long as you’re not lying out loud and in so many words.  Even though Paul has been living a “double life” for six months now, he hasn’t actually lied and said “Hey, just so everyone is clear, I’m still an atheist.”

So his conscience is clear.  But it would not be clear if he signed his name to a loyalty oath, allowing him to keep up his important work as a double agent.

I mean, not that he does any actual work, but if he did, it would be important!

And Enzo agrees:

“…such an eventuality would give the entire global underground church sixty days’ worth of marching orders.  Unless we do something drastic, true believers who would never denounce their faith will face death.”

Okay, I admit that I am a lifelong atheist who really doesn’t give a crap about the idea of denouncing faith or lack thereof.  If somebody put a gun to my head and ordered me to “convert” to anything, I would do it in less than one second.  After all, I know what I really believe and don’t believe, and if it’s so important to some bad guy that I say I believe something else, I’ll say it.  Doesn’t mean I think it.  As for Paul and the other Christians, shouldn’t Jesus know their hearts?  Wouldn’t he forgive them “denouncing” their faith so they can continue to live and try to convert the evil atheistic world?

Enzo tries to explain:

“The only possible way of surviving [the oath] is to show the International Government that there are enough of us that we should be heard.”

Fair enough.  But Paul actually has a good point:

“But, Enzo, you all have been living underground for years.  It has been like this for decades already.”

Yeah.  Why engage in all these little, nothing tactics like sewing tracts into textiles, when you could make a stand and let your voices be heard?    Shoulda done this yesterday!

“Yet the government feels this need to put us on the spot.”

Yeah, and why dance to their tune, Enzo?  Shoulda stood up yesterday!  Wrongs will be righted if you’re united, yanno?

But never fear, because Enzo knows what’s really important here!

“What will you do, Paul?  This has to be even worse, much more dangerous for you.”

Why???  We’ve already established that Rome police execute believers on sight.  And Enzo is the head of the Rome underground—surely he is just as susceptible to “extra” attention by the government as Paul is.  Perhaps even more.  But Paul agrees that things are waaaaay worse for him.  His response to Enzo:

“No question.”

No question things are worse for Paul than for anybody.  Man, Paul seeks out ways to be The Most Oppressed of All like a frakkin’ Social Justice Warrior.

“But I know this: Nothing will make me sign.” [said Paul]

“Praise the Lord.  But what about the disposition of your wife and children?”

“I have already put them in God’s hands,” he said.  “If the only thing within my power to save them was renouncing my faith, I would not do it.  I could not.  I would only pray that they be drawn to God through my example.”

Save them from what, Paul?  I mean, you want them to be believers, subject to the same persecution as you.  So it can’t be that.  Save them from the repercussions of you being exposed as a religious nut?  Hell, they’ll be pitied and protected, that’s pretty much a given.  I know you think that only Christians care about families and children, but trust me, pretty much everybody in your life feels sorry for Jae and thinks you’re, at best, an asshat, and at worst, a traitor.  Jae and the kids will be fine.

“I am trying to live in a way that she will at least be sorry to lose me.”

And there we have it.  (Again.)  Paul isn’t being halfway-decent to his wife because he loves her or respects her or is remorseful about his abuse and cheating.  Nope, he’s just doing it to manipulate her, so she’ll be sad when he’s gone.

Frakkin’ narcissistic sociopath.

***

Back in D.C., Jae and Ranold head to his office after his Reasons Paul Sucks PowerPoint.  He checks her status:

“And can you do whatever is necessary to help us, if he’s turned on us?”

“To be perfectly honest, Dad, you haven’t proved that to me yet.  But if you could, of course I would do whatever was necessary.  What kind of person, citizen, mother would I be if I wouldn’t?”

“That’s my girl.”

My biggest fear: I’m Ranold B. Decenti’s girl—no more, no less.

Really, Jae?  That’s your biggest fear?  I’ve got a better one for you: that you’re Paul Stepola’s abused, manipulated, Stockholm Syndromed wife—no more, no less.

Jae doesn’t want to believe Paul is a traitor, but…

Even his new attitude—his loving, caring, listening, others-oriented personality—could be just a ruse to cover what he’s really been up to. [Jae thinks]

Catty though she is proving herself to be, I do feel bad for Jae that she’s been so snowed by occasional decency from Paul that she thinks of it as loving and caring.

But…”others-oriented”???

I’m sorry, I just…that phrase sounds a bit silly in and of itself, but to apply such a goofy phrase to PAUL STEPOLA is so laughable that it deserves not just one corny laughing gif…

…but three more…

Ron Swanson Giggle

Paul Stepola…others-oriented guy.

So, even though she’s conflicted about it, Jae shows Ranold the infamous “come to Jesus” letter from Paul’s father (Ranold’s reaction in the next chapter).  And she muses about how much an atheist world sucks…

…she found the New Testament stuff so impactful.  She had never been taught to question, to investigate.  …  You didn’t question that religion was a farce, that God was a creation of man, that anything spiritual or outside the realm of the material was akin to fairy tales but not so harmless.  People didn’t change.  How could they?  The only values worth fighting and dying for were humanism and the preeminence of the state.

Okay, I can see how one could, in theory, write an interesting story about how society’s skeptics and critical thinkers took over the world and soon their worldview became the very thing they had fought against—the status quo, the unquestioned and unquestionable.

But this isn’t that story.

Not least because the past two chapters have shown us that the main villain of this uninvestigating, unquestioning world, one Ranold B. Decenti, has completely changed his own views on Paul.  He used to like and respect Paul, but after QUESTIONING AND INVESTIGATING, has come to the conclusion that Paul is not to be trusted, has flipped, and is using his position in the NPO to aid believers.

And he’s right.

And this unquestioning world has cured cancer, all but completely eradicated homelessness, improved mental health services, made all cars environmentally friendly, decreased travel times, and makes it paper out of previously-unrecyclable plastic.

Yep, what a stodgy, uncritical world.

***

Back in France, Paul is talking with actual French people, who apparently all speak perfect English, which is a good thing for two reasons:

1.  Superspy Paul flunked Berlitz (the language program, not his brother-in-law)

2.  Paul uses phrases like “several-pronged benefits” when talking to people for whom English is a second language.

Paul wants their help to trap Magnor, because he obviously can’t do any work by himself.  (Or at all.)  The French Christians are understandably reluctant to help, because it already sucks enough to be them.  ChappellShow is the only one in favor of helping, mostly because of his guilt complex—he didn’t read  Magnor’s mind well enough to understand that when Magnor said he wanted revenge, he meant he was going to bomb three specific world monuments within days of each other.

But Paul knows how to convince the undecided:

“Magnor needs to be brought to justice.  Even if we weren’t looking at this as Christians, he’s still a murderer, a coward.  The international community may make strange bedfellows for us, but on this we must agree.  Regardless the offense, regardless the differences, the answer is not the obliteration of innocent people.”

ARE YOU FRAKKING KIDDING ME, PAUL???

All the while he was privately celebrating the events in Los Angeles…

The events” being the deaths of thousands.

Paul Stepola: Hypocrite of the year, 38 P.3.

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Posted on January 29, 2014, in Books, Silenced. Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. A bit of insight on the loyalty oath thing:

    Even for Christians who aren’t so hung up about lying that they’d turn over the Jews in their attics, denying one’s faith in Christ is supposed to be pretty damn awful. There’s a bit in the New Testament where Peter’s like, “No I won’t let them take you Jesus” and Jesus is like “No you’re going to deny me” and Peter’s like “nuh uh” and then Jesus is like “By the time the cock crows you will have denied me three times.” Then on the evening of Maundy Thursday, after Jesus’s arrest Peter is afraid to be associated with him – I mean, he’s basically best friends and co-revolutionaries with a guy being executed for rabble-rousing – and three times people are like “Oh hey don’t you hang out with that Jesus guy?” and three times Peter denies him and then the cock crows and Peter’s like “Oh shit I am the worst person ever.” So denying you’re a Christian, even when there’s a good fucking reason, is tantamount to abandoning Jesus to die alone on the cross.

    • The question is, WAS Jesus condemning Peter, or was he just trying to tell him that he was overestimating himself? To put it another way, was he castigating cowardice, or an uncritical view of oneself? The last phrase could be seen in terms of “You’re kidding, right? Given everything that’s going to happen, how are you NOT going to be so panicked that you’ll deny knowing me at least three times?”.

      In short, how much reason do we have to believe that Jesus would have taken offense at Peter’s panicked denial?

  2. I also don’t understand why some religious people are so against lying, even if it would save their lives. If someone threatened me with death unless I convert, I’d do it without hesitation. It’s better to fake conversion for a brief moment than to be killed by some fanatic.

    With regards to Paul Stepola, this book keeps telling us that he’s become a decent, loving person now that he’s converted to Christianity, but it hasn’t shown us any evidence of that. Paul was an asshole when he was an atheist, and he’s remained an asshole after becoming a Christian.

    • I think it has to do with how you judge who will be saved and who won’t be. If you believe that part of being saved is preventing sin where you can and doing good deeds, then lying to save your life makes perfect sense: you are preventing someone else from committing the crime of murder. If you believe that in order to be saved you need to just say the magic words, then lying becomes a worse option: the person who is threatening you is going to end up in hell either way, and having a murder on his conscience won’t make a difference to that. Also, it places a massive amount of importance on what you say – you’re less likely to deny being a Christian because even if you don’t truly believe it, God could still consider it as you repudiating your faith, and then it’s back into the pit with you.

      • Yes, that makes sense. If you can become a believer simply by saying a particular set of words, then you can become an unbeliever the same way. So, lying about your faith makes you an unbeliever and thus a candidate for hell.

    • It makes more sense to view it as going back on your word. If you take faith as promise between yourself and your deity it would be a big deal to fake conversion.

      In one sense, it’s a perfectly fine principle – it would be nice if everyone could trust everyone’s word, that they do what they promise to do. In another sense it’s a tool for stangation – you can’t change your mind on anything or you’ll be denouncing what you said earlier. (You can see it very clearly in politicians. Rare indeed to find one who admits to changing their mind after receiving new information!)

  3. Yeah, Paul’s transformation into a kind and caring man is a very egregious case of Jenkins’ trademark “Tell, don’t show” style. Case in point:

    Jae: “his new attitude—his loving, caring, listening, others-oriented personality”

    Paul: “If the only thing within my power to save them was renouncing my faith, I would not do it. I could not.”

    What a marvelous others-oriented personality! “If I could save my family by doing something I don’t want to do, well, screw my family.” Huckleberry’s “Alright, I will go to hell” this is not.

    “Yet the government feels this need to put us on the spot.”

    “All we did was tell them that we would make our god wipe out LA right before LA was wiped out, and suddenly they’re treating us like we’re dangerous or something!

    “Regardless the offense, regardless the differences, the answer is not the obliteration of innocent people.”

    A nice sentiment that is laughably inappropriate coming from Paul. The guy who specifically prayed for the deaths of thousands, and got his wish. And unlike Styr, Paul was channeling the unlimited power of the almighty god meaning he could’ve targeted only the guilty, i.e. the murderous soldiers. Maybe we’re supposed to assume that it’s alright when god does it, even if he only did it after humans specifically ask for it, because god is perfect and righteous and wouldn’t have done it if it wasn’t righteous. But even if you accept that (I don’t), Paul’s original plan was to do it himself. They only brought in god after the zealots realized they couldn’t do it themselves.

    Oh, and it would’ve also helped if Jenkins hadn’t portrayed the victims so unsympathetically during their brief screen time.

  4. Paul: It’s All About Him! Christians being persecuted? He’ll have it worse. Wife hates him? He’ll try to make her miss him when he’s gone.

    Thinking about transformed personalities… did Jae harp on people’s appearances the way she did last chapter back when she was an atheist? Or is that the RTC memeplex taking hold?

    The answer is not the obliteration of innocent people unless the hero does it with his pet superweapon. So it’s OK when person A does it, but not when persons B-Z do it. Are RTCs allowed to make distinctions like that? Isn’t an act a good or bad act in itself?

    • What I want to know is: Since when has Paul/Jenkins considered atheist civilians “innocents”?

      • I think that’s the thing; he doesn’t. Remember what the introduction to “Silenced” said; the water abolition didn’t apply to Christians still in Los Angeles. THAT was how God was sparing the “innocent”–the curse went out of phase for them.

        I think an important precept here is St. Paul’s claim that the law of God is written in the hearts of men. Somehow, RTCs take this to mean not conscience in general, or Micah 6:8, but a full and witting knowledge that God exists, and will not be satisfied with anything less than instant, unconditional, and unquestioning obedience. It’s similar to the conjurations I’ve seen in the Ars Goetia and Ars Theurgia Goetia (even if the latter was actually part of a cryptography book only PRETENDING to be a grimoire)–the spirits are referred to as good or evil just about entirely over whether they’re obedient or disobedient to the conjuror, respectively. ANY kind of disobedience, especially if you take the view that a crime’s severity increases according to the station of the victim/aggrieved (e.g. St. Anselm’s “Cur Deus Homo?”), can be nothing but willful contempt and, when we’re talking disobedience towards the divine, refusal to accept one’s fate with a genuine smile. Unless we’re talking Calvinism, there’s no such thing as inability to accept the fate, apparently.

        Unlike the claim of (I think) Proverbs that avarice is the root of all manner of evils, RTC precepts believe that desire to be independent of God and to ignore his decrees is the sole root of ALL evils. I wouldn’t be surprised if all the advances of the post-religion world are understood by Jenkins to just be attempts of its denizens to curry favor with each other, rather like how Objectivism understands human self-interest. I wonder if RTC, wittingly or not, has as low an understanding of altruism as Objectivism does; you don’t aid others because they’re valuable in and of themselves, but because that’s how God wants you to act. Perhaps simply because, for whatever reason, altruism does a better job of reflecting his glory back to his eyes than selfishness does.

  5. Okay, two more points. First, a bit of curiosity about the “loving, caring, listening, others-oriented ” Paul and his family: Does he ever love, care for or listen to his children? Newly converted Paul trying to work out a way to maintain and improve his relationship with his family (mostly via tag-team manipulation with Straight). But all we ever seem to learn about is his relationship with his wife. In fact, I can’t remember only one time when we ever heard one of his kids say something on-screen: Way in the beginning of the first book, when he asked Ranold about a Christmas tree ornament. Has there ever been another instance in these books where the children were treated as actual characters, instead of objects?

    By the way, that doesn’t just seem to be a problem of Paul: The Jae POV chapters don’t really seem to pay much attention to the kids either. She dragged them on outings, she dragged them with her when she tried to leave Paul, and she’s dragging them with her when she’s visiting her father. But I don’t recall ever hearing the kid’s thoughts on any of this. As far as I can tell, those two children seem to be there just so Paul has a family to keep together. Otherwise, they are completely unimportant. Or am I wrong, and were there some snippets of character building that these reviews just skipped over.

    And the second point:
    “She had never been taught to question, to investigate.”
    Fuck me, but that sounds hypocritical. Our host already dealt with instances where, even in this fictional setting, the atheists are investigative. But there’s also plenty of cases where the zealots showed themselves to be utterly dogmatic, again even in Jenkins’ own setting.

    Hell, that line “If the only thing within my power to save them was renouncing my faith, I would not do it. I could not.”, has now served to disprove two of Jenkins’ points. I mean, is there any question or investigation on Paul’s part here about whether he should try to deny his faith in order to protect his family? No. Even though “protecting your family” is considered incredibly important by Christians, there’s no doubt that they take second place to not lying about your faith. Neither does ChappelShow question or investigate whether lying about it might be preferable to mass-extinction.

    But my favourite counter-example was in the first book, where every single zealot was without any doubts that god would wipe out L.A. if they prayed for it. Straight even had that smug “Last time I checked, god was still on his throne”-line. Never mind that there was no way Straight actually checked that, never mind that there wasn’t any indication that god took requests like that. Every single one of them was 100% certain that god would do exactly what they asked for.

    And that’s just Jenkins’ own work. In reality… well, atheist and self-proclaimed skeptics aren’t always as rational and fair about ideas that don’t fit in their worldview, I’ll admit that. I’m not immune to bias either. But I have very, very strong doubts about the notion that unlike us, RTCs are always critically examining their beliefs and following the facts wherever they may lead. In fact, some are proud of the fact that they don’t. “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.” Knowing things for certain is touted as a feature of believing in a inerrant, consistent Bible. Sure, it’s the certainty of a kid going “La-la-la-I-can’t-hear-you” to prevent him from learning he doesn’t want to know, but some Christians openly consider that preferable to flip-flopping scientist who change their minds if new evidence is uncovered.

    So yeah, this is a blatant attempt at seizing a positive label from the opponent. Much like the attempt to claim that fighting against gay marriage or laws against discrimination against gays makes you just like Martin Luther King or Rosie Parks.

    • By the way, that doesn’t just seem to be a problem of Paul: The Jae POV chapters don’t really seem to pay much attention to the kids either. She dragged them on outings, she dragged them with her when she tried to leave Paul, and she’s dragging them with her when she’s visiting her father. But I don’t recall ever hearing the kid’s thoughts on any of this. As far as I can tell, those two children seem to be there just so Paul has a family to keep together. Otherwise, they are completely unimportant. Or am I wrong, and were there some snippets of character building that these reviews just skipped over.

      No, the kids don’t have much existence other than being dragged around. There is the conversation about the Wintermas Tree in Soon (good memory!) but it exists so Paul and Ranold can talk about it, not little Connor.

      Other than that, Brie and Connor visit Paul in the hospital after he’s blinded. Looking back, I skipped over this bit as just another example of many in that part of Paul being an abusive ass, but looking back, there is a gem:

      The kids are scared to see Paul in bandages, and he says, right in front of the kids, “I’m not going to bite. This isn’t contagious, you know.”

      Connor is brought almost to tears, Brie volunteers to take him out of the room, and from then on, the kids visit and basically stand in the doorway.

      Other than that, in Soon, the kids are props. They admire Paul’s little chess trophy, etc.

      In Silenced, there was the one bit where Brie doesn’t want to go to D.C. and leave all her friends…

      http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/2013/11/01/silenced-chapter-10-part-1-sin-for-atheists/

      …and that’s about it.

  1. Pingback: Deconstruction Round Up, Febuary 1st 2014 | The Slacktiverse

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