Soon: Chapter 18: The Very Intense Interrogation

Or not.

Remember when I talked about how boring this part is?  Well, here we go–the narrative grinds to a halt for FOUR AND A HALF PAGES as Paul “interrogates” Arthur Demetrius.

Don’t get me wrong–there’s nothing wrong with pauses in the action, long conversations, an opportunity to dig deeper into the characters.  In a better book, this interrogation could be an opportunity to see Paul on the job post-conversion.  Sure, he’s the one asking the questions, but he’s also at risk himself–one slip of the tongue, and he could reveal himself as a secret believer.  Which, of course, would endanger not only himself, but his wife and two small children.  Man’s gotta be pretty tense right about now.

Or not.

Let’s get one thing out of the way right now–this interrogation would never go down like this.  Paul and Arthur would not be sitting companionably in easy chairs as Paul lobs softball questions at Arthur.  Paul would have been met in the office by a phalanx of attorneys, who would have made it their business to be sure Arthur didn’t have to so much as open his mouth.

Really, this is just inexcusable.  And it’s not like the idea of lawyers skipped Jenkins’ mind, either:

“Dr. Stepola,” [Arthur] said as Paul rose, “do I need a lawyer?”

“Oh, I don’t think so.  We should be able to cover what I need without acrimony.”

“What can I do for you?”

[Questioning begins]

It’s Just That Simple!  Not one of the surely dozens of lawyers who are employed at Demetrius and Demetrius thought it necessary to be in the room for an interrogation from a NPO agent.  “Oh, I’m sure the boss can handle it.  Sure, his brother is missing and an employee has disappeared after being fired, and there are allegations of an attempt to illegally corner the silver market.  But what could possibly go wrong?”

But that’s not the only idea Jenkins thinks up, then promptly discards:

Sifting through his file, Paul thought about the divination books.  Funny that trying to read the future didn’t count as believing in the supernatural, according to Arthur Demetrius.

Yeah, yanno what would be great?  If Jenkins described the reasoning behind this decision of the Atheistopian regime.  Christianity = illegal and astrology = fine and dandy?  It’s just weird, and we are never told why this is!

Which is a feeling we all need to get used to, because several things about this whole “religious incident” will never be explained.

As far as the rest of the interrogation goes, there is nothing there that we didn’t already know, or couldn’t have guessed.  Arthur just denies knowledge of everything.  His brother is vaguely “abroad.”  He doesn’t know anything about any guards being scared out of their wits by the vault.  He doesn’t know where the cursing employee is.  These are all just scurrilous rumors be vengeful believers.

Paul thinks Arthur looks scared.  And because Paul has so much training in psychology, body language, and interrogation techniques, we know he is right on the money, right?

Or not.

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Posted on August 23, 2011, in Books, Soon. Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. The interrogation of someone with a haunted vault (not to mention a missing brother and missing ex-employee) shouldn’t be boring. I think Jerry Jenkins has anti-talent. He could take the most interesting premise and turn it into incoherent and soporific gibberish.

    • “Could”???

      • Well, I did want to include all the interesting premises he hasn’t turned into gibberish. But you’re right, Left Behind and even, for all it’s faults, Soon do have interesting premises. It’s easy to forget that, given the execution. (Which is a very apt word here.)

  2. Geesh, where’s John Gallagher when you need him? 😛

    Seriously, this chapter seems like it should be the Goldstein/O’Brien moment, where Winston Smith learns through his reading and his own interrogation the truth behind the ruling class’s desire to keep and hold onto power.

    Jenkins could have had Paul learn some shocking revelation about the basic underpinnings of Atheistopia, but as it stands it seems like it’s more of a half-assed attempt at such dun-dun-DUN moment-setting.

  3. Paul is handicapped here because he knows that Demetrius is a good guy really – after all, he’s rich, so God must like him!

  4. Given that the Atheistapo seems to be semi-regularly involved in religious investigations that result in a bodycount (Paul is a hero because he’s been involved in two in a row), you really wouldn’t think Arthur would be so relaxed about this interview. A lawyer is a basic neccesity for a big buisnessman like this. I’m reminded of the Lavish family in Terry Prachet’s Making Money. All brought there lawyers to family dinners, partly to sue one another and partly to run damage control if at any moment their clients say anything that might be damaging. It’s not only funny, it’s a recognizable exageration.

    I mentioned a week ago that this book’s intro rather fakes out that this might be intended for atheists. It’s snippets like the astrology buisness that firmly prove it isn’t. Christians don’t like atheists and they don’t like astrology, so atheists must like astrology. Atheism is a religion after all, don’t ya know. No need to elaborate. It must have hurt Jenkins when he realized that, with his given backstory of WW3 being caused by every religion except RTC-ism, he couldn’t very well let Atheistopia not forbid them as well. I imagine him silently envying LaHaye and Parshall for getting away (to their audience anyway) with that liberals-love-violent-muslims schtick in Edge of Apocalypse. BTW, welcome back 🙂

    • inquisitiveraven

      And then there’s the bit in Vetinari’s court where the Lavishes all show up with their lawyers, and Pratchett proceeds to catalog the cost every time the lawyers stand up to speak.

  5. Yeah, yanno what would be great? If Jenkins described the reasoning behind this decision of the Atheistopian regime. Christianity = illegal and astrology = fine and dandy? It’s just weird, and we are never told why this is!

    Probably because this is Jenkins trying to be snarky. I don’t think he sees it as an odd little anachronism he’s built into his atheist dystopia, he sees it as an odd little anachronism in real-life atheism. He doesn’t see any significant difference between skeptical atheists, and people who aren’t involved in any specific religion or profess belief in any specific gods, but still feel that there’s some spiritual, mystical, or magical component to the world. Specifically, I think Jenkins does not believe that it’s possible to look at the world and fail to see the supernatural in it. If skeptical atheists were to rule the world, therefore, it naturally and necessarily follows that superstition and astrology would flourish, because that’s just how atheists explain the magical aspects of the world when they’ve rejected God as an answer.

    I’ve met people like Jenkins. I’ve had it explained to me that there are three categories of people: those who worship Christ, those who worship devils (whether they claim to be Christians or not), and those who reject Christ and worship themselves. Any further distinction within the categories is ultimately meaningless and distracts from the most important question in the world, e.g. how much someone worships Christ. Even if you were able to convince Jenkins that skepticism and believing in something other than God aren’t the same thing, I honestly doubt that he’d care.

    • I’m suprised about that they bother with the difference in catagory B and C. So… who’s which? According to Chick Tracts, Catholics would be B, as would all pagans and any polytheistic religion I guess. Are atheists and liberal Christians C?

      • I suppose, when it comes to other Christians, it kind of depends? There’s this idea that, if you’re reading the Bible and interpreting God’s actions as fitting your personal sense of justice (y’know, as opposed to their interpretation, which is completely self-evident and literal) and using the Bible to support what you think is right (as opposed to what they think is right, which is pulled directly from the Bible without any bias or influence from their personal lives) then you aren’t seeing God in the Bible, you’re just putting yourself in the position of God and then worshipping that instead. That the irony is entirely lost on them is one of the reasons I’m wondering if this is also how Jenkins thinks. Fred Clark has for years waxed lyrical about Jenkins’ lack of perspective when it comes to his ability to interpret the Bible, and it was one of the common factors that got me thinking.

        As far as I understood the person who took the liberty of telling me all this, people in cat. B, though dangerous and evil, deserving whatever punishment is ultimately dealt to them, are mislead, unfortunate, and may be saved, if possible. People in Cat. C, despite being influenced by the wrong sources, don’t even have the decency to do As Proper People Should and worship something else; in glorifying themselves, they commit as great a sin as Satan’s, by considering themselves to be on the same level as God.

        It wasn’t that the idea of people not necessarily worshipping anything hadn’t occured to this person, it was rather that the concept was simply impossible. “Everything in the world is solely for the glory of God”, I was told. Humans, apparently being purpose-built for worship, cannot stop worshipping any more than they can stop breathing – all the worship has to be directed somewhere, and if it’s not being devoted to any outside source, then it must be going to themselves. By taking your worship away from God (which is basically theft, on an infinitely large scale) and giving it to yourself (which implies that you are worthy of your own worship, when the only thing that is worthy of worship is God, meaning that you think you’re as worthy of things as God is) you’re basically committing a sin greater than anything else you could possibly do ever.

        In other words, they care enough about making two other categories because it’s the difference between being a bad person, and not even being a person.

        • Stressing to qualify that this is simply what I understand of the personal beliefs explained to me, quite some time ago, by an individual who, while professing to speak for their church, had no-one else from their church present to agree that yes, these were not simply the rationalisations of a single person. I don’t actually know if this is how Jenkins thinks, but the picture that has been painted of him through his writings and some interviews posseses an interesting number of similarities and consistencies that I would not be surprised if his worldview was, in the broad strokes, similar.

        • Interesting. Based on the descriptions I would’ve thought he would consider B worse. I mean, the religious right is so fixed on baby-killing satan worshippers, you’d assume that’s something they rightly are appaled by, even if they don’t exist. But not even the most brutal crimes you commit in the name of satan (and they imagine some brutal ones indeed) are as bad as thinking you don’t need to worship anything?

          I guess it matches with Fred’s analysis, that L&J and their readers don’t really seem to worship God because of his Love of Goodness, but because of his Power. In that light, I’d guess you think you could convince people who worship the other power if you can prove your side is more powerfull. They have the right idea, blind submission and turning of your empathy in service of the greatest Power is right, all they need to realize is that their Power is smaller than your Power. Meanwhile people who refuse to acknowledge that your side has a great Power at all, or that they need to worship a Power greater than that of a human, well, they just don’t get it.

          • People who are worshipping the wrong God have already got into the state where they need to worship something external. It’s easier to convert them than to drag in people who don’t need any God. So those latter are the really dangerous ones.

        • BTW, I hadn’t thought of it like that before, but I remember some Chick Tracts which seem to support that guy’s interpetation. (As a rule of thumb, if Chick Tracts support any view you have, you should worry)

          Two Chick Tracts about Native Americans and Hindu’s respectively come to mind, which had the same setup. NotChristian’s religion is really about worshiping demons and high priests sicks them on an RTC, only to find that the demons can’t touch him. Then the Priest walks up to the RTC and goes “OMG your gods are more powerfull then mine, tell me all about them”, hears the usual ramble, then converts to Christianity. Not because he’s so impressed with the love and kindess (The RTC will point those characteristics out, but without any examples of that love except, natch, John 3:16), but because he seems to realize he needs to switch to the winning side.

          On the flip side, there was the Tract with the biggest and most frequent WTF moments in any Chick Tract I’ve seen (let that sink in for a moment, take a deep breath…. continue). It’s about a little boy who’s mother tells him the most hideously strawmanned pro-evolution rant you should ever hope to see (Best moment: When his mom shows him a poster of a cavemen and a T-rex together. That’s what RTCs believe, morons, ‘evolutionists’ believe the latter was extinct long before the former showed up.), so he rejects everything a little girl tells him of Jesus, he dies of a heart attack and goes to hell, yada-yada. The biggest facepalm moment for me was when the boy went “If there is no God, then I can become a God!”. My thought was “Uhm, if there is no unicorn, then I can become a unicorn? Seriously, WTF?”. But your guys view helps makes some sense of it. If every human always has a symbol of worship, then believing there is no RTC God means he can use himself for the only real purpose of God, as a worship disposal bucket.

        • Oh, indeed.

          I was once told by someone whose views I usually respect, who also claims to be an ex-atheist (well, went through a crisis of faith for a few years) that humans have to worship *something*, it’s simply not possible for us not to.

          As such, those who don’t worship a god must worship money, or fame, or themselves, or similar (not sure why they couldn’t worship charity, or selflessness) and that was, obviously, bad.

          This person is otherwise a pretty low-key Christian, and certainly has never called for condemning other beliefs, so it really threw me.

          This seems to be a pretty common belief, too. That if you don’t admit to worshiping anything then you’ve just deluded yourself, and probably worship some vice or other.

  6. Broken Bell is right. Rapture Ready is the meeting place for people whose actual religious beliefs match Jenkins’ stated beliefs, and they really see no difference between Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, anamism, paganism and atheism. For them, the world is Christian v. notChristian, and anything that is notChristian is all the same.

    That’s why, btw, when teabagging politicans conflate enforcement of Sharia with the spread of atheism, teabaggers don’t blink. It’s all the same to them.

    What I can’t figure out is, did Jenkins do absolutely no research on the subject, or did he figure, probably correctly, that by trying to introduce the idea that atheists don’t engage in divination, he would offend his target audience?

  7. I would definitely read Harry Potter and the Very Intense Interrogation.

  8. “Christianity = illegal and astrology = fine and dandy?”

    Probably relates to the RTC belief that most or all non-Christians are “all for pushing anything as long as it’s not Christianity.”

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