The Ecumenical Council

   There have been some questions about the details of the Federation-Apocalypse setting – most notably, about the development of the Core educational system and about the Ecumenical Council. A it happens, both of those are fundamentally related.

   The modern Core educational system was born of necessity. Back in the early 21′st century, it was becoming easier and easier to build fusion bombs – in fact, in the foreseeable future, they would be something that individuals could build in their garages.

   It was fairly clear that, in its current state, the human race might survive that – but that civilization would not.

   Ergo, a concentrated effort was made – a search for genetic corrections for the ancient irrationalities and problems embedded in the neurology of the human brain, for ways to reliably identify environmental and developmental instabilities in early childhood, and for an optimized universal computerized educational system – fully recording, evaluating, and analyzing the results from every student for generations – with a curriculum stressing logic, analysis of postulates, compromise, and the finding of common ground. Since no such program could be perfect (including Teacher – the final freeware version released centuries later), the monitoring programs used for infants were gradually expanded – until the human race thought nothing of being monitored by their expert-program “nannies” from birth to death.

   It worked. Humanity survived to colonize other worlds and the most dangerous extremes of human behavior faded into the past. There was a price of course; glorious obsessions, the works of mad or tortured geniuses, and similar creations faded into the past as well – but the benefits were considered well worth that cost.

  There were side effects though – and one of them was the Ecumenical Council of 2064. In the face of the challenges of cosmology, genetic engineering, animal genegrafting, artificial life, widespread social disruptions, and many other challenges, many of the worlds major religious leaders begin to discuss their core beliefs. Looked at rationally, most of the worlds religions had a great deal in common. They almost all believed:

  • In the existence of immortal souls, and of life after death – whether in the form of one life or many.
  • That the creator or creators cared for their or its creation, but allowed the souls they had created to make – and learn from – their own mistakes.
  • That there was both Justice and Mercy in the universe, as well as in the minds of men.
  • That there were greater and lesser powers of both darkness and of light in the cosmos, that both valued souls, and that both powers occasionally responded to and aided those who truly believed.
  • That messengers of the light – however misunderstood – had been sent repeatedly.
  • That eternity awaited every man.
  • That no darkness was without end, or could hold a spirit forever.
  • That the dreams of men could be achieved.
  • That people should care for each other and for the world about them.
  • That no loss or pain was eternal.
  • That no separation of those who sought each other could forever endure.
  • That forgiveness and redemption were always possible for those who sought it.
  • That authority over the world had been given into the hands of its inhabitants.
  • That miracles had occurred before, and would occur again.
  • That no deed ever passed unrecorded – whether to be redeemed or rewarded.
  • That the infinite might wear many masks, but that it lay at the end of every path.

   It took a century more, but eventually there were a scattering of cults and traditionalists, and one major faith – the Universal Church, an organization related most tracably to the influence of Buddhism and the Roman Catholic Church.

   Belief had its rewards. Faith became once again, as it had been when mankind existed in scattered tribes, a force that bound the race together rather than tearing it apart. Moreover, with universal record-keeping, evidence gradually accumulated: there were occasional events that science did not seem to be able to explain – and the belief that it could eventually do so was acknowledged to be just as much a statement of faith as the beliefs of the universal church.

   And then the Manifold opened. The existence of both souls and miracles, of eternity and the importance of faith, of the thousand masks of god and of the power of sentient minds to shape the structure of reality became verifiable facts, rather than statements of belief. It became apparent that every sentient race in the cosmos had been given both eternity and everything of which they would ever dream as a free gift. That both death and separation were indeed no more than illusions.

   That Darkness existed, always answered those who knew how to call, and even allowed you to “buy on credit” – but always insisted that you pay, whereas the Light often demanded no payment, but answered only those requests it deemed worthy. That nothing was ever forgotten, and that every deed influenced your future existence. That the universe which made the existence of a benign creator or creators so blatantly obvious was also so structured as to make it pretty much impossible to say anything much more for certain about him, her, it, or them.

   Abruptly, virtually every principle of the Universal Church turned out to empirically testable and – to all tests to date – accurate. It’s theology went from a comforting, stabilizing, and socially useful set of gentle philosophical beliefs to a scientific Theory, on a par with Gravitation, Evolution, and Electromagnetism.

   Oddly enough, that meant that religion faded into the background for a sizable majority of the human race. They recognized and acknowledged the truths that it contained, and acknowledged the achievements of the men and women who’d deduced those truths, founded faiths, and invoked the powers of the Manifold with nothing more than faith and will to work with in the past – but they no longer really needed it to help control themselves, and it didn’t look like the true creator – whoever he, she, it, or they might be – really demanded much from anyone. Even if you made mistakes, you had eons to make up for them. Infinity and questions of faith were fascinating as mysteries and as abstract ideas. Gazing into the infinite on a regular basis – like the infinite depths of the night sky – was something that soon faded from the most people’s consciousness. That might be merely a result of immaturity – it might well be some eons before the average person was ready to contemplate the depths of infinity and the great questions of life – but for the moment, such willful blindness is a part of life in core.

   The churches are still quite active however. The percentage of the population is small, but there are still those who do not turn away from the mysteries of the infinite, who feel an obligation to dedicate their lives to the service of others and to things greater than themselves. The most dedicated – or incautious – may become Field Theologicians – dedicating themselves to cataloging the aspects of the divine, to attempting to penetrate the most abstract realms in search of its purer aspects, to finding out whether the Dark Powers are a fundamental aspect of the universe or are simply the creations of mankind, to discovering how long a soul can be held in darkness and whether or not the acknowledgment of having been wrong is sufficient to obtain release or whether such spirits can be aided, to exploring the faiths of alien races, and so on. Such rare individuals have one of the most dangerous callings in the cosmos.

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