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Old December 17 2012, 03:16 AM   #226
BARON
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Re: Why Not A Starfleet Ships Chaplain As A Main Character?

Grant it I have not read every single response to this post, so I am not sure if someone else has mentioned this, but I think the ship's counselor is the closest thing that you would find on a Federation star ship.

Have to keep in mind that Starfleet is made of up different species with different beliefs (even if they don't believe in anything) and that diversity would have to be respected.

Even in the real world, in U.S. Navy vessels, and throughout the U.S. military there are not just Christian Chaplains, but Muslim Chaplains, Jewish Chaplains, etc. to reflect the religious diversity of service personnel. So one could imagine that in an interstellar environment there would be even GREATER diversity of belief. No counselor could or should represent any singular belief.

As for those who say that spirituality is not dealt with in Star Trek, I suggest looking to Deep Space Nine (my favorite of the whole ST genre) whose whole story arch from Season 1 to the series finale dealt directly with spiritual belief and spiritual conflict - the Bajorans. There were episodes that dealt with creationism vs. evolution, religious extremism, zealotry, etc.
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Old December 17 2012, 03:58 AM   #227
Darkwing
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Re: Why Not A Starfleet Ships Chaplain As A Main Character?

Baron, The counselor thing has been mentioned. In today's world, there's overlap between the roles of a priest and a counselor, but they are not identical. We have both in the real military, and I see no reason not to have both in Starfleet, especially in the original series era, when counselor was not a specific position on a ship, and ships did have chapels. Also back to today, a military chaplain has to be available for anyone of any faith, regardless of his own. At one time, there was even a wiccan RP (a chaplain's enlisted assistant in the navy - Religious Programs specialist). In Starfleet, due to the number of species, I'd expect that there'd be groupings of different races in integrated crews, partly to keep life support needs simpler, and to avoid excessive crew disharmony from cultural differences. That'd reduce the field of religions a given chaplain would have to know in-depth in order to minister to his fellow crew ("shipmate" is a derogatory word today. Too many sailors use it to mean "shitbag I outrank and intend to publicly humiliate", not "fellow sailor", as intended).
So, in-story and from a writer's external perspective, how should a chaplain be integrated into a series, and what stories should revolve around such a character?
S/he can be a good person or bad, depending on the writer's needs. In-story, as an organization, you'd want chaplains who help the crew with their spiritual needs, not ones who put their doctrine ahead of their duty to their crew, but won't always get that. Meta-story, a chaplain can highlight the diverse spirituality of the crew, provide a philosophical counterpoint to a storyline, and be an emotional anchorpoint (kind of like McCoy's role for Kirk, but for the whole crew), or can be an example of religion gone bad (Adm Satie, Stiles from Balance of Terror), of fallible people trying to do good but not always managing to get past their own prejudices, or whatever negative role pushes the story. A chaplain can smooth spiritual antagonisms in a way counselors can't manage as effectively, or can fan the flames of such a character conflict.
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Old December 17 2012, 10:36 AM   #228
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Re: Why Not A Starfleet Ships Chaplain As A Main Character?

"Captain Jean-Luc Picard. I wish I could say you've been like a father to me, but I've never had one so I don't know what it feels like. But if there was someone in this universe I could chose to be like, someone who I would want to make proud of me, it's you. You who have the heart of an explorer and the soul of a poet. So, you'll understand when I say: death is that state in which one only exists in the memory of others; which is why it is not an end. No goodbyes, just good memories. Hailing frequencies closed, sir."
"Au revoir, Natasha..."
- Tasha Yar, in her recorded message, and Picard's whispered response
These are not people who need chaplains. Even at the moment of death they do not require religious assurances of the afterlife, nor a priest to comfort them.

Now, you can argue that this should be changed, and religion brought back, but personally I'd think this to be a huge mistake. I like them as star faring atheists. I understand that others could have different preferences, but this is my opinion I stick by it.
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Old December 17 2012, 01:29 PM   #229
Xhiandra
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Re: Why Not A Starfleet Ships Chaplain As A Main Character?

Merry Christmas wrote: View Post
Iamnotspock wrote: View Post
"Horrifying... Dr. Barron, your report describes how rational these people are. Millennia ago, they abandoned their belief in the supernatural. Now you are asking me to sabotage that achievement, to send them back into the dark ages of superstition and ignorance and fear? No!"
(From Reunion) ... the Enterprise crew currently includes representatives from thirteen planets. They each have their individual beliefs and values and I respect them all.

Iamnotspock, how would you reconcile these two Picard quotes. In the latter, we see the Picard who is respectful, tolerant and believes in multiculturalism. This Picard is very much the cosmopolitan being who commands the starship Enterprise.

In the former quote, there is a separate Picard, one who is narrow minded, intolerant and is disdainful with ideas that he himself doesn't personally embrace. He insults the Mintakan's former spiritual beliefs, using derisive terms like "dark ages" and "ignorance."

Where did this separate Picard come from? He obviously isn't the Picard who exists elsewhere in the series.
Picard isn't intolerant, you are.

This is so common on the internet: the attitude that atheists are being intolerant if they voice their unbelief.
Atheists are ok if they accept religion is good, religious people are superior and atheism a failing. A lack. A deficiency.
Otherwise, they're branded intolerant.

I'm not buying. It's no disrespect to believers to outline the negative influence of (monotheistic) religions.

You might not like the dark ages of ignorance and fear, but it's a pretty accurate portrayal of the most shameful era we (Europeans) have been through.
Personally, it sends a chill down my spine to know that if I'd lived back then I'd have been tortured and slaughtered for my (lack of) beliefs and sexual orientation. Probably branded a witch, too.


Darkwing wrote:
True. But a certain old book, arrogantly named BOOK, as in The One Book, is also the source of much of the moral code we developed for western civilization.
I've never heard Hammurabi's code being referred as such.

That's the problem really: people in the US (and, sadly, much of Europe as well) get their ancient history from the bible.
Which leads to many misconceptions like thinking basic morality comes from the bible/talmud/coran.
It long predates those books.
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Old December 17 2012, 01:49 PM   #230
Timelord Victorious
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Re: Why Not A Starfleet Ships Chaplain As A Main Character?

Yeah, the moral guidelines in the bible are at best a reflection of our society back when it was written, at worst the result of an agenda to control people.
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Old December 17 2012, 08:44 PM   #231
Darkwing
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Re: Why Not A Starfleet Ships Chaplain As A Main Character?

Xhiandra wrote: View Post
Picard isn't intolerant, you are.
I can't agree.

This is so common on the internet: the attitude that atheists are being intolerant if they voice their unbelief.
Atheists are ok if they accept religion is good, religious people are superior and atheism a failing. A lack. A deficiency.
Otherwise, they're branded intolerant.
No, it's not. That's your overly sensitive interpretation.

I'm not buying. It's no disrespect to believers to outline the negative influence of (monotheistic) religions.
Oh, hey, no disrespect, but you know that you're a superstitious fool believing something that kept people yoked in slavery for centuries, led to the crusades and the inquistion and Salem. But hey, it's ok for you to follow that crap. That's the vibe I get from you.

You might not like the dark ages of ignorance and fear, but it's a pretty accurate portrayal of the most shameful era we (Europeans) have been through.
It's also the past, and we've learned to be better than we were then. The church then preserved knowledge, but also oppressed peasants and manipulated princes. Nowadays, we don't allow those excesses.

Personally, it sends a chill down my spine to know that if I'd lived back then I'd have been tortured and slaughtered for my (lack of) beliefs and sexual orientation. Probably branded a witch, too.
Is that why you're so opposed to the idea? Unless you have past-life regression going on, it's too long ago for such a visceral reaction.


Darkwing wrote:
I've never heard Hammurabi's code being referred as such.
I'm sure you know better.

That's the problem really: people in the US (and, sadly, much of Europe as well) get their ancient history from the bible.
Which leads to many misconceptions like thinking basic morality comes from the bible/talmud/coran.
It long predates those books.
Um, no. I get my history from (little "b") books. It's not a misconception that the "basic morality" of western civilisation was spread through christianity, supplanting the various moral codes extant in the areas they converted. The ancient Celts had 12 different forms of marriage, and very different ideas about the place of women. But Saul of Tarsus' teachings replaced those. There's no one single moral code. But the one that's at the base of our culture is largely the product of a single book.

And none of the above contributed to the premise of the thread. Got any ideas on how to use a chaplain as a major character in a series? You don't have to like it or agree with it to play the game of saying "IF we did this, this is how it should be done, what story possibilities we use, etc".
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Old December 17 2012, 09:21 PM   #232
Timelord Victorious
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Re: Why Not A Starfleet Ships Chaplain As A Main Character?

Do you really try to sell the idea here, that the Bible "invented" the moral code we follow today?
Cause that's how I understand what you are saying.

That what we understand of our moral system today is rooted in Middle European culture which was a religious one for centuries is true.
But in no way are we feeling bound to the BRONZE AGE morals that are written down in the bible.
In fact many of those morals are considered immoral today.
Examples are: stoning unruly children to death, putting homosexuals to death, slavery is ok and encouraged, women being the property of men (literally),...
We consider these things immoral today DESPITE the church having so much power over our society.
We dragged the church with us into modern times kicking and screaming, forcing them to adapt.
Church leaders would never have jettisoned laws from scripture on their own as they have to consider everything in it as the word of god.
As society moved on and learned better ways those laws became subject to interpretation.

On the core subject of the thread, I really don't see this concept working, just doesn't jive with the secular nature of the concept of Star Trek.
It would be interesting to do an episode or a small arc around this concept as a source of dramatic conflict, sure.
It would reflect a social controversy of the real world, in fact the very same discussion we have going here and in that sense be a very Star Trek theme to explore.
But no way this would carry an entire series and still keep it consistent with what is established about the Trek universe.
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Old December 17 2012, 09:57 PM   #233
Darkwing
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Re: Why Not A Starfleet Ships Chaplain As A Main Character?

Timelord_Victorious wrote: View Post
Do you really try to sell the idea here, that the Bible "invented" the moral code we follow today?
Cause that's how I understand what you are saying.
How did people learn to read in previous centuries? Often from the bible. Their moral lessons were rooted in it. It formed the basis of many of our laws - including blue laws, sodomy laws, and other unfree nonsense.

That what we understand of our moral system today is rooted in Middle European culture which was a religious one for centuries is true.
But in no way are we feeling bound to the BRONZE AGE morals that are written down in the bible.
What does that have to do with anything? You acknowledge the source material while simultaneously try to handwave it away. Stop fooling yourself.

In fact many of those morals are considered immoral today.
Examples are: stoning unruly children to death, putting homosexuals to death, slavery is ok and encouraged, women being the property of men (literally),...
We consider these things immoral today DESPITE the church having so much power over our society.
We dragged the church with us into modern times kicking and screaming, forcing them to adapt.
Church leaders would never have jettisoned laws from scripture on their own as they have to consider everything in it as the word of god.
As society moved on and learned better ways those laws became subject to interpretation.
And despite that, it's still relevant for many millions of people.

On the core subject of the thread, I really don't see this concept working, just doesn't jive with the secular nature of the concept of Star Trek.
If you're thinking TNG, yes. But TOS wasn't so harshly anti-religious, and DS9 certainly wasn't.
It would be interesting to do an episode or a small arc around this concept as a source of dramatic conflict, sure.
Possibly. I'd prefer such a character to get small bits all season - like Shepherd Book or Brother Leo (Firefly & B5), but let viewers figure out later that each of those appearances actually adds up to something.

It would reflect a social controversy of the real world, in fact the very same discussion we have going here and in that sense be a very Star Trek theme to explore.
Kirk and the Sisko would find something useful in it. Early Picard would pontificate against it; later Picard would quietly harumph and find some positive other thing to focus on, and Janeway would have to consult her calendar to find out if she should PMS about it or show motherly affection.

But no way this would carry an entire series and still keep it consistent with what is established about the Trek universe.
It's not supposed to be about the chaplain or set in a chapel. Troi or Data could not have served as the basis of the entire series, either. Well, Data maybe, but only if they renamed the show Questor: TNG...

Seriously, got any ideas how to use such a character to tell good stories?
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Old December 18 2012, 01:30 AM   #234
Merry Christmas
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Re: Why Not A Starfleet Ships Chaplain As A Main Character?

Xhiandra wrote: View Post
This is so common on the internet: the attitude that atheists are being intolerant if they voice their unbelief.
How is what I said a indictment of atheists in any way?

It was aimed at a intolerant Picard who isn't a atheist, Picard is spiritual . He made this very clear in Where Silence Has Lease.

Towards the end of the episode, Picard is explaining his philosophy on death to a fictitious Data. He mentions both a death resulting in an eternity in heaven and a death resulting in nonexistence. Picard reject both of these, explaining his belief was that there would be "more" than either of those possibilities. And further, Picard said that he believed our reality is is only a part of a larger non-understandable reality.

Hardly a atheist mindset on Picard's part. Picard doesn't seem to embrace that intelligent existence is merely a bio-chemical process, one that comes to a stop with death.

Picard personally expects to continue after his own corporeal death.

So, while not an adherent to an organized religion like Christianity or Islam, Picard also is not a atheist. He is spiritual .

It's no disrespect to believers to outline the negative influence of (monotheistic) religions.
What could possible lead you to think that the Mintakan's former spiritual beliefs were monotheist? The Mintakan named Liko said "long ago, our people believed in beings with great powers." Beings in the plural. The Mintakans were polytheists.

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Old December 18 2012, 08:51 PM   #235
FatherRob
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Re: Why Not A Starfleet Ships Chaplain As A Main Character?

I have not read all 16 pages of replies... so please forgive me if my following thoughts are missing the ball game...

I am an ordained presbyter, and my full time work is as a chaplain in a secular hospital. (I manage the department, actually.) My hospital has 325 beds for patients, plus ER beds, and a staff of approximately 2200 located on site (an additional 2000 are at off-site locations). In our instance, we have 4 full time chaplains, and 5 part time chaplains (myself included). If I pull out my religion census today... I have members of 38 different distinct religious groups (be it denominations within a larger tradition, or separate traditions) in our hospital, and, based on my experience, at least 80-90 different religious faiths represented among our staff.

In the twelve and a half years I have worked in this environment, I have had precisely five complaints about Chaplaincy existing. Three were complaints that their particular faith didn't have an employed chaplain on staff. Two were non-believers complaining that we existed at all.

My work includes several elements: first and foremost, I provide for spiritual needs of any faith tradition when requested. Now, that does not mean that I become a Roman Catholic if an RC needs a priest, and then a Muslim if the patient needs an imam. It means I am responsible for sitting with them with no agenda, and trying to help them figure out what can assist them in their time of need. When someone needs something Sacramental or faith-specific that I can provide, I provide it when invited to do so, and only then.

In addition to my duties as a Chaplain, I also run our morgue, handle advance directives, make death notifications, assist physicians and allied health professionals in devising morally and ethically appropriate treatments for patients with particular religious concerns (i.e., Jehovah's Witnesses refusing blood, etc.), handle bereavement duties, plan morale-boosting programs (like our quarterly sing-alongs), and other duties as assigned.

About 25% of my time is spent on arguably religious duties. Of course, I am a manager, so in my staff, it runs higher, over 60% in some instances. But our duties are vast.

Now, if you have a jack of all trades Chaplain like we deploy here in the hospital, that's all good and well, and it would be an option. The second option would be what has been previously suggested (and which I believe is the case in Starship Troopers) where the Chaplain is a person who is appointed for that work but holds a 'day job'.

We know that starships have chapels ("Balance of Terror" and "The Tholian Web"), so having a Chaplain to staff them isn't too much of a stretch.

The other option I can think of would be: Starfleet evaluates the religious makeup of a crew based on their documented preferences, and assigns certified Chaplains (either with another job or not) of the principal faiths represented to serve aboard the ship. If nine people can serve a hospital system my size, I would guess one or two could serve a Constitution class cruiser, and three or four a Galaxy class explorer.

Anyway, that's my perspective as a real-life Chaplain working in a secular environment. And yes, I work with pagans, agnostics, gays, bisexuals, athiests, and humanists on a regular basis with no real problems - mainly because Chaplains are trained not to push their religion, only to assist and enter deeper religious conversations when the door is open.

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Old December 18 2012, 10:11 PM   #236
Timelord Victorious
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Re: Why Not A Starfleet Ships Chaplain As A Main Character?

Nice to hear an actual Chaplain's perspective on this issue.

I have an honest question, though, while you are chipping in.

The way you describe and handle the job, what makes your personal faith important to do it?
Why do you think it is important, that a person of some kind of spiritual (a pretty undefined term IMO) faith is doing it?
You said, you keep your own personal belief out of it.
So, if you keep your own faith out of it, someone without faith could do it just as well? Except we would call such a person a counselor or therapist?
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Old December 18 2012, 10:36 PM   #237
FatherRob
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Re: Why Not A Starfleet Ships Chaplain As A Main Character?

Timelord_Victorious wrote: View Post
Nice to hear an actual Chaplain's perspective on this issue.

I have an honest question, though, while you are chipping in.
Fire away...

The way you describe and handle the job, what makes your personal faith important to do it?
Well, speaking only for myself... If I was not a person of faith, I would not feel the same pressing need to advocate for other persons of faith, even if they did not share my belief system. I say that, knowing myself, because as a kid, I was a rabid practitioner of my childhood faith, to the point of borderline denigrating others. (Star Trek helped me with that, though!) I feel it is at the core of my calling to help others connect with their spirituality and/or religious practices, even if they don't line up with mine. Thus, I will go out of my way, even to the point of advocating breaking standard rules in order to ensure the personal liberty of a person of faith (or, at times, someone who has no identifiable religious faith but an otherwise strong spiritual or philosophical perspective) has the ability to practice what they believe and deeply hold fast to.

Why do you think it is important, that a person of some kind of spiritual (a pretty undefined term IMO) faith is doing it?
Well, on the one hand, I would argue in favor of someone in touch with their own spirituality (whatever form that might take) but who is trained in both their belief system and in an awareness of its commonalities and differences from other systems.

Further, there is a degree of legal protection involved, when that becomes necessary. As an ordained pastor, I have legal right to officiate at a wedding in my state, and conversations with me are protected in two planes - first, general confidentiality, at a level which no other health care provider can truly promise to maintain, and second, in my tradition, the seal of the confessional, which ensures that anything spoken of to me in the Rite of Reconciliation remains absolutely sealed. Both of these privileges allow people, even non-believers (usually in the former capacity) to speak freely, knowing that the only instance when I can 'tell' on them is when they are intending to immanently do something dangerous to themselves or to someone else.

Finally, in my environment, the clerical collar carries with it a measure of respect. I can help calm down belligerent folks without getting security involved, and often am able to get them to move forward with treatment, discharge, or other plans that nobody else can communicate with patients over.

You said, you keep your own personal belief out of it.
So, if you keep your own faith out of it, someone without faith could do it just as well? Except we would call such a person a counselor or therapist?
I think there is a degree of validity to your conclusion, and I can't dispute that. However, let me clarify something that I, perhaps, did not clearly communicate:

I do not push my religion on people, force people to pray with me, tell them they have to follow my notion of the divine, etc. However, my faith never leaves my side. It is what enables me to do what I do every day. Visiting with a pagan and giving her a cold cup of water when she is hot and thirsty is an act of compassion that is rooted in my understanding of the Christian gospel. I consider because of Christ, and while others who believe in no discernible divinity may do also, I know myself well enough to know that I would be an utterly selfish person if not for my relationship to God in Christ.

It is precisely my faith that impels me towards helping others. Could an atheist/agnostic perform that function? Possibly. Several military bodies in Europe already have humanist chaplains. Either way, I still think the more plausible format would be to have the Chaplain in charge of a specific function on the ship, with Chaplaincy duties performed as needed.

My example would be the Chaplain runs the morgue. S/he is responsible for the reverent care of the deceased until they are buried in space or returned home. S/he handles all affairs related to the deceased, including coordinating letters to family, packing up quarters, monitoring stasis systems, etc. When requested s/he functions in a chaplaincy capacity.

In the chain of command, the Chaplain could work one of two ways: either the Chaplain can be a civilian who works aboard ship (akin to the Royal Navy through World War II) and wears no uniform. (RN chaplains wore a suit and dog collar through at least WWII.) Or, the Chaplain is assigned to medical, is commissioned, and reports to the Chief Medical Officer as his direct commander.

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Old December 20 2012, 12:39 AM   #238
Timelord Victorious
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Re: Why Not A Starfleet Ships Chaplain As A Main Character?

I found a quite excellent analysis of Religion how it is explored and depicted in Star Trek.
The author is clearly a person of Faith and I happen to not agree with the commentary, but the analytical part of the article is fair and accurate to both sides as far as I can tell:

http://www.ex-astris-scientia.org/in...s/religion.htm

The article clearly shows that Star Trek was originally intended as secular in nature but could not afford to outright condemn Faith except when the story clearly showed false gods like Vaal for example.
During TNG, when it was more save to embrace science and the absence of human Religion, the show did so. (ironically TNG also sort of established an Intelligent Design concept to humanity and other civilizations, "The Chase", though hardly in a spiritual way, more like the ultimate power of science version)
The pendulum starts to swing a bit in the other direction when Roddenberry was out of the picture and other people with different worldviews take over.
DS9, Voyager and Enterprise do the opposite as TOS. While they don't outright declare Faith as the right way and talk about stuff like that directly, they soften up the pure secular stance of TNG and keep some loopholes for the validity of Faith.

So in the end it probably depends on which ship we are talking about, if a Chaplain would be out of place or not.

In fact, Enterprise is the only show where I could see this as somewhat realistic, as it is closest to our society and there is probably more of a remnant of organized Religion that 2 centuries later.
Allthough I am sure that an Atheist worldview and entirely secular nations for the most part are clearly on the rise after First Contact and the abolishment of poverty, war and many many illnesses.

If there ever was an established character filling the role of a chaplain, it was probably Chakotay as the most spiritual person in all main casts outside of Kira (she was spiritual, but happened to have proven entities filling the role of her gods, divinity is still in question, since the wormhole aliens presumably can be explained scientifically, even if they defy the explanations of Starfleet scientists... so far.)
I seem to remember that Chakotay took on a guidance role for a spirit walk for Janeway?
One of my least liked episodes, as it's full of what I would consider mumbo jumbo.
Doesn't jive to well with Christianity, too I imagine, but shows he softer angle Voyager took toward spirituality in general.
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Old December 20 2012, 06:07 AM   #239
robau
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Re: Why Not A Starfleet Ships Chaplain As A Main Character?

But Chakotay was so BORING. Even his religion was boring.
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Old December 20 2012, 02:28 PM   #240
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Re: Why Not A Starfleet Ships Chaplain As A Main Character?

robau wrote: View Post
But Chakotay was so BORING. Even his religion was boring.
Well, not all religions are about exciting you

Chakotay, for any flaws in the writing about him, seemed to exhibit a genuine spirituality in keeping with his stated background. I, for one, found that attention to his ancestory and respect of his faith to be well done - even if it isn't my religious cup of tea.

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