Religion at the Poles and ISS
May 4, 2021 6:48 PM   Subscribe

 
As a person with a beloved housemate who has newly embraced his Jewish roots, I've been thinking about this SO MUCH now that we have a new Friday tradition together and I've deemed myself responsible for dinner, which I attempt to make after work but before candles should be lit to, so far, varying degrees of success.

Excited to discuss this and the included links at this week's sit-down-at-the-dining-room-table Shabbat dinner (which will be much more relaxing).
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:02 PM on May 4, 2021 [5 favorites]


Very interesting; thanks for sharing!

This comes up at Metafilter every few years; I remember this specific discussion from 2016 but a search for "Ramadan" shows several other similar discussions.
posted by ElKevbo at 7:15 PM on May 4, 2021 [1 favorite]


Oh, hello, I utterly adore this particular form of angels dancing on the head of a pin, so much that I got a masters degree in liturgy. I mean, I focused on a more substantive theological area, but this sort of trivia of how, when, and why Liturgical Stuff should occur is 100% my jam. I mean, not trivia in the sense of being trivial -- it's very important! -- just trivia in the sense of I have an entire catalog of these factoids in my brain and adore springing them forth on unsuspecting people at every opportunity.

Always remember, kids, Middle Eastern monotheistic liturgical days begin at sunset! (Yes, even you, Christians, sit DOWN, nobody asked about your Gregorian calendar, that's a civil day you've got starting at midnight, please be serious.)

But yeah, I mean, you name your weird picky question about religious observances in space/in Antarctica/on Mars/with alien life, the relevant religious authorities have debated it and come to at least six possible answers.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:30 PM on May 4, 2021 [32 favorites]


Oh fuck no. You don’t get to stop there. You can’t just rip the bandaid off and walk away. It’s either solar-occurrence-religious-mandates are garbage, or you gotta declare at the gate and show how God intended you to observe while traveling at .95 the speed of light away from your primary star. You didn’t even touch on “what happens if I’m pulled into the singularity of a black hole during a holy month.” It’s either broke-ass-pre-modern mysticism or "show me the math".
posted by metametamind at 7:31 PM on May 4, 2021 [28 favorites]


@ElKevbo:

Apparently, we are nemesis. I look forward to our ultimate showdown.

Respectfully,
Metametamind.
posted by metametamind at 7:38 PM on May 4, 2021 [2 favorites]


You didn’t even touch on “what happens if I’m pulled into the singularity of a black hole during a holy month.”

Can You Find God in a Black Hole?
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:39 PM on May 4, 2021 [6 favorites]


Re: Elkevbo and Eyebrows McGee: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QqsLTNkzvaY

Q. What's the moral dictate of god(s) law(s) over the span of the heat-death of the observable universe? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QqsLTNkzvaY
posted by metametamind at 7:45 PM on May 4, 2021


Whoops. My apologies, I think I dragged @Elkevbo into the wrong fight.

Eyebrows McGee! Religion vs. Physics! Go!
posted by metametamind at 7:49 PM on May 4, 2021


I remember this specific discussion from 2016

awww hey! i think im due to make another annual ramadan-themed post....
posted by cendawanita at 7:55 PM on May 4, 2021 [3 favorites]


from TFA: In 2007 a team of clerics compiled a guide to Islam in outer space titled “Guidelines for Performing Islamic Rites at the International Space Station” to answer these questions.

well, at least my country's desire to invent a theocracy was good for something! that document does get around...
posted by cendawanita at 8:04 PM on May 4, 2021 [5 favorites]


Awe man, @cendawanita page 2 says you shouldn't even be posting that here.
posted by metametamind at 8:09 PM on May 4, 2021


This is starting to veer into a mean-spirited, "religion is for stupid people!" direction and that's not cool. We can ask questions and raise issues without being assholes. If you can't respect others' innocuous religious beliefs, this might not be the thread for you.
posted by ElKevbo at 8:20 PM on May 4, 2021 [25 favorites]


My apologies. I meant no disrespect.
posted by adept256 at 8:28 PM on May 4, 2021


"It’s either broke-ass-pre-modern mysticism or "show me the math"."

So, first, let me be clear that I have no particular answers, I just think they're very fun questions that illuminate interesting religious debates. But no, you're exactly right, broke-ass pre-modern mysticism cannot deal with Religion! In! Space! But fortunately most of our modern mystics are, well, modern, so they deal a lot more with questions of immanence and transcendence than pre-modern polytheists and henotheists bothered to. (Henotheists worship one particular god while not denying the existence of others; there's some evidence in the Hebrew Bible, typically from the very early scraps of sources, that (at least some) proto-Hebrews were henotheists who thought Ba'al and Asherah (f'ex) were real, just not acceptable for Israel to worship, because YHWH was their god. The later sources clearly move towards a monotheistic theology.)

This is actually a brilliantly clear explanation of pre-modern mysticism in action and how it differs from modern ideas of religion, though it comes from a military historian (not a religious historian or theologian, who universally get tripped up in trying to explain too many parts of something they know too much about, because it's so interesting!):
I want to start with a key observation, without which much of the rest of this will not make much sense: rituals are supposed to be effective. Let me explain what that means.

We tend to have an almost anthropological view of rituals, even ones we still practice: we see them in terms of their social function or psychological impact. [...]That is, ritual’s primary effect is the change that takes place in our minds, rather than in the spiritual world. This is the same line of thinking whereby a Church service is justified because it “creates a sense of community” or “brings believers together.” We view rituals often like plays or concerts, experiences without any broader consequences beyond the experience of participation or viewing itself.

This is not how polytheism (ancient or modern) works (indeed, it is not how most modern Christianity works: the sacraments are supposed to be spiritually effective; that is, if properly carried out, they do things beyond just making us feel better. You can see this articulated clearly in some traditional prayers, like the Prayer of Humble Access or Luther’s Flood Prayer).

Instead, religious rituals are meant to have (and will have, so the believer believes, if everything is done properly) real effects in both the spiritual world and the physical world. That is, your ritual will first effect a change in the god (making them better disposed to you) and second that will effect a change in the physical world we inhabit (as the god’s power is deployed in your favor).
(The whole series on ancient polytheism in action is SO GREAT, and big thanks to AskMe for pointing me to this blog.)

Anyway I think one place in the Bible that you can see this in action is in the Book of Numbers (or in Hebrew, בְּמִדְבַּר‎, "in the Wilderness"), and I won't belabor the point with a ton of quotes, but you will probably recall that God spends a huge portion of Numbers laying out incredibly specific and nitpicky details about how the Ark of the Covenant is to be constructed, how rituals have to be performed, who's allowed to perform them, and at the end of each section God says, "But he must do it exactly this way, or he will die." It's presented in a really stark cause/effect fashion, and there's no why or wherefore or more reason given -- do it this way, and if you fuck it up, you will die. Straight-up pre-modern mysticism hiding right there in MYYYYYY Bible? Yes! In Exodus God promised Moses that if the they built a "sanctuary" for God, God would come dwell among them. In Numbers, God gives all the nitpicky details, they follow them exactly, and LO in Numbers 7 Moses goes into the completed Tent of Meeting that's been consecrated according to God's picky details and is like "God? You there?" and God answers Moses from the cherubim atop the Ark. (God always sits on two cherubim, for Reasons.) It worked!

But the whole book is so interesting (ceaseless counting of Tribes aside), because from a theological or lit-crit perspective, it marks the transition from the enslaved Israelites in Egypt to, eventually, the Promised Land. They are "in the wilderness," between the two states, and what's SO interesting is that God is giving all these instructions about how to be the People of God, and the people have to LEARN how to do it, they have to learn the rituals and observances. But it kind-of sounds like God is also having to learn how to be the God of a people; God never says "if you fuck up, I'll strike you dead" -- there's almost no sense of volition to it. To me, God's like, "Look, I have this incredibly awesome power that so far I've mostly only used for one or two guys at a time, and if there's going to be thousands or millions of you, I might accidentally strike some of you dead if you do this wrong." Like, you have to approach God like a nervous horse, in exactly the proscribed and ritualized way, or that horse is gonna kick you in the face. And THAT, I think, is your "broke-ass pre-modern mysticism" underlying Jewish and Christian scriptures. It's ritual, it's cause and effect, there's no WHY to it at all, very little discussion of morality; you do what God said, it works, the end.

It's later (still Biblical, still quite ancient) writers who start overlaying the philosophical and theological underpinnings of monotheism, who start giving God motives and reasons and morality.

And forgive me for that incredibly self-indulgent detour through the Book of Numbers and how ancient polytheism works (you push the button, I vomit the thoughts, like a pre-modern polytheistic deity of religious factoids) but MY POINT ORIGINALLY STARTED OUT TO BE, modern religion -- even pretty ancient religion 2500 years ago -- is a lot more humanistic than that. 2500 years ago they're already bickering extensively about legalism not just in the Hebrew Scriptures but in the Babylonian Talmud. Part of Jesus's whole deal is how far to carry legalism (and definitely a bunch of Paul's deal).

So you have three fundamental answers to "how to religion in space" (and related questions):

1) You must follow exactly the prescribed rituals (and/or, do not go to space in the first place if you can't) because God, for no particular reason, insists upon it, and God functions in a very cause/effect fashion. This is our pre-modern mystic who wants to know why the FUCK he is on a space station and where all the livestock went. These people are rare in 2021, but they do pop up here and there, typically in hyperfundamentalist groups that are desperately anti-science and anti-education-even-religious-education.

2) You should follow exactly the prescribed rituals (subject to this particular math which I have worked out at length) even though they are kind-of arbitrary, not because God gets pissed otherwise or because God doesn't know how space works, but because part of the point of the rules is to be onerous because their very onerousness is part of the devotion to God, and working out how to do the rituals in a precise way in space/Alaska/Antarctica is good in and of itself as it requires you to think about God a lot. This is a take we would probably find in more strict religious groups, that we often typically call "orthodox" or "fundamentalist" (although I might argue in this case the better term is orthopraxic, but I digress).

3) You should discern the purpose behind the rituals and interpret them in a humanistic way that makes practical sense, respects the underlying morality of the God in question, and/or connects the worshipper to a) God; b) the history of their faith community; and c) their present faith community. So like, early American astronauts observing religious rituals on Houston time, where most of them lived, makes sense -- it's practical, it connects them to their community in Houston, and it connects them to a religious tradition with 24-hour days. Different authorities within the same religion will often weight different aspects of this differently. This is the most "modern" take, concerned as it is with God's morality and the human community, and less with God's RULES. But lots of "traditional" or "orthodox" groups are quite comfortable in this theological space; it's not full of Jeffersonian religious liberals. (Like, some Talmudic sages from 2500 years ago would happily hang out here.)

Anyway, that's the general, broad-strokes answer. For more specific questions like "what is religion like inside a black hole?" you can go find some answers. (But a lot of them will be, "Uh, you're dead, so you're doing whatever dead people in our faith do, and now we're going to argue about whether the proper funeral ritual for being sucked into a black hole is a burial at sea or something else, because we are extremely fun at parties.") "How do I Lutheran on the ISS?" Well, probably along with your home church is fine and we can probably send a livestream. "How do I Islam on Mars?" Well, you definitely know which way Mecca is, so start with that, but we're probably going to have to figure out how to accommodate the fact that the days are a different length than Earth; probably pray 5 times per Mars day to be safe, but keep your months (and Ramadan) according to Earth time in Mecca, it's awkward but we'll give it a go for a while and see how it works. Et cetera.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:31 PM on May 4, 2021 [75 favorites]


Awe man, @cendawanita page 2 says you shouldn't even be posting that here.

is it the disclaimer? linking is not reproduction surely, but i'm perfectly happy to see parts of my state apparatus sued first then :D
posted by cendawanita at 8:36 PM on May 4, 2021 [1 favorite]


I've been dying to know how Muslim astronauts will face Mecca once rotating space stations are a thing. The answer (that you don't have to if it's not practical) is the obvious one—I can't really say I expected anything different. Still, I'll admit to being kinda disappointed that the answer isn't more interesting.
posted by dephlogisticated at 8:36 PM on May 4, 2021 [1 favorite]


"How do I Islam on Mars?" Well, you definitely know which way Mecca is, so start with that

i can tell you my circle have at least figured out what to do if our space exploration via stargate technology....

I can't really say I expected anything different

It's also an expansion of the intellectual work that was done prior with regards to air travel, so it's also not particularly surprising for Muslims who spent hours in a flying tincan pre-Covid.
posted by cendawanita at 8:40 PM on May 4, 2021 [1 favorite]


Also, Eyebrows McGee, I think the blackhole exploration is the most interesting, most fruitful, place to examine religious law vs. physics, because from a physical science perspective "you're not dead" inside a black hole, you *arguably exist longer than the lifespan of the external universe*. This creates an obvious conflict with the world-view of most recorded theologies in human experience, and hence, is fuckin' awesome. The math is wrong, or the god is wrong. Discuss:
posted by metametamind at 8:41 PM on May 4, 2021 [4 favorites]


I would suggest that people interested in turning this into a fight about how science disproves religion or whatever perhaps pick a different thread. This one is for arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, and if they do so in Greenwich Mean Time.
posted by a power-tie-wearing she-capitalist at 8:43 PM on May 4, 2021 [39 favorites]


The information from one of the Muslim astronauts — “you can’t completely kneel in space” - made me sad, for reasons I’m not completely clear about.

Judaism and Islam and a number of the American Indigenous religions I have come in contact with are very much Terran religions. The religions and the people are OF here and FOR here and there is something indescribably beautiful in it.

I agree, this is a beautiful question.
posted by Silvery Fish at 8:45 PM on May 4, 2021 [8 favorites]


Mod note: Couple comments removed. Please in general rein in what ever instinct you have to be like "take THAT, religion!". More specifically, metametamind, you're commenting a lot and kind of all over the place in here, please throttle back.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:46 PM on May 4, 2021 [5 favorites]


Thinking of the power of rituals to create human realities, it's also fascinating how many real rituals the hyper-scientistic, secular culture of space has created and retained over its history; to name just one, the pre-launch countdown ('five! four! three! two! one!') which is culturally inseparable from rocketry, but has its origins in the movies. Space ritual doesn't have to be quite so explicit as Jack Parsons chanting the Satanist Hymn to Pan before his 1940s rocket tests, but to some extent the world of the sacred really has entered the world of space science, and will never leave.
Religion vs. Physics!
Why 'vs.', when the same applied geometry and astronomy that contemporary space engineers use to track a spacecraft in orbit is exactly the same applied geometry and astronomy that early modern mathematicians developed in the first place, to find the qibla...
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 9:16 PM on May 4, 2021 [9 favorites]


Spoiler alert: Solomon Gursky was here has it covered.
posted by No Robots at 9:22 PM on May 4, 2021


I do remember a line of verse from my religious education, perhaps it was from a tombstone:

Here to paradise they go,
Brighter made is their woe,
As above so below.


In the context I learnt this, I supposed this meant that those now in Paradise are happier, and so should we be here on Earth. In the context of this discussion, as above so below may be instructive on how to observe your faith 'above'. Just do it as best you can, as it is done down here. I grant that this is naive.

So I googled it, and it turns out that phrase underpins a whole philosophy. From what I understand, it means that what happens in the macrocosm is mirrored in the microcosm. This is why your star-sign is so important.

I prefer my first interpretation, do your best to observe your religion as if you were on Earth. I would be alarmed if you were making concessions to astrology while you are in charge of the ISS.

Regardless, it's a comforting inscription for a tombstone.
posted by adept256 at 10:03 PM on May 4, 2021


A similar problem to defining daylight hours is defining the date: if someone circumnavigates the world (either east to west or vice versa) should they observe sacred days according to the local date or their own internal date, which is now 1 day out of sync with everybody else? And if they are to follow the local date, how is that determined? Is it local consensus, or government fiat, or the traveller's own view of what the local date ought to be?

I mean, consider these cases, all of which have happened:
1) The local government changes the official date it uses;
2) A new authority incorporates some territory and applies its laws there, including its official date;
3) The local government changes the position of the date line, which has the effect of changing the local date;
4) There is no official date, and travellers have arrived from opposite directions who disagree about what date it is.

Pretty much any solution has problems: you don't want coreligionists keeping different sacred days, but it seems weird to have the sacred days determined by a secular government. And even that option has weird results: not only can one cross the date line repeatedly while on a plane or boat, but any date line must cross over land in Antarctica, if nowhere else: does it become a different day for religious purposes if one does? There's no clear way of answering this; we only manage, in a secular sense, because we generally don't care very much about the date except for official purposes. But I understand that there are some Orthodox Jews in Australia who partially observe Sunday as a second Shabbat, out of deference to opinions that for purposes of Jewish law the Date Line should be in a different place.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:07 PM on May 4, 2021 [3 favorites]


you don't want coreligionists keeping different sacred days

We Muslims have missed this memo lmao. there was at least a couple of years in my living adult memory where we tried, but... nah.

if someone circumnavigates the world (either east to west or vice versa) should they observe sacred days according to the local date or their own internal date

yep, this was the intellectual work I referred to with regards to air (and later space) travel.
posted by cendawanita at 10:27 PM on May 4, 2021


yep, this was the intellectual work I referred to with regards to air (and later space) travel

I'm guessing you didn't come up with a really good answer either? Other than, e.g., "follow the local consensus and don't ask too many questions"?
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:46 PM on May 4, 2021


well, no ONE answer lol (like in that space travel guidance). basically the typical Muslim position is it's up to what suits you best (especially for Sunni practice; i think for Shia Muslims it's a more imamate structure so it depends on what their respective Imams finally decide is best).

Not even local consensus -- you see it in countries with no federal/state Islamic agency (per your point about secular authorities), where communities in different parts of the region would celebrate the Eids differently, so if there's consensus it can be hyper-localised. But when there's an actual human governed agency acting on behalf of the religion (supposedly) there's definitely more coordination. Definitely that global attempt to have Eid-ul-Fitr on the same day (not so much Eid-ul-Adh imo since it culminates with the end of Haj season in Mecca, and these days everyone can tune in at the same time) was an attempt to coordinate at govt-to-govt level (through the OIC iirc).

but on the air travel, it's definitely a bit more free for all, because no communal event is associated (unless it's a group tour, then you're in for a sight), and obviously no local muezzins to prompt your prayer times. The agreed positions include:

- follow the departing location timezones;
- follow the timezones you're directly above;
- follow the destination timezones;
- follow the Mecca timezone;

now that's important but also recall that there're five daily prayers. If you're travelling, you have dispensation to combine two of them to the preceeding/succeeding ones, so at minimum on a full 24 hour flight, you need to do 3. But what if you have transits? :) on terrestrial soil, the question is moot. that might mean technically you're doing more than 5 in one day, not to mention though as you can guess, some people would insist to do all five dailies without even combining them.

but then there's also HOW to pray, since you can't exactly hog the aisle for five-ten minutes per prayer. so you're allowed to:
- full ablutions with water OR adapted ablutions including passing water over your shoes instead of taking it off OR with clean fine sand equivalent;
- praying in full motion;
- praying standing still;
- praying sitting down;
- praying lying down.
and even within that, verbally praying as usual, or keeping silent?

which is where you can see how much of that got extended/projected into the space travel guidance. ~~optimised for space evangelism~~~
posted by cendawanita at 11:28 PM on May 4, 2021 [15 favorites]


I've got a codex on Platinum Platters (I'd let you count them but I'm not letting anyone see, let alone platter enum) which says "no open flames in microgravity so smoked meat and jerkies make an acceptable offering" and that we use "clocks relative to the observant, devout and faithful." Plus an oblique hint about 'why dark matter' that you can use to form schisms and out-group those who don't submit to your control.

>from a physical science perspective "you're not dead" inside a black hole, you *arguably exist longer than the lifespan of the external universe*. This creates an obvious conflict with the world-view of most recorded theologies in human experience, and hence, is fuckin' awesome.
Hence the use of "clocks relative to the observant, devout and faithful" which is great until you evaporate when the singularity goes through its Awkward Hawking Radiation phase.
posted by k3ninho at 11:45 PM on May 4, 2021


The Islamic prohibition on charging interest also avoids a difficult issue of relativistic finance and time dilation. Let's say that Valentina Tereshkova borrows credits from an Earth bank for a construction project on Proxima Centauri, and then thrusts at 1G to reach the nearby star only 4.2 light years away. From her perspective in the accelerating reference frame, she has had the funds for 3.6 years, while the stationary banker in Earth's reference frame thinks she has had the funds for 5.9 years. How much interest should she owe?

Another problem with finance at this scale is that when Valentina sends an electronic funds transfer to the banker from the construction site on Proxima Centauri, is her monthly loan coupon considered paid when she sends the message, or when the banker's deep space network radio dish receives it 4.2 years later? Does this create an additional opportunity for making money on the float and/or create double-spend attacks?

(For a significantly more detailed discussion on galactic-scale finance, see [Stross2013])
posted by autopilot at 1:43 AM on May 5, 2021 [12 favorites]


real rituals the hyper-scientistic, secular culture of space has created

Pee on a tire truck is definitely my favorite.
posted by each day we work at 1:46 AM on May 5, 2021 [6 favorites]


But this seems like an opportunity to remind folks...

why on earth (or in space) would you feel the need to remind people that you think poorly of them?
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:43 AM on May 5, 2021 [2 favorites]


why on earth (or in space) would you feel the need to remind people that you think poorly of them?

Not to derail, but on topics other than religion, MeFi at large has zero problem doing this. Whether religion deserves a special exemption from this is a moderation policy call, of course.
posted by jklaiho at 3:02 AM on May 5, 2021 [3 favorites]


I think they believe in a sky ghost

I think people who insist that the word "God" could only ever have the same referent as the phrase "sky ghost" would gain useful insights by spending more time listening to what people who believe in a God or gods have got to say about what that means to them than on setting fire to straw men in an obnoxious and self-congratulatory fashion.

But perhaps that just makes me the wrong kind of atheist.
posted by flabdablet at 3:06 AM on May 5, 2021 [14 favorites]


Always remember, kids, Middle Eastern monotheistic liturgical days begin at sunset! (Yes, even you, Christians

Huh. I've been Episcopalian for ten years, and never realized that there is a reason we hold our Easter celebration on Saturday evening. Easter for evangelicals is Sunday morning, when Jesus came forth from the tomb in search of pancakes or whatever.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 4:03 AM on May 5, 2021 [3 favorites]


I think people who insist that the word "God" could only ever have the same referent as the phrase "sky ghost" would gain useful insights by spending more time listening to what people who believe in a God or gods have got to say about what that means to them than on setting fire to straw men in an obnoxious and self-congratulatory fashion.


I've spent years seriously considering the useful insights to be had from my own, and other religions. But always with the grounding that it can all be smoke and mirrors. And I always advised my peers that if you cannot accept that possibility about your faith, it isn't religion you follow. It's superstition.

To someone who doesn't believe, "sky ghost" is as applicable as anything. As a believer, it's imperative to face the great possibility that what you believe may very well be a sky ghost. Make your peace with it. Because to an outsider, pondering how many angels dancing on the head of a pin is akin to an exercise comparable to wondering if Boba Fett could kick Spiderman's ass.

Take whatever wisdom and beauty you can find. And excuse those of us who are extremely vigilant about those who take the rest with too much zealotry. We think there's good reason to do so.
posted by 2N2222 at 4:05 AM on May 5, 2021 [5 favorites]


I always imagine for the very observant astronaut a special gimbaled module that would allow the person at the center to automatically be swiveled to orient at an arbitrary gps location (generally in the middle east, although listening to some discussions sub-second degree accuracy could be important to some:)

Seems like it could also be handy for experiments during non-holiday periods.
posted by sammyo at 4:06 AM on May 5, 2021 [1 favorite]


@2N2222
to an outsider, pondering how many angels dancing on the head of a pin is akin to an exercise comparable to wondering if Boba Fett could kick Spiderman's ass.
As an agnostic I find it weird that physicists will write papers about "what's inside a black hole" or "is reality made of tiny vibrating strings" or "is there a multiverse outside our universe" when there exists no technology to detect these things. The fact that technology may come about is an argument on par with the idea we may someday build a detector for God. The multiverse questions are unanswerable by definition. If these papers are exercises in metaphysics or philosophy, then they probably have the same materialist worth as theology or the study of Spider-Man.

I'll indeed take such wisdom and beauty as I can find, and there's such wonderful amount of it outside the bounds of materialism, in philosophy, theology, and metaphysics.
posted by sixohsix at 4:22 AM on May 5, 2021 [8 favorites]


This reminds me of the Legends of Tomorrow episode where Zari is trying to observe Ramadan on a time traveling spaceship.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:51 AM on May 5, 2021 [1 favorite]


Before technology allowed for instantaneous communications and accurate timekeeping, were there any accounts of people traveling to some far-flung corner and discovering that the locals were like a day or two out of sync when it came to important observances?

I understand that it's relatively easy to confirm the passage of the solstices and equinoxes using simple tools and with repeated daily measurements, but is that something every village was capable of (or interested in) doing? And if a village had drifted from the recognized date, how were they informed of this? Was it just "I'm from the Big City and I regret to inform you that our astronomers determined the day of the big feast was actually yesterday but carry on, we're cool" or could there have been some awkward misunderstandings?

I know there are vast differences between who observes things by what calendar, but assume that everyone's on the same "page" and it's just a matter of error.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 5:17 AM on May 5, 2021 [1 favorite]


The agreed positions include:

- follow the departing location timezones;
- follow the timezones you're directly above;
- follow the destination timezones;
- follow the Mecca timezone;


The Jewish responses are similar, with Jerusalem instead of Mecca. But all of these responses seem to accept a surprising axiom: time in a plane (or on a spacecraft) is divorced from time on the ground: you observe time as if you were on the ground – although the opinions differ as to where you should imagine yourself to be.

I don't think this is a necessary axiom! We could say, for instance, that there really is no solar chronology aboard a plane, so obligations triggered by solar chronology don't arise. Or we could say that the apparent solar chronology remains religious chronology; if you orbit the earth and see the sun rise seven times an hour, one of those periods is the Sabbath. I think it's interesting that these potential perspectives have apparently been dismissed by thinkers from two different religions.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:23 AM on May 5, 2021 [4 favorites]


Before technology allowed for instantaneous communications and accurate timekeeping, were there any accounts of people traveling to some far-flung corner and discovering that the locals were like a day or two out of sync when it came to important observances?


Jewish law accounts for this possibility. You tack an extra day onto festivals when you live outside of Israel to ensure that you're celebrating the holiday on the right day.

But to get to the question that has been posed about "why does this all matter?", this is a nice on the concept of "keva" in Judaism: that you need to do particular rituals in the right way, at the right time, etc.

A key quote: That isn't bean-counting or mindless rule-following. It's kind of the opposite, actually. It's very mindFUL rule following. Because being precise and exact matters, you have to pay attention. You have to think about what you're doing. You have to study the why and the how.

I'm willing to bet even the atheists* in this thread have things that they like to do at particular times in particular ways: birthday celebrations, Thanksgiving, Christmas, anniversaries, New Years Eve, whatever. Even if you don't celebrate all or any of these in particular ways, I bet there's *something* you do regularly, at a particular time, at a particular place, in a particular way.

Going back to space, the American crew on the ISS still has Thanksgiving and the French are sending up fancy food for, key quote, for celebrations of special occasions like birthdays.

For these things to happen, the crew of the ISS needs to agree on what day it is, which is what the topic of the post is: how do we tell what day it is in Space? This isn't something weird or strange delegated to "religious practice"; this is something that humans do.

(*Acknowledging here that "atheist" and "Jewish", for example, are not mutually exclusive; ditto a number of other traditions slotted under "religion".)
posted by damayanti at 6:00 AM on May 5, 2021 [13 favorites]


This is fascinating. Thanks for posting. As an atheist and materialist, it's hard to really understand the importance of the question except as an abstract puzzle. But, I could imagine that God cares that you are sincerely trying to be observant and part of that may involve debating and considering how to do so. I've spent time in Antarctica with a few nominally religious Jewish people, but they were not so observant that they paid attention to Shabbos, as far as I know. They certainly worked on Saturday. I'm a bit ashamed that I never talked about this with them.
Just don’t go that far north or south!
I was going to complain about this. But, Rabbi Dovid Heber is just quoting Elazar, without obvious enthusiasm. I'm not sure it's actually a recommendation. He does suggest not going into space, which seems sadly limiting. Don't let the secular people have all the fun!
One would keep Shabbos when it is Shabbos directly below the rocket on earth.
Presumably, when traveling at high speed in the future, you use a geodesic from the traveler to the nearest point on Earth as viewed in the traveler's frame, both spatially and temporally? I'd be really interested to read (serious, non-ironic) scholarship on combining religious law with the failure of simultaneity at a distance. A quick lit search doesn't turn up anything.
posted by eotvos at 6:13 AM on May 5, 2021


"How do I Islam on Mars?" Well, you definitely know which way Mecca is, so start with that

From 2007: A Muslim Astronaut's Dilemma: How to Face Mecca From Space
posted by msbrauer at 6:14 AM on May 5, 2021


Honestly, most orthopractic religions understand that sometimes, for reasons beyond a person’s control, their ability to perform ritual will be curtailed, and all of them pretty much say “if this is the case, do your best; God will appreciate the effort.” This is not super-hard to learn or understand.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:15 AM on May 5, 2021 [15 favorites]


The previous thread about a border stone between Belgium and France being moved is also about the quirky, fiddly details that happen at the edges of human-defined rules systems, and yet MetaFilter seems perfectly capable there of not derailing every few posts about how Belgium shouldn't actually exist; it's just a social construct, etc.
posted by pykrete jungle at 6:15 AM on May 5, 2021 [33 favorites]


I'm not skilled enough in religion or physics to weigh in constructively, but I wanted to make sure that Eyebrows McGee got full credit for "Orthopraxic." I felt my Wernicke's Area grow three sizes when I got there. I don't know what button to press to favorite just 4 syllables in that awesome response upthread, but I'll keep looking.

And as an old math geek, can I TELL you what a disappointment the book of Numbers was? I was so excited to finally grok something in my Old Testament class, and then... sheesh. Nothing. I was thinking maybe it was at least Pythagorean triples and the Fibonacci sequence, or primes or something.
posted by adekllny at 6:15 AM on May 5, 2021 [11 favorites]


From a mathematical standpoint the begetting operation starts out simple but rapidly becomes complex and tedious.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 6:41 AM on May 5, 2021 [4 favorites]


Also the Christian scriptures take pains to point out that while ghosts are definitely real our guy is a sky person and not a sky ghost because as everyone knows ghosts don’t eat and you can’t touch them.

(We read this the other week since it’s after Easter and my takeaway was supposed to be something about the resurrection but instead I realized “Hey Jesus just said ghosts are real.”)
posted by Huffy Puffy at 6:45 AM on May 5, 2021 [1 favorite]


yet MetaFilter seems perfectly capable there of not derailing every few posts about how Belgium shouldn't actually exist; it's just a social construct, etc.

I mean, that whole issue really reinforces the degree to which all nations are simply social constructs, etc.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:48 AM on May 5, 2021 [2 favorites]


Presumably, when traveling at high speed in the future, you use a geodesic from the traveler to the nearest point on Earth as viewed in the traveler's frame, both spatially and temporally?

A religionist on a fractional-luminal ship experiencing significant time dilation will have to make some choices that make sense for them. How do you do Ramadan or Lunar Festival when your second takes minutes on Earth? There's going to have to be some notion of personal frame-of-reference time vs Earth time, I think. At near-luminal speeds, assuming that's even possible, one could conceivably past through many Earth-Lents in the course of a physiological day.
posted by bonehead at 6:54 AM on May 5, 2021


Well, God is good, and if you read the article, most practitioners just go with the solar referents at "point of departure" or "the sun as in Mecca" and call it a day.

Religion should bind us together, even as we travel longer and longer distances into creation's void.
posted by eustatic at 7:03 AM on May 5, 2021


As an extremely lazy person, I'm sort of surprised no one's trying to take this the other direction. I'd be up on ISS working out how to justify a 90 minute shabbat. I mean, it seems easy enough: shabbat is one day out of the week. I go from sunset to sunset in 90 minutes. So it's one (orbit) and done, right?
posted by phooky at 7:05 AM on May 5, 2021 [5 favorites]


lol saudis studying overseas are notorious for applying the travellers' dispensation on themselves throughout the entire time they're there, ie years.

well notorious to me, a malaysian, whom we see the evidence throughout this thread, are the nerds of muslim practice.
posted by cendawanita at 7:11 AM on May 5, 2021 [9 favorites]


"Before technology allowed for instantaneous communications and accurate timekeeping, were there any accounts of people traveling to some far-flung corner and discovering that the locals were like a day or two out of sync when it came to important observances? I understand that it's relatively easy to confirm the passage of the solstices and equinoxes using simple tools and with repeated daily measurements, but is that something every village was capable of (or interested in) doing?"

This is actually why we have the (kind-of nuts) method of calculating Easter. As Christians massively fell out with the Jewish establishment (the whole Jesus thing was so awkward) and were no longer welcome to worship in Jewish locations, AND started to spread beyond reasonable distances for frequent communication, it became necessary to find a way of figuring out when Easter was that kept it relatively close to Passover, but didn't require local Jewish authorities to spot the moon and start the (religious) month for you, especially as more and more Christians had never had any contact with Jews and weren't going to learn Jewish timekeeping from scratch. So they settled on the first Sunday AFTER the first full moon ON OR AFTER March 21 (as an approximation of the March equinox). Which does a pretty good job of putting Easter near Passover. But the Jewish luni-solar calendar repeats every 19 years, and the Easter date cycle repeats only every 5.7 million years, making it the most complicated calendar math in human history (afaik), and that's why Christians Bibles typically have a table of Easter dates in the back -- it's pretty easy to sort with a Roman civil calendar and the ability to spot the moon, but it's stupid complicated to do the math for. (People spent like 1800 years trying to come up with an algorithm that didn't fail after 10,000ish years.)

"And if a village had drifted from the recognized date, how were they informed of this? Was it just "I'm from the Big City and I regret to inform you that our astronomers determined the day of the big feast was actually yesterday but carry on, we're cool" or could there have been some awkward misunderstandings?"

Well, the Catholic Church updated the calendar by fiat on 24 February 1582 (taking effect that October -- Thursday, October 4 was followed by Friday, October 15), because the observed date of the equinox had drifted from the calendar date of the equinox, which was making Easter drift away from its "proper" day, when Pope Gregorian switched Catholicism from the Julian to Gregorian calendar. Not only were there riots in Catholic European areas by peasants who thought this was a) nonsense and/or b) a scheme to cheat them out of 10 days of pay. The Orthodox rejected the change (and/or had no method to change their calendar because of some specifics around church governance and rule-making). And Martin Luther had already nailed his 95 theses up in 1517, so Protestant countries mostly went "hahahahahaha NO." Most Protestant scholars and civil leaders were like, "No, wait, this is actually better" but the religious leadership was like, "FINE, but fuck me if I'm taking a religious calendar reform from a POPE."

Queen Elizabeth I and her Privy Council liked the reform and were going to adopt it in the 1580s, but the Anglican bishops flipped their shit, particularly with the Anglican settlement having been so recent. So Great Britain and its colonies didn't adopt the Gregorian reform until 1752 (by which time an 11-day skip was needed), with the result that if you go peek at George Washington's Wikipedia page, you'll note that he was born February 11, 1731 Old Style (Julian Calendar, new year in March) but after the calendar change his birthday was counted as February 22, 1732 New Style (Gregorian Calendar, new year in January).

It took 500 years from when the Council of Nicea said "we need to all do Easter on the same day" to when mostly everyone was; it's been almost 500 years since 1582 adjusted the date and the last bits of Western Europe adjusted in 1812, and the Eastern Christians are not gonna in the foreseeable future.

So in summation, some of them go, "yeah, whatever, fine," and others go "Oh, good point," and others go, "FUCK YOU AND THE CALENDAR YOUR RODE IN ON I KNOW WHAT DAY IT IS."

" As a believer, it's imperative to face the great possibility that what you believe may very well be a sky ghost."

Which MeFites in this thread do you think are NOT doing this? I'm 100% totally comfortable with the idea that God might not exist, and from my recollections of prior discussions, most religious MeFites currently in this thread are comfortable with that discussion and possibility as well. I do object to "sky ghost" as inaccurate, though, for more or less the reasons I outlined above about the difference between pre-modern polytheistic understandings of God (sky ghost is reasonably fair) vs. modern understandings that focus more on morality and universality and omnipotence and whatnot, in which case I will accept "imaginary granddaddy in the sky" as "close enough, although 'sky' is a bad metaphor." And if you'd like to evoke the ultra early henotheistic origins of YHWH, he's not a SKY god, he's a THUNDERSTORM GOD who rides around on two stormclouds. So maybe something like "imaginary boss of thunderstorms" or "hyperlocal rain eidolon" would be more accurate.

"Just don't go that far north!"

May I just say that June Ramadans stress me out like crazy ever since I found out that some Muslims in Norway observe it very strictly and won't eat when the sun is visible which means that if they live far enough north THE SUN MIGHT NOT SET and I seriously spend the whole month worrying about them and if they're eating enough.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:20 AM on May 5, 2021 [23 favorites]


(Also PS, like most Ancient Near Eastern deities, YHWH lives on top of mountains, not in the sky, so maybe "self-important oread" or "imaginary mountain buddy"? I mean YHWH travels to the sky but has to ride on the cherubim to do it, mostly he hangs out on mountains.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:26 AM on May 5, 2021 [5 favorites]


And as an old math geek, can I TELL you what a disappointment the book of Numbers was?

You want Conway and Guy's book by that title.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:38 AM on May 5, 2021 [1 favorite]


Recent related tiktok from Hank Green: What time is it in the poles?
posted by Quack at 8:02 AM on May 5, 2021


As an outsider to Islam, there's one thing I always appreciated about that religion: the willingness to give slack on certain rituals and requirements. I mean, as many have pointed out in this thread, all the successful religions have some flexibility built in. People are people and things will not always go as planned. The established faiths reflect that.

But Islam, to me, carried that a step further by explicitly stating that it's ok to skip or modify this or that because of your circumstances. Explicit statements found in the core scriptures and founder's quotes, and not just in the later commentaries and theology. As someone who grew up in a fundamentalist Baptist environment with rules increasing fractally, I can greatly appreciate that touch of human understanding.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 8:15 AM on May 5, 2021 [3 favorites]


What time is it in the poles?

20:00, same as in town.
posted by jquinby at 8:28 AM on May 5, 2021 [9 favorites]


Fascinating, but don't read the fucking comments
posted by OverlappingElvis at 8:31 AM on May 5, 2021


Mod note: Couple comments deleted. Officially, please drop the "here's my added zinger about how religions aren't true/comparison to national borders" stuff. Just let this thread be about the thing it's about.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:35 AM on May 5, 2021 [5 favorites]


FWIW, for Catholics, Antarctica was under the jurisdiction of the bishop of the Diocese of Christchurch, New Zealand, for many years, and now is under the jurisdiction of the US Archdiocese for Military Services (which I strenuously object to on a couple of grounds, but I just deleted like 800 words because it's off the point.)

ANYWAY, the Code of Canon Law of 1917 provided the Catholic bishop of a newly-explored place is the bishop of the place the journey originated from, which means that -- this is true -- the Bishop of Orlando claims Catholic jurisdiction over the moon, since Apollo 11 took off from Cape Canaveral. Generally bishops are considered competent to make decisions about these types of questions within their jurisdiction, and to grand exceptions and exemptions, so a question like "am I allowed to skip Sunday Mass in space?" would be answered by the astronaut's bishop.

Two things I can tell you for absolute certain about a permanent Mars settlement, though:
First, Catholics WILL name a bishop who's in charge of it, whether that's where the ship took off from or a random guy on earth given Mars as a titular see or a bishop actually sent to Mars, and that guy will have the official authority to decide how these religious questions work for Catholics on Mars when it's not clear from existing rules and norms. (These decisions will either be ratified through common practice, or a pope will name a committee to investigate and spend six years writing extensive reports on How To Easter On Mars, if it needs fixing.)

And Second, actual religious schisms over timekeeping disputes will appear relatively rapidly. For example, once permanently settled on Mars, you'll have some Martian Muslims who say "we'll pray five times per Martian day but we'll adjust our monthly calendar so we celebrate Ramadan along with Earth" and you'll have other Martian Muslims who say "Look, the Muslim calendar has NEVER followed the civil calendar or solar calendar on Earth, Martian days are shorter, years move faster, this has never been a problem before, so we are counting 354 Martian days per year starting from when we landed and Martian Ramadan happens when it Martian happens." And those two groups will not let their children marry each other.

(cendawanita, how do you start a Muslim lunar month when you can't use physical observation Earth's moon, do you think?)

"you don't want coreligionists keeping different sacred days"
We Muslims have missed this memo lmao. there was at least a couple of years in my living adult memory where we tried, but... nah.


Pssst -- Christians officially insist on keeping the same sacred days (Nicea, 325 CE), but we just had just about the two farthest-apart Easters it's possible to have: April 4 for Catholics and Protestants, May 2 for Orthodox Christians.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:46 AM on May 5, 2021 [10 favorites]


Despite being an atheist, I've always found this sort of angels dancing on the head of a pin conversation interesting.

And from a certain standpoint the answers are kind of boringly practical. We know how (one) Muslim dealt with prayers while in orbit, and the answer is entirely practical: they used Mecca time for holidays and just faced one wall for prayers because trying to face Mecca was impractical.

I suspect the answer to questions regarding time dilation while traveling at relativistic speeds will have a similar practicality, because the people who go into space will tend to be practical people. They'll use the ship's clock and calendar to calculate the date and time of "sunrise" because otherwise you'd wind up celebrating Ramadan for (subjective) years at a time every (subjective) decade or three.

Since calculating Earth time is trivial I'd also suppose that once they made planetfall they'd revert to using Earth time for celebrations rather than ship time because then each load of passengers from different ships would have their own ship time for Ramadan and again that'd be impraactical.

Same as birthdays. If I'm traveling at 90% of c then I'm not going to celebrate my birthday only once every 2.24 subjective eyars, it'd be silly.

Admittedly then you do have the (fun) silliness that it's possible I'd celebrate my birthday on the ship and then a few weeks later after planetfall and syncing back to Earth time I'd be due another birthday party. Though, practicality, I'd imaging that second one would be low key and no one would bring presents.

Eyebrows McGee Well, you'd like to hope that if there's a significant Martian Catholic population the Pope would appoint and/or send a Bishop to Mars rather than allowing some dude back on Earth who is (at best) 6 minutes (one way) by radio and who has no real understanding of Martian issues to be the Bishop.

But historically there have been pretty out of touch Bishops and Popes so I could definitely see a potential schism there.

As for Muslims on Mars, since you'd be living in tunnels under the surface and only care about the local day/night cycle in that for those few very rare times you need to risk going to the surface you want it to be night to minimize radiation exposure, I think everyone would keep GMT and the Earth calendar and not really care much about Martian years.

I kind of doubt we'll start seeing schismatic issues on that until we've got a colony somewhere extra-solar where it's comfortable enough to live on the surface and keeping GMT and the Earth calendar would be impractical.

But then, yup, I think you identified the likely major factions. And I'll bet there would be dozens of minor factions differing on various specific details.
posted by sotonohito at 10:07 AM on May 5, 2021 [2 favorites]


Despite being an atheist, I've always found this sort of angels dancing on the head of a pin conversation interesting.

I think a better way of thinking of it than “angels on the head of a pin”* is that many people have rituals in their lives that are important for a whole variety of reasons, and some of those rituals are defined by hierarchies, and it’s good to have a practical solution to situations where the ritual can’t be performed “normally.” It’s not some weird fringe activity; it’s how humans do things.

* the angels on the head of a pin isn’t really that weird, either. It’s essentially an argument over whether angels are made of matter or not, which... good question, and one that the root sources do not conclusively address. You want fractious hairsplitting that goes super-deep, read up on the arguments on whether Christ was of “the same” or “similar” substance as the Father. People spilled quarts of ink and gallons of blood over that....
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:33 AM on May 5, 2021 [3 favorites]


I just want to say how much I've enjoyed reading this conversation though I have little to add to it myself, and especially a big thanks to Eyebrows for all the fantastic and detailed analysis! It probably veers into GYOB catagories (or whatever the current fashion would have it, blogs are no longer a thing, right?) but I for one am totally here for your thoughts on why the US Archdiocese for Military Services is no good for Antarctica.
posted by dellsolace at 10:37 AM on May 5, 2021 [4 favorites]


The simple explanation is that religions set rules that define boundaries for membership in the group. “We do this, we don’t do that.” In many cases, these rules were devised thousands of years ago. Yes, times and situations change. Religions have means to adapt within their set of rules. Outsiders can critique these adaptations as well as the initial set of rules. They are outsiders. The Catholic Church has Canon Lawyers who devise and revise Canon Law. Judaism has a rich history of reasoned argument called the Talmud that interpreted and reinterpreted the rules as things changed. Would it be better to look at how religion adapts, than to just hypothesize artificial cases based on relativistic physics?
posted by njohnson23 at 10:45 AM on May 5, 2021


Oh, Eyebrows you might have missed another chance for even more schisms! Mars has two moons, so which one do you use for the Martian lunar calendar: Phobos!Ramadan, Deimos!Ramadan or (Phobos+Deimos)!Ramadan, when they are both in the new moon phase at the same time?

(Unfortunately neither is very practical, since Martian moon phases are quite short, although there are probably interesting cycles to be found for sky-watchers on Mars)

Another closer to home conundrum: the Peaks of Eternal Light are a possible site for lunar bases -- For All Mankind had a base at Shackleton Crater, for example . They are nearly always illuminated by the sun, so they have no night other than during lunar eclipses or other infrequent libration. This would make it very challenging to fast for the whole day, similar to the terrestrial polar situation.
posted by autopilot at 11:22 AM on May 5, 2021


it’s good to have a practical solution to situations where the ritual can’t be performed “normally.”

Relatedly, Seamas O’Reilly (of previous ketamine and the President of Ireland fame) had an amusing article in the Guardian in January looking at the various compromises that the various religions in the UK were taking to cope with the pandemic.
posted by scorbet at 12:09 PM on May 5, 2021 [1 favorite]


The simple explanation is that religions set rules that define boundaries for membership in the group. “We do this, we don’t do that.”

In a kind of counterintuitive way, this reminds me of something that Zen teacher Brad Warner said. Misquoted from memory: "If anyone tries to tell you something like 'we turn to the left when we stand up from our meditation cushions because the Shobogenzo says that's how to do it' they are completely, entirely wrong. We turn to the left because you have to turn one way or the other, and we turn this way. That's it."

Doing something together with attention and focus, even something as simple as sitting down or standing up, makes it significant.
posted by Lexica at 12:14 PM on May 5, 2021 [3 favorites]


Lexica - Ritual is a way of marking a time, a place, an action as being different, not ordinary, as special. Attention and focus is heightened, and this is what makes it significant. Not counterintuitive but an intuitive way of looking at it.
posted by njohnson23 at 12:33 PM on May 5, 2021


autopilot: "or other infrequent libration"

what a lovely word.
posted by chavenet at 12:41 PM on May 5, 2021


(cendawanita, how do you start a Muslim lunar month when you can't use physical observation Earth's moon, do you think?)

i legitimately think this would mark the occasion of another international conference to build a consensus, except my people (tm) are too busy warring each other by proxy or directly right now, so the likelier result would probably be patchy coalitions of understanding. i'm saying this because noticeably, there seems to be more robust coalition-building in Jewish thought on the matter of lab-grown meats these days while the Islamic countries' institutions don't seem to be engaging at the same level (though I've seen the Australian Islamic Council coming up with some thoughts). As usual, politics and money will matter more than anything.

But I do think it's going to need a lot of revised exegesis in large part because, unlike the supposed directive for women (who aren't the Prophet's wives) to veil/seclude themselves*, timekeeping is an actual, details provided, God's decree, etc etc, part of a few chapters in the Qur'an, specifically on the calendar. I don't know if the Torah, or the Gospels, and the other books within the Bible have anything similar, but I can say, as a Muslim layperson (as much as you can apply that concept within the Sunni framework), the fact is God explicitly said, you have so-and-so many months, they're going to follow the phases of the moon in terms of days, btw there are four forbidden/sacred months (but I expect you to have the Arabian Peninsula cultural context to know which ones). Those verses are the justification for the modern Islamic purely lunar calendar (whereas I believe pre-Islamic Arabia did at least introduce the typical calendar adjustments to the solar cycle within the same year much like many other communities, or at least every 3 years? In any case, we still have those adjustment calculations but the goal isn't to keep pace with the solar rotation). Basically there was a lot of divine statements regarding basic astronomy, not to mention general fact-based scientific-minded statements that're meant to invite people to contemplate the divine, that I have a feeling that the closer we get to astral travel that further puts Earth in the rearview mirror, the more this is going to be A Big Deal. I suspect, since a lot of Muslim thought have kinda put medieval thinkers on the pedestal, and these days I don't find (at least in English) much cross-pollination with rabbinical arguments anymore, we're still going to go with an Earth-centric view, especially since like I said, it's one thing you can definitely say it's not just the prophetic traditions (ie sunnah), it's in the Book itself.

Regarding what happened when literally one community might be celebrating holy days disconnected from the established mainstream calendar, in typical Muslim practice, it's not a big deal? I used to read about villages fairly close celebrating Eid on different days, and it's usually treated as a shrug and a funny anecdote than a cause for divine doom. Literally, it was a case of, well you tried, and you intended it as an act of worship, and God knows best. You weren't deliberately being shady (and if you did, well baby that's on you, and no one else is going to share that sin).

*indeed, i did go there.
posted by cendawanita at 2:46 PM on May 5, 2021 [7 favorites]


I think a better way of thinking of it than “angels on the head of a pin”* is that many people have rituals in their lives that are important for a whole variety of reasons

Literally just this year we had many Very Important People arguing about whether a new Pontifex(*) had been correctly chosen, and whether congregations that had appointed delegates to the conclave could rescind the appointment and choose other ones. There were even some people who thought that if the conclave were interrupted the new Pontifex wouldn't be able to assume his position, and the old one would remain in charge. Apparently about a third of congregants still think the new Pontifex was improperly chosen. This is a problem because many functionaries take vows under which they are obliged to obey the orders of the Pontifex, even when they think they are unreasonable, and continued disagreement may cause a schism.

(*) Literally "bridge-builder": i.e., the official responsible for declaring Infrastructure Week, among other things.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:17 PM on May 5, 2021 [3 favorites]


Maybe since God never walked on Mars,
Never named the stars,
Never dreaded death under those moons,
Maybe we can have our own world there.
It will not be without many a care,
Or sacrifice.
Suffice the quick end in slow years,
And fast moons,
And no butter of any kind for,
The not bread.
The not living
The not dead.
posted by Oyéah at 4:17 PM on May 6, 2021 [2 favorites]


« Older Belgian farmer accidentally moves French border   |   You’re Going to Get Ghosted This Summer. May I... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments