Time Lords and Religion
Rated: Teen for discussions on religion. (Hint Hint: If you are sensitive about religious matters, you might be offended.)
Summary: In the aftermath of "The Impossible Planet" and "The Satan Pit", Rose grows curious about how Time Lords view the concept of Gods and religion. Thankfully, the Doctor is more than willing to explain.
Disclaimer: Doctor Who is owned by the BBC.
LES: I just finished re-watching Series Two, and the two-part episode "The Impossible Planet" and "The Satan Pit" has to be among my favorite episodes in the show thus far. (I've seen Series 1 threw Series 3.) As they said during the corresponding Doctor Who Confidential episode, it's really nice to see the Doctor with his beliefs being challenged. And I am fascinated with religions of all kinds, not to mention the possibility of mixing science and religion. That's where this story came from. I'm also a little nervous about posting this. The last time I posted a story that had a philosophical debate on religion got the heck flamed out of it. Rest assured, I am pretty religious and I do believe in God. But I also love science and reason, so I have fun occasionally thinking about how science and religion can mix.
Out of all the places that Rose had been on her extended journey with the Doctor, none of those places had shaken her up like her trip to the Impossible Planet… with the exception of when she traveled back in time to see her father when he was still alive. Getting trapped within a paradox, seeing herself as a baby, and seeing her mother with that crazy hair-do had all been crazy events. But, still, facing the Devil himself on a planet orbiting a black hole had been surreal.
Of course, the Doctor refused to confirm if it actually was the Devil or not. Even several days later, he persisted in saying that the only thing that mattered was that they'd managed to beat it and trap it in the black hole for all time in the end. It didn't matter if it was the Devil or just a beast, it was now gone.
The Doctor's behavior intrigued Rose, there was no doubt. After all this time, she'd been under the impression that he wasn't a particularly religious person. That suited Rose just fine because she was not particularly religious either. But the Doctor spoke of his beliefs, and that led her to wonder… just what were the Doctor's beliefs?
Rose got her chance to talk to the Doctor during one of their periods of downtime while traveling through the Time Vortex. Time passed while traveling through the Time Vortex, but not in the way that you'd normally think about it. Some trips through the Vortex only seemed to take minutes, while others seemed to last for days. The Doctor had often tried to explain to her the Time Lord's version of the Theory of Relativity, but most of his explanation went over her head. At least it was a good excuse to stare at him for several minutes without him becoming suspicious of her motives.
The Doctor, as usual during these times, was sitting on the Captain's chair, keeping a close eye on the Tardis' main monitor, ready to jump in should the need arise. Watching the Doctor pilot the Tardis was a bit like watching a madman, what with him holding down a lever with one hand, turning a crank with the other, and pressing down a button with his foot, or whatever Twister-like position that he managed to get himself into. He told her once that Tardises were meant to be flown by six or seven Time Lords working together, and that he managed to do it alone was a sure sign of his brilliance. She told him that it was a sign that he was mental, but said it with a smile.
"Doctor, can I ask you a question?" Rose asked.
"Sure you can, Rose." The Doctor answered, kicking back and putting his Converse up on the Tardis main console.
"Well, I've been thinking ever since we left the Impossible Planet…" Rose began.
"Rose, I honestly don't know if the Beast that we saw was really the Devil." The Doctor said quickly, thinking that this was her question seeing as she'd asked it enough since they'd left the planet. "It is possible that that creature was the inspiration behind the legends of the Devil, but even then he probably wouldn't be as bad as the legends say… Prince of Darkness and all that. Legends are often exaggerated."
"No, it's not that." Rose said. "I was just wondering… what you believe. I mean… did the Time Lords have a religion?"
At this, the Doctor paused thoughtfully. He took his feet off the console and motioned for Rose to sit next to him, which she did. He didn't speak for several more seconds, but then began. "The Time Lords used to have a religion, back when we were a very young race. Religion is a very common thing among younger races. But our religious practices ended millions of years ago… before I was born… before my parents and grandparents were born."
"What led to the change?" Rose asked. "What makes older races non-religious then?"
"Oh, the same thing that always happens. We got old enough and advanced enough to realize that the Gods we worshiped were actually real." The Doctor said casually.
At this, Rose grew confused. "Wait a minute… you don't worship God anymore because you proved that he exists? How does that make sense?"
"Gods, Rose, not God." The Doctor said. "Most of the modern religions on Earth focus on a singular concept of God, a single individual who is omnipotent and omnipresent. But if you look at every religion your planet has ever created, a vast majority of them were centered on polytheism, or the worship of many gods. Your ancestors were not stupid, Rose. They had a great many things in perspective that were eventually lost in the Dark Ages and has been recovered since. They knew the truth… the Gods were a race of beings, a species, just like us except far more."
"So… that's it? The answer of religion is that simple? The Gods are a race of beings?" Rose asked.
"Yep." The Doctor said. "The Time Lords eventually made contact with them, and once we learned that they were not all that interested in having followers, we stopped our religious practices and simply accepted them as another alien species."
"So… are they really all that powerful?" Rose asked.
"Unimaginably so." The Doctor said. "You see, Rose, they are able to exist on a higher dimensional plane than all the other species in the universe, so they are able to do things that, to the rest of us, seem quite impossible, but is quite normal for them." He met the confused look in Rose's eyes. "Well… perhaps I should put it this way… Rose, can you name the first three dimensions?"
"Of course." Rose said. "Length, width, and depth."
"Correct." The Doctor said. "Those are the dimensions that humans are able to manipulate. Eventually, your race will be able to manipulate the fourth dimension: Time, but that's years off and you will never be able to do that without special machinery. Time Lords, like myself, are able to manipulate the fourth dimension without the aid of machinery. Of course, that ability is limited. Unaided time jumps are not nearly as accurate as Tardis-aided time jumps are. Because we exist on a higher dimension than humans, and are able to do things that are impossible, the Time Lords have often been mistaken for Gods."
"Where do you think I got the nickname 'The Lonely God'?" The Doctor asked rhetorically. However, seeing that Rose was still confused, the Doctor sighed. "How about like this…" He grabbed a piece of paper and drew a stick figure upon it. "I want you to imagine, Rose, that this sheet of paper is a different universe. As you can see, it only exists in two dimensions, length and width. The people living in this universe would have concepts like forward and backward, left and right. But they would not know what up and down is. How could they? Up and down does not exist in this universe. They cannot even fathom that up and down exists. Now we can imagine that a being that exists in three dimensions, like you Rose, comes along to this universe one day. Let's say that you take this stick figure and lift him up off the page. Pulling him up off the page is not unusual for you, because you are well familiar with the concept of up and down. However, the stick figure would be beyond confused. He cannot even fathom what you are doing to him because he has never known up to exist. You'd be doing something that, do him, seems impossible. In that instant, you would be the God, Rose."
"I think that I've got it now." Rose said. "So, what is the race of Gods called?"
"The Eternals." The Doctor said. "They are beings that are able to exist in every dimension, even the ones that we have not discovered or fathomed yet. They are the only truly immortal beings in the universe."
"Time Lords are not immortal? Even with your regeneration powers?" Rose asked.
"Even Time Lords do not last forever. True, we are able to last much longer than most other species because of our ability to cheat death with regeneration. But I cannot regenerate endlessly. A Time Lord can only regenerate a dozen times. In this regard, even I am nearing the end of my life. This is my tenth form when there can only be thirteen. My life will eventually come to an end, Rose. It may be centuries away, but it will end."
"And you're… okay with that?" Rose asked.
The Doctor sighed. "I know that humans have a natural fear of death. Your race is only given one life and it is so short. It is only natural for a race such as yours to want more time. But when you've lived as long as I have… and died as many times as I have… you don't see death as something to be afraid of. At least I will be with my people again when the time comes."
"So… the Time Lords believe in heaven?" Rose asked.
"There is a planet called 'Heaven' you know?" The Doctor said. "It truly is a beautiful place. Remind me to take you there. But, as for the afterlife… in a way. When a Time Lord dies, they become a part of the Time Vortex. I will join them then." The Doctor met her eyes. "That is what I believe, Rose."
"Thanks for sharing that with me." Rose said. She did not speak for several moments, and then smiled at him. "The Lonely God, huh?"
"It's an old nickname." The Doctor said.
"Huh. Does it still fit? Are you lonely?"
"Not anymore, Rose. Not anymore."
LES: Well, I hope that people aren't too offended by this. Though I honestly believe that science will one day prove the existence of God. And then we'd have a situation that is similar to the one pointed out in the book "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy".
"I refuse to prove I exist," says God, "for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing."
"Ah," says Man, "but the Babel fish is a dead giveaway. It proves you do exist. So, by your own argument, you don't."
"Oh," says God, "I hadn't thought of it that way." And promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.
LES: Will it happen that way in the future? I don't know. But, until then, I will continue to believe in God's existence. Oh, by the way, I don't know if anyone caught it. But, yes, the Doctor has read Flatland by Edwin Abbott Abbott. It's an interesting book about a two-dimensional "Flatlander" trying to explain flatness to a single-dimensional Linelander, and being shown the world of three-dimensions by a visiting Spacelander.