"There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it's only a hundred billion. It's less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers." ~ Richard Feynman
Fight the Future
With the re-election of the Christian-in-Chief, we're told that the Evangelicals are on the rise, ready to unleash those most Christian of values, revenge and holy war, in their scary vision of the future.
These clueless weirdos, with their fanatical devotion to George Bush and their belief in a god of Holy Genocides, desperately hope that the End Times are near. With their medieval mentality, they put their blind faith in preachers, scriptures, signs and omens, portents and prophecies, and in the most cynical alliance of competitors since the Hitler-Stalin Pact to carve up Poland, the Fundies have allied with the Israeli Likud in a pact of mutually assured exploitation. By aiding the Jewish State, the Fundies hope to speed up the Apocalypse, and by allying with the Fundies, the Likud get a hard grip on the U.S. political process.
The Apocalyptics, in the most naked display of narcissism imaginable, believe that, of course, they will be 'saved' as they like to call it, but that the vast majority of humanity will simply bite the dust, including nearly all Jews.
The nonsense of the End Times is a big industry now and has spawned several novels, like the Left Behind piffle, and other books, like The Post Rapture Survival Guide by Kurt Seland, which advises its post-Apocalyptic readers:
'Let me be real frank with you. If you are reading this manual and the rapture has already occurred, then you probably are not going to physically survive; you most likely will die. This manual is about the survival of your soul. You are going to go through terrible suffering. The only question is whether you will go to Heaven or go to hell when you die.'
Fully 20 percent of the US population thought the second coming of Christ would occur around the year 2000. During the first Gulf War, 14 percent in another poll thought that war might be the signal. According to Philip Lamy, during the first Gulf War, 'American bookstores were experiencing a run on books about prophecy and the end of the world.'
Interestingly, there seems to be some dissent within the Apocalyptic ranks, as this discussion over whether Bush is the Anti-Christ shows, following the lead of the Pope, I guess.
Attempting to prophecy the future is not new. Cicero said in 45 BC, 'There is no nation whatever, however polished and learned, or however barbarous and uncivilized, which does not believe it possible that future events may be indicated, and understood, and predicted by certain persons.'
But regarding the prophecy of the supposed Second Coming, Jesus said, 'But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.'
This didn't stop fanatics from looking for ways around this proscription of soothsaying. Some would say that Jesus really meant that no man could know the day and the hour without the aid of the Holy Scriptures, or maybe he meant that although no man could know the day and the hour, that doesn't mean people couldn't discover the month or the year.
The expectation of the Apocalypse rests on the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, which have Jesus saying, 'There be some standing here which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom,' and, of course, the Book of Revelation, specifically chapter 20, verses 1-10, which tells of Satan's defeat and imprisonment, the massacre of humanity and Christ's reign on Earth for one thousand years (the Millennium), until Satan escapes and is finally defeated. Then would come the Last Judgment, and the end of history.
Looking back through Christian history, century after century is plagued by outbursts of these religious weirdos and nutcases, fanatically thundering against the present and issuing dire warnings to repent and prepare for the end of all things.
The history of Christian fortune telling is full of ridiculous episodes. Like David Austin, an American Presbyterian minister who claimed to have had a vision in February 1796 that the Second Coming would occur on the last Sunday in May. When nothing happened, the packed Church turned on him and chased him out of town. Austin then turned up in New Haven, with plans to help American Jews get to the Holy Land (a key sign leading up to the End Times), so to get the Divine Schedule back on track.
Then there were the Millerites, named after William Miller, a Baptist farmer in upstate New York. Browsing the Book of Daniel, Miller calculated that the Second Coming would occur in 1843. Miller's prophecy attracted thousands, many of whom sold off all their possessions and awaited the Rapture. Then nothing happened. So Miller recalculated. It was his arithmetic that was wrong, not God, he said; the end would come on October 22nd, 1844. But nothing happened again, ushering in the Great Disappointment.
A bizarre and as we have experienced in our day, dangerous feature of American Protestantism and its secularized social utopian ethos is the identification of America as a second Israel. Many, like the preacher J.T. Philpott in 1864, argued that the Biblical references to Israel were really about America. Joseph's son Manasseh had thirteen children, just as there were thirteen colonies. And five of those children were female, just as five of the colonies were named after females (Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia). Therefore America was really Israel and Americans were the Chosen People. Another preacher, Fountain Pitts, calculated somehow that the Book of Daniel foretold the Declaration of Independence -- right down to the day and the minute of its signing (a quarter to three in the afternoon). The Prohibition campaign to ban alcohol was also a byproduct of the fundamentalist movement to purify society in anticipation of the Second Coming.
Now today, self-described religious conservatives eagerly look forward to, and plot and plan on how to accelerate its arrival, the wholesale destruction of the human race, and allied with the world's most dangerous regime, are undoubtedly the greatest threat to peace and liberty in the modern world. Their vision of the future must be fought and defeated. But how do you argue with people who look forward to nuclear Armageddon? With the expectation that they will be transported to safety in Heaven, one prophecy writer wrote in 1962, 'the only way out is up.'
In any case, if you're worried, there is always the MessiahCam. Pointed towards the Mount of Olives, it silently awaits the arrival of the Messianic Passenger, giving updates every 30 seconds, so when the World Ends, you can watch it all unfold online.