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Apocalypse Postponed

The Daily Telegraph’s Damian Thompson (a religious man, incidentally) weighs in here:

…I suppose if I had to boil it down to one observation, it would be that just because people say they “believe” that such-and-such a thing will happen in the End Times that doesn’t mean they invest heavily in those colourful beliefs. It’s a sort of spiritual hobby, even entertainment. St Augustine told doomsday enthusiasts to rest their busy fingers – ie, stop using them to calculate the exact date of Christ’s return (like old Harold Camping). Even in his day, people ran a huge risk of (a) making fools of themselves and (b) boring everyone else to death.

Still, remember the following should 200 million true believers fail to shoot skywards tomorrow. In the first century, most Christians believed the world would end in their lifetimes. Why? Because Jesus gave them good reason to think so:

Matthew 16:27-28: For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

Matthew 24:34: I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.

That sounds like a a pretty explicit doomsday prophecy to me. No wonder St Paul had to deal with Christians who kept asking: why is everyone dying naturally when Jesus said he’d already be back by now?

Meanwhile, as I mention over on the Corner, do check out The Rapture, a fascinating early 1990s take on the End Times.




Oh Well…

On to 2012, I suppose…

Via the Daily Telegraph:

Inhabitants of New Zealand, scheduled to be among the first to meet the apocalypse according to a US fundamentalist preacher, this morning confirmed they were still in existence as the appointed time was reached in their time zone. There were also unconfirmed reports that Tonga has, thus far, failed to boil into the Pacific.

Eighty-nine-year-old tele-evangelist Harold Camping had prophesied that the “Rapture” would begin with powerful earthquakes at 6pm in each of the world’s regions, after which the good would be beamed up to heaven.

This morning, Kiwis confirmed there were no signs of the dead rising from the grave, nor of the living ascending into the clouds to meet Jesus Christ.

Twitter users were disappointed by the absence of Armaggedon.




Forget 2012, The End is Even More Nigh…

Via the Independent:

The end of the world is nigh; 21 May, to be precise. That’s the date when Harold Camping, a preacher from Oakland, California, is confidently predicting the Second Coming of the Lord. At about 6pm, he reckons 2 per cent of the world’s population will be immediately “raptured” to Heaven; the rest of us will get sent straight to the Other Place.

If Mr Camping were speaking from any normal pulpit, it would be easy to dismiss him as just another religious eccentric wrongly calling the apocalypse. But thanks to this elderly man’s ubiquity, on America’s airwaves and billboards, his unlikely Doomsday message is almost impossible to ignore.

Every day Mr Camping, an 89-year-old former civil engineer, speaks to his followers via the Family Radio Network, a religious broadcasting organisation funded entirely by donations from listeners. Such is their generosity (assets total $120m) that his network now owns 66 stations in the US alone.

Those deep pockets were raided to allow Family Radio to launch a high-profile advertising campaign, proclaiming the approaching Day of Judgement. More than 2,000 billboards across the US are adorned with its slogans, which include “Blow the trumpet, warn the people!”. A fleet of logoed camper vans is touring every state in the nation. “It’s getting real close. It’s really getting pretty awesome, when you think about it,” Mr Camping told The Independent on Sunday. “We’re not talking about a ball game, or a marriage, or graduating from college. We’re talking about the end of the world, a matter of being eternally dead, or being eternally alive, and it’s all coming to a head right now.”

Mr Camping, who makes programmes in 48 languages, boasts tens of thousands of followers across the globe, with radio stations in South Africa, Russia and Turkey. After 70 years of studying the Bible, he claims to have developed a system that uses mathematics to interpret prophesies hidden in it. He says the world will end on 21 May, because that will be 722,500 days from 1 April AD33, which he believes was the day of the Crucifixion. The figure of 722,500 is important because you get it by multiplying three holy numbers (five, 10 and 17) together twice. “When I found this out, I tell you, it blew my mind,” he said


If that was really the case, his mind may not have been in the best condition in the first place, but I’ll let that pass.

This, however, is too entertaining to overlook:

Critics point out that this isn’t the first time Mr Camping has predicted the second coming. On 6 September 1994, hundreds of his listeners gathered at an auditorium in Alameda looking forward to Christ’s return.

“At that time there was a lot of the Bible I had not really researched very carefully,” he said last week.

Ah yes, there’s always that next time…

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If Only It Were About The Science

Cross-posted over at the Corner
Britain‘s winter snows generate an interesting reaction from Spiked‘s Brendan O’Neill. Here’s an extract:

…I’m not one of those people who believes snowfall necessarily disproves every claim made by warming-obsessed climatologists. Rather the snow crisis demonstrated, in high definition, the gap between the fear-fuelled thinking of the elite and the struggles of everyday people. It illuminated the million metaphorical miles that now separate the fantasy politics of our so-called betters from the concerns of the rest of us.
Not surprisingly, with snowstorms smothering Western Europe and the East Coast of America, many asked: ‘What happened to global warming?’ On the 20-hour bus-and-boat-and-train-and-car journey I took from London to Galway, surrounded by people forced to make a similar trek because their flights were also cancelled, there was much jocular banter along the lines of: ‘So this is the climate change we’ve been warned about…’ As people made new friends and arranged impromptu carpools for the final legs of their journeys, there was a palpable sense that the world we inhabit is not the same as that inhabited by greens. That isn’t surprising when you consider that greens have been telling us for the past decade that snow will disappear from our lives. Literally…Newspapers provided us with a ‘hellish vision of life on a hotter planet’ where deserts would ‘reach into the heart of Europe’ and global warming would ‘reduce humanity to a few struggling groups of embattled survivors clinging to life near the poles’.

Dramatic stuff. And unadulterated nonsense. The thing that occupied people’s minds at the end of 2010 was not how to explain to their sweating children in the deserts of Hampshire why snow disappeared from our lives, but rather how to negotiate actual snow. Again, this isn’t to say that the snow proves there is no planetary warming at all: if it is mad to cite every change in the weather as proof that Earth is doomed, then it’s probably also unwise to dance around in the slushy white stuff in the belief that it proves that all environmental scientists are demented liars. But the world of difference between expert predictions (hot hell) and our real experiences (freezing nightmare) is a powerful symbol of the distance that now exists between the apocalypse-fantasising elites and the public.

What it really shows is the extent to which the politics of global warming is driven by an already existing culture of fear. It doesn’t matter what The Science (as greens always refer to it) does or doesn’t reveal: campaigners will still let their imaginations run riot, biblically fantasising about droughts and plagues, because theirs is a fundamentally moralistic outlook rather than a scientific one. It is their disdain for mankind’s planet-altering arrogance that fuels their global-warming fantasies – and they simply seek out The Science that best seems to back up their perverted thoughts. Those predictions of a snowless future, of a parched Earth, are better understood as elite moral porn rather than sedate risk analysis….

Spot on, I think. And an old, and all too familiar, story.




Apocalypse Now (Please)

I’ve long suspected that amongst those who believe that the apocalypse is just round the corner, a certain vanity may well be at work – the belief that their time is somehow special.

Now there’s this from Scientific American

Some researchers think that apocalyptic dread feeds off our collective anxiety about events that lie outside our individual control. The fear of nuclear war and environmental decay that gripped the nation in the 1960s was a big factor in the rise of the counterculture, says John R. Hall, a sociologist at the University of California, Davis, and author of Apocalypse: From Antiquity to the Empire of Modernity. In this decade, civilization has suffered through even more fundamental threats. “After events like 9/11 and the Great Recession, as well as technological disasters like the BP oil spill, people begin to wonder—not just people who are fringe zealots or crazies—whether modern society is any longer capable of solving its problems,” Hall says. If the world appears to be going to hell, goes the thinking, perhaps that’s just what is happening.

The impulse is partially a consequence of our pattern-seeking nature—we are, after all, creatures of the savanna, programmed to uncover trends in the natural world. It is in our nature to weave a simple story from a complex set of data points. (In recent years this tendency has been amplified by news media that are very good at turning complex events into cartoon crises.) The desire to treat terrible events as the harbinger of the end of civilization itself also has roots in another human trait: vanity.
We all believe we live in an exceptional time, perhaps even a critical moment in the history of the species. Technology appears to have given us power over the atom, our genomes, the planet—with potentially dire consequences. This attitude may stem from nothing more than our desire to place ourselves at the center of the universe. “It’s part of the fundamental limited perspective of our species to believe that this moment is the critical one and critical in every way—for good, for bad, for the final end of humanity,” says Nicholas Christenfeld, a psychologist at the University of California, San Diego. Imagining the end of the world is nigh makes us feel special.

Read the whole thing.

H/t: The Daily Dish



Apocalypse Postponed

The reason that stories of apocalypse run through so many religions is partly due, I suspect, to the persistent and widespread belief that this wicked old planet needs a sharp sheep-and-goats moment and, also, to the fact that the end of the world is a rattling good yarn. As for those who believe that this exciting event will occur shortly, a certain vanity is also at play – the belief that their time is somehow special.
One of the ways in which (for some) a belief in AGW has taken on the characteristics of a religion is that it caters to this millennial craving, promising catastrophe and promising it soon. The film The Day After Tomorrow was a striking example of this phenomenon at work. It offered viewers a devil (a Dick Cheney-like vice president), the redemption of a chosen few and, best of all, the prospect of imminent catastrophe, in this case based on the idea that the Gulf  Stream would suddenly be “switched off” with pleasurably destructive consequences.
Unfortunately, this scenario may have run into a snag. The Daily Mail has the details:

Fears that global warming will shut down the Gulf Stream and plunge Britain into a mini-ice age are unfounded, a study shows. There is no evidence the phenomenon – which brings a constant flow of warm water and mild weather to northern Europe – has slowed down over the past 20 years, climate scientists say. ‘The changes we’re seeing in overturning strength are probably part of a natural cycle,’ said researcher Josh Willis, from Nasa…The idea that a slowdown of the ocean currents would trigger such a rapid change in climate is pure fantasy, explained Dr Willis.


That doesn’t end the scientific discussion (many climate studies suggest that the Gulf Stream will slow over the next century, bringing a gradual cooling effect to Europe) but it does make a nonsense of the filmmakers’ apocalyptic vision. Luckily for them, this will make little difference to true believers. The lesson of history is that the Big Day can be postponed almost any number of times without too much damage to the faith that spawned it.  Oh well.


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