waiting for armageddon

December 28, 2008

Speaking of doomsday, did you know we’re living in the end times? Yeah, I know, we’ve been living in the end times during the fall of Rome, the Dark Ages, Black Death and an invasion into Spain by Muslims as well as both world wars and the Cold War. But all the disasters, wars and epidemics are nothing compared to now. The end is almost here as it’s written in the Book of Revelations. Unlike the Mayan prophecy of 2012, the belief that we are the last generation on Earth isn’t just embraced by New Age enthusiasts. It’s being taught to millions of Christians and held by very respected authority figures in mainstream society.

Now notice two important things that the nice pastors were saying. The first is that Jews should plow through the Dome of the Rock (which would basically start World War 3) and that because the world is in turmoil now, it means that all of Revelation’s predictions are being fulfilled and the end is so near, it’s just around the corner and will come any minute now. Both these ideas are a little disturbing in their own way, but what makes them even more disconcerting is that they’re being preached by people who society is generally conditioned to respect. If we make a list of the most admired professions in Western society, doctors and priests will be at the top. Doctors heal our bodies, priests heal our souls.

Now, when the healers of our souls support the Jewish people just to encourage them to start a holy war so they can get zapped to heaven while all those who didn’t accept their teachings rot on a war torn Earth, that doesn’t seem right no matter how you slice it. It’s almost evil. And to make matters worse, there is a movement in Israel which advocates the removal of the Dome to Mecca in Saudi Arabia and building a Third Temple of Solomon on Temple Mount. Of course their chances of seeing that happen are zero to none as the Jewish authorities won’t risk global religious conflict to appease a small, minority group.

As for the idea that Revelations predicts the chaos and turmoil of today, I’d like to refer back to the opening lines of this article. Just there we have seven cases of the end times according to a casual reading of the last book of the Bible. What does that tell us? Does that mean the there’s no prophecy in Revelation or that the exiled Copt who assumed the name John when writing it, got it all wrong? Yes and no.

The prophecies of Revelations are a bit like a forecast which tells you that tonight, it’s going to be dark, turning to partly light in the morning, to borrow from the late George Carlin. If famine, war and disease are all signs of the end times, we’ve been living in the end times since the very dawn of civilization. Compared to our ancestors in the classical world and the Dark Ages, we’re living in a relatively calm, luxurious time of plenty. They didn’t have the media to focus on two wars and bring them to the forefront of international attention. The ancients fought for land or resources or cities on lucrative trading routes all the time. Because most people were relatively poor, famine and disease were at a level that we would call epidemic today.

The book of Revelations is very much a child of the ancient world and when we consider that it was meant to be a metaphorical letter to early Christians, we can see that what John is doing, is discussing current events and promising that the Romans who held Judea in their death grip, splintering Judaism and offending Jewish customs, would be taken to task for their deeds in a grand showdown between good (the Jews and early Christians) and evil (Roman legions).

The Beast was Emperor Nero’s nickname and it’s Nero who’s widely thought to be represented by the number 666. A popular puzzle game at the time assigned numeric values to each letter of the Greek alphabet and the values were then added together into one number. This is why in Revelations, John asks us to figure out the number 666 and says that it’s a human number just as he introduces us to the character of the Beast. But that’s far from the only allusion to Rome.

The Beast’s seven heads are also called seven mountains in Revelations 17:9 which represent The City of Seven Hills, or Rome. The ten horns with profanities written on them represent the puppet governments set up by the Roman empire stationed in the Holy Land. The Beast rising from the sea is most likely the Roman Navy. And last, but oh so not least, the Great Harlot, the Whore or Babylon, is an insult towards one of Nero’s three wives. The Harlot is clothed in red and purple, and draped with jewels. Imperial colors along with a display of royal wealth.

So why would an exile prosecuted for his faith in a letter sent to early Christians suffering from Roman brutality, focus on events that were supposed to happen some 2,000 years later? As he wrote it, there were far more immediate concerns and an enemy that seemed to rule everything in his world. The faith of Christians and Jews was being put to the test by a nefarious enemy as his letter was being passed around. Modern Biblical literalism embraced by fundamentalists of modern mega-churches just doesn’t seem to apply here.

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  • jypson

    Bill Maher: The irony of religion is that because of its power to divert man to destructive courses, the world could actually come to an end. The plain fact is, religion must die for mankind to live. The hour is getting very late to be able to indulge having in key decisions made by religious people. By irrationalists, by those who would steer the ship of state not by a compass, but by the equivalent of reading the entrails of a chicken. George Bush prayed a lot about Iraq, but he didn’t learn a lot about it. Faith means making a virtue out of not thinking. It’s nothing to brag about. And those who preach faith, and enable and elevate it are intellectual slaveholders, keeping mankind in a bondage to fantasy and nonsense that has spawned and justified so much lunacy and destruction. Religion is dangerous because it allows human beings who don’t have all the answers to think that they do. Most people would think it’s wonderful when someone says, “I’m willing, Lord! I’ll do whatever you want me to do!” Except that since there are no gods actually talking to us, that void is filled in by people with their own corruptions and limitations and agendas. And anyone who tells you they know, they just know what happens when you die, I promise you, you don’t. How can I be so sure? Because I don’t know, and you do not possess mental powers that I do not. The only appropriate attitude for man to have about the big questions is not the arrogant certitude that is the hallmark of religion, but doubt. Doubt is humble, and that’s what man needs to be, considering that human history is just a litany of getting shit dead wrong. This is why rational people, anti-religionists, must end their timidity and come out of the closet and assert themselves. And those who consider themselves only moderately religious really need to look in the mirror and realize that the solace and comfort that religion brings you comes at a horrible price. If you belonged to a political party or a social club that was tied to as much bigotry, misogyny, homophobia, violence, and sheer ignorance as religion is, you’d resign in protest. To do otherwise is to be an enabler, a mafia wife, for the true devils of extremism that draw their legitimacy from the billions of their fellow travelers. If the world does come to an end here, or wherever, or if it limps into the future, decimated by the effects of religion-inspired nuclear terrorism, let’s remember what the real problem was. We learned how to precipitate mass death before we got past the neurological disorder of wishing for it. That’s it. Grow up or die.