As part of the ongoing Conspiracy Theory in the Imajica section, I indicated in its introduction that apocalyptic visions would also be a topic for discussion. A good start for that discussion should include an overview and some definitions of terminology.
While The Omen series of movies may not fully explain why your neighbor's kid is such an anti-social little bastard who giggles psychotically while chasing squirrels with his father's weed-whacker, it may explain your private fantasy that his school nurse will find a 666 mark of the devil scar on his head during a head lice inspection of the suburban demon spawn.
The end of the world scenario is actually more than an interesting and enduring genre for popular novels and profitable films at the cinema. Research polling indicates that about 40 percent of the people asked not only believe in assorted end-time predictions and prophecies but also apparently feel that they will live to see it during their lifetime when you consider that the Left Behind series has sold 55 million copies. The slogan "Jesus is coming -- look busy!" indicates a deeper belief in the messianic tradition than the humorous bumper sticker may initially portray.
Whether you are an atheist, like Brandon Starr, a born-again christian, like Duke, or your spirituality more commonly falls somewhere in between these two, or even completely outside the spectrum of monotheism -- if you're reading this, you live in a world where apocalyptic visions and messianic traditions are the rule, not the exception. No matter where your own personal spirituality lands, I highly encourage that you give yourself an Eschatology for Dumbies education by reading an amazingly engaging and interesting article in a recent issue of What is Enlightenment? magazine, by Carter Phipps, entitled The Hour Of My Coming - Millenial Myths and Modern Messiahs.
"And it's good to remember that this isn't just an American phenomenon. For that matter, it's not even a Christian phenomenon. Almost every major religion has some version of events that signal the coming of a great messianic figure who will rescue the world from darkness and usher in a new age of light and peace. Hindus speak of the next great avatar, the Kalki Avatar; Muslims foretell the coming of the Imam Mahdi; Christians, the Second Coming of Christ; Jews, the coming of the Messiah; and Buddhists, the future Buddha, Maitreya."
Being a dumb-ass bricklayer from Detroit, as I often describe myself, I discovered that eschatology has nothing to do with a creepy fetish of human feces or the occasional use of designer club drugs. In fact, it is the serious academic study of end-time scenarios with university departments and professors and lecture halls. And I imagine too, some student watching a lamely created Power Point presentation stoned from smoking a fatty before class to take the edge off of his weekend hangover, staring intently at the nervously tapping foot of the cute co-ed wearing black come-fuck-me pumps three rows up, and lewdly wondering whether or not the future eschatology-scholar-to-be has had her first lesbian experience. What was I saying, again?
Right. Eschatology. In his article, Carter Phipps teaches us that a closely related field of study to Eschatology (end-times) is Millennialism. There are also two categories of Millennialism - progressive and castastrophic. Progressive millennialism involves a messiah bringing about a millennial kingdom. Catastrophic millennialism is apocalypticism -- Armageddon, nukes, fire and brimstone, dawn of the dead ... that whole hairball of hell.
Did I highly encourage you to read the Carter Phipps article? Yes, yes I did. How about this, then? Thou shalt not comment on this blog entry until you have read it.
Also, give the article a read if you want to learn about the emerging cults of self-proclaimed Christs in Siberia and China, or the intriguing story of the Maitreya. Again, almost every major religion has some messianic figure, but I was dumbstruck to learn the depth and scope of progressive millennialism in our global group think. I have read how theocracy is creeping into secular governments around the world and how spectacularly dangerous and nefarious that could bode for the future of us all. In my personal opinion, religious fundamentalism, of any stripe or name, is not the way to go for the survival of our species. It's just too xenophobic and inherently destructive. Unfortunately, that's the reality of the world today, so let's explore the other branch of millennialism -- catastrophic millennialism -- that whole hairball of hell on earth.
Specifically, let's play Name Your Anti-Christ. With the huge jump in the numbers of people becoming born-again christians in the atmosphere of fear and confusion soon after 9/11, I'd wager that many people have put their money, or perhaps their eternal souls as it were, on the notion that Osama bin Laden is a good candidate to be an anti-christ figure. On the other hand, if I were some dumb-ass bricklayer from Baghdad, instead of Detroit, whose family just got instantly vaporized by a so-called smart bomb dropped from a radar-invisible B-2 bomber that could easily be described as some black dragon or friggin' montrous bat in some prophecy Ezekiel forgot to write down, I'd likely think the anti-christ was none other than George W. Bush.
Could it be that these two men are just the warm up act for a yet unknown true anti-christ? If you are one of the 40% who seem to believe in Apocalypse Soon, I ask you. Is the true anti-christ still in diapers and pitter-padding around in Tehran, Pyongyang, Moscow, or Gary, Indiana? I'm leaving this up to you. Each candidate for anti-christ likely has a web site devoted to him. On the TAG board, Dennis just pointed out a web page at Muslims for Jesus that advocates Afghan Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, fits the Islamic Hadith descriptions of Dajjal (anti-christ). That being the case, let's try to narrow down the list of anti-christ candidates about which we can devote another future installment of Conspiracy Theory in the Imajica.
Oh, and if you are from Gary, Indiana ... I'm sorry, but your city is foul-smelling. If you're not raising a son of Satan in your town, I don't know what the hell is going on there.
Gigglesbee October 4, 2004 09:59 AM PDT See....I prefer to just wear my pollyanna rose-colored glasses and just not think about it, ya know?
Is that so wrong?? Is it???
I thought not.
John Furie Zacharias October 4, 2004 04:49 PM PDT Not all of the future topics in this section are going to be as ponderous as this one. I'll be writing up more smaller, specific, or trivial conspiracy theories, too. And, I can totally understand and relate to the benefits of being an Atheist or an Apathist on this topic.
But, imagine yourself sitting in your car during heavy rush hour traffic. You're on your way home after an unusually long day and you're stuck 30 or 40 cars deep behind the traffic light at the intersection.
Like the world we have to live in, you have to travel this same road with these other people, and you have to get through this intersection in order to get home.
If you are an Apathist, you don't care. You're the person who is bouncing up and down in your seat and singing mutely to the song on the radio. It's doesn't matter that you're happy though, you're still not moving forward until the people in front of you do.
Now, if ALL the people in front of you are color-blind (or religious), you're spitting all over the windshield and screaming at the top of your lungs, "The light is green! Just go, you fucking idiots!" (I know, because I have been there and done that). It doesn't matter that you're an Atheist, see perfectly, and the rational thing to do would be to step on the gas when the light is green. You're not moving an inch until the other people on the road think God has told them to go forward.
-- Live from the traffic helicopter, this is JfZ ... LOL!
Honestly, though I sometimes go along with the epithet "atheist," it's not a very accurate depiction of my point of view. It's trying to define by the negative. I'm not theistic, so what am I? Apathetic? Nihilistic? Communist? Existentialist?
None of those. I'm a rationalist. In my case, atheism is a by-product of my rationalism.
So when the argument comes up, I usually try to point this out at some point. After all, the few true hard-core "atheists" are basically folks who are angry at the God they were taught as a kid, and are arguing against it. Deep down, that form of atheism is just a psychological reaction to their inbred religiousness.
Me, I don't care to argue religion (in person). I learned a long time ago you don't get anywhere, for example, quoting from the Bible to argue against religion. It's just bad tactics--playing into the hands of the irrationalists. Because they don't care if the Bible contradicts itself, or contains ideas, even rules, that are barbaric by modern standards, or that it is in many places a sexist, homophobic, racist, pro-violence text. They don't even care that "The Bible" isn't one book, but a series of books by many, sometimes unknown, authors--the name "Bible" comes from the Greek "ta biblia"--"the books." Plural form. If it derived from the singular, Christians would believe in "The Biblion." (I learned ancient Greek and translated bits of the New Testament in college. You want to know why The Bible spread so well? The New Testament was written mostly in layman's Greek--easy to read, easy to spread. Homer is quite a bit harder to translate, the famous Greek plays even tougher, and the philosophical texts of Plato, et al., are really, really nasty.)
So if I argue religion at all, it's always out of the context of "The Bible." Usually I ask them why they believe, then follow up with more questions, using a form of the Socratic method.
John Furie Zacharias October 5, 2004 04:02 AM PDT That's simply fascinating, Brandon. In reading your blog, I have thought about you as a rationalist, or logical. It's why I made the 'step on the gas' comment up there. When I did the write up, though, I thought atheist might better place you on one side of the spectrum I was trying to imagine and describe, with Duke, a vociferous* BAC, on the other side. Maybe you're a modern stoic :) The closest thing to formally learning anything about philosophy was when I read Meditations this summer and turned it into the Verissimus blog. I'm quickly out of my league trying to speak about philosophy.
In any event, I agree with you about arguing -- Duke and I had a fun go round about good and evil a few months back. It's difficult to remember my exact words (and it's too late for me to look it up and fact-check) but I think I remember making some comment like, "it's pointless to argue because, to the abject believer, faith always trumps logic and reason".
I had a little religious education growing up. I went to a mormon seminary class for several years during Jr high. I remember thinking that it was interesting, this mormon claim of finding another ancient text and what not. Obviously, mormons believe in having more than one book to read. Each year, we studied one: Old, New, BoM, D&C.
I gave it up about the time I found sex, drugs and rock-n-roll in high school. But, since religion and philosophy play such an important role for most people, I still find those things interesting and try to learn about different belief systems.
So. Wasn't Revelations written by John on Patmos? Could your college work shed some light on the christian eschatology? Was my feces joke too lame?
Did you understand what I was getting at with the color-blind traffic jam analogy?
(* I think Dubya confuses this word with ferocious, btw)