I hear the voice of rage and ruin

The fictional errata linked to in my last post included Good Omens which reminded me of something I read last night (I’ve just started reading Emergency). It said that 57% of Americans believe literally in the events described in the Book of Revelation and 20% of those believe it will happen in their lifetime.

That’s some pretty scary shit people believe is actually going to happen. Amongst other things, War, Famine, Pestilence and Death would ride forth, hail, fire and blood would fall on the Earth, a third of the oceans would turn to blood, and the Abyss would open unleashing a swarm of locusts commanded to pursue men who have not the seal of God on their foreheads (and when only 144,000 descendants of Jacob get the seal the chances of a free pass are significantly lower than those of successfully navigating an asteroid field).

Luckily the locusts won’t kill you, just make you feel like you’ve been stung by a scorpion for five months and you then have a one in three chance of being slain by an army of 200 million horsemen. If you make it through that then there are a couple of beasts, the seven last plagues (sores, death to the fish, rivers to blood, sunburn, darkness, rivers drying up and earthquakes/hailstones) followed by the Whore of Babylon.

Ultimately it all kind of works out, there’s a thousand years of rule by Jesus and his Saints before Satan escapes from the lake of fire to deceive the nations of the world, he gathers everyone around Jerusalem but then a fire of God comes down from heaven and consumes us all and Satan is cast into the lake of fire for good. Then everyone is resurrected and judged and there’s a new Heaven and Earth and I guess as long as you’ve been good you’re fine.

It just seems like a curious idea to have, the notion of a pre-determined destruction (even if followed by a resurrection/renewal). I’d be interested to see how the idea of an End Time or Apocalypse would work in terms of the ‘Religion as an Evolutionary Advantage‘ idea (Christianity not being the only belief system to have such an idea).

Obviously the ‘be good or you’ll suffer eternal damnation’ rule is handy for getting people to be nice to each other but we already have the idea that you’re judged when you die, is there a greater advantage to thinking that you might get burnt/poisoned/stung/slain, the world will be consumed by fire, everyone gets judged again and there’s a whole new world afterwards? It seems a little overkill (if you’ll pardon the pun).

To me the whole notion has overtones of either:

  • Telling a child if they don’t do X they won’t get Y but then they don’t do X and they get Y anyway (or in this unprovable case they assume they will) so we have to then make up another round of punishment/reward but with higher stakes to see if it’ll work this time (and I’m fairly sure it doesn’t work with kids). Or,
  • The whole world is going to get fucked up but it’s ok because we get a do-over – in the world’s current state I’d see this especially in an environmental sense – so as long as I’m a fairly moral individual even though I contribute to the world’s environmental ills as much as the next guy it’s fine because the world will be consumed by fire/water and afterwards we get a new one

It seems irrational that people can live in certainty and fear over something like this but not take any action over things like global warming, deforestation, overfishing or the water crisis.

Maybe when the world’s forests are consumed, our fish stocks are all gone, the sun scorches man and the rivers dry up we both get to say I told you so?

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