1/31/2011 | Share this article:By WizenedSage (Galen Rose) ~
I submitted the following for the Letters-to-the-Editor page of a local weekly newspaper. It was not printed. Why? Well, I don’t know really, but my best guess is that I provided way too much evidence that Jesus didn’t know what the hell he was talking about, or . . . maybe the editor didn’t care for my calling religious superstition a menace. Most of my submissions do get published, but now and then, I guess I push just a little too hard. Anyway, I thought some of you might find it moderately entertaining.
The End Is Nigh!
Did you know that the end is nigh? No, really! This time it’s for sure, according to preacher Harold Camping, President of Family Radio. Camping says Jesus will return on May 21, 2011 and the world will end five months later on October 21. Billboards paid for by supporters of Family Radio are promoting the prediction in major cities like Nashville, Louisville, St. Louis and Detroit.
Of course, Camping is not the first to predict the end of the world. That has been done hundreds of times in just the past couple thousand years, and Jesus is famous for it. In Mark 13:30, after detailing events he believed would lead up to the end of the world, Jesus says, “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away before all these things take place.” So, Jesus predicted the end would come before all those of his own generation had died . . . 2,000 years ago. He makes it doubly clear that he meant his return and the end of the world would be SOON when he says in Matt 10:23, “When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel, before the Son of man comes.”
In fact, there are at least 20 passages in the New Testament in which Jesus or one of his followers declares the end of the world will be “soon.” It is one of the major messages of the New Testament. Here are just a dozen you can check out yourself: Mark 9:1, Mark 14:62, Rom 13:12, 1 Cor 7:31, Phil 4:5, 1 Matt 16:28, Hebrews 10:37, James 5:8, 1 John 2:18, Rev 1:1, Rev 3:11, Rev 22:6. (How the meek are to inherit the world if it’s about to end soon, is never made clear.)
Now some theologians have argued that to a god, to Jesus, a thousand years might be like a day, or “soon.” However, since the bible was obviously written for the instruction of man, and no man would interpret a thousand years to be “soon,” this argument can’t be taken seriously.
Since every one of those biblical passages cited above got it wrong, it should be obvious that the bible is not a reliable source of information concerning the end of the world. Then there is the common sense argument: if people have been repeatedly predicting the end of the world for thousands of years, and every single one of those predictions has been wrong, it makes little sense to think Harold Camping or anyone else is going to get it right. We are obviously dealing with the unknowable here. Yet, distressingly, according to a Pew Forum survey in 2006, 20% of Americans believe that Jesus will return to the earth in their lifetime.
But, why not just let people believe whatever they want to believe? Why do I care? The problem is that people act on their beliefs, and those actions affect the rest of us. If a person thinks the end of the world is imminent, why would she bother to go to college, or care anything about global warming, or saving endangered species? Why polish the brass on a sinking ship? Those who believe the end is near will ignore the world’s very real problems, and may even impede the efforts of those trying to solve those problems. We all pay a price for their failure to recognize superstition for the menace it is.