Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The apocalypse industry

The apocalypse industry disgusts me. Playing on the fear and misguided beliefs on Christians, Muslims - even non-Abrahamic religions - these hucksters make big profits selling books, videos, even screen savers about an event they cannot possibly actually believe in, as they are making more money than they could possibly spend before the world ends per their predictions.

The weirdest of these predators are the people marketing to those who fear being left behind - even though, as Christians, those fraidy-cat folks should believe that they'll be floating up in the sky with the human manifestation of their super powerful, usually invisible friend, and it's only people like me, and other Atheists, who are going to be left behind to be tortured by UN troops or whatever. These fraudsters peddle camping stoves, fuel containers, generators, guns, ammo and other survivalist equipment to people who, even though they believe in a super powerful, usually invisible friend, also believe that super friend isn't going to protect them from the marauding Atheist cannibals that will be running around (and, really what kind of super friend is that?!).

Since the beginning of human history, humans have been predicting the end of humankind. Over thousands of years, some humans have seen the wars, natural disasters, famines and social changes of their present time as signs that the end is just around the corner. Never mind that there have always been wars, natural disasters, famines and social changes... And deciphering "Bible codes" or "Torah codes" or some other ancient text, has been done again and again over the centuries, always to fit what the decoders are seeing in their present time. People will tell you that Nostradamus predicted all sorts of big historical events - but only ever in hindsight. And that's oh-so-easy to do, to take a vague quatrain and frame it, interpret it, in such as way as to say, "See, it clearly says that Donnie Osmond is going to win on Dancing with the Stars."

Why do I care? Why does this bother me? Because, like most Atheists, I have compassion for my fellow humans, and, therefore, I do not like seeing humans lied to or exploited. I don't like to see people profiting from the fears and superstitions of others.

In addition, these fraudsters' activities can lead to tragedy: the mass suicide at Jonestown, Guyana. The mass murder committed by the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God in Uganda after the doomsday prophesies of its leaders failed to come true. The mass suicide and murders at Waco by the Branch Davidians. No one should be murdered, or coerced into killing themselves - including by religious folks who believe the end is nigh.

Learn more about how often different cultures and cults have declared it's all about to end. Start with the book The Last Days are Here Again: A History of the End Times by Richard Kyle. It's focused on Christian movements over time that have declared the world is about it end, but it's a good place to start your education about this practice when can also be found in Judaism, Islam, and even non-Abrahamic traditions, like Buddhisms. Educate yourself, and share that knowledge. Expect some push back from others who are stockpiling food and ammo. But in putting that knowledge out there, it's out there - there's no taking it back - and it often plants the seeds of doubt that can help bring people back from the brink of doing something stupid - and maybe, just maybe, lead to enlightenment.

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