That Silent Certainty
For those of us dwelling on the side of reason, biblical prophesies of eschatology stir no fear of armies of angels descending to destroy the human race and cast into hell all nonbelievers, though those same prophesies used to provide potent imagery for reasonable men and women who once rallied against the U. S. and the Soviet arms race as it escalated during the Reagan years. Jonathan Schell, in The Fate of The Earth, exhibited for readers some of the ghastly apocalyptic horrors nuclear war would inflict on those who survived the initial blasts. His depiction of tormented “souls” milling about and waiting for nothing but radiation poisoning to finish them off imagines a Dantesque realm of destruction and suffering that should convince even the most militaristic hawks to eliminate nuclear weapons before they one day exterminate the human race.
However, this Saturday, May 21, we can all look forward to the beginning of the end of the world, courtesy of California preacher Harold Camping who has been broadcasting that date as the day the “rapture” will whisk heavenward those sufficiently faithful and consigned to eternal flames those undeserving and wicked. It’s not clear what time of day the event will kick off, but the date is signed, sealed, and all but delivered according to Camping and his followers. Their certainty of belief has driven many of them to forsake their own well being and their children’s. For instance, National Public Radio reported that Adrienne Martinez, a Camping faithful, gave up her plans to attend medical school, and with her husband travelled to New York to hand out fliers urging sinners and lost souls to repent. In
It’s bad enough when grown-ups believe such lunacy; but when they teach it to their children, or worse indoctrinate them with the creed that argues non-believers can only look forward to eternity spent roasting in hell, someone should rescue the young from the stupidly wicked notions of their parents. Some kids might be able to shrug off their parents’” end of the world” fanaticism, but the burden put on them by their parents must be overwhelming. A case in point is the Haddad Carson family. As reported in the New York Times, Abby Haddad and her husband, Robert, stopped saving money for their kids’ college and visited
The need to believe in a deity that envelops the faithful in a “rapturous” afterlife no doubt springs from the yearning to escape the painful and quite terrifying prospect of our inevitable death and subsequent decay once we are swallowed by the earth. But where does the desire to see others tormented for eternity by the most gruesome, and infinite tortures come from? Certainly, everyone wants justice to dispose of anyone whose crimes have warranted a just punishment. But the biblical literalists who aver that people who never heard of Jesus and others who question his divinity will experience unfathomable and infinite suffering betray simultaneously a sadistic and obsequious mentality that worships a totalitarian authority whose omnipotence and omniscience perpetually menace the faithful with threats of eternal torture.