I remember several years back when news got out that a technology company was in the process of developing a tracking microchip to be implanted in animals. Not long after many preachers were claiming this new microchip would one day become "The Mark of the Beast." Such speculation is common in Christianity today. When the World Trade Towers fell, many were claiming that the battle of Armageddon was approaching. And now we have preachers who watch the news in the Middle East and then go to church Sunday morning and tell their congregations, "This was prophesied in the bible!" There are even websites you can visit that supposedly tell you the link between modern terror and the battle of Armageddon. If there's a change in weather patterns, a few hurricanes hitting the U.S in the same year, or a couple of severe earthquakes striking in the same time frame, you can expect someone to claim these events are signs of the end of the world.
Just an example of how outrageous this stuff can get: After the attack on the World Trade Towers, a friend of mine was convinced after hearing a preacher that the terror attack on 9/11 was a direct fulfillment of Revelation 18:2, which says, "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great." According to the preacher the word "fallen" was used twice to represent the collapse of each tower. Apparently this preacher didn't study his bible to understand that Babylon in this verse clearly refers to the ancient Roman Empire, and not the United States! And there were those who said that Iraq, which was once the ancient Babylonian empire, would soon rise up as the headquarters of the antichrist to rule the world with an iron fist in the Last Days. Well guess what, Saddam is dead, and Iraq is in shambles. So when a preacher stands up and says, "All the signs in the bible clearly point to the possibility that this generation will live to see the Second Coming," there's no need to get flustered. Every generation has made this claim since the time Christianity came into existence. Many today speculate that the antichrist will come out of the European Union, and in like manner, hundreds of years ago multitudes of Christians were claiming the Pope was the antichrist.
Whenever war breaks out or a military crisis arises, you can expect a revival of end-times excitement and speculation. World War II struck and people were claiming the end was near and that Hitler or Mussolini was the antichrist. The war ended and life went on. Until the Cold War and the nuclear arms race, when end-times fanaticism reached its peak, as millions of believers thought the end of the world would come in the form a nuclear holocaust. And of course there were plenty of preachers who pointed out specific bible verses which directly prophesied the use of nuclear weapons! The trend is starting to sound familiar isn't it? But the Cold War came to an end and life went on. There is a subtle danger to such end-time excitement, and it is this: When a disaster strikes, especially in the form of a major attack or war, there are many Christians who actually get somewhat excited deep down. Certainly they are not happy that people have suffered and died, but to many people, such disasters and wars are signs that they might soon be taken up into the sky to go to heaven (aka The Rapture). So even while people were mourning the tragedy of 9/11, certainly there were many who were quietly thinking to themselves, "The end is near, and I'm gonna be outta here when the rapture comes." The danger of such a view is also evident in light of our critical environmental issues, because why would an individual be seriously concerned about building a sustainable planet, if the world is supposedly going to come to an end soon? Sam Harris put it best when he said, "If an announcement flashed across the news today that an atomic bomb had just been dropped on Israel, even in the midst of the sadness, there would be a silver lining in that mushroom cloud, because to many it would be a sign that they are going home soon."
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)