xxxxRapture Mania: Bizarre Beliefs and
An Earth Manifesto publication by Dr. Tiffany B.
natural disasters are seen with increasing frequency in the world news these
days. Floods, tornados, hurricanes and
wild fires are occurring around the globe with record intensity. Many areas in the world are either being
adversely affected by harsh droughts or experiencing unusually heavy
rainfall. Earthquakes and tsunamis
shockingly kill people and cause extensive damages with seemingly unusual
frequency. Impressive volcanic eruptions
take place in Iceland or Java or Chile or other places around the Earth every
year. Record heat waves and “polar
vortex” cold spells are causing people to talk about the weather even more than
seems to be the new normal, and instant coverage by the media of every
development is magnifying the seeming epidemic nature of these
adversities. It was all but raining cats
and dogs in Hannibal Missouri the other day, and some religious folks say that
the end is near, as if it’s as likely as not that a plague of frogs will come
happening? It is as if we are becoming
strangers in a strange land. Some think
that these are signs from the LORD. This
essay explores this question, and associated ones, from the point of view of
religious people, and also from the perspectives of scientists, philosophers,
writers and artists. Close consideration
is given to the “Rapture Index” and its danger zone warnings, and to the whacko
preacher Harold Camping who made bizarre predictions in early 2011 that the
Biblical Rapture and the end of the world would take place later that year, for
The Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 Revisited
along the boundary between the African and the Eurasian tectonic plates of the
Earth’s crust caused a powerful earthquake in the Atlantic Ocean near the coast
of Portugal on the morning of November 1, 1755.
Terrible tragedy, anxiety and confusion followed this earthquake near
Lisbon. “Suspicious circumstances,
God!”, thought the masses, especially because the devastation took place on All
Saint’s Day when many of the truly faithful folks were in churches that
collapsed on them, killing maybe a thousand worshippers in the churches
alone. Theologians and philosophers at
the time speculated on the cause of the calamity, and many claimed that the
earthquake was a manifestation of divine judgment and retribution because Lisbon
had become one of the most opulent and decadent cities in Europe back
then. Perhaps God was angry that the
Portuguese naval fleet had helped Portugal become the first global empire in
history, and Portuguese conquistadores had ruthlessly exploited native peoples
and brought back great quantities of gold and other valuables minerals, spices
and such from its colonies.
Some among the
faithful wondered why God had struck the people of Portugal with such seeming merciless
vengeance. Could it have been due to the
slaughter of indigenous people in many foreign lands by the Portuguese? Moralizing judgmental fundamentalists
regarded the pleasures and indulgences found in Lisbon to be exceedingly
sinful, and religious authorities during the terrible Holy Inquisition were
still burning to death many Jews and heretics in Portugal and Spain and many
other countries at the time.
his famous short story Candide in
response to his disillusionment related to this terrible natural disaster. He was also acutely aware that other
calamities were taking place in the world in those days, like the bloody Seven
Years’ War that killed about a million people in Europe and in various European
colonies around the globe. Daunting
diseases were also common, and there were plenty of assorted grave inhumanities
of human beings to others, like those that have taken place since time
immemorial throughout recorded history.
explanations for natural disasters exert powerful influences over people’s
imaginations. Nonetheless, much better
and more probable scientific explanations exist, and they have considerable
advantages in providing us with more reasonable perspectives on how to actually
mitigate the risks of natural catastrophes and to prepare for inevitable
adversities. One main purpose of this
essay is to investigate important lessons contained in this debate, and to
advance knowledge that will be vital for people in the future.
history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.”
--- The English writer H.G. Wells
When H.G. Wells
wrote of education, he meant learning how to think critically and understand
accurately. He certainly did not mean
religious catechism or narrow indoctrination in conservative social, economic,
political or religious dogmas. Alert,
Texas textbook publishers!
"Fables should be taught as fables, myths as myths, and
miracles as poetic fancies. To teach
superstitions as truths is a most terrible thing. The child mind accepts and believes them, and
only through great pain and perhaps tragedy can he be in after years relieved
of them. In fact, men will fight for a
superstition quite as quickly as for a living truth -- often more so, since a
superstition is so intangible you cannot get at it to refute it, but truth is a
point of view, and so is changeable."
--- Attributed to the revered
“Lady Philosopher”, Hypatia of Alexandria, circa 412 CE
Some Observations from Shaky Ground
I again recall
the series of powerful earthquakes that struck in a seismic zone that stretches
south and west from New Madrid, Missouri back in 1811 and 1812. Let’s harken back to these events that caused
the mighty Mississippi River to flow backwards for a while. I love Henry Schoolcraft’s poetic
observations at the scary nature of these seemingly inexplicable events:
“The rivers they boiled like a pot of coals,
And mortals fell prostrate, and prayed for
in the area felt that perhaps the devil had come, and some reckoned that the
world must be coming to an end. It is
ostensibly natural for people to think supernatural forces are directing their
fates. Such superstitions tend to divert
our attention, however, from focal points of concern that are really more
important for our future well-being. We
should be more aware of the avoidable risks we are collectively taking, and of
the shortsighted and unsustainable nature of the lives we are leading -- and of
the best ways we should be dealing with these transcendent challenges.
of many types will happen again and again, so it is a bona fide good idea for us to be more sensibly prepared. We should make more committed efforts to
reduce the probable damages and loss of life when earthquakes strike by
strengthening building codes and investing in better emergency preparations. We
should try to mitigate risks associated with widespread flooding by
implementing zoning restrictions that prevent home-building and other real
estate developments in flood plains and high risk flood zones. We should give greater consideration and
priority to ecological precautionary principles that emphasize the value of
resource conservation, pollution prevention, and forest protections. We should also heed warnings of scientists
with regard to our profligate usages of fossil fuels and the large volumes of
carbon dioxide and methane emissions we are spewing into the atmosphere,
causing ominous disruptions in the global climate.
Risks related to
climate change are mounting, according to many studies, including the latest
assessment done by scientists at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
in March 2014. These risks include increasing
threats to food supplies, sustainable existence and peace, and they surely
should not be denied or ignored!
Our leaders in
businesses, governments and religious establishments would be well advised to
work together to protect the commons from depletion and harm, and to help
facilitate constructive change. We
should demand that these institutions act constructively and more fairly. These institutions serve people, so they
should indulge less in manipulating the populace in ways that are contrary to
the greater good. They should instead
make more contributions to a sustainable future by encouraging the conservation
of resources. The public should also
insist that more effective ways be found to prevent our nation from getting
into endless wars and costly military occupations of other nations, because
such acts of aggression make everyone less safe. And we should strongly support a commitment
to people in future years by agreeing to ratify a farsighted Bill
of Rights for Future Generations.
The Big News Story on May 22, 2011: Apocalypse Not Now!
The evangelical Christian Family Radio
preacher Harold Camping told a flock of followers that the End Times Rapture
would begin with a massive earthquake on Saturday, May 21, 2011. His church had sponsored thousands of
billboards around the world to advertise this supposed beginning of the end of
the world. Perhaps it would have been
appropriate if the kooky 89-year-old radio preacher had had a heart attack and
died on that date, proving conclusively that End Times will indeed come to us
all -- though probably not for everyone at once in the way predicted by
charlatans like Camping. Slightly
embarrassed at the error of his claims, Camping said in the wake of his wrong
prediction that he was “flabbergasted” that the world had not ended. Ya think?
is believing what you know ain’t so.”
--- Mark Twain
comedians and various humorists like Jon Stewart and Jay Leno had a field day
with the absurdity of the exceedingly simplistic worldviews of those who
fervently believe in Rapture End Times.
David Letterman naturally came up with a list of the “Top Ten Harold
Camping Excuses”. Like, “At 89, I can’t
remember how to operate the toaster.”
Very funny! In any case, one
clever humorist asked whether, after the Rapture, “can I have your stuff?” LOL!
did finally die in December 2013, so I guess he’ll be knocking on the gates of
Heaven hoping that God will see the passion behind his End Time predictions and
overlook all the hardships he had caused other people with his crazed,
erroneous and delusional prognostications.
Many superstitious people believe that
natural phenomena like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods and droughts are
all signs of an approaching end of the world.
This is patently ridiculous! Are
these folks loony? These are physical
processes in nature, not some expression of an angry God. Such events may cause calamities, but they
are not the result of some deity suddenly smiting people who happen to be
affected by these natural disasters.
Lightening bolts, earth tremors and tsunamis are not manifestations of
the inscrutable will of any wrathful God.
diseases are not punishments by God, and the indignities of aging and the
intensely poignant prospects of death are not repercussions of God’s eternal
vindictive punishment of Adam and Eve for their disobedience in the Garden of
Eden. Instances of spontaneous remission of a terminal
disease are not miraculous healings that happen because of the grace of
God. They involve mechanisms within our
bodies that are mysterious and almost miraculous in their own right. Healing in fact can be well encouraged by
making a healthy and transformative change in behaviors and beliefs. I recommend a couple of books that provide
cogent perspectives on better approaches to achieving good health: Dr. Andrew Weil’s Spontaneous Healing, and Bruce Lipton and Steve Bhaerman’s Spontaneous Evolution.
Modern scientific understandings give us
overwhelmingly convincing physical explanations for natural phenomena. Still, superstitious minds cling stubbornly
to archaic explanations and odd misconceptions about the world.
“Superstition is to religion what astrology is to
astronomy; the mad daughter of a
These daughters have
too long dominated the earth.”
Superstition and stupidity are not synonymous. Marlene Dietrich once said that superstitions
are habits, not merely foolish beliefs.
They are surely curious habits. A
vitally important aspect of this state of affairs is that superstitious people
are exceptionally vulnerable to being ruled by fanatics, so they tend to become
fanatics themselves. And such fanaticism
can be very dangerous.
It turns out that we human beings have lots
of bad habits other than superstitious beliefs.
Many people indulge in debt-financed consumerism and shop profligately
even when they cannot afford it. Most
people choose priorities that are materialistic, or oriented toward narrow
religious dogmas, instead of focusing their lives on more meaningful and
wholesome spiritual and humanistic priorities.
Many people choose to deny that human activities are causing
far-reaching risks of climate disruption.
We are also generally ignoring the fact that risks are increasing due to
rapidly increasing human numbers. These
trends are having deleterious impacts on vital ecosystems upon which our
well-being depends. The fact that the
prospects of all people in future generations are being rashly undermined lends
a vividly urgent dimension to this wrongheadedness.
“Never has the world seen a society so possessed
by material possessions and so consumed
Beyondananda, Spontaneous Evolution
All superstitions that lead charlatans to
predict an eminent Rapture event and a variety of terrible times of Tribulation
are summarized in the preposterously presumptuous Rapture Index website. This compilation of statistics supposedly
measures the speed with which we are “moving toward the occurrence of
pre-tribulation rapture.” A more
thorough analysis of the Rapture Index is made below, and a proposal is made
for a much more useful, intelligent and necessary gauge: a Sustainability
Index. Check it out online!
Voltaire, Harold Camping and Jonathan Swift
Voltaire was an 18th century Enlightenment
writer and philosopher who was a strong proponent of free thought and social
reform. He made many enemies by
criticizing both the religious and political establishments of his day. He ridiculed religion, theologians, dogma,
governments, intolerance, armies, and the philosophical optimism of the German
mathematician Gottfried Leibniz, who had postulated that “this is the best of
all possible worlds.” Voltaire said that
he had “never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: <Oh Lord, make my enemies
ridiculous.> And God granted it.” Ha!
Voltaire fought established religions and
the suspiciously self-serving idea that kings have God-given divine
rights. He felt that all people should
tolerate the religious beliefs of others, for otherwise many fanatics get
caught up in righteousness and hate and the perpetration of discrimination,
violence and genocide. Superstition can
figuratively set the whole world on fire, while in contrast insightful and
enlightened philosophies could help quench these flames of extremism. “On the whole,” Voltaire wrote, “the less
superstition, the less fanaticism, and the less fanaticism, the fewer
If May 21, 2011 was Judgment Day, the
judgment is in: those who prophesy Rapture End Times are simply making it
up. Give us a break! The apocalyptic “prophecy industry” is big,
it turns out, because people are eager for simplistic understandings, and many
people are gullible or ignorant. Also,
people who promote apocalyptic visions make lots of money by capitalizing on
people’s fears and insecurities. Harold
Camping’s Family Radio raised over $100 million by using false prophecies and
scare tactics. There is sure no scarcity
of charlatans and fools and suckers and other gullible victims in the world!
Make no mistake
about it: Harold Camping was one in a
long line of self-aggrandizing, money questing, and attention-seeking religious
folks who make prophecies that are really a form of religious fraud.
“Prophecy is a good line of business, but it
is full of risks.”
--- Mark Twain
even startled Christendom by asserting some years ago that “the Church Age has
come to an end”. He advised the faithful
to flee their churches, or else become one of the damned. The Holy Spirit, he claimed, can no longer be
found in churches. Aha! Is that so?
I’ll be damned!
Sometimes it is
valuable to seek literary illumination to more viscerally understand vital
issues. So here is one of my favorite
perspectives on dishonesty and fraud, as seen by Jonathan Swift, one of the
most famous satiric writers in the English language. He is best known for his masterpiece Gulliver’s Travels, a fanciful satire on
human nature that was published under a pseudonym in the year 1726. Gulliver’s
Travels features a protagonist who makes four voyages to fictional exotic
lands where people like tiny Lilliputians and giant Brobdingnagians live.
(the Lilliputians) look upon fraud as a greater crime than theft, and therefore
seldom fail to punish it with death; for
they allege that care and vigilance, with a very common understanding, may
preserve a man's goods from thieves; but
honesty has no fence against superior cunning: and since it is necessary that
there should be a perpetual intercourse of buying and selling, and dealing upon
credit, where fraud is permitted or connived at, or hath no Law to punish it,
the honest dealer is always undone and the knave gets the advantage."
The Dangers of Being Gullible Travelers
John Fowles wrote in The Aristos:
“The more absolute death seems, the more authentic life becomes.” He points out that “the driver of a
high-explosives truck who does not believe in a life after death drives more
carefully than one who does.” This casts
a bright light on an important issue.
Those who believe in an End Times Rapture are inclined to accept less
responsibility for the ecological health of our home planet, and this is
terribly wrong-headed. Bill Moyers wrote
a provocative article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune in January 2005 in which
he pointed out that many fundamentalist Christians believe that “environmental
destruction is not only to be disregarded, but actually welcomed -- even
hastened -- as a sign of the coming apocalypse.” That attitude is madness! The full text of Bill Moyers’ illuminating
article is appended at the end of this essay for its valuable insights.
It is risky for everyone when millions of people gullibly believe that
some sort of apocalyptic End Times are approaching, and that the return of
Jesus Christ and a Biblical Judgment Day is coming soon. It is a form of dangerous ethnocentric
supremacism to proclaim that God will reward faithful folks in a time of
triumph for those who believe, but smite the rest of humankind with catastrophic tribulation because of their skepticism or other “sins”. I personally prefer a myth that would allow
believers to crow about their faith without threatening every other being on
the planet with judgmental condemnation and suffering and tribulation and death
and eternal adversity!
said many times that we can expect delusional beliefs to rise in proportion to
hardships we experience. That’s exactly what’s happening.”
--- James Howard
Kunstler, The Long Emergency: Surviving
the End of Oil, Climate
Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century
Millions of people cling to narrow religious dogmas, and this is, in some
ways, a barbarous waste of moral energy.
John Fowles stated in The Aristos
that such misguided thinking is “like keeping ramshackle water mills on a river
that could serve hydroelectric dynamos.”
Outcomes that are much more positive could be achieved if these
formidable energies, and the enormous amounts of time and money devoted to
them, were to be redirected into more wholesome and providential channels. Let us begin to give more attention and
concern to those things that really merit it, rather than harboring
superstitions and expressing deep biases and creating needless conflicts.
Clearly this is not the best of all possible worlds. After all, there are many ways that our
economic and political systems could be fairly and significantly improved. And we could certainly do a better job of
protecting the environment by giving a higher priority to that good goal. The corrupting influence of Big Money could
be diminished in our political system, and this would lead to better prospects
for workers and the general public and people in future generations.
Increasing extremes of economic security between the Few and the Many are
contrary to the founding principles of our democratic republic. It is not acceptable to allow inequities to
increase to more stark extremes in our economy and our legal system. We should stop allowing environmental
injustices and intergenerational inequities to grow, because these unfair
developments undermine our democratic republic and reduce the well-being of
millions of individuals who are adversely affected.
expressed the hope in his famous Gettysburg Address that the great American
experiment in governance “of the people, by the people, for the people, shall
not perish from the earth.” Throughout
history, democracies have ended by being overthrown in military coups or in
authoritarian takeovers like that of Adolph Hitler after a suspicious fire
damaged the Reichstag building in Berlin in February 1933. But there is another primary threat to
democratic governance that is found in what we are experiencing in the U.S.
today: the rise to ascendancy of
oligarchy, or government dominated by a relative few. Oligarchy and plutocracy involve rule by the
rich, and they are enabled by corporatism, institutionalized bribery, corrupt
politics, violations of rules of law, and the undermining of the independence
of the judiciary by shrewd ideological fundamentalists.
A society is much better off with fairly shared prosperity than with a
narrower prosperity jealously hoarded by the influential few. It is immoral for privileged people to try to
engineer a monopoly on leisure time for themselves while insisting that all
workers either redouble their efforts or be fired.
We are foolishly allowing ourselves to be
collectively distracted by far-reaching conflicts over whose jealous God is the
true Almighty one. There are much more
serious issues confronting us. Competing
partisan theories about what form of “Santa Claus” generosity is best to
achieve political ascendancy are causing political paralysis. Should we be
providing more government benefits, or low tax rates for those with the highest
incomes? Providing both, as we have been
doing for many years, is a bad plan, because it involves irresponsibly
mortgaging future generations.
Meanwhile we are figuratively fiddling
while the potentials for increasingly serious economic, social and
environmental disasters rise before us.
Important insights into these developments are contained in the Earth
Manifesto essay, Sad Implications of the
Two Dueling Santa Claus Strategies in Political Economics. Check it out!
Hope Glimmers on
recently claimed that “Hope is in the end of days.” This is absurd, folks! Hope is to be found in making this world
fairer, safer and more sustainable, NOT in placing our hopes in another
hypothetical world after we are dead. It
is a flimsy and pathetic hope to rationalize personal hardships and extreme
social inequities and ecological destruction in the real world, and to place
our bets on a peachy keen imagined afterlife for a select few in some alternate
realm that has no good evidence whatsoever of existing.
The “end of the
world” is a myth that can be best understood as a metaphorical parable rather
than something that will actually occur.
The end of the world will, in a literal sense, take place for each
living thing when it dies. To confuse
our own mortal end with an imagined God-smiting-the-world end for all human
beings is a preposterous belief. It is a
bizarre echo of the biblical fable of a global flood. Biblical literalists promulgated this belief,
thinking that God really did cause it to rain for 40 days and 40 nights because
‘He’ was disgusted with mankind’s wickedness and evil ways. In this story, waters prevailed exceedingly
upon the earth, covering all the mountain tops and drowning all living things
except for those saved by 600-year-old Noah on an ark he’d built of gopher wood
in accordance with God’s specifications.
Did even the fishes and amphibians die in the flood waters?! This global inundation in Genesis should
really be seen as a parable, not an actual event.
ridiculed those who believe the Bible is literally true in Letters from the Earth. He
had reckoned that even if it rained 10 times more heavily than ever before
recorded on Earth -- say 10 feet a day -- for 40 days and 40 nights, it would
just submerge every hill 400 feet high.
“At last the Ark soared aloft and came to rest on the top of Mount
Ararat, 17,000 feet above the valley …”
Ha! Mark Twain was quite the
card. People who believe that the
stories in the Bible are literally true, on the other hand, are rather crazy
Imagine a world
in which rigid religious dogmas held less sway.
After all, there is a deep truth in the observation made by Stephen F.
“I contend we are both atheists; I just believe in one fewer god than you
do. When you understand
dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss
All nations and peoples really ought to
support the freedom of religion and a robust separation of church and state,
and the Golden Rule, and “Live and let live” fairness principles. Or else,
“… the curse of Allah will be upon the
disbelievers.” … “And for those who disbelieve
will be the fire of Hell.”
The Quran, 2:89 and 35:36
Imagine if even a small portion of the time and energy currently devoted
to misguided theologies were to be dedicated to a study of good ideas like
those found in the Earth Manifesto.
Here’s hope! I personally
recommend such a grand re-allocation of priorities. Check out, for example, all the good
proposals in Common Sense Revival and
Part Four of the Earth Manifesto online.
This is What It’s
In his story
about a young caricature of a character named Candide, Voltaire set up a
reverberating contrast between Dr. Pangloss, who professes the belief that
“This is the best of all possible worlds”, and the innocently simple-minded
Candide, who suffers a shockingly calamitous cavalcade of every imaginable type
of hardship, perfidy and disaster.
The “glass is
half full” philosophical optimism of Dr. Pangloss has a contrasting “glass is
half empty” counterpart: philosophical
pessimism. Profound, pervasive and
sometimes seemingly random injustices occur in the world, along with
circumstantial happenstances in life, and they can be rudely tragic and
abruptly calamitous. This gives
philosophic pessimism fertile soil for growth, and it provides fodder for
“confirmation biases” in despairing minds.
believers invest their hopes in an illusion that they will enjoy a better life
after the end of their one-and-only life on Earth in all of eternity. This is really a kind of extreme desperation
and abandonment of hope in life.
“Don’t just complain about the weather, do
something about it.”
A valuable third
mode of philosophic understanding gives sensible people a better kind of hope
-- a hope that is capable of really changing the world in positive ways. This hope can contribute to our helping
create a truly better life on Earth for everyone, sometime soon, and not only
after we are dead. This philosophy is
known as “meliorism”. It recognizes that
our world is NOT the best of all possible worlds, and that conditions
and circumstances could actually be made significantly better for people alive
today and for the prospects of those to be born in the future. Positive change could easily be effected by
implementing overall win-win solutions that exist for almost every
To achieve this
better world, we should strive for fairer understandings, and give other people
greater respect by collaborating together to boldly actualize this better
world. The best solution to any problem
is arguably to be found in the clearest and broadest understanding of the
nature of the problem, and in the most accurate assessment of all the
consequences of various courses of action.
Those who put
their hopes in a fictitious end-of-the-world tend to be tacitly willing to
accept the inequities and rationalized injustices of this world. This makes them a kind of ultimate
philosophical pessimist whose worldviews and convictions and social “conservatism”
generally work to oppose and obstruct and circumvent the better world that is
within our grasp. Clarity of
comprehension and the will to demand positive change and a fairer political
system would help ensure that these positive changes would be made. The big challenge is to reconcile the competing
goals of those who believe in selfish individualism and those who recognize the
overarching value of healthier communities.
Only by uniting in the commendable quest to achieve greater good goals
will we be able to overcome the staunch opposition of those who are invested in
the entrenched status quo.
is extremely difficult to accomplish.
Why isn’t it easy to achieve?
Primarily because of those who stand in the path of this change,
including greedy wealthy people who jealously protect their privileges and
reactionary conservatives and people on the Religious Right who oppose adaptive
change. What we think and believe
affects our world in far-reaching ways, so we should evaluate our understandings
more wisely, and we should focus our collective energies on goals that are
fairer and more sustainable and more consistent with concepts of peaceful
choose to steep themselves in misconceptions, misunderstandings and
denial. I prefer to seek a potential for
more salubrious solutions, as recommended throughout the Earth Manifesto.
A Digression on the Genesis of Beliefs
perceptions arise from three primary sources:
inherited instincts and propensities in our subconscious minds, and our
memories and interpretations of personal experiences, and our conscious
thoughts. Neuroscientists, using EEG
brainwave tests, have discovered fascinating facts about our brain activities
and the various frequencies they operate in.
These brain frequencies range from low Delta and Theta frequencies to
higher ones in Alpha, Beta and Gamma waves.
Children under the age of six years old are powerfully affected by
influences that tend to program them because their brains operate only in the
Delta and Theta ranges of brain wave activity.
In these states, the brain cannot discriminate between truth and
fiction, or think critically, or filter out misperceptions. This is one reason why beliefs in Santa
Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and a personal God are easily inculcated
dogma, prejudices and fears can be easily implanted in the minds of young
children because of this neuronal nature of their young brains. A principal reason that many religions insist
adult believers in their dogmas should reproduce without limit is to ensure a
self-perpetuating supply of new believers.
Opposition to contraception basically operates as one of the few good
recruiting tools for gaining adherents who will believe in mythical stories and
absolutist doctrines. This is much
easier than trying to convince an adult whose brain is operating in higher
brain frequencies that there is absolute truth in improbable and ostensibly
absurd myths and doctrines.
only significant group of adults who convert to a different religious faith
than the one they are born into is those who are “born again” believers. These people make radical religious
conversions, and they often do so in times of personal crisis or alcoholic
interludes, or out of fear, intense inner turmoil, despair, or a powerful need
to belong. During periods of fear,
frustration and weakness like this, the brain operates out of reactive
mind-sets, and higher frequency brain waves are suppressed.
Origin of the Rapture Theory
Millions of Christian believers adhere to the dangerous and improbable
idea of an End Times Rapture. Oddly,
this theory is not found in the Bible.
The Rapture theory was formulated from some early prophecies in the Bible
that concerned a “second coming” of Jesus Christ. In The
Gospel According to Saint Matthew, the disciples of Jesus asked on the
Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, “… what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of
the end of the world? And Jesus answered
and said unto them, take heed that no man deceive you.” This advice in Matthew 24:4 is pretty
good! Verily I say unto you, Harold
Camping and people of your ilk, stop deceiving people with your delusions,
make-believe and fear mongering! (Note: Harold Camping did stop, since he died in
The New Testament of the Bible says in Matthew 24:6-14 that there shall
be wars and famines and pestilences and earthquakes, and false prophets, and
that iniquity shall abound, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached
in all the world …; and then shall the end come.”
A long line of charlatans and other false prophets have been purveying
this idea of coming End Times. William
Miller, for instance, was a Baptist preacher in the 19th century who used Bible
prophecies to concoct a prediction that the world would end on October 22,
1844. Some of his followers in the
Hannibal area actually abandoned their crops and stores, put on long white
robes, and gathered at Lover’s Leap for the advent of the terminal spectacle,
only to be ultimately disappointed.
There are no reports that any of these gullible “Millerites” threw
themselves off this promontory bluff like local legends say an Indian maiden
had done long ago when she was disappointed in love.
When the predicted end did not actually come to pass in 1844, a “Great
Disappointment” befell many believers who had given blind allegiance to this
false prophet. The Millerites were
bewildered and disillusioned, and felt a sense that psychologists today would
describe as “cognitive dissonance.” When
fervently held expectations are dashed, even though they are of terrible times
involving tribulations and widespread calamities, it can lead believers to a
state of disappointment, anxiety and confusion.
Generally, when such errors of belief are confronted with a sudden clear
contradiction, people change their convictions.
Not so for old Harold Camping! He
was apparently too stubborn-headed, so he obstinately refused to admit the rash
error of his alarmist certitudes and he merely changed his prediction of the
date the Rapture would take place from May 21 to October 21, 2011. And guess what? That too did not come to pass.
If people seriously believed the end would have occurred on that date,
shouldn’t they have all partied until then like there would be no
tomorrow? Hmmm … actually, the way we
human beings are treating the Earth’s providential ecosystems, we ARE acting as
if there will be no tomorrow! We seem
committed to continuing to behave rashly in the face of growing indications
that human numbers already exceed a sustainable carrying capacity and are
entering stages of ecological overshoot.
We also seem committed to adding huge amounts to the national debt to
keep up the regressive scheme of giving low tax rates to the highest income
earners and the wealthiest people.
When the world did not end once again on October 21, 2011, Harold
Camping should have recognized it as a revelation, and he should have admitted
his delusions and devoted his Family Radio to more honest and auspicious
purposes. This honorable course of
action would have provided a measure of restitution for all the chagrin,
hardship and harm he caused to his followers around the world.
guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.”
Many observers had scoffed in 1844 when that other attention-seeking
prognosticator, William Miller had made his outlandishly absurd claims, and the
scoffing was even more widespread in 2011 after the Harold Camping
debacle. In the wake of Camping’s
erroneous and ridiculously nonsensical predictions, it would have been a good
idea for the faithful to have pondered the probability that a 2,000-year-old
book could possibly have greater foresight than modern scientists about likely
future developments. Today, we have much
more insightful understandings of the nature of the world, and of the forces of
causation, than people did in ancient times.
We also have much greater comprehension of the nature of real global threats
that face humanity.
Some things are predictable.
Others are not. The fate of the world is unfolding, one moment at a
time. More than 2,000 years’ worth of
moments have unfolded since the supposed word of God was revealed in the Bible
story. The ultimate outcome of this
eternal unfolding of earthly existence will not resemble the archaic and
simplistic caricature of End Times as predicted by religious authorities.
The Rapture is a cartoonish prognostication that can be seen to be a
tidy little sublapsarian allegory of an apocalyptic vision of humankind fallen
in the Garden of Eden and in eternally existential need of salvation because
Adam and Eve disobediently tasted of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good
and Evil. This Biblical parable also
tells us that God wiped out all of humanity in a great flood because of their
wickedness, except for a few of the elect on Noah’s ark, and today the faithful
await salvation by believing that Jesus will physically return for a repeat
demonstration of God’s wrath, and he will spare them if and only if they
Since people are enamored with prophecies, I’ll make some. The world is not going to end. The number and severity
of natural calamities, however, will continue to increase as we crowd more
people onto the planet while simultaneously squandering resources and
ramping-up the amount of pollution and wastes we produce. Disruptions of normal weather patterns and
sea levels will intensify as greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere. Eventually,
humankind will become extinct, just like the 99.9% of all species of life that
have ever existed. Hopefully, this will
be far, far into the future!
The fossil record indicates that the
average species of life throughout evolutionary history has survived for about
5 million years before becoming extinct.
Our species has been around for about 150,000 to 200,000 years, so we
have a really long way to go just to reach average. And we are likely to never make it even
another 1,000 years unless we honestly begin to think longer term and act in
smarter ways that are more truly consistent with the ecological greater good.
The Moody Blues sing about A Question of Balance: “ I’m looking for a miracle in my life
…” A better balance is surely needed in
human affairs, and good miracles are appealing and worthy of our hopes. Many religious hopes, however, are full of
angry, jealous, vindictive, glory-craving gods and a passel of odd stories like
the Biblical God’s gruesome guilt-inducing sacrifice of “His” divine son,
nailed to a cross, to atone for our sins. This salvation-promising, believe-it-or-else
eternal damnation fable has been used by enterprising souls for centuries to
manipulate and take advantage of the faithful.
A prophesized Rapture event that features a cruelly violent,
anti-well-wishing and terrible fate for almost all of humanity seems colossally
inconsistent with the nice Bible advice:
“Love thy neighbor.”
It can be seen clearly that mankind has put God to many curious uses,
and that churches have strayed rather far from honorable spiritual roots. “Lord, Come Quickly”, cries the faithful
chorus, bizarrely hoping for an ultimate Pyrrhic triumph of their beliefs.
When we divert our attention and energies
away from vitally important things by believing mythic prophecies of End Times,
we insidiously undermine efforts to undertake smarter priorities that would
help us comprehensively deal with the real dangers we collectively face. Divisive alarmism over fancied
improbabilities is a form of distraction from the need to come together to
reasonably cope with more real and urgent threats to our collective well-being.
Devoid of all
delusions save those of observation, experience and reflection.”
Ambrose Bierce in his sardonic Devil’s
Real Dangers, not Imaginary Ones!
Rapture believers urge us to believe in
exaggerated probabilities of a mythical catastrophic end of the world. This faith can contribute to a paralyzing
“doomsday fatigue” and divert our attention from recognizing our need to
address much more real existential threats to our well-being and survival.
The most serious global threats to
humanity, other than a widespread nuclear war, are probably the potential for
abrupt changes in the climate due to deforestation and anthropogenic greenhouse
gas emissions into the atmosphere.
Climate disruptions are already contributing to intense floods, severe
droughts, powerful tornados and cyclones and hurricanes, more heat waves and
wildfires, shifting polar vortex cold snaps, crop failures, coral bleaching,
melting glaciers, disappearing ice caps and sea level rises. These damaging developments are not being
caused by God or Allah or some divine being that is angry with us; we are doing this to ourselves! And we are not only doing it to ourselves,
but to every unborn child to come, and to every species of life on Earth.
These are real dangers, not imaginary
ones. The longer we delay making
courageous efforts to deal effectively with associated issues, the more severe
and costly the consequences will be, and the longer we delay, the harder it
will become to solve the problems or adapt to changing conditions.
Bill McKibben, the founder of the global climate campaign 350.org, recently wrote a satirical
article about climate change deniers titled Keep
Calm and Carry On. Since this
editorial is well worth reading, I have appended it to the end of this essay
(on page 146), following the text of the aforementioned article by Bill
Moyers. Read them both! Or for a cogent perspective, watch a
compelling YouTube video by Stephen Thompson that contains the words to
McKibben’s op-ed that are spoken while real images of occurring natural disasters
High atop the Mauna Loa volcano on the Big
Island of Hawaii, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has
been continuously measured for more than 56 years. In this period of time, the concentration of this
greenhouse gas has increased from about 315 parts per million (ppm) to over 400
ppm. Measurements made at the Mauna Loa
Observatory are so sensitive that they show annual fluctuations as carbon
dioxide is used up in the summertime by forests and plants in the northern hemisphere. It turns out that the majority of the world’s
forests are found on land masses in the northern hemisphere, so when it is
summer there, robust photosynthetic activities cause the amount of carbon
dioxide in the atmosphere to be measurably diminished. This trend reverses during the winter in the
northern hemisphere. The overall trend,
however, has been a net increase year after year after year, due to the
billions of tons of carbon dioxide that we human beings are pouring into the
atmosphere as a result of our combustion of fossil fuels.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change estimates that this concentration of carbon dioxide will increase by the
year 2100 from the current 400 ppm to anywhere from about 550 ppm to over 950
ppm. The effects of such large increases
will be to make climate disruptions much, much worse. They will also cause sea levels to rise
significantly, flooding islands and coastal areas worldwide and causing
millions of people to become environmental refugees.
Scientists have been warning for years that
global warming associated with these increases in greenhouse gases will cause
more weather extremes. And sure enough,
we’re already experiencing epic episodes of flooding, intense storms, droughts,
wildfires, and both unusually hot and cold weather almost everywhere on Earth.
A global ecological collapse could result
from “positive feedback loops” and “threshold effects” of human activities
during the lifetimes of people alive today.
It is downright stupid to ignore the warnings of scientists in this
regard. We need to think ahead, and do a
much better job of planning ahead. A
prudent regard for the interconnectedness of Earth’s ecological systems could
help us begin to mitigate the extreme changes in weather patterns that our
aggregate activities will cause.
This is crucial
to our future well-being. The human race
has doubled its aggregate demands on the natural world since the 1960s. Our global “carbon footprint” has increased
by more than one-third in the past 12 years.
We are using renewable natural resources at a rate 50% higher than they
are naturally generated. Projections of
current “business as usual” trends reveal that we will need the equivalent of
two planet Earths by the year 2030 to meet our aggregate annual demands. Obviously, there is only one planet Earth.
These trends are clearly unsustainable. It is foolish to damage Earth’s providential
ecosystems and rashly deplete resources with wanton wastefulness, and to
hyper-stimulate our consumption through the shortsighted expediency of
stimulative deficit financing.
We surely should be more willing to
collaborate together to solve complex global problems, as Jeffrey Sachs
cogently points out in Common Wealth:
Economics for a Crowded Planet. Sachs
provides some insightful, incisive and intelligent proposed solutions to global
problems in this book.
Evangelism for protecting the ecological
commons would be a far better way to direct our passions than obsessing over
purported God-sanctioned religious supremacist triumphalism and a tumultuous
end-times-rapture for believers, coupled with a terrible condemnatory cataclysm
for all others.
Typhoon Shakes Up the Status Quo
growing clamor is erupting about “climate injustices” involved in climate change. Poorer countries are suffering extremely
costly damages for climate catastrophes like the devastating typhoon that
killed thousands of people in the Philippines in November 2013 and the
unprecedented power of the cyclone that blew across Vanuatu in March 2015. Threats of rising sea levels also
disproportionately affect nations that are not big contributors to greenhouse
gas emissions, like Bangladesh and many low-lying islands in the Pacific Ocean.
climate change conferences have been taking place every year since 1995. They began after an international
environmental treaty was signed during the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. That treaty led to the creation of a
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to "stabilize greenhouse gas
concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous
anthropogenic interference with the climate system".
to doing something about this growing global problem is strong, so the
challenge is enormous. Emotions are
running high, especially within the Group of 77 developing nations that was
established in 1964 (it currently includes 134 countries). These nations are so poor that natural
disasters are posing particularly extreme hardships.
developing countries have a good argument when they assert that richer
developed nations have a moral obligation to shoulder more of the costs of
climate disasters in their countries.
These growing costs are related to intensifying typhoons, hurricanes,
tornadoes, coastal flooding and wild fires, along with disappearing arable
lands and creeping desertification. It
is rich countries, after all, that have spewed the most emissions into the
atmosphere in the last century, and thereby contributed most to the mounting
cope most effectively with these challenges, some people fairly propose the
creation of a climate disaster insurance fund.
Others advocate a Green Climate Fund with at least $100 billion in
annual contributions. This is a modest
amount, considering that Super Storm Sandy in the U.S. alone cost an estimated
$60 billion. The most sensible plan
would be to require an assessment on all global sales of gasoline, coal and
natural gas to finance such a fund.
global emissions continue to rise. This
is why the United Nations Environmental Program is warning that immediate
action must be taken to reduce emissions enough to limit the rise in average
global temperatures to 2 degrees Centigrade (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above
preindustrial levels. “That is the
maximum warming that many scientists believe can occur without causing
potentially catastrophic climate change.”
the biggest emitters of carbon dioxide are China, the United States, India,
Russia, Japan, Germany and Iran. A different
picture emerges in a ranking of the biggest emissions when calculated on a
per-person basis. Qatar, Kuwait, Brunei,
Oman, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates top this list, and the U.S. is 12th,
Russia is 22nd, Japan is 37th, China is 63rd, and India is 136th. And an even different picture would be
revealed by an analysis of which countries have emitted the most greenhouse
gases in the past 25 years, causing the concentration of carbon dioxide in the
atmosphere to increase from 350 ppm to 400 ppm.
say that the Philippine typhoon must have been a sign from God, being that it
came at the same moment that an international climate change conference was
taking place in Warsaw, Poland. Whether
God may have sent this message or not, Mother Nature is definitely experiencing
more extreme weather events than usual, as judged by a sharp increase in the
total annual costs of natural disasters in the past few decades. More people are also in harm’s way on the planet
than ever before, so the increasing numbers of human beings plays a distinct
role in causing costs to spike.
poor developing countries make a convincing case that they should receive
compensation from rich nations to help them make their economies greener, and
to help them adapt to climate shifts, and to cover costs of damages caused by
warming temperatures. An even more
convincing case can be made that green taxes and incentives should be put into
place in countries worldwide to modify people’s behaviors in salubrious
directions. Such incentives should be
structured to generate funding that will help protect rainforests, those lungs
of the planet that in a healthy state help absorb some of the carbon dioxide we
are rashly spewing into the atmosphere.
Climate Change Perspectives from Another Shrewd
Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma has called the threat of catastrophic global
warming “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.” In defending this contention, he asserted
that “man-induced global warming is an article of religious faith.” This is religious faith?
The Senator is a
religious fundamentalist, and his eagerness to let his Christian religion
inform his worldviews makes his opinions deeply suspect. He wrote a book charging that climate change is a hoax. Human influenced climate change is
impossible, he declares, because “God’s still up there.” He cited a passage in the Bible (Genesis
8:22) to claim that it is “outrageous” and arrogant for people to believe that
human beings are “able to change what He is doing in the climate”. So Inhofe basically says he believes that
spewing more than 30 billion tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere every
year could not possibly have greenhouse-like effects. LOL!
James Inhofe became chairman of the influential Senate Environment and
Public Works Committee in January 2015, and yet he is the most notorious
opponent of taking reasonable actions to mitigate the risks resulting from the
aggressive exploitation of fossil fuels. He consistently marches lockstep with the
far-right party line, and his climate change opinions deny the findings of the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the vast preponderance of experts
that reveal human activities are unambiguously contributing to disruptions of
normal climate conditions.
fundamentalists throw any sense of responsibility for the ethical stewardship
of Creation to the winds by castigating climate change scientists. But their own fervent convictions are driven
by narrow self-interest, not by attempts to honestly understand and deal with
the real trends.
motives are suspect in light of overwhelming scientific evidence that
disruptions in the world weather patterns are being caused by increasing
concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. His biggest campaign donors are oil, gas and
electricity industries that profit from large subsidies. These industries also benefit from giant
corporations being allowed to externalize costs of pollution and carbon
emissions onto society. Senator Inhofe’s
conflicts of interest make his pious denial of the scientific consensus on
climate disruptions extremely dubious and filled with hypocrisy. The League of Conservation Voters has given
him the lowest possible score on issues related to the environment, and one
journalist has called him “the dumbest man in the Senate.” LOL!
“Convictions are more dangerous enemies
of truth than lies.”
Senator Inhofe is
one of the most reactionary members of a group that has been instrumental in
conducting what journalist Chris Mooney has called “the Republican War on
Science.” A jury of objective observers
would be obligated to conclude that Inhofe is a dishonest huckster. Senator Ted Cruz, regarded as one of the
smartest Republican politicians in the Senate, has views that are influenced by
his dangerously theocratic Christian Dominionist ideas, and he too is a crass political
opportunist who distorts scientific knowledge and avoids responsible action.
Not a single
solitary scientist atop Mauna Loa, all of whom are intimately aware of the
ominous trends of increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, would agree
with Republican politicians that there is no warming effect caused by spewing
billions of tons of heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere
each year. Not a single one of them
would say that it is a good idea to simultaneously cut down vast swaths of
forests around the globe. Since trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere
through the process of photosynthesis, cutting them down diminishes the amount
of carbon dioxide absorbed. Furthermore,
carbon is released into the atmosphere when wood decays or is burned.
Denials of human
impacts on climate disruptions are very odd.
It is as if faithful preachers and corrupt politicians have entered a
large greenhouse and felt that it is warmer inside, and have asserted with
absolute certainty that the explanation for this phenomenon is that God, in all
his marvelous glory and unfathomable purposes, is demonstrating great wonders
and judgments by sustaining the hot air in the greenhouse through His
inexplicable will alone.
Mark Twain, if he
were alive today, would be scribbling cynical gales of laughter at the colossal
folly of climate change deniers and the corrupt politicians who are intent on
keeping the United States a grudging head-in-the-sand follower on the
global stage instead of a bold leader in smarter incentives for
conservation, green energy alternatives, and protections of forests around the
globe. We should be moving in the
direction of independence from our addiction to fossil fuels for our energy needs,
and we should be leading the world to limit greenhouse gas emissions and make
sensible investments in efforts to adapt to the risks of natural disasters that
will be caused by the havoc of accelerating changes in weather patterns
worldwide. A more thorough discussion of
this critical topic is contained in Climate
Change Considerations, Carrying Capacity, and Ecological Overshoot.
Germinating Views on the Phenomenon of Denial
Surprising coincidences of occurrences sometimes take place. Consider this one. A famous book that was written in 1973,
titled Limits to Growth, was launched
into the public consciousness with the then-surprising declaration that there
are limits to resources. For some
reason, this idea came as a shock to many people, and shrill denials soon
followed. By remarkable coincidence,
doggone if 1973 wasn’t the exact same year that the long predicted peak of oil
production from domestic reserves took place in the U.S. Persons familiar with King Hubbert’s
prediction about Peak Oil production from U.S. domestic oil reserves will
appreciate the sensational extent to which scientific expertise is often
capable of triumphing over ignorance, delusion and self-serving denial. King Hubbert’s calculations and forecast had
been greeted with rancorous skepticism and derision in the 1950s.
Why is it that so many “conservatives” deny the costs and
consequences of climate change? Why are
these folks so susceptible, as if they have been brainwashed, to defending Big
Oil, Big Coal and Big Money interests, and to disputing the fact that unlimited
emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere are causing far-reaching
impacts and damages?
about human impacts on weather patterns around the world should be regarded as
exactly what they are: an eagerness to
evade responsibility and avoid being faced with the rather inconvenient truth
that we must honor the principles of the Rio Declaration in 1992, which
“In order to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall
be widely applied by States according to their capabilities. Where there are threats of serious or
irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a
reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental
--- Principal 15 of the Rio Accords
The leaders of
190 countries attended the Rio Conference, and they all agreed by consensus to
this “Agenda 21” Declaration on the Environment and Development. Actions and deeds are needed to match common
sense agreements, and “Merchants of Doubt” and others who deny high scientific
probabilities should not be allowed to spend enormous amounts of money to sow
doubts about smarter courses of action!
Underlying Factors of Religious Doctrines
Almost every religion tries to appeal to
its adherents by proclaiming the idea of a “life after death”. This idea of an afterlife is a compensatory
fantasy that has its roots in the circumstantial injustices of life, and in the
fear of death. The belief in a life
after death supposes that there is a system of absolute justice in the world --
and that there will be a day of judgment by a God in this ‘hereafter’. Human beings, especially those who are poor,
downtrodden and powerless, have been persistently haunted by inequalities and
frustrations that characterize existential reality, so they are especially
susceptible to such beliefs.
What really should matter the most to
people is not an imagined personal damnation or salvation in an improbable hypothetical
afterlife, but a truer fairness to everyone in the real times we are
alive. It is up to us to strive to
establish greater justice in our world, and to oppose increases in inequality
and injustice at the hands of power-abusing people who corrupt our economic and
political systems to gain greater advantages for themselves. One might wonder if those greedy and
heartless souls are actually possessed by some kind of devil.
“One consequence of our new awareness of death must be, and
has been, an alarming growth of both national and individual selfishness, a
Gadarene rush to enjoy the pleasures of the shops and senses before they close
--- John Fowles, The Aristos
The truth of the matter is that each
person, like every other animal on Earth, almost certainly has only one
life. Death involves a total extinction
of both body and consciousness. Most
people accept the obvious fact that their bodies cannot survive death, yet they
cling to hopes that some of the functions of the brain -- the most inaccessible
and mysterious part of the body -- will survive death. Such religious explanations are simply not
credible explanations of reality. I, I,
I; eye, eye, eye; aye yie yie yie yie!
“Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith”,
said Jesus before performing another supernatural miracle in Matthew 8:26. Today, supernatural miracles are in real
short supply, and seeing reality clearly is becoming ever so much a better plan
than to passively have blind faith.
An Interlude of Introspection into Heaven
Twain poked serious and thought-provoking fun at the avowed characteristics of
Heaven in his book Letters from the Earth. He was astounded by the fact that there is no
mention at all of sexual intercourse in Heaven, even though it is one of
mankind’s chief preoccupations on Earth.
No sex in Heaven! Mark Twain also
expressed amazement that we give great regard to entrepreneurial activities and
intellectual achievements and creativity on Earth, and we have respect for work
well done and take great pride in it, yet there curiously isn’t a rag of these
things in Heaven. Few people on our home
planet enjoy playing the harp or singing religious songs in chorus, yet the
Heaven conjured up by most religious authorities is filled with singing,
praying and harp music. And Heaven is
often pictured as having absolute peaceful harmony and equality, even though on
Earth most people strive for distinction and superiority -- and elite groups are
outraged by any presumption that someone else might be as deserving as they
Sigmund Freud psycho-analyzed the human
psyche. The way he saw it, the mind
consists of three parts, or activities: the id,
which is the obscure chaos of unconscious forces that are focused on primitive
drives for security and sexual satisfaction;
the ego, which is the province
of conscious desires; and the superego, which attempts to control or
repress the other two parts. The
brilliantly insightful John Fowles noted a deeper and more modern facet of our
psyches in what he called the nemo. This aspect of the mind encompasses
feelings of virtual insignificance that lurk deep within us, and reveals a sense
of futility and ephemerality.
is a function of civilization and of the uniquely human ability to compare and
hypothesize. The nemo drives us to seek
importance, power, meaningfulness, a personal legacy, admiration, envy, or even
being feared. The nemo leads us either
to conform to societal norms or to conflict by adopting a special style of
life, an elaborate unique persona, a bohemian or counterculture or dandy
affiliation, or even membership in a gang.
Nemo impulses are partially the cause for so many people to worship fame
and celebrity, and to compel us to strive to control others or feel a
compulsive need to be right, or to partake in conspicuous consumption, madcap
travel, or other extravagant indulgences.
“Nobody wants to be a nobody.
All our acts are partly devised to fill or to mask the emptiness
we feel at the
core.” … “Belief in an afterlife is
partly an ostrich attempt to cheat the nemo.”
--- John Fowles, The Aristos
It has been more
than 40 years since John Fowles penned his observations about the nemo.
During these years, scientific knowledge and understandings of the
workings of the brain have advanced by synaptic leaps and bounds. One compelling insight provided by Michael
Gazzaniga, a neuroscientist and psychology professor, tells us that 98% of our
thinking is done in our subconscious minds, beneath the radar of conscious
here, under the threshold of our consciousness, ain’t exactly clear. We simply do not know our own minds. Our brains make decisions for us even though
we are not consciously aware of them.
Hormones and neurotransmitters affect parts of the brain like the
amygdala that are the province of emotions.
Fear, worry and overwork tend to activate negative emotions that allow
other people to manipulate insecure people, using things like job insecurities
or fears of immigrants or terrorists to get people to support agendas that are
contrary to their own self-interest and the greater good.
To create a more
secure world, we need to more incisively understand these things. Linguist George Lakoff feels that progressive
ideas should overcome conservative frames and mindsets by utilizing a greater
clarity of awareness of how social conservatives and religious fundamentalists
subvert our democracy and undermine more ethical conceptions of what our proper
courses of action should be to achieve common good goals. Lakoff’s book The Political Mind: Why You Can’t Understand 21st-Century American
Politics with an 18th Century Brain provides provocative perspective and food
for thought about how conservatives have been excessively effective in
influencing our national decision making.
Religion and Religious Worldviews
Fervently-held religious beliefs are badges
or uniforms of self-identity. They provide people with ways to feel they
belong. Hallelujah! Sing out loud; sing along!!
People believe far-fetched ideas to stave off fears and insecurities,
and to cling to hopes of a better life after this one as a reassuring
compensation for the profound inequities, hardships and disappointments in this
life. Our beliefs provide us with an
expression of deep-seated spiritual impulses and longings. These beliefs are often less about the true
nature of the universe than the true nature of our selves.
In Exodus, the LORD expressed sympathy for
“His” people, the children of Israel, in light of their sorrows and hardships
at the hand of the ruthless Egyptian Pharaoh.
So He told Moses that He had come down to deliver them unto a good land
flowing with milk and honey. Surely, it
occurs to me, the sighs and cries of today’s over-stressed and undercompensated
workers are exceeding those of the children of Israel whose cries came up to
God as echoes on account of their bondage in ancient times.
One wonders why it does not come to pass
that God hears the groaning of workers today due to the increasing stresses
placed on them, or the daunting angst of those who cannot find work when they
need it to survive. Is God not hearing
those who have their unemployment benefits or food stamps cut at a time they
are momentarily down and out?
Searching for keys to proper behavior in
the Bible is fraught with perplexity. In
Matthew 19:29, it essentially says that to inherit everlasting life, one must
forsake houses, brethren, sisters, fathers, mothers, wives, children, or land
for the sake of the name of God.
“And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go
through the eye of a needle, than for
a rich man to enter
the kingdom of God.”
--- Matthew 19:24
Perhaps God just loves to play games. When ‘He’ sent Moses and his wife and sons to
Egypt upon an ass to bring His people out of Egypt, he simultaneously hardened
the heart of the Pharaoh so that he would not let the people go. Instead, the Pharaoh accused the people of
being lazy, and made the taskmasters work them harder, and caused them anguish
of spirit and crueler, more rigorous bondage.
God does not manifest Himself in burning
bushes these days, but He sure does seem to be at his old heart-hardening ruses
by making modern world rulers and rich people lack empathy and a willingness to
accept greater responsibility for social fairness. A day of reckoning likely approaches, a day
that will be gauged by humanistic criteria, not by a day of divine
reckoning. This day will be one assessed
by people, not by God making “great judgments”, I reckon. Let’s imagine asking our children, 50 years
from now, how they think we have done in ensuring a positive legacy for them.
World Population Exceeded an Ominous Seven
Billion in 2011
“And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased
abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed
mighty; and the land was filled with
--- Exodus 1:7
India, Indonesia, Egypt, Mexico and Nepal have achieved sharp voluntary drops
in fertility rates even at relatively low levels of socioeconomic
development. These reductions have been
achieved by means of highly proactive national family planning efforts in the
past few decades. Today, almost all
advanced countries have fertility rates near replacement levels, and it is
mainly in Africa and relatively poor developing nations where families still
have an average of more than 4 or 5 children.
Yes, right there in countries that can least afford their burgeoning
worldwide shift in public family planning policy has led to significant
declines in fertility rates in most nations.
Human numbers, nonetheless, continue to grow because of a baby boom
bulge associated with greater longevity achieved by modern medicine, sanitation
and the Green Revolution. Fertility
rates have deep underpinnings in family security and economic issues, but
conservatives want to reverse progress toward lower birth rates, possibly to
replenish the ranks of religious adherents.
On the other
hand, many developed nations are faced with a distinct conundrum as the average
age of their populace rises. Old people
rely for social security programs on younger working people, so as the ranks of
old people swell, it is going to be increasingly difficult to finance these
social programs. Intergenerational
conflicts are already taking place as it is, and they will intensify.
stabilization policies are integral to the overall challenge of sustainable
development. In a salubrious twist of
propitious correlations, efforts to slow population growth are mutually
reinforcing with achieving economic progress and reducing poverty. Reducing population growth is also crucial
for helping to protect the environment and limit unsustainable patterns of
production and consumption.
religious people have a core conviction that God told humankind to be fruitful
and multiply, so to them any step taken to prevent a pregnancy is a sin. This is an atavistic attitude, a throwback to
a yesterday driven by an outmoded morality rooted in the desirability of high
birth rates to get work done on the farm and to provide security for parents in
their old age -- and to fill the pews, and the coffers, of churches.
birth rates threaten to overwhelm Earth’s ecosystems by speeding up the rate at
which we deplete the natural resources that sustain us. Expanding numbers of needy and greedy people
are also contributing to an insidious alteration of weather patterns,
threatening to drive half of all species of life to eternal extinction within
the next century. This profound paradox is a conundrum that may confound us,
but it is too important to ignore!
conferences on population and development have helped increase awareness of the
ecological and social challenges associated with rapidly increasing human
numbers, and there has also been a more recent broadening of the focus of
population concerns to include a much wider array of sexual and reproductive
health services. These include
counseling on reproductive health, sexuality, responsible parenthood, and the
education and empowerment of women in countries worldwide. In light of the vital importance of these
programs, it is stunning how stubbornly Republican politicians are trying to
cripple Planned Parenthood efforts.
of women should be expanded in all nations around the world to include
guarantees of property rights, social equity, non-discrimination, fairer
educational and job opportunities, access to microfinance programs, legal
protections against both domestic violence and human trafficking, and greater
assurance of rights of self-determination and reproductive choice.
Back to the Theory of the Rapture
The word Rapture itself is not in the Bible at all. The term comes from the Latin verb rapere, meaning “to be caught up or
snatched up”. The Rapture theory was
invented by some preachers in Scotland who, from 1826 to 1830, “emphasized that
the world’s problems could only be addressed through an outbreak of supernatural
gifts from the Holy Spirit.” This idea
was seized upon by a pastor named Edward Irving in about 1830, and he adopted
his own interpretation of the biblical Scriptures to include a “pre-tribulation
It had come to pass that a teenage girl named Margaret MacDonald experienced
paranormal visions and weird manifestations of prophecy around that time. She was in an altered state of consciousness
due to a serious illness in which she felt she was going to die. She later claimed to be a “prophetess”, and
she did die at the young age of 25. The
Anglo-Irish evangelist John Nelson Darby, an influential figure among the
original conservative Plymouth Brethren, then popularized this extrapolation of
earlier myths by developing his own eschatological views that included a pretribulation
rapture. These Brethren also curiously
believed that women should play silent roles in society. I suppose this makes the advice of a woman
irrelevant to those faithful men who believe in these bizarre things, so I
appeal to the majority of others. Verily
I say unto thee, let’s get real!
In more modern times, a writer named Timothy LaHaye has created a
popular Left Behind series of
apocalyptic fiction. He has 16
best-selling novels in this series that deal with the end of the world. Total sales for the series have surpassed 65
million copies. This is
sensational. Sure enough, there is a lot of profit to be made from
pandering to the gullible! Ironically,
Tim LaHaye was on the Pacific island of Maui at the time of the devastating
earthquake in Japan on March 11, 2011, and he used the opportunity to advance
his theories by declaring that the earthquake proves the last days are upon
us. That hogwash was right up there with
Harold Camping’s idiocies! Perhaps
LaHaye should take a course in geology and plate tectonics to better understand
the true causes of earth movements and tsunamis!
Today it is becoming increasingly clear that the world’s problems could
best be addressed not by some mysterious and miraculous outbreak of the
supernatural, but rather by better understandings of the real nature of
challenges facing us, and by making concerted efforts to effectively and fairly
address the underlying causes of problems.
Sure, let’s enlist the passion and energies of our spiritual selves, but
through rational and emotional understanding, not through studied ignorance!
Zealotry and the Modern World
A Zealot is a follower who is zealous in
the belief in a personal God. Judas of
Galilee was one of the co-founders of the original Zealots. He led them in a principled resistance to
submission by the Jews to the “heathen authorities” of the Roman Empire. The Romans had imposed a census on the people
of the holy lands for the purposes of collecting taxes, and Judas and his
followers revolted in 6 CE in opposition to these taxes. The Romans brutally suppressed the movement
and killed its leaders. The Boston Tea
Party incident is reminiscent of this episode, because colonial Americans at
the time revolted angrily against requirements to pay taxes to the British on
Today, we are having a new kind of tax
revolt. This one is being orchestrated
by billionaires like the industrialist Koch brothers, and it is a movement supported
by fiscal conservatives and libertarians and right-wing Republicans and
adherents to Tea Party doctrines. But it
is a very different thing to object to paying taxes to a domineering foreign
government than to be unreasonably opposed to taxes that give support to common
good goals at home, like affordable public education, an adequate social safety
net, the maintenance of a sound infrastructure, and protections of the
environment. Paying taxes is a matter of
civic responsibility, not a worshipful obeisance to the wrong Lord, as the
fanatics held 2,000 years ago. Nor is
the payment of taxes a form of submission to oppressive rule.
The priorities for which we pay taxes and
borrow so much money every year have become seriously skewed. We spend too much money on wars, munitions
and foreign military occupations; we give
giant corporations too much power and allow them to abuse the system by
foisting costs and risks upon society and paying increasingly large amounts of
tax-deductible compensation to their CEOs;
we subsidize established industries at the expense of small businesses
and smarter technologies; we subsidize
Big Oil more than we support conservation and energy efficiency and
alternatives to fossil fuels; we allow
some public employees to gain overly-generous benefits; we let rich people rig the system using the
power of their money to get historically low tax rates for themselves; and we allow the federal government to run
huge deficits that mortgage the future and create ominously increasing levels
of national debt.
We should become zealots for common sense
and greater fairness, and for a more likely sustainable set of human
activities, rather than being zealots for low tax rates for millionaires and
Proposals for a More Sensible Approach to Solving Global Problems
The wise statesman Solon advocated a tax system in which tax rates on
the richest people would be 12 times higher than taxes on the poorest
people. It turned out that greater
social justice created by that plan was not only more propitious for the poor,
but it also was better for the safety of the rich and the greater well-being of
society. Social justice has distinctly
far-reaching positive merits!
One of my intuitive theories is that increases in
insecurity and the effective disenfranchisement of the majority of Americans is
distinctly contrary to the greater good, whether or not it is good for making
believe that the bigger the wealth gap between the super-rich and the majority,
and the more pronounced the social injustices become in a society, the higher
the costs become for police and prisons and the military to enforce the glaring
inequities of the status quo.
Who should most appropriately pay these
costs? It seems clear to me that those
who benefit the most from the way the system is structured should shoulder the
biggest part of the tax burden. And, of
course, it is wealthy people who benefit the most. The wise Solon says: let the poorest people pay 4% tax on their
net incomes, and let the rich pay 48%. Create
a fair and progressive graduated rate scale for everyone in between the richest
and poorest. By way of contrast, the
2012 federal tax on the lowest taxable incomes was 10%, and the highest federal
tax rate was only 35% on all taxable income in excess of $388,350. The marginal tax rate had been at least 70%
for more than 40 years before Ronald Reagan became president, so 48% is
The higher proceeds of this tax restructuring plan should be used to
reduce federal budget deficits and to pay for the best plans outlined in the
compendiums found in the Earth Manifesto’s Part
Four: Overarching Considerations - Transformational Ideas and Enlightened
Proposals. The most important of
these is contained in One Dozen Big
Initiatives to Positively Transform Our Societies.
A Digression on Boldness
I just happened to turn on the television
on 5/22/11 in a motel room where I had spent the night under very curious
circumstances (that’s a different story), and I chanced to catch a sermon by a
smooth-talking mega-church preacher named Andy Stanley. He was evangelizing about being BOLD in
sharing one’s beliefs with others. The
purpose for his slick and zealous advocacy of boldness was to urge his flock of followers to be BOLD in trying to
convert others to a belief in his “Big Church” God. His sermon urged people to believe in the
“word of the Lord” and to help save non-believers, “sinners” and assorted
heretics from a terrible eternal fate in Hell.
Andy Stanley’s observations:
“BOLD is deciding to say something when it would be easier to
say nothing. BOLD is taking
advantage of the opportunities that present
themselves. BOLD is creating
I do believe in the power of boldness to
achieve good ends. But a revelation was
contained in this sermon: boldness needs
to be properly directed! Proselytizing
to non-believers can be obnoxious, and it is not the best way to spend one’s
life. In light of the overwhelming
probability that this life will be the only one we will ever have in all of
eternity, I say, “Guys, get a life!”.
Live and let live!
There are, of course MANY types of people
in whom boldness is a hindrance, a vice, or an outrage. For instance, it is distinctly undesirable
for a broad spectrum of people to act with boldness -- people like thieves, pimps,
rapists, bigots, liars, domestic violence perpetrators, sports doping cheaters,
absolute-conviction crusaders, pseudoscientific ideologues, facilitators of
disaster capitalist swindles, and corporate crime enablers. Boldness in exploiting “too-big-to-fail”
influence has cost trillions of dollars in bailouts, so we should act to
prevent the excessive leveraging of boldness in speculation.
Boldness today by anti-tax zealots is
especially harmful to society because these zealots champion low tax rates on
rich people at the expense of vulnerable people and vital public services and a
balanced budget and infrastructure maintenance and sensible protections of the
environment. Their boldness harms the
prospects of social fairness and the greater good, and of all people in the
Bold anti-tax activists are apologists for
the best interests of the Few, and their actions tend to be “penny wise and
pound foolish” for society as a whole with regard to things like smart
investments in good public education, national infrastructure, and the interests
of young people and our descendants.
Extreme religious conservatives have too
much influence in politics today, especially when they stubbornly support
right-wing politicians and help obstruct progress in many arenas. Religious fanatics also lead terrorist groups
in the world that act outside the mainstream by mixing fundamentalist religious
extremism with political ambitions and indiscriminately violent tactics.
The misuse of “holy books” to promote
narrow prejudices, and to stereotype and demonize others, is a gambit as old as
the written word. Too often in history,
religious doctrines have been used as a means of scapegoating others or
providing a rationale for persecuting them -- just ask any Jew, or gay man or
lesbian woman, or oppressed female, or adversely-affected “infidel”
agnostic. Or explore the history of any
of millions of people who have been targeted by religious authorities or
fanatics over the centuries.
If you ever hear anyone say, “God’s will
must be done”, snap to attention. Consider
the character of the person providing
this interpretation concerning what God’s will may truly be, and whether it is
likely that such a judgmental proclamation coincides with profound prejudices
in the speaker’s views.
Watch Out for Diatribes!
Why is it that the wealthiest people in the
U.S. are paying nearly the lowest tax rates on earnings, dividends, capital
gains and inheritances since the 1920s?
Many rich people are not willing to share prosperity broadly, but now
that we have backed ourselves into a corner by rashly indulging in record
levels of deficit financing for wars and social programs, these eminences want
austerity measures to be imposed and spread far and wide -- except to
themselves, of course, because they want to be spared from making any
sacrifices or concessions.
The needs for more revenues are
substantial. These revenues should come
from those who can most easily afford to pay them without hardship. And they should be used for intelligently
prioritized purposes that create sustainable development, protections of open
spaces and the environment, and assistance to the poorest nations in the world
to help them slow the depletion of resources and reduce birthrates, which are
two to three times as high as those in most European countries.
How could we be allowing taxes to be so low
for those who can most easily afford to pay more? Even the rich would gain greater security
with a tax system that is structured more progressively, and the vast majority of
Americans and people in future generations would gain a greater degree of
How can we not snort out loud with
incredulity when hearing the latest Republican plans on how to balance the
budget? Sure enough, once again,
Republicans proclaim that taxes should be slashed on corporations and the
wealthy. It will all start to trickle
down pretty soon, they claim, despite the fact that the experience of the last
35 years has been that this tactic results in wealth gushing upwards to the top
one percent of people while the vast majority of workers, whose productivity
has helped create this wealth, see and feel their prospects stagnate.
The Reagan and Bush tax breaks for the
wealthy and CEOs and investors have come at the expense of other segments of
society, like poor people and the middle class.
Bravo for the success of wealthy people!
But could you rich people relent just a little bit in your fervor to pay
ever-lower rates of taxes? Unharden your
hearts, and be more reasonable about the fact that it is better for all
when a nation’s wealth is shared more fairly and when the tax system is more
progressive. It’s pathetic that almost
all the wealth engendered by significant productivity gains over the last 35
years has benefitted rich people -- and that so little, after inflation is
taken into account, has gone to workers who are spending their lives struggling
to make ends meet.
A bar chart on the cover of a book by
George R. Tyler tells the stunning story of how the growth in total employee
compensation since 1985 has been less than 1% in the U.S., in contrast to
increases of 64% in Australia, 154% in France, 194% in Germany and 220% in
Denmark. Fittingly, the title of the
book is What Went Wrong? How the 1% Hijacked the American Middle Class
… and What Other Countries Got Right.
Capital is triumphing over labor, and the
blaring megaphones are in the hands of wealthy people in our political
system. The ideologies of Reagonomics
and conservative think tanks financed by Big Money have obviously corrupted our
politics. Governmental entities are too
often in league with superrich people to make our nation increasingly
inegalitarian. This is not supposed to
be how a democratic republic functions!
We have many overarching needs for money to
be spent on greater food priorities at the levels of local communities as well
as at national and international levels.
Powerfully effective incentives should be implemented, and sensible
regulations should be established to safeguard our financial system and the
environment. Once we share the wealth
somewhat more broadly, everyone will be able to better afford the higher costs
that will result when we honestly address environmental issues and implement
full cost accounting measures in our economy.
multi-millionaires must allow prosperity to be more fairly shared so that
everyone has more money to be able to pay higher costs that will be associated
with more expensive fossil fuels, which will be appropriate once we stop
allowing costs of pollution and environmental damages to be externalized onto
society. An carbon emissions cost should
be included in the price of all fossil fuels, and it should be used to help
finance a necessary global transition to more robust conservation measures,
energy efficiency innovations, clean energy initiatives and renewable
Those who oppose financial and business
regulations want to move our nation in the direction of “pre-regulation” days
when Captains of Industry were often accurately characterized as “robber
barons”. Workers had few rights in those
days, and big companies could despoil the environment without any consideration
for the impacts that their activities had on people and other species of life
Rich people should look at it this
way: Since the need is increasingly important
for us to collectively devote more funding to mitigating pollution and
protecting the environment, now is the time for the wealthy to be less stingy
so that we can collectively afford to make smarter investments in efficient
uses of energy and to conserve resources, protect biodiversity, invest in
future well-being, and have a radically reformed and more affordable universal
health care system. Let it be!
One of the classic debates in philosophy
and religion is whether human nature is inherently good or evil. Various ways that people look at human nature
lead to different worldviews and perspectives on reality. Those who assume that children are born bad
and must be made good tend to embrace Strict Father worldviews, so they assume
that the proper way to rule our societies si through conservative politics and
strict discipline and harsh punishments.
In contrast, people who assume children are born good tend to champion a
Nurturant Parent worldview that assumes empathy, personal responsibility,
overarching protections, fairness and progressive values are the best means to
improve our societies.
The whole story about the Fall of Man in
the Garden of Eden is based on a male-domineering premise that is oriented
around obedience, atonement for sins, and feelings of guilt to keep people in
line with Biblical injunctions and commandments. I personally find noble spiritual awareness
that values love and compassion and Golden Rule fairness and empathetic
understanding to be much more socially redeeming than one based on in-group
righteousness, absolutist religious convictions, a Manichean duality of good
and evil, and rationalized inequities.
The entire constellation of Strict Father
values is generally associated with judgmental people whose highest goal is to
control and dominate others. Such
worldviews are strongly correlated with social conservatism and religious
fundamentalism and Christian Dominionism.
Curiously, those who adhere to these worldviews tend to pick and choose
passages in the Bible, or the Quran or whatever Holy book they subscribe to,
and ignore other more fair-minded caveats like that in Matthew in the
“Judge not, that ye
be not judged.”
“… why beholdest thou the mote that is thy
brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thy own eye?”
“… all things whatsoever ye would that men
should do to you, do ye even so to them …”.
I believe rational thinking and
open-mindedness and passionate commitments to fairness are preferable to
narrow-mindedness and clinging to beliefs in mental constructs like heaven and
hell and an afterlife and eternal salvation and glory in some “hereafter”. Beliefs that one holy book or another is
absolutely true are irrational, just as convictions are that say the world will
end according to ancient prophecy.
I strongly believe that a greater modicum
of security and dignity for people in the here and now is a much better plan
than stunningly empty promises of glory after we are dead!
paragraphs are excerpted from the original version of this essay that was
published in April 2010, when it was titled An
Interlude of Ridicule for the Rapture.
A friend of my
grandfather’s was an old cowpoke who used to just love to sing ‘Home on the Range’. Yes, “Home, home on the range,
Where the deer and the antelope play; Where seldom is heard a discouraging
word, And the skies are not cloudy all day.”
This old cowboy once caught my grandfather
in a moment of angst and told him, “Cheer up, things could be worse.” So my grandfather said he cheered up; “and
sure enough, things got worse!” Ha! Sometimes that’s the nature of woes. Stuff happens. And yet, I reckon that to be optimistic, and
to see a glass as half full, is arguably better for one’s mental health than
when the proverbial glass is skeptically regarded as half empty.
There are many circumstances in which it is best for an individual, and
for society as a whole, to see things accurately rather than being deluded as
to the way they actually are. It can be
risky to impose false ideas upon true realities. Sir Walter Scott wrote, “Oh what a tangled
web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!” When we deceive ourselves, or get
caught up in some type of mass deception, the tangled webs we weave can
seriously harm us and the greater good -- and the prospects of our descendants
The Rapture Index
Let’s more closely examine the Rapture Index, and then consider the much
more sensible and intelligent Sustainability
Index that measures our progress toward achieving greater good goals and
ensuring a healthy and propitious destiny for people in for future generations.
In recent years, an apparently dim-witted Believer created an online
Rapture Index that finds correlations between a passel of superstitious ideas
about the natural world and a supposed approach of End Times. This Index is a numerical assessment that
takes into account incidences of natural disasters like Earthquakes, Famine,
Droughts, Floods and Volcanic Activity, and is augmented by measures of such
things as increases in Liberalism, Civil Rights, Ecumenism and Financial
Unrest, presumably because God hates these things. It strikes me as exceedingly odd that a
Supreme Being could be making these things occur to herald an approach of the
world going to hell in a handbasket!
If you Googled “Rapture Index” after an update in July 2014, you would
have seen that it stood at 187, very close to its all-time high. The creator of the Index had recently added a
point for the emergency declaration of severe drought by California’s Governor
Jerry Brown and a point for “cold weather driving up fuel prices.” Curiously, this category of “Oil
Price/Supply” was already at the highest possible level, as if there isn’t a
probability that this parameter will get much worse as fossil fuels are used up
in coming decades. The July 2014 update
actually added a sixth point out of a maximum of five for the category of
Israel, due to spiking violence in the Gaza Strip at that time. There, too, things could get much worse, so
the Rapture Mad creator is rashly exaggerating.
above 160 in the Rapture Index indicates that the world has exceeded the range
of “Heavy prophetic activity” and is supposedly in the “Fasten your seat belts”
category. This Index not only measures
incidences of natural phenomena, but it also gauges trends in Famines and
Plagues and even “Satanism” and “Beast Government” and drug abuse. Apparently the legalization of recreational
use of marijuana in Colorado and Washington state were sufficient grounds for
judging the Drug Abuse category as being as bad as it can get, and this implies
the end of the world is getting much closer.
Curious and curiouser! And
Mark Twain would have scribbled gales of laughter at the preposterously
presumptuous suppositions contained in this end-of-the-world Index, for the
Rapture Index is downright silly. It is
ignorance and prejudice and nonsense.
Ancient peoples attributed thunder, lightening, earthquakes, floods, famines,
droughts and plagues to deities because they did not understand the true nature
of physical causes of these phenomena.
We now call such ignorance “superstition”. We have long since learned how electrical
charges between clouds and the Earth cause lightening strikes, and how
movements of tectonic plates cause earthquakes and tsunamis, and how the
weather is affected by the jet stream high up in the atmosphere, and how
infectious diseases are caused by germs and pathogens.
Charles P. Pierce wrote a book in 2009 titled Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the
Free. In this book, he contended
that a war against science and expert understandings is being waged in the
United States, and that in the forefront of this war are giant profit-obsessed
corporations, right-wing think tanks, front groups financed by people like
billionaires Charles and David Koch, and politicians bought with huge election
campaign contributions. Religious
fundamentalists join forces with these conservatives when they deny evolution,
oppose contraception, give political support to politicians who oppose fairness
doctrines, and are convinced that Jesus will return in a sudden rapturous
Pierce calls our nation “Idiot America” because people consider facts to
be whatever enough people believe, and they regard truth to be found mainly in
how fervently people believe these “facts”.
No matter what religious dogmas say, the Earth will continue to orbit
the Sun for another billion years or three, just as it has done for more than 4
billion years in the past. Any
rationalizations that justify actions that threaten human survival are the
ultimate in moral misconceptions and downright stupidity. Those who are enraptured by prophesies of End
Times can be counterproductive and serve to undermine saner endeavors. Those who promote bizarre expectations of a
Rapture event are gullible believers in ludicrous suppositions, and thus belong
in the same category as crazy cult worshippers.
The Rapture Index website:
“The Rapture Index is by no means meant to predict the
rapture, however, the index is designed to measure the type of activity that
could act as a precursor to the rapture.
You could say the Rapture index is a Dow Jones Industrial Average of end
time activity, but I think it would be better if you viewed it as prophetic
Ah, I see!
Or do I? I think not! Those who prey on people’s basest fears tend to cause our noblest
impulses to be subordinated to those fears.
Such people can thereby harm both our general well-being today and the
prospects of all people in future generations.
Evangelical fear mongering is reminiscent of Don Quixote and his madcap
tilting at windmills with comic absurdity, yet it is worse because when
people’s fears are stoked, they can more easily rationalize anti-social
policies that hurt others. Fears also
tend to make people more accepting of injustices and ecological folly. Rapture dogmas are generally accompanied by
reactionary social conservatism that actively attempts to obstruct progress,
discriminate against women and gay people, and enlist believers to help thwart
fair-minded social change.
“A lie can
travel halfway around the world, while truth puts on its shoes.”
Something Actually Valuable: The
It would be far more salubrious if no one believed the crazy
suppositions of the Rapture Index, and if instead many people paid attention to
meaningful measures like a smart SUSTAINABILITY INDEX. This barometer focuses on ecological,
economic, societal and political factors that are directly correlated to the
prospects of our achieving a sustainable existence. This Index makes much more sense than trying
to quixotically gauge natural-event “Acts of God” or things like “Beast
Government” to determine how close mythical End Times are getting.
We could and should be taking steps to mitigate inequalities, reduce
injustices, solve existential problems, build peace, stop rainforest
destruction, protect wetlands, minimize the production of toxic wastes,
mitigate global warming and anthropogenic climate disruptions, protect
biological diversity, and educate and empower women so that the growth rate in
human numbers will be stabilized in nations everywhere around the globe.
The Sustainability Index takes into account ‘Genuine Progress
Indicators’, which measure elements that are important to a good quality of
life. Such indicators assess things that contribute to healthy communities,
general wellness, greater fairness, fulfilling work, and authentic connections
to others and the natural world. We
would be able to see a more accurate picture of our aggregate actions if we
choose to change our focus from current measures of Gross Domestic Product,
which assess economic activities in a narrow quantitative way, to new measures
focused on broad and beneficial outcomes.
This would allow us to better focus our priorities and modify the
negative impacts of our aggregate activities.
The methodology used in the Sustainability Index to assess the likely
sustainable status of human activities has been inspired by the Rapture Index’s
use of 45 specific measures. But the
Sustainability Index uses 45 meaningful measures of the most relevant aspects
of our activities to determine the status of the sustainability of these
endeavors, rather than the 45 absurd measures used in the Rapture Index to
project the approach of prophetic End Times.
True measures can be crucial, while measures predicated upon ridiculous
correlations are meaningless.
A Living Planet Index
Early humans had a spiritual reverence for nature
and the providential bounty of wildlife and natural ecosystems. Western religions, in contrast, are founded
on Creation myths that presume a different perspective that is pervaded by both
anthropocentric and patriarchal hubris.
The Bible teaches that God made the universe and human beings in six
days, and that our purpose is to subdue the earth and “have dominion over the
fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that
moveth upon the face of the earth.”
A dominion theology interpretation of the Bible is
being used to rationalize damages to Earth’s ecosystems. Too often, these dogmas ignore
responsibilities that should accompany our attempts to control and govern the
rest of creation. This belief system has
been joined by industrial economic doctrines that reinforce and rationalize
competitive drives and greed in a ruthless assault upon nature, and upon the
very foundations of human well-being.
This shortsighted hubris has made it easier for us to become the single
most destructive force on Earth, threatening all other species of life on the
These attitudes are contributing to an insidiously
severe biodiversity crisis. Many species
of life have been driven to extinction already, and significant proportions of
the remainder are endangered due to the impacts of our activities, including
widespread habitat destruction, the overharvesting of forests and fisheries and
wildlife, water and air pollution, and the introduction of invasive
species. These impacts are being made
worse by rapidly growing human numbers and increasing needs and desires.
A “Living Planet Index” has been developed by the
World Wide Fund, in collaboration with the United Nations Environment
Program. This Index provides a clear
indicator of the state of biodiversity in the world. The Index fell significantly between 1970 and
2012 in a global trend that reflects a degradation of natural ecosystems that
is unprecedented in all of recorded human history.
The Living Planet Report 2014 indicates that the
abundance of vertebrate species has fallen by about 50% in the past 40 years. This stunning finding reveals that about half
of all populations of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and fish have been
wiped out in just the last 40 years. The
degradation of wildlife habitats and entire ecosystems is contributing to a
collapse of fisheries and pervasive threats to many forms of life, including
our nearest mammalian evolutionary ancestors, the chimpanzees, bonobos and
great apes. Canaries in coal mines seem
to be figuratively dying left and right!
The conservation of biological diversity should be
“a common concern of humankind”. For
this reason, the U.S. should ratify the Convention on Biological Diversity, an
international treaty that has been signed by more than 190 countries. We should also commit to reinvigorated global
cooperation on sustainable development and the mitigation of climate
disruption. We should work together to
reduce the rates of population growth in developing countries, and try to
stabilize human numbers on the planet by helping the poorest countries speed
their demographic transition to lower birth rates.
The Earth is our home. When we damage it, we harm our
prospects. It is high time we began to
heed these understandings!
Images from a Film
Last year, I watched the 1991 film The Rapture that stars Mimi Rogers, the
first wife of actor Tom Cruise. Rogers
was the person who introduced Tom Cruise to Scientology, the cult-like
“religion without a God”. The film is
barely a ‘B movie’, but it does provide an idea of how a sexy woman who is
bored with her life (she worked as a repetitive-task switchboard operator)
might be attracted to an excitingly promiscuous life in which she participates
in the erotic trading of partners. This
indulgence caused her to feel guilty, confused, empty and vulnerable. Upon meeting some creepy evangelical types,
Mimi Rogers’ character snaps onto the belief in a judgmental God and the
Rapture, so she retreats to the desert with her child to await the end. It is a strange film that develops and ends
bizarrely when the woman kills her own daughter to send her on ahead to an odd
Promised Land, and then apparently ends up alone in a desolate Hell. The film is possibly worth the time spent to
watch it, if only to stimulate thinking about the whole idea of a “Rapture” and
the conundrums that tortured souls experience in their adoption of such bizarrely
Personal Rapture Strikes Me on May 22, 2011
I had been lying for an hour on my favorite
sandy Pacific Ocean beach in a pocket cove surrounded by steep cliffs on the afternoon
of May 22, 2011, just one day after Harold Camping’s ludicrous prediction that
the world would end on May 21st. A
generous sunshine was warming my skin as well as the cockles of my heart. I was jotting down some thoughts about radio
preacher Camping and the folly and nefarious impacts of his erroneous
prediction. The waves were rather
tumultuous, though the day was otherwise calm.
Theoretically, according to Camping, all of the elect people should have
been caught up into the clouds already, and I myself should have been among the
billions of nonbelievers embarking on a period of calamitous tribulation.
Sure enough! Suddenly, the powerful impulse of a big rogue
wave caught me up as it rushed up the beach and cascaded over me, crashing into
the rocky cliff behind me. The
impressive energy of the big wave was very scary, but the real danger was the
rock against which my head was glancingly bashed. The water soaked some marvelous insights I
had been scrawling on pieces of paper, and almost swept them away to join my
disappeared sunglasses. The regular
rhythm of the crashing waves washes past my ears again as I recollect this
real risk, Rapture believers, is not in a fear of mythical prophecies, but in
ignoring real ecological dangers! It
turns out that the people of Joplin, Missouri, which lies 312 miles southwest
of my adopted home town of Hannibal, also had their own scary and devastating
event on May 22, 2011. The town suffered
a destructive direct hit by a powerful tornado that caught up about 8,000 homes
and businesses in its path and killed more than 140 people.
political cartoon by Tom Toles appeared in the newspaper soon thereafter, on
Three pigs are
floating away on curious square boats from the Joplin twister that roars in the
background. The first pig sits in a
sinking boat that is labeled “CLIMATE CHANGE ISN’T REAL. The second pig sits in a fraying boat that is
labeled IT WON’T COME SOON. A third pig
sits in a newer boat labeled IT WON’T BE THAT BAD.
gives us pause for reflection in the provocative commentary at the end of this
essay. His reflections on the many
extreme weather events taking place around the world these days are well worth
reading for their compelling perspective.
I appeal to conservatives and apologists for corporate profit maximizing
to responsibly come to their senses!
People who support national policies that further concentrate wealth in
the hands of the few, and allow expanded opportunities for corporations to
damage the environment, wake up!
Reflections on Rogue Waves and Roguish
Rogue waves are real phenomena. As to whether an angry God may have been
trying to smite me for the sin of my dubiousness with regard to ‘His’
existence, as some might assert, that is a significantly less certain
thing. When Christopher Hitchens was
dying of throat cancer, one unempathetic critic declared that God was punishing
him for his extensively articulated agnosticism. This judgmental declaration was much more a
Rorschach-like reflection of deep prejudices of faithful believers than of some
probable propensity of an all-powerful and all knowing Supreme Being.
”There is a pleasure sure in seeing clear
that even the naïve can see, and even the blind can appreciate.”
--- The underground Mole
Religious zealots might agree with this pithy observation by
the Mole, though from my perspective, seeing a reality that is actually
illusory has less merit than seeing a more evidentially verifiable vision of
the real world and our true place in it.
I see the far-reaching good of a powerful, emotionally satisfying set of
spiritual scriptures, but I also feel that our need is urgent for guiding myths
that are vitally conducive to the greater good of all of humanity, not just to
a self-selected few.
Humanity, inextricably enveloped in the whole web of nature’s
deterministic “laws”, regards mystery and circumstantial good fortune, or
adverse circumstances, and chooses to have hope or despair, and to give
thanksgiving or to utter curses at those three white-robed mythological goddesses, the Fates.
Richard Dawkins, in The
God Delusion, weighs in on the absurdity of people blaming the 2004 tsunami
in Japan on human sins, and asks: “What
presumptuous egocentricity to believe that earth-shaking events, on the scale
at which a god (or a tectonic plate) might operate, must always have a human
connection. Why should a divine being,
with creation and eternity on his mind, care a fig for petty human
malefactions? We humans give ourselves
such airs, even aggrandizing our poky little ‘sins’ to the level of cosmic
Christopher Hitches was a noted critic of established religion and
an “antitheist” who said that a person "could be an atheist and wish that
belief in God were correct", but that "an antitheist, a term I'm
trying to get into circulation, is someone who is relieved that there's no
evidence for such an assertion."
According to Hitchens, the concept of a God or a supreme being can be a
totalitarian belief that destroys individual freedom. He felt that free inquiry and expression and
scientific discovery should replace religion as a means of teaching ethics and
defining human morals and advancing civilizing influences. His anti-religion polemic, God is Not Great, sold over 500,000
copies. I’ll check it out, and elaborate
with any fresh and persuasive perspectives.
Introspections on the Beach
Bill Maher made a seriously funny film
titled Religulous in which he
interviewed Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas, an avowed evangelical Christian,
and asked him about the Ten Commandments and a talking snake in the Garden of
Eden, and about whether Pryor believes in evolution. The Senator expressed the opinion that the
Biblical story of Adam and Eve “coulda possibly been” true. In response to another question by Bill
Maher, Senator Pryor pointed out that, well, “You don’t have to pass an I.Q.
test to be in the Senate ...”. A stunned
and awkward silence ensued, with Maher arching his eyebrows in incredulity, as
both participants soaked in the implications of this admission. Oh, that’s precious!
is a Rapture believer. He conveniently
embraces evangelical certitudes in his conviction that Bible stories are true
-- and in casting doubt on the scientific fact that life has been biologically
evolving on Earth continuously for several thousand million years. Let us
consider for a moment whether evolution really “coulda possibly
on a blanket on a balmy day in April on the very same reddish sand beach on
which the rogue wave had washed over me.
Multihued and distinctly-layered chert rock cliffs form the base of
coastal mountains that rise above the Pacific Ocean here in this spot on the
west coast of North America. These
dramatically-eroded cliffs jut up on the sea-facing side of coastal hills,
creating a dramatic contrast to the vibrant beauty of April green hillsides speckled
with lovely wildflowers.
evocatively-weathered shell of some type of marine creature lies nearby on the
sand. It is about three inches long and
has a vaguely trilobite-like appearance with a broad head segment and five body
carapace segments and a triangular pointed tailbone. Looking at it closely, belly-side up, you
could see a small cavernous space that led from where the animal’s head would
have been, when it was alive, down through the protective shell that closely
defined the space the creature’s body had occupied. A set of foreleg structures protruded just
below the spot where a mouth would have been, and three dual sets of
thin-shelled legs extended down the right and left sides of the body.
As certain as
we can be that we exist, Descartes, we can be equally sure that this fragile
shell was a remnant of an animal that died in the not-so-distant past. This shell could be regarded as the remains
of one of those “creeping things that creepeth upon the earth”,
which the Holy Bible tells us we should have dominion over.
emanates from within the shell.
Everything is hitched to everything else in this world, and all is
connected back through time to origins that are unfathomably distant in time,
and in form. The stories of geology may
not be as richly textured in myth and morality as the tales of holy books, but
they are unrivaled in their wide scope of comprehensibility and depth of
evidence concerning the way that reality really is.
Much of the variegated rock of these cliffs
consists of “radiolarian chert”. This is
a type of rock that has a fascinating genesis.
Geologists tell us that it was formed during an eons-long process of
“biological precipitation” of silicate-shelled creatures onto the bottom of the
Pacific Ocean more than 50 million years ago.
This lithified chert contains countless microscopic shells of
single-celled marine animals called radiolarians whose hard skeletons are
composed of silicon dioxide. Geologists often carry a powerful lens called a ‘loupe’ to
magnify and inspect rocks, and they could actually show an interested observer
the intricate structure of radiolarian shells in this ancient rock.
So many of
these creatures died in sufficient quantities over a long enough period of time
that they formed deep layers of silicate sediments on the ocean floor. Heavy pressure and heat subsequently
lithified these sediments into durable rock, and the layers have obviously been
twisted, deformed and fractured in mute testimony to the powerful forces that
affected the rock during tectonic plate movements and plate boundary subduction
and uplifting that have fetched it up from far away, deep under the sea, to its
current exposed place in the here and now.
provide a vantage point from which we can picture ourselves -- Homo sapiens -- out on the tip of one
evolutionary branch of the tree of life.
Untold numbers of fossils that are more than a million years old have
been found around the planet, and each one of them is a representative of some
animal or plant that existed on the tree of life long before the twig of our
species sprouted into existence. Every
one of these fossilized fragments is as surely the remnant of a former living
thing as was the fragile shell that sat inexplicably on the sand as these ideas
materialized in this lovely spot.
connectedness of our lives to the lives of other species of life, now and in an
astonishingly rich and infinitely varied past, gives us pause to understand the
extraordinary context of our existence. Many kinds of rocks are formed partially from
the remnants of former life forms that lived long ago, including rock like
marine limestone, marble, dolomite and chert. Our appreciation of this fact can
help us better understand the world in which we live, and our relationship with
it. Much can be learned by paying close
attention to the world around us, as knowledgeable naturalists note.
Think about a
compelling idea contained in the story, Tall Tales, Provocative Parables, Luminous Clarity and
Evocative Truths: A Modern Log from the Sea of Cortez:
An even more certain
confirmation of the processes of evolution is found within each and every
creature alive. It is in the genetic DNA
of every form of life. DNA provides “an almost
unbelievably rich gift to the historian.
What historian could have dared hope for a world in which every single
individual of every species carries, within its body, a long and detailed text
handed down through time?” DNA
recapitulates the entire evolutionary genetic code involved in the long
transformative survival of every species of organism.
Here we are,
creatures in the here and now, witnessing the evidence of these astonishing
processes. Rock, once it is exposed to
the elements, weathers away like butter in warm sunshine, or a crumbling cake,
when regarded from the perspective of the long sweep of geologic time. Rock appears hard and unchanging in the brief
snapshot of time measured by a single human lifetime, but the action of the elements
inexorably wears away entire mountain ranges.
Occasionally, in a punctuation of the usual relative equilibrium, this
imperceptible change is interrupted by a shocking interlude of rock-fall or
earthquake uplift. One of an infinite
number of confirmations of this observation took place in March 2015, when a
beautiful headland known as Arch Rock at the end of the most popular hiking
trail in Point Reyes National Seashore crumbled onto the beach, killing a woman
and injuring her companion.
Exposed rock is
just the proverbial “tip of the iceberg” of all the rock beneath it. Once rock is exposed, it begins this process
of weathering away relatively rapidly.
As Bill Bryson provocatively
points out in A Walk in the Woods, if
the equivalent of one dump truck load of rock is eroded away by rivers from a
large mountain every year, the whole mountain would be gone within 100 million
years. Such is the power of inexorable
change taking place over the span of unfathomably vast periods of time.
Epiphany! We are so far from the primordial
ooze, and yet, and yet, are we not still rather closely connected to it?
One Thing to Remember
writes in Basin and Range that if
readers are going to remember only one thing from his book, it should be that
the visible stripes of rock on Mt. Everest’s face consist of marine
limestone. This ancient rock of the
highest mountain in the world above sea level was formed by the biological
precipitation of calcium-shelled marine organisms onto the bottom of the Indian
Ocean many millions of years ago. These
sediments accumulated into deep layers as the eons passed, and they were
subsequently compressed and lithified into rock. Then, about 50 million years ago, the large
subcontinent of India began to crumple into the landmass of Tibet on the Eurasian
tectonic plate, and the intervening seafloor rock was driven up, earthquake by
earthquake, until it eventually became the highest mountains on Earth in the
immense Himalaya Range. A devastating
earthquake in the high mountains of Pakistan in October 2005 killed 70,000
people; it was only one in an
incomprehensibly long string of such events that has accompanied the crumpling
uplift of these mountains. And another
tragically destructive earthquake struck the Himalaya, this in Nepal on April
Taking a page
from John McPhee, if readers are going to
remember only one thing from the Earth Manifesto, it should be that the
figurative biological precipitation of our human actions downstream in time
will affect life on Earth in unfathomable ways, far into the future, and will
likely drive millions of species of life to extinction. This will undermine the underpinnings of the
providential bounty of Earth’s ecosystems upon which our prosperity and
well-being, and indeed survival, ultimately depends. The well-being of the
human race is interconnected and interdependent with the health of natural
ecosystems and protections of biological diversity. To deny this, or to ignore its implications
in the service of ignorance or shortsighted convictions or greed-driven
profiteering, is a reprehensible form of reckless and imprudent madness.
aspect of this dawning realization, now that we are aware of this almost
certain probability, is that it is our overarching responsibility to
collectively make smarter choices during our lifetimes to help limit the
severity of these far-reaching impacts.
This may be an inconvenient truth, but we should neither deny it nor
person should support smarter plans and ecological precautionary principles
that would help serve to mitigate the destructiveness of our habitat-damaging,
profligately wasteful, and climate disrupting habits and activities. These goals can be affordably achieved, so it
is incumbent upon us to devise ways to implement the best ideas to actually
realize these goals.
from the Earth Manifesto Essay, Revelations
of a Modern Prophet
“Judgment Day is metaphorically upon us,
but it is not the particular judgment by God of each person when they die, as
is held by Christian eschatology. This
judgment is a reflection of future generations looking back on the economic,
political, social and ecological ethos of today, and judging that we have acted
with obtuse selfishness and terrible shortsightedness and harmful ignorance and
“The metaphorical Judgment Day of modern
times will be ‘Biblical’ in a fascinating and sad sense: Sure enough, all future generations will
suffer, and they will do so for our sins. In this case, the suffering will be a
directly tangible carry-forward of our shortsighted selfishness in squandering
natural resources and polluting the planet, and in contributing to the
destruction of habitats and alterations of the climate, and in causing many
forms of life on Earth to be driven to extinction, and in saddling our
descendants with enormous amounts of debt for generations to come.”
“These sins are a form of obtuse lack of
concern for the legacy that our actions portend. Unless we repent soon, will we suffer punishment
in a speculative afterlife of eternal Hell for our wrongdoing? Or will it actually be mainly our children
and our descendants who will be the ones to do the actual suffering, here on
“I prophesy: There will be no End Times.
There will be no Armageddon. THERE WILL BE NO RAPTURE. Hucksters who claim otherwise rank up there
in religious fanaticism with the most extreme of domineering Iranian
ayatollahs. Yes, there will be more
hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, famines, plagues,
droughts and species extinctions. These
are natural events, with a little help from human beings in those cases where
anthropogenic impacts influence outcomes.
We curiously call such natural events “Acts of God”. Oh, right, “and so it came to pass!” There will naturally also be more economic
panics, recessions, depressions and wars;
these are the consequences of human nature and greed and folly.”
“We must not
despair; we must instead act to create a
more salubrious fate. We must not even
think of welcoming ecological devastation as the Rapture crowd is apparently
wont, according to Bill Moyers’ powerful speech that he gave about the Rapture
and the dangers that such blind beliefs pose to civilization.”
Moyers’ speech was so evocative that I have appended it below for all readers
Tiffany B. Twain
September 21, 2015 (Evolving since
“Even the smallest person can change the
course of the future.”
--- Galadriel, a character in The
Lord of the Rings
MOYERS on THE RAPTURE
“There is No Tomorrow”, by Bill
Moyers, The Star Tribune - Sunday, 30 January 2005
(Bill Moyers was host of the weekly public
affairs series "NOW with Bill Moyers" on PBS. This article is adapted from AlterNet, where
it first appeared. The text is taken
from the remarks that Bill Moyers made upon receiving the Global Environmental
Citizen Award from the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard
Medical School. George W. Bush was the
president at the time.)
One of the biggest changes in politics in
my lifetime is that the delusional is no longer marginal. It has come in from the fringe, to sit in the
seat of power in the Oval Office and in Congress. For the first time in our history, ideology
and theology hold a monopoly of power in Washington.
Theology asserts propositions that cannot
be proven true; ideologues hold stoutly to a worldview despite being
contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality. When ideology and
theology couple, their offspring are not always bad, but they are always blind.
And there is the danger: voters and politicians alike, oblivious to the facts.
Remember James Watt, President Ronald
Reagan's first Secretary of the Interior? My favorite online
environmental journal, the ever-engaging Grist,
reminded us recently of how James Watt told the U.S. Congress that protecting
natural resources was not important in light of the imminent return of Jesus
Christ. In public testimony he said,
"after the last tree is felled, Christ will come back.”
Beltway elites snickered. The press corps
didn't know what he was talking about.
But James Watt was serious. So
were his compatriots out across the country.
They are the people who believe the Bible is literally true ---
one-third of the American electorate, if a recent Gallup poll is accurate. In this past election several million good
and decent citizens went to the polls believing in the Rapture Index.
That's right - the Rapture Index. Google it and you will find that the
best-selling books in America today are the 12 volumes of the "Left
Behind" series written by the Christian fundamentalist and religious-right
warrior Timothy LaHaye. These true
believers subscribe to a fantastical theology concocted in the 19th century by
a couple of immigrant preachers who took disparate passages from the Bible and
wove them into a narrative that has captivated the imagination of millions of
Its outline is rather simple, if bizarre
(the British writer George Monbiot recently did a brilliant dissection of it
and I am indebted to him for adding to my own understanding): Once Israel
has occupied the rest of its "biblical lands," legions of the
antichrist will attack it, triggering a final showdown in the valley of
As the Jews who have not been converted are
burned, the messiah will return for the rapture. True believers will be lifted out of their
clothes and transported to Heaven, where, seated next to the right hand of God,
they will watch their political and religious opponents suffer plagues of
boils, sores, locusts and frogs during the several years of tribulation that
I’m not making this up. Like Monbiot, I've read the literature. I've reported on these people, and followed
some of them from Texas to the West Bank.
They are sincere, serious and polite as they tell you they feel called
to help bring the rapture on as fulfillment of biblical prophecy.
That's why they have declared solidarity
with Israel and the Jewish settlements, and backed up their support with money
and volunteers. It's why the invasion of
Iraq for them was a warm-up act, predicted in the Book of Revelations where
four angels "which are bound in the great river Euphrates will be released
to slay the third part of man." A war with Islam in the Middle East
is not something to be feared but welcomed -- an essential conflagration on the
road to redemption. The last time I
Googled it, the rapture index stood at 144 -- just one point below the critical
threshold when the whole thing will blow, the son of God will return, the
righteous will enter Heaven and sinners will be condemned to eternal hellfire.
So what does this mean for public policy
and the environment? Go to Grist to read a remarkable work of
reporting by the journalist Glenn Scherer, "The Road to Environmental
Apocalypse." Read it and you will
see how millions of fundamentalist Christians may believe that environmental
destruction is not only to be disregarded but actually welcomed -- even
hastened -- as a sign of the coming apocalypse.
makes clear, we're not talking about a handful of fringe lawmakers who hold or
are beholden to these beliefs. The religious
right backs nearly half our Representatives in Congress, more than 230
legislators in total.
Forty-five senators and 186 members of the
108th Congress earned 80 to 100 percent approval ratings from the three most
influential Christian right advocacy groups. They include Senate Majority
Leader Bill Frist, Assistant Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Conference Chair
Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Policy Chair Jon Kyl of Arizona, House Speaker
Dennis Hastert and Majority Whip Roy Blunt.
The only Democrat to score 100 percent with the Christian coalition was
Senator Zell Miller of Georgia, who recently quoted from the biblical book of
Amos on the Senate floor: "The days will come, sayeth the Lord God, that I
will send a famine in the land." He
seemed to be relishing the thought.
And why not? There's a constituency
for it. A 2002 Time-CNN poll found that 59 percent of Americans believe
that the prophecies found in the book of Revelations are going to come
true. Nearly one-quarter think the Bible
predicted the 9/11 attacks. Drive across the country with your radio
tuned to the more than 1,600 Christian radio stations, or in the motel turn on
some of the 250 Christian TV stations, and you can hear some of this end-time
gospel. And you will come to understand why people under the spell of
such potent prophecies cannot be expected, as Grist puts it, "to worry
about the environment. Why care about
the earth, when the droughts, floods, famine and pestilence brought by ecological
collapse are signs of the apocalypse foretold in the Bible? Why care
about global climate change when you and yours will be rescued in the
rapture? And why care about converting from oil to solar when the same
God who performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes can whip up a few
billion barrels of light crude with a word.”
Because these people believe that until
Christ does return, the Lord will provide.
One of their texts is a high school history book, America's Providential History. You'll find there these words: "The
secular or socialist has a limited-resource mentality and views the world as a
pie ... that needs to be cut up so everyone can get a piece." However, "the Christian knows that the
potential in God is unlimited and that there is no shortage of resources in
God's earth ... While many secularists view the world as overpopulated,
Christians know that God has made the earth sufficiently large with plenty of
resources to accommodate all of the people.”
No wonder Karl Rove goes around the White
House whistling that militant hymn, "Onward Christian Soldiers." He turned out millions of the foot soldiers
on Nov. 2, 2004, including many who have made the apocalypse a powerful driving
force in modern American politics.
It is hard for the journalist to report a
story like this with any credibility. So
let me put it on a personal level. I
myself don't know how to be in this world without expecting a confident future
and getting up every morning to do what I can to bring it about. So I
have always been an optimist. Now,
however, I think of my friend on Wall Street whom I once asked: "What do
you think of the market?" "I'm optimistic," he
answered. "Then why do you look so
worried?" And he answered:
"Because I am not sure my optimism is justified.”
I’m not, either. Once upon a time I agreed with Eric Chivian
and the Center for Health and the Global Environment that people will protect
the natural environment when they realize its importance to their health and to
the health and lives of their children.
Now I am not so sure. It's not
that I don't want to believe that -- it's just that I read the news and connect
I read that the administrator of the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency has declared the presidential election a
mandate for President Bush on the environment. This for an administration:
(a) That wants to rewrite the Clean Air Act, the
Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act protecting rare plant and animal
species and their habitats, as well as the National Environmental Policy Act,
which requires the government to judge beforehand whether actions might damage
(b) That wants to relax pollution limits for ozone; eliminate vehicle tailpipe
inspections, and ease pollution standards for cars, sport-utility vehicles and
diesel-powered big trucks and heavy equipment.
(c) That wants a new international audit law to allow corporations to keep
certain information about environmental problems secret from the public.
(d) That wants to drop all its new-source review suits against polluting,
coal-fired power plants and weaken consent decrees reached earlier with coal
(e) That wants to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, and
increase drilling in Padre Island National Seashore, the longest stretch of
undeveloped barrier island in the world and the last great coastal wild land in
I read the news just this week and learned
how the Environmental Protection Agency had planned to spend $9 million - $2
million of it from the administration's friends at the American Chemistry
Council - to pay poor families to continue to use pesticides in their
homes. These pesticides have been linked
to neurological damage in children, but instead of ordering an end to their
use, the government and the industry were going to offer the families $970
each, as well as a camcorder and children's clothing, to serve as guinea pigs
for the study.
I read all this in the news.
I read the news just last night and learned
that the administration's friends at the International Policy Network, which is
supported by Exxon Mobil and others of like mind, have issued a new report that
climate change is "a myth, sea levels are not rising" [and]
scientists who believe catastrophe is possible are "an embarrassment.”
I not only read the news but the fine print
of the recent appropriations bill passed by Congress, with obscure (and
obscene) riders attached to it: a clause
removing all endangered species protections from pesticides; language prohibiting judicial review for a
forest in Oregon; a waiver of environmental
review for grazing permits on public lands;
a rider pressed by developers to weaken protection for crucial habitats
I read all this and look up at the pictures
on my desk, next to the computer - pictures of my grandchildren. I see the future looking back at me from
those photographs and I say, "Father, forgive us, for we know not what we
do." And then I am stopped short by
the thought: "That's not right. We do know what we are doing. We are stealing their future. Betraying their trust. Despoiling their world.”
And I ask myself: Why? Is it
because we don't care? Because we are greedy? Because we have lost
our capacity for outrage, our ability to sustain indignation at injustice?
What has happened to our moral imagination?
On the heath, Lear asks Gloucester:
"How do you see the world?" And Gloucester, who is blind, answers:
"I see it feelingly. I see it feelingly.’”
The news is not good these days. I can tell you, though, that as a journalist
I know the news is never the end of the story.
The news can be the truth that sets us free - not only to feel but to
fight for the future we want. And the will to fight is the antidote to
despair, the cure for cynicism, and the answer to those faces looking back at
me from those photographs on my desk. What we need is what the ancient
Israelites called hochma - the science of the heart ... the capacity to see, to
feel and then to act as if the future depended on you. Believe me, it does!
An editorial in USA Today on May 17, 2011 compared climate change deniers to the
“birthers” who challenge President Obama’s American citizenship, pointing out
that they are “a vocal minority that refuses to accept overwhelming
Bill McKibben, founder
of the global climate campaign 350.org and Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury
College in Vermont, recently penned some satirical reflections about climate
change and those who deny it. His words
are quoted below, and can also be found in Ecological
Buddhism: A Buddhist Response to Global Warming, a website with a
provocative compendium of articles.
Keep Calm & Carry
On By Bill
Caution: It is
vitally important not to make connections.
When you see pictures of rubble like this week’s shots from Joplin,
Missouri, you should not ask yourself: I
wonder if this is somehow related to the huge tornado outbreak three weeks ago
in Tuscaloosa, or the enormous outbreak a couple of weeks before that --
together they comprised the most active April for tornadoes in our
history. But that doesn’t mean a thing.
It is far better
to think of these as isolated, unpredictable, discrete events. It is not advised to try and connect them in
your mind with, say, the fires now burning across Texas -- fires that have
burned more of America by this date than any year in our history. Texas, and adjoining parts of Oklahoma and
New Mexico, are drier than they’ve ever been -- the drought is worse than the
Dust Bowl. But do not wonder if it’s
somehow connected. If you did wonder,
you’d have to also wonder about whether this year’s record snowfalls and
rainfalls across the Midwest -- resulting in record flooding across the
Mississippi -- could somehow be related.
And if you did that, then you might find your thoughts wandering to, oh,
global warming. To the fact that
climatologists have been predicting for years that as we flood the atmosphere
with carbon, we will also start both drying and flooding the planet, since warm
air holds more water vapor than cold.
It’s far smarter
to repeat to yourself, over and over, the comforting mantra that no single
weather event can ever be directly tied to climate change. There have been tornadoes before, and floods
-- that’s the important thing. Just be
careful to make sure you don’t let yourself wonder why all these records are
happening at once: why we’ve had unprecedented megafloods from Australia to
Pakistan in the last year. Why it’s just
now that the Arctic has melted for the first time in thousands of years. Focus on the immediate casualties, watch the
videotape from the store cameras as the shelves are blown over. Look at the anchorman up to the chest of his
waders in the rising river. Because if
you asked yourself what it meant that the Amazon has just come through its
second hundred-year-drought in the last four years, or that the pine forests
across the western part of this continent have been obliterated by a beetle in
the last decade -- well, you might have to ask other questions. Like, should President Obama really just have
opened a huge swath of Wyoming to new coal-mining? Should the Secretary of State this summer
sign a permit allowing a huge new pipeline to carry oil from the tar sands of
Alberta? You might have to ask yourself:
do we have a bigger problem than four-dollar-a-gallon gasoline?
Better to join
with the US House of Representatives, which earlier this spring voted 240-184
to defeat a resolution saying simply “climate change is occurring, is caused
largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for public health and
welfare.” Propose your own physics;
ignore physics altogether. Just don’t
start asking yourself if last year’s failed grain harvest from the Russian heat
wave, and Queensland’s failed grain harvest from its record flood, and France
and Germany’s current drought-related crop failures, and the death of the
winter wheat crop in Texas, and the inability of Midwestern farmers to get corn
planted in their sodden fields might somehow be related. Surely the record food prices are just freak
outliers, not signs of anything systemic.
important to stay completely calm. If you got upset about any of this,
you might forget how important it is not to disrupt the record profits of our
fossil fuel companies. If worst ever did
come to worst, it’s reassuring to remember what the US Chamber of Commerce told
the EPA in a recent filing: there’s no need to worry because “populations can
acclimatize to warmer climates via a range of behavioral, physiological, and
technological adaptations.” I’m pretty
sure that’s what they’re telling themselves in Joplin today.