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                  Superstition, Prophecy, and "End Times"

                                                                                                          Earth Manifesto Insights

                                                                                                              Dr. Tiffany B. Twain  

                                                                                                             October 2005

Mark Twain once observed:

"When the human race has once acquired a superstition, nothing short of death is

     ever likely to remove it."

Ignorance is pervasive today, despite modern understandings that correspond to reality far better than in times long ago.  Recent years have seen increasingly serious conflicts amongst nations and a frightening increase in terrorism.  There has also been a spate of deadly and destructive natural disasters, including the South Asian tsunami of December 2004 that killed 230,000 people in eleven countries, and the most destructive hurricane season on record in 2005, and the earthquake in the Kashmir region of Pakistan and India on October 8, 2005 that killed 80,000 people.

Let us understand one thing that is perfectly clear:  natural processes are at work in natural disasters.  God demonstrably stopped intervening in natural processes soon after ‘He’ supposedly created the Universe, and God no more physically intervenes in human affairs than Zeus intervened in Greek affairs 2,000 years ago.

Human beings have ironically made natural disasters far worse through such poor planning as unwise development in flood zones, coastal ecosystem destruction that facilitates flood and tsunami damages, and the building of structures that are not earthquake resistant.  We have made human calamities worse by pushing economic and social policies that increase poverty and injustice, instead of ones that strive for more respectful fairness.  And political leaders have distorted intelligence in order to foment wars, instead of making strong commitments to peace.

Face it, folks!  For all practical purposes, our Maker went out of business long ago.  The miracles that we hunger for are miracles that can best be provided by positive social action and smart planning and human goodwill, not by either world domination or hopes for divine physical intervention.  The only true salvation that we can achieve will be that which we strive to create.

Fundamentalist believers in religious dogmas attribute all of these disasters to God's anger at people for their sins.  They claim that prophecies in the Bible are coming true, and that the end is near.  Apocalyptic thinking may help people come to terms with fears and insecurities and calamities.  But End Time beliefs are ultimately a form of savagely selfish "spiritual Reaganism".  These beliefs smugly and subliminally applaud the social, structural, and environmental disintegration of civilization, and they suspiciously savor the prospects that apocryphal holy book prophecies may actually be coming true.  

They seem to hope that Doom is Near, because if such prophecies do come true, it will vindicate their beliefs and they will be rewarded with "Rapture" that will supposedly be followed by satisfyingly terrible Tribulations wreaked on non-believers, and then there will be a triumphant Armageddon as God vanquishes mean old Satan;  and, finally, there will be an obscenely unjust Judgment Day when those who are "with God" are saved and they regally live on in Paradise, while all others will be eternally condemned to a hellish place where fire and brimstone burn forever.  (Nice! What generosity and forgiveness!  What love and righteousness!  What a Divinely magnanimous master plan!)

Belief in the Rapture and End Times may have valid underpinnings here on earth.  Beliefs like this are a form of escapism from the true anxieties of earthly injustices and adversities.  But we cannot accept the dangerous orthodoxy of End Times beliefs.  To the extent that they effectively advocate that we should welcome human degradation and resource depletion and ecological devastation because these events are harbingers of the arrival of rapturous End Times, they must be refuted.  It is pathetically wrong to allow our societies to be harmed by politicians who use End Time belief insecurities to gain and abuse power by exploiting these fables and fears.

Californians wonder is there will be another ‘Big One’ like the 1906 earthquake and fires that wreaked so much damage in Northern California.  The fact of the matter is that there will be 100,000 Big Ones along the famous slip-strike San Andreas Fault in the next 15 million years, as the Pacific Tectonic Plate slowly moves north relative to the North American Plate, and Los Angeles on the Pacific Plate moves north to the latitude of San Francisco.

MARK MY WORDS!  Religious fundamentalists are already prepared with their naïve God-strikes-sinful-San-Francisco explanations of the next Big One.  The debate will rage for a while, as if there were some suspicious but probable credulity to the story.  It will be just like the hypocritical folklore that blamed lesbians for bringing God's wrath down on New Orleans, and Muslims for the deadly Indian Ocean tsunami.  This is nothing new.  There was a terrible earthquake in Lisbon, Portugal in the year 1755.  It took place at the height of mass on All Soul's Day, and it killed thousands as it tumbled down on the heads of the presumably sinful faithful.  Voltaire and Rousseau and all the philosophers and theologians of the time got a lot of mileage out of the calamity, some charging that God was punishing the sinful in Lisbon.  I doubt that they achieved much greater perspective on God and humanity than we are achieving in the superstitious aftermath of the spate of natural disasters in the past year.

Sublapsarianism is a belief system that posits a special creation, then the Fall of mankind into sin and the redemption of true believers by a Savior.  Rich myths, such as those contained in the Bible, posit that God created a perfect world, and that mankind fell into sin by disobeying God in eating from the forbidden Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden.  God eventually became so disgusted with the sins of mankind that he caused a worldwide Flood to destroy all life other than that saved on a giant Ark built by a 500-year-old man, and ‘He’ later sent His own son, Jesus Christ, the product of a virgin birth, to die for man's sins.  Jesus, the story goes, was resurrected after death so that he could offer salvation to true believers.

And so, in the human mind, Jesus already has been resurrected!  Unfortunately, his resurrection has been so outrageously distorted by religious fundamentalists today that the real Jesus would probably be sickened if he really did come back.  I assure you that if he did show up somewhere today, he would be regarded as crazy, out of touch, hopelessly liberal, a dreamer, a madman, and a dangerous threat to the orthodoxies and doctrines that the fundamentalists now support.

Heaven and Hell are Biblical myths.  They are not places that literally exist.  It is an ultimate irony that the only real heaven and hell lie in the conditions that we create for others and ourselves here on Earth.  Consider hellish circumstances here, and mankind contributes to most of them:  harsh injustices;  starvation;  aggressive violence and wars;  ruthless torture;  stress, frustration, despair, antagonism, oppression, vindictiveness, maliciousness, and hatred in our societies;  the fouling and poisoning waterways with toxins and pollutants;  horrific terrorist attacks;  and the inadvertent bombing of innocent civilians through military aggression.

Cigarette smoking leads to 400,000 deaths a year from lung cancer.  Starving to death afflicts ten of millions of people.  Climate change being caused by uncontrolled emissions of greenhouse gases and concomitant global warming may kill hundreds of millions in our lifetimes.  Yet we commit the greatest amount of discretionary spending, well over $100 billion per year, to hyper-aggressively fighting terrorism, which kills less than 10,000 people a year worldwide.  And ironically, the violent arrogance with which we confront terrorists, instead of dealing with the underlying injustices that contribute to terrorism, actually increases terrorist threats to a far greater level than they would otherwise be.

Those in power cynically pursue an amoral agenda.  They manipulate the public to accomplish their ends with Orwellian tactics of deceit and authoritarianism.  They exploit people to increase their power.  They do the common person in two ways: first, by ignoring the plight of the majority of poor and middle class people, and second, by concealing this crime through militant calls for patriotism and nationalism and aggression.

Some say that terrorism and the war on terror are simply new stages in ages-old religious conflicts, particularly between Islam and Christianity.  We must diffuse such strife that is based on religious certitudes, superstitions, prophecies, End Time beliefs, and pathetic self-righteousness!

Today's idolatry is the worship of money, prestige, and power.  Worship of these idols presents us with far more serious risks than we would suffer by worshipping healthier things like artistic expression, broadminded education, or noble pursuits.

"Often, the less there is to justify a traditional custom, the harder it is

   to get rid of it."

                         --- Mark Twain          

H.L. Mencken claimed that:  "The whole aim of politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."

We must strive for more enlightened leadership, and not allow the political and religious establishments to manipulate us into supporting their selfish, power-hungry, shortsighted rule.  We must speak moral truth to amoral power!  We cannot let superstition drive civilization towards foolish and absurd attitudes, behaviors, and conflicts!

And we must remember, in the midst of all these considerations, another thing that religions have conveniently suppressed:

"No civilization can be perfect until exact equality

      between man and woman is included."

                                                          --- Mark Twain, Notebook, 1898  


Exact equality is not achievable, but a relatively significant increase in it is overdue.  That is my opinion!

                   --- Dr. Tiffany Twain