RE: The end of Apocalypses?

From: Joseph Sterlynne (
Date: Thu Feb 03 2000 - 09:23:04 MST

>He opined that popular predictions of the apocalypse, the Rapture, the
>End of the World, tend to peter out after 2000. In fact, there are no
>religious -- presumably he meant Christian -- predictions of the end of
>the world with deadlines after 2012.

The obvious response to this is a reminder that religions have always
had apocalyptic expectations and mythology---long before, of course, we
approached the year 2000 on a standard calendar. They faded, were
revised, or whatever but the apocalyptic inclination persisted. With
Christianity particularly intense periods of apocalyptic fervor have
appeared and disappeared; these sometimes centered on dates (for
example, the years 666 and 1000) which, of course, passed without

Magic dates don't always have to be the focus, though. Consider the
Millerites, a vocal Christian sect which was absolutely sure for some
reason that the Rapture would occur on a particular date in 1843, then,
when nothing happened, in 1844. After a while some people stopped
listening and the Millerites, fragmenting, learned to not be so
specific. . . .

>But the point that interests me is that if the Christians stop jumping
>up and down shrieking "the sky is falling!" because they're run out of
>messianic deadlines, politics and cultural life will take an
>interesting turn.

Doubtful. If they move away from immediate millenarianism it won't be
because they've given up on the basic idea. Same for the possibility
that they accept certain technologies---some religious people have
accepted new technologies in the past because they become ubiquitous and
part of the culture's fabric. Many devout Christians today accept
bicycles, movies, and various basic facts about medicine and astronomy
even though these things were once considered abhorrences or heresies by
some. Certain technologies, however, such as the ones we are expecting,
challenge religious assumptions more substantially than your average
Twentieth-century appliances.

The (S/s)ingularity, of course, is a notion which has many of the
qualities of a classic apocalyptic program. All the religious believers
assure us that their apocalypse is the true one and that yes, this time
it really will happen. Those of us expecting a singularity or something
like one say the same thing. But we probably really are right. At the
very least we have a chance of being right.

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