The Fear Years

(Note: This is a look at how so-called prophets have preyed throughout the years on vulnerable people who are simply trying to find truth. It is no way meant to disrespect anyone’s particular beliefs.)

Against my better judgment, I recently viewed the movie 2012. It was your typical doom and gloom, end of the world movie – predictable and trite.

But it got me to thinking about just how many end times predictions have been made over the centuries. After a lot of research, I discovered that people are obsessed with knowing the outcome of this game called Life on Earth.

Just as at the moment we are born, we begin to die, so has this planet called Earth also been slowly decaying.

And with each passing year filled with man made and natural disasters, wars, plagues and all things imagined, hundreds of prophets  (and some not so prophetic) have been decrying the end of the world.

As early as 1297, Petrus Olivi made one of the earliest predictions for the year 2000. He wrote that the Antichrist would come to power between 1300 and 1340, and the Last Judgment would take place around 2000.

And everyone has heard the name Nostradamus. Many have hung onto this 16th Century French apothecary’s claim that the sky was falling ever since he published his collections of “prophecies” in 1555.

What I find interesting is that although none of his predictions have come to pass with absolute certainty, he still has a strong cult following.

Since the age of mass media and the internet, more and more people have been making claims of world-wide destruction, the second coming of Jesus Christ (and other gods) and mostly the Christian Rapture.

From 1972 to 2012, I found over 300 predictions on just two websites. Some of them I had heard about, most I had not. They ranged from the Rapture (the most popular prediction) to Invasion by aliens (which, surprisingly, was sixth from the bottom). And, so far, all of them have proven to be false. We’ll have to wait and see about the ones made for 2012.

Other end of the world predictions includes: (listed by popularity) Armageddon, King Of Terror (Nostradamus) or the Anti-Christ; the Second Coming; destruction by comet, planetary alignment or other objects careening to Earth; other natural disasters such as earthquakes or polar shift; the Hand of God; a world war; nuclear holocaust; world-wide computer failure and finally, illness or plagues.

What I found especially interesting is just how many of these false profits, or predictors as I have named them, often make more than one prediction when their first one fails.

In the early 1980s Charles Taylor and Marilyn J. Agee each began making multiple predictions of the Rapture, in which it is postulated that Christians will be gathered together in the air to meet Christ at, or up to seven years prior to, his return. In fact, Agee was still making that same prediction as late as 2007.

What astounds me is how these predictors have any credibility when they have made 5, 10 or even 15 failed predictions. And what scares me is that how many searching and vulnerable people are sucked into these false doomsday theatrics – some to the point of death.

Jim Jones, leader of the apostolic socialist group called the People’s Temple was able to convince 909 of his followers to cover up the murder of five other members and then commit mass suicide by drinking cyanide-laced kool-aid in 1978 in Jonestown, Guyana.

A Vietnamese cult headed by Ca Van Lieng predicted an apocalyptic flood for 2000. But doomsday came much earlier for the cult members; he and his followers committed mass suicide in October 1993.

Heaven’s Gate was an American UFO religion based in San Diego, California, founded and led by Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles. On March 26, 1997, in a period that Comet Hale-Bopp was at its brightest, police discovered the bodies of 39 members of the group who had committed ritual suicide on their belief that aliens would take up their spirits.

These apparent charismatic and charming, if not psychotic, leaders seem to know exactly how to entice their misguided followers into something as drastic as suicide, and if not, they eliminate them.

No year had as many predictors and prediction as the year 2000. There must be something about that number that inspired fear. Even before the age of computers and the Y2K Bug, reputable thinkers were predicting that that year would end civilization, as we know it.

Sir Isaac Newton was even bitten by the millennium bug. He predicted that Christ’s Milenium would begin in the year 2000 in his book Observations about the Prophecies of Daniel, and the Apocalypse of St. John.

Other notables and not so notable predictors made “prophecies” covering the entire list of end of days categories. All of them proved to be false, and with the exception of a few minor glitches, the world of technologies did not fall into the dark ages.

As we were ringing in the year 2011, the same J.R. Church who prophesied that the according to the Book of Psalms the world would end and the Rapture would occur in 1988, is now saying on his program “Prophecy in the News” that 2011 will follow the 111th Psalms.

Honestly, I took a look at the written transcript and couldn’t make heads or tales of it, but it has just enough theological clarity to make it scary and to suck people in to another of his Doom and Gloom predictions.

Already, 2012, with the end of the Mayan Calendar looming, is shaping up to be another year 2000 with even more predictions or guesses to what is in store. Perhaps the Mayans finished the calendar at the year 2012 because they simply ran out of room on the stone? I often wonder, did the Mayan Calendar predict the Mayan people’s own demise?

One thing I do know, that no matter what does or does not happen, if it is a catastrophic event, do we as simple humans have any real power to change anything? So why worry about it?

I mean no disrespect for anyone’s beliefs or ideas; I myself have a very strong faith and belief in the Bible’s account of the end times. What I cannot fathom is why anyone in the Christian community (for most of the predictors proclaim Christianity) would fall into the trap of becoming obsessed with the what, when or how of that allotted time.

Jesus told his followers (present and future), “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows,” Mark 13:32 New Living Translation.

I found several places in the New Testament where the Son of Man issues this warning, so I find it incredulous that so many Christian “leaders” would dare to make these assumptions, let alone lead others down this dark and dangerous path. After all, if Jesus didn’t know, who are we to say we can figure it out?

The future, whatever it may hold, is going to happen with or without anyone’s frantic worrying or guesses. Instead of obsessing over what will or may not ever happen, mankind should focus on the here and now.

After all, it is where we live at the moment. If we gave how we treat people now even a fraction of the attention we spend on the future, this world would be a much happier, kinder and gentler place to live.

The predictors should leave the theatrics of imagining the apocalypse to those best suited for it – the writers, directors and actors in Hollywood.

“This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” — Winston Churchill

Reference websites: bible.com, abhota.info/end3 and the Doomsday List at 2think.org/hundredsheep/skeptic/predictions

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