The Eschatology Ideology

Qiyamah, aharit ha-yamim, Final Judgement, Day of Purification, Ragnarok, the Apocalypse, Armageddon.

The phrases above all refer to the same general event: the end of the world.

One of the most dehumanising and potentially dangerous beliefs that virtually all religions, and certainly all monotheisms share, is the end of the world. Worse still, monotheism actively looks forward to the end of the world. Moreover, whether consciously or subconsciously, it looks to get our real human life out of the way as soon as possible.

I think there is something perverse about this belief, and there is no denying it: all monotheisms teach that this life is only temporary; a short sinful stop in a depraved world where the alternative to belief is nihilism, before we finally pass over to the next life where we will be rewarded forever and ever in paradise or tortured forever and ever in hell (disproportionate to say the least, would one think, given that eternity is infinite and our human lives are infinitesimal in comparison).

For this reason, monotheism devalues human life. It treats human nature like a curse, and strangles much happiness out of our existence with egregious circumscriptions on almost every facet of behaviour. The irony here is that the Original Lie told by Satan according to Genesis, is the one that all religions perpetuate: You positively will not die. I think there is something deeply opprobrious about telling people that which you do not know, and cannot possibly know; it is the worst kind of lie.

This life is all there is. That’s a fact. It’s a good a fact as the earth goes around the sun, and elephants cannot fly, more so indeed. (We might not like the idea, but there is no connection between wishful-thinking and truth.) If I had to confect a lie to take away what meaning this life has, make people waste and squander it, and remove as much delectation as possible, I would struggle to contrive a better one than to tell people that this life is not only the end, but it is actually a constant struggle against flagitious desires and a libidinous nature, all in the servile veneration of a galactic dictator. A struggle that, in comparison to the eternity that awaits you, is fugacious and meaningless. If I really believed that an eternity of paradise awaited me and fellow believers, (like I used to), I too would want this pitiful imperfect existence to hurry up and get over and done with! And herein is one of the problems: religion is anti-life. A true religious believer should not want to wait to shuffle off the mortal coil! But since this finite human life is all we will ever have, religion encourages people to waste it and wish for its end. What a deplorable tragedy.

But it gets worse. Not content with wishing for the end of life so that bountiful riches and joy can be realised, religion wishes not just for the end of a life, but all life. It awaits, what might euphemistically referred to, as the eschatological transformation; the End of Days, Armageddon.

The problem is not just that a belief in End Times is wholly false and plagiarised from other religions; all religious ideas about the end of the world are incredibly similar (for obvious reasons), it is that this belief is anti-human and dangerous in covert and overt ways.

Covertly, if one believes this miscreant old world is in the hands of sinners and is destined for judgement anyway, what is the point in trying to make it better? Why bother trying to help people if this is all part of a divine plan anyway, or the Cosmic Knight in Shining Armour is going to sweep in at the last minute and save the day anyway? There should be no need to worry about nuclear war; global warming; the exhaustion of fossil fuels; finding a cure for cancer; inventing new medicines that treat people and improve and prolong life; improving our lives with new technology; bettering yourself through personal and mental disciplines. This life is a one-stop supermarket where you’re only allowed to browse a tiny selection of what’s on offer, and you cannot leave the store without it anyway. This eschatological mindset encourages laziness and apathy on a grand scale. It is the very opposite of meliorism.

Overtly, this death cult of religion (to borrow from Chris Hitchens) which is a deserved obloquy for Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, readily manifests its more dangerous side by those who sincerely believe the world is coming to an end, and actively want to bring that end about. From the terrorist hijackers of 9/11 who sincerely believed they were going to paradise, to the theocratic Iranian nation actively seeking nuclear weapons and the right-wing Christian fundamentalists in America who hope the signal for Armageddon is given with a mushroom cloud, religion has become a very real threat to human life on a grand scale and civilisation itself. Fundamentalists readily pray for the End to come, but it is now not impossible for some of them to acquire the means to make it happen. What could be more terrifying than a nuclear state that has no concept of mutually-assured destruction (like the aforementioned Iran), and worse still, would actively welcome it?

This is not scaremongering, this is how the world is. All it takes is one religious fanatic to possess two vital ingredients: a solid faith backed up by the words of his own holy book, and a nuclear weapon. Finding the first has never been a problem for the faithful. Finding the second has always been problematic, and we, as Western secular powers, should keep it that way.

The eschatology ideology is a pernicious immoral anti-human delusion that breeds laziness, nihilism, resentment, oppression, a longing for and glorification of death, and the actual and potential of mass suffering.

It doesn’t have to be this way though. Humanism is a philosophy that puts human beings and our temporary lives at the centre of matters, and lauds the ability and potential that we all have, and treats life as a rare precious gift, not to be wasted bowing down, praying, feeling guilty, or wishing it away, but embraced and respected, because it’s the only one we’ll have.

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15 Responses to “The Eschatology Ideology”

  1. Efrique Says:

    Good article. Just one thing worries me a little:

    “This eschatological mindset encourages laziness and empathy on a grand scale.”

    Did you really mean “empathy” there? It seems like “apathy” might fit the sense of the rest of it better. In fact “empathy” seems to run counter to your argument.

  2. Guitar Eddier Says:

    Evanescent;

    I was wonderng, can there be (in your opinion) such a thing as a humanistic religion?

    GE

  3. tobe38 Says:

    Opprobrious? Obloquy? Flagitious? Did someone get word-of-the-day toilet paper?

    In all seriousness, another great article. The dangers of a belief in an afterlife is something on which I too have lamented.

  4. phxhousechick Says:

    “death cult of religion … readily manifests its more dangerous side by those who sincerely believe the world is coming to an end, and actively want to bring that end about.”

    I completely disagree. You’re describing the beliefs and attitudes of a small group of religious fanatics and extrapolating them to ALL religious believers. Your view is just as intolerant as the American Christian Right insisting that we all adopt their narrow-minded values. I resent being bullied into accepting either.

    Sure, militant Islamists are a scary bunch and we shouldn’t allow them to build nukes. And there’s a small sect of the American brand of Protestantism who believe the End of Days is a good thing. But fanatics of any religious stripe have always been dangerous.

    Your brush is too broad; most who believe in an afterlife don’t fit under it.

  5. Guitar Eddie Says:

    “Sure, militant Islamists are a scary bunch and we shouldn’t allow them to build nukes. And there’s a small sect of the American brand of Protestantism who believe the End of Days is a good thing. But fanatics of any religious stripe have always been dangerous.”

    That much is true, Phxhousechick. Religious fanatics of every religious stripe have always been dangerous. However, the group of Christian Protestants that are chiliastic (pronounced: kee lee ast ic) is not really that small. I think the last count of them was approximately 15 to 20%. Within a U.S. population of over 300 million, that’s a hell of alot of people.

    Relatedly, this group presently has political clout in disproportion to their numbers, and hence influence over domestic and foreign government policies. They have aligned with various Zionists movements in Israel which they are manipulating behind the scenes in an effort to hasten the arrival of the Apocalypse.

    Also, they are not shy about taking up arms themselves. Witness the murders of doctors and orther staff at family planning clinics.

    Therefore, Phxhousechick, you might want to make sure you know what the facts are before you accuse Evanescent of gross generalizations.

    GE

  6. evanescent Says:

    @ Efrique:

    that was a typo, thanks for pointing it out; I have since corrected it.

    @ GE:

    Nicely said, good comment.

    @ Phxhousechick:

    What I said in the article was the belief in an afterlife and a conscious or subconscious longing for death demeans human life; the only one we will ever have.

    If you took me to mean that all religious people are fanatics who will try and bring about the end of the world, I apologise for your misunderstanding, but I think it’s pretty clear what I said.

    A surprisingly large number of theists would like to bring about the End, but even the majority of them who don’t still look forward to the end of this world or their own lives, whether they actually realise it or not, because their entire belief system is built around the afterlife.

    @ GE: apologies for not replying to your question from yesterday sooner; my internet was down.

    I don’t think there can be such a thing as a Humanist religion. Religion has too many overtones and connotations such as transcendent creeds and articles of faith and tradition, and authority of man or god is taken over reason. This is really what humanism is opposed to, so one could be religious about Humanism I suppose in the same sense that one could be religious about football, but I think it’s useless to use the term in that way.

    @ Tobe: as for the word-of-the-day toilet paper, it was a Halloween gift if you must know…

  7. DaVinci Says:

    Sounds like good fodder for a movie, (again). I don’t thing we need fear the fundies in this country, but in the Middle East it’s another story. I often wonder just how much bite Iran has, we know they bark a lot. I think it would be interesting as hell to see which enemy they would nuke first, US or Israel. Either way it will be the last button they ever press. Personally I think someone should send them a GPS preprogrammed with Bush’s Texas ranch coordinates. At least it would cut down on the amount of presidential candidates from Texas.

  8. evanescent Says:

    I often wonder just how much bite Iran has, we know they bark a lot.

    Whilst their people starve and the country’s economy plummets, and every intellectual flees for greener pastures, this Medieval-age theocracy is looking for thermonuclear weapons. Do we take their word for it and trust their intentions, or do we proactively remove these anti-human dictatorships that threaten not just one country, but potentially all? Seems like a no-brainer to me.

    I think it would be interesting as hell to see which enemy they would nuke first, US or Israel. Either way it will be the last button they ever press.

    I’d rather not have to find out!

  9. Guitar Eddie Says:

    “I don’t think there can be such a thing as a Humanist religion. Religion has too many overtones and connotations such as transcendent creeds and articles of faith and tradition, and authority of man or god is taken over reason.”

    I agree, Evanescent. The western Abrahamic religions certianly do have such overtones. And they tend to emphasze authority of a supreme being and/or the self proclaimed representatives (read clergy).

    I also do not believe in a “personal god” or a cosmic muffin, whose existence is separate or transcendent of the human life and the physical universe.

    “This is really what humanism is opposed to, so one could be religious about Humanism I suppose in the same sense that one could be religious about football, but I think it’s useless to use the term in that way.”

    I agree, if your talking about western religions. I don’t practice those forms. I practice a form Buddhism which I cosnider to be quite humanistic in its teachings.

    For this reason, I consider myself to be a religious humanist.

    GE

  10. Twelve Says:

    It treats human nature like a curse, and strangles much happiness out of our existence with egregious circumscriptions on almost every facet of behaviour.

    1. You spelled behavior wrong. 🙂

    2. Christianity treats curses as curses, because that is what they are. The Bible says that everything was originally perfect, until humans messed it up, and the blame was not put on the earth, rather the blame was put upon the humans, because the God of the Bible is a just God who’s nature agrees with justice.
    kinds of lies.

    The irony here is that the Original Lie told by Satan according to Genesis, is the one that all religions perpetuate: You positively will not die. I think there is something deeply opprobrious about telling people that which you do not know, and cannot possibly know; it is the worst kind of lie.

    Christianity does not say that one will not die. The Bible says that humans will die at least once. Twice, if they do not choose to live again.
    I believe that you just called atheism opprobrious, because you cannot possibly know that there is no God, especially since there is.

    This life is all there is. That’s a fact.

    That’s an opinion.

    It’s a good a fact as the earth goes around the sun, and elephants cannot fly, more so indeed.

    But we cannot be utterly and totally sure of either.

    (We might not like the idea, but there is no connection between wishful-thinking and truth.)

    Well, not everyone who disagrees with you is simply wishfully-thinking, as hard as that is for you to believe.

    If I had to confect a lie to take away what meaning this life has,

    But you already have.

    and remove as much delectation as possible, I would struggle to contrive a better one than to tell people that this life is not only the end, but it is actually a constant struggle against flagitious desires and a libidinous nature, all in the servile veneration of a galactic dictator.

    Let’s see:
    1. delectation
    2.flagitious
    3.libidinous
    4.veneration

    Someone must be trying to look smart.

    I can’t see how Christianity attempts to take away delight. I also can’t understand what you’re trying to say, but based on those words, it looks like you’re calling Christianity cruel, libidinous, and servile toward a being who you believe must be evil if He exists at all, which you don’t believe He does, and that Christianity tries to take all delight out of life.
    Well, you’re wrong, because those assertions are just that: opinions with weak support, so that statement doesn’t apply to Christianity.

    A struggle that, in comparison to the eternity that awaits you, is fugacious and meaningless.

    In Christianity: Fugacious, but not meaningless. Actually, in Christianity, this short life is all we have to decide our fate.

    religion is anti-life…
    religion encourages people to waste it and wish for its end. What a deplorable tragedy.

    Not all religion. Christianity is all for it. The Bible tells us to make use of what we have of this life, even though we don’t want to.

    religion wishes not just for the end of a life, but all life.

    In Christianity, it will be the end of all temporary life, but that’s our fault.

    The problem is not just that a belief in End Times is wholly false and plagiarised from other religions; all religious ideas about the end of the world are incredibly similar (for obvious reasons), it is that this belief is anti-human and dangerous in covert and overt ways.

    Only in a few religions, and this is all just your opinion, anyway.
    The Bible did not “plagiarise” the End Times from other religions. Rather, it has its own version, and it happens to be quite different than the older religions.
    As for anti-human, Christianity is not. The Bible tells us how much the God of the Bible loves us, and the End Times is the period in which humans will be judged for their mistakes, but instead of the End Times beginning right off the bat, it comes later, enough time to give humans a chance.

    what is the point in trying to make it better? Why bother trying to help people if this is all part of a divine plan anyway, or the Cosmic Knight in Shining Armour is going to sweep in at the last minute and save the day anyway? There should be no need to worry about nuclear war; global warming; the exhaustion of fossil fuels; finding a cure for cancer; inventing new medicines that treat people and improve and prolong life; improving our lives with new technology; bettering yourself through personal and mental disciplines.

    The Bible tells Christians to help others because it is the right thing to do, and because it shows the love of God to them, therefore helping them take another step away from self-inflicted destruction. But frankly, not all Christians care about global warming. I don’t either, but not because of religious reasons. Global warming is caused by the sun heating up, not us, but that’s a different argument for a different time.

    This eschatological mindset encourages laziness and apathy on a grand scale.

    Then I suppose it is a good thing that the Bible does not encourage such a mindset.

    Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, readily manifests its more dangerous side by those who sincerely believe the world is coming to an end, and actively want to bring that end about. From the terrorist hijackers of 9/11 who sincerely believed they were going to paradise, to the theocratic Iranian nation actively seeking nuclear weapons and the right-wing Christian fundamentalists in America who hope the signal for Armageddon is given with a mushroom cloud, religion has become a very real threat to human life on a grand scale and civilisation itself. Fundamentalists readily pray for the End to come, but it is now not impossible for some of them to acquire the means to make it happen. What could be more terrifying than a nuclear state that has no concept of mutually-assured destruction (like the aforementioned Iran), and worse still, would actively welcome it?

    You should leave out Christianity and probably Judaism. Islam may be a threat, but only the radicals are. The media is making things out to be much worse than they really are.

    Christians have had the power to possibly bring about the end, but no true Christian has/would ever even consider the idea of trying to blow up every country, because the Bible tells us otherwise. Sure, some Christians have prayed for the end times to come, but who wouldn’t want it to come faster, seeing how pitiful and dark and evil this world is? I, as a Christian, anticipate the End Times, but until then, I am doing all I can to turn others in the right direction before it is too late. The End Times can easily be brought about through nuclear warfare, but that does not, in any way, mean that Christianity encourages the end of the world.

    All it takes is one religious fanatic to possess two vital ingredients: a solid faith backed up by the words of his own holy book, and a nuclear weapon.

    You mean a thousand muslim fanatics each with a nuclear weapon. I may be exaggerating, but so did you. It takes more than one person, more than one nuclear missile to end the world.

    Finding the second has always been problematic, and we, as Western secular powers, should keep it that way.

    You need not worry about Christianity, no matter how much you hate Christians.

    The eschatology ideology is a pernicious immoral anti-human delusion that breeds laziness, nihilism, resentment, oppression, a longing for and glorification of death, and the actual and potential of mass suffering.

    You are wrong when you say that religion feeds war. Not one war, not one, has been fueled by purely religion. Each evil thing that happens in this world is fueled, not by religion, but by each individual person. Maybe they were abused in the past, maybe they’re just angry at the world, maybe they just want revenge on someone. The list goes on, but religion is not that list.

    it’s the only one we’ll have.

    Once again, that’s your opinion.

  11. Carnival of the Godless: The Book of ‘Pod Edition | Mind on Fire. Says:

    […] Evanescent warns us of the dangers of the apocalyptic world view in The Eschatology Ideology. […]

  12. Sue Blue Says:

    Wonderful article, and very well done. I only stumbled over the first line. “Ragnarok” was the not the story of the end of the world per se; it was about the death of the Norse gods, the Aesir and Vanir, in an apocalyptic battle. The end of the world was only incidental to the end of the rule of the gods. Am I nitpicking? Maybe. But of all the apocalyptic dogmas, only the Norse myths destroy the gods themselves. I always saw this as just plain old Scandinavian sensibility. Even a thousand years ago, the Vikings knew that secular reason would win in the end, and came up with a poetic way to depict the end of religion. But then, I’m a Norwegian, so maybe I’m biased.

    The rest of your post was great. Religion is the root of all of the major (and many of the minor) conflicts in the world today. There is no difference whatsoever between Muslim fundies and Christian fundies – the end result is the same. When the Bible-bangers start defending their religion to me, I just quote their own Book back at them – “by their fruits shall ye know them”. When that fruit is hatred, bigotry, war, sexism, and ignorance, I think it pretty much speaks for itself.

    I have to agree wholeheartedly that religion devalues life. I wrote about this very concept when my son was senselessly murdered, and all my religious friends tried to comfort me by telling me that I would see him again, that he was in a better place, and that God had “called him home”. I was not comforted. What kind of God would send heartless bastards to beat and drown my innocent child just so He could enjoy my son’s presence in heaven? And why would heaven be a better place than the home where he was so loved and needed? And I was just appalled at their crass insensitivity – they knew I was an atheist, and saw this terrible tragedy as nothing more than an opportunity to try to proselytize and win a convert, or at the very least, to enjoy a little schadenfreude thinking about how I must be regretting my lack of faith. My deeply religious parents were genuinely shattered, yet clung to their beliefs. I asked them why they were grieving so deeply if death was just a temporary seperation. Could it be, I asked, that they knew in their hearts that death is final and irrevocable? That this one life is precious beyond words for the very reason that it is our only life? Did they regret wasting time in church on their knees that they could have spent with their grandson?

    Worst of all were those who offered to “pray” for me and my family. There were plenty of real, tangible things that they could have done, but they took the easy way out. To those who waste their time praying for all the terrible situations and tragedies in the world, I ask – “who is more noble – the one who prays for the starving, or the one who feeds them?”

    Your post expresses this concept – the useless waste of precious time that religion is – so much more eloquently than I could. May reason prevail! Thank you.

  13. evanescent Says:

    Hi Sue. Thank you for that touching and heartfelt comment. I’m very sorry to hear what happened to your son. You’re also right that there is no tragedy too severe for the religious to not try and use it to score points.

    When I receive wonderful comments like yours, that is all the thanks I need for writing.

  14. Sue Blue Says:

    I have to say I’ve found more comfort in blogs such as this one, and from people who don’t have “the love of Jeeesus” in their hearts, than from any church or faith-based organization. For some reason, being free from religion seems to free up the parts of the brain involved in a sense of compassion and decency. Maybe it’s because they’re not cluttering up their minds worrying about whether others are “saved” or not, gay or straight, black, brown or otherwise tinted, or sufficiently supportive of Christmas. It’s so refreshing to just be human, caring about other humans, without all that judgmental garbage.

    Thank you, and keep up the good work!

  15. Sue Blue Says:

    To those who would claim that religion is not the cause of war or that one crazed Christian alone cannot start a war that could end the world, I have one word – Bush.

    G.W. Bush, born-again Christian, put into office by the Religious Right, supported in his fear- and war-mongering to the bitter end by one and the same – against Islam.


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