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.