Sundays are notoriously slow news days. The local paper, therefore, ran a whimsical headline: “Will the world end on May 21? Are you ready?” Nearly 40 billboards are asking Garden State commuters (as if they aren’t already stressed enough) if they are prepared to meet their doom. This year’s apocalypse is sponsored by Howard Camping, a California prognosticator with an history of calculating the world’s end. Given that our daily experience confirms uniformitarian processes on this planet have been in place for millennia – and even longer – the belief in a cataclysmic termination of billions of years’ work is rampant as ever. The end of the world, as touted in the media, is always based on religious precepts of some sort or another. Our scientifically scheduled apocalypse is about five billion years away when the sun becomes a red giant. (The biggest threat to capitalism since the collapse of the Soviet Union.)
Why do so many religions want to see it all burn? Life certainly has more than its fair share of misery and suffering. Apocalyptic scenarios abound in disadvantaged communities – the final leveler of all inequalities will put us all in the same place. Privilege creates as many problems as it does boondoggles. A truly evolved race would wish to share its good fortune to those without access to resources of the more fortunate. It is a severely effaced line between inequality and iniquity at the best of times. Those who don’t get a fair shake in this life look for a better lottery pick in Heaven’s jackpot.
But why do affluent people share this urge to watch it all explode to a theological fantasy-land? The local electrical engineer funding the billboards, is quoted by Star-Ledger staff as saying, “Seven billion people are facing their death! What else could I do?” My humble suggestion would be to put that money toward helping those who do not have enough. The underprivileged could be made to suffer considerably less with the obscene income of the Left Behind franchise. Instead that money is being funneled into questionable political causes. Maybe it is best that the world end next month after all. I’ve put it on my calendar, but I’m still expecting to be around for the 2012 apocalypse as well.