Monday’s Mtg: Why Do People Believe in the Apocalypse?

Believing in our imminent doom is not a fringe position in the United States.  Roughly one-half of American Christians say they believe the Apocalypse will come in their lifetimes.  People in other parts of the world believe this, too.  But the U.S. is kind of ground zero (ha) for Apocalyptic fervor, and has been for centuries.  (Note:  I’m referring to the end of the world as described in Revelation.  Other cultures have their own end of the world myths, but unless somebody knows a lot about them AND people want to discuss them, I’d like to keep focused on the variant of apocalyptic thought that drives millions of Americans).

Since this is such a secular group, I thought it would be fun to discuss why so many Americans seem to be comforted by the knowledge that the world will end – perhaps very soon – in fiery doom.  Is it just that they all believe they will be among the saved, or are other things going on?

The articles below offer some opinions on that, and on Monday I’ll quickly regurgitate some of their views and then we can either break out the sackcloth, or maybe conduct a semi-structured inquiry into how many of us (and which of us) hold apocalyptic views, what it is they actually believe, and why.

The articles below clarify some of these questions and offer some answers.  What do you think?

Discussion Questions –

  1. How many Americans believe in an impending apocalypse?  What specifically do they believe?
  2. Where do they get these views from?  What does the Book of Revelations actually predict?
  3. Not everybody shares the same exact apocalyptic beliefs.  What are the major sub-varieties of apocalyptic belief?  For example, what is the difference between pre-millennial and post-millennial dispensationalism and why should we care?
  4. Why do people believe in all of this?  Is it just that because the Bible says so?  Or, are there important social and psychological motives that drive apocalyptic thinking?
  5. So what?  How does having millions of citizens believing in our imminent doom affect our politics and society?

Links –

NEXT WEEK:    Can our political system still adapt to solve problems?

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5 responses

  1. To me, this is very sad. Such a large proportion of our fellow citizens, if not actually insane, are certainly not rational

    1. One thing that isn’t clear to me yet is how deep apocalyptic belief is. How many people hear the question as, “Do you think what it says in the Bible is true?” kind of thing.

  2. Yes, it is certainly a difficulty to know how deep religious (and other) beliefs may go.
    If asked to wear a suicide vest, most would probably say no. Fortunately!

  3. I don’t think that belief in various apocalyptical scenarios is confined to the Religious Right. There are secular versions — calamity through climate change (McKibbons) and running out of cheap energy (James Howard Kunstler) come immediately to mind.

  4. There is some psychological similarity, I agree.
    But at least the “secular” scenarios have some basis in real facts.

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