An intellectual freedom blog with an emphasis on libraries and technology

Monday, February 21, 2005

Is Death too good for us?

why do you think they call it the "Rapture"?

Imagine an incredibly violent and gory video game in which the object of this game is to bring about a catastrophic series of disasters and then watch from a safe distance as your victims meet bloody and hideously painful deaths. For example, in this game you perform actions which create giant frogs that eat people, trigger biological warfare attacks that cover people in painful boils as they die, or set off huge inescapable fires. You watch, at length, in full digital color on your wide screen TV or game arcade as the hapless victims burn to death, screaming in agony. Imagine the reaction from the religious right/family values people to such a violent and sadistic video game. Think about it.

I have found a story unreported in the mainstream media that most troubles me. It concerns a bizarre supernatural revenge fantasy that, were it packaged as a video game, would likely raise an outcry from the same people who wish with all their hearts to bring it about in reality.

Bill Moyers has retired from journalism. In his farewell speech, he describes the Rapture Index, a measure of how close we are to armageddon--the apocalypse, Doomsday--what many right-wing christians call "The Rapture." You see, they are not satisfied with living according to the holy word of their faith and then ascending to heaven after a long, healthy, righteous life. No, in their minds and hearts they remain convinced that they deserve more than heaven: they want to watch the rest of us fry.

For the heathen among us, let me try to summarize this succinctly: The Christian Bible includes a chapter called "The Revelation of John" (a.k.a.: "The Book of Revelations"). Many moderate christians and religious scholars from schools with names that don't make you laugh see this book as a product of its times, written long after Jeshua ben David (in Greek: Jesus Christ) died, and containing mostly a denunciation of empire and paganism. The writer(s) hide the message from Roman censors by means of arcane prophecy. The main prophecy states that the true believers will, when the time comes, go to heaven and sit at God's right hand (I'm guessing at God's left hand you find heaven's cheap seats?) and watch as the non-righteous burn, chew their tongues in agony, drown in rivers of blood, get bonked on the head by huge hailstones, etc, etc. I think to capture the true spirit of this prophecy for a 21st century audience someone should translate it into Gangsta rap. Fans of this form of expression understand the meaning of the word "hyperbole," even if unable to pronounce it.

As Moyers points out in his speech, nearly one third of the electorate believes the bible is literally true. He mentions Glenn Scherer's article: The Road to Environmental Apocalypse. "A 2002 TIME/CNN poll found that 59 percent of Americans believe that the prophecies found in the book of Revelations are going to come true." Not only that, but environmental destruction looks an awful lot like signs of the eagerly awaited apocalypse. The politicians this population supports work against environmental protection and we're not talking about a few on the fringe.

From "Road to Environmental Apocalypse":
These politicians include some of the most powerful figures in the U.S. government, as well as key environmental decision makers: Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Republican Conference Chair Rick Santorum (R-Penn.), Senate Republican Policy Chair Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), [former] U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chair James Inhofe (R-Okla.) warrant a lengthy section of Grist's article, which I urge you to read.

The actions and words of high ranking government officials indicate that those who believe the above to be literally true have a strong influence over official policy. Republicans rule the world now. And this apocalyptic variety make up a large voting block. No one has attempted to keep this a secret. But none of this appears on the evening news or 60 Minutes or other such news programs.

But vengeance for what?! What have the rest of us done that makes these people want to watch giant frogs eat our faces off?

Look to Bill O'Reilly for inspiration. On a cartoonist's blog (Tom Tomorrow, who does This Modern World) you can read the transcript of O'Reilly's bizarre rant on his show last December 21st.

[Speaking to minister and motivational author Joel Osteen]: I want you to counsel me, pastor...I'm sitting here, I'm fighting this ferocious battle against people at this juncture who want to change America, all right? They want to change it to de-emphasize religion, they want a country like Sweden where less than ten percent of the population goes to church.

Who said this is what anyone wants?! Who has ever tried to stop anyone from attending church? Is this O'Reilly's interpretation of the separation of church and state--an effort to squash religion? But he continues.

Now I believe the Founding Fathers wanted religion in the public marketplace as a behavior deterrent because they knew they couldn't control the population, and they felt that a faith-based population would be more likely to behave. Very practical.

Please! Any readers out there who can find Any primary source in which a signer of the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence or even a member of the post-revolutionary government in the 18th century stated that religion should function as a "behavior deterrent" (what is that, by the way?) or expressed a fear of an "out of control" population please tell me the source. I realize this is Mr. O'Reilly's opinion (which he has every right to hold and to declare to the world) but where does he get this? You can find many more examples of such accusations and many more examples of pundits making up facts out of air, but I do not have enough room on this blog to list them all.

Think about this. The people who want to watch everyone who is not one of them die believe the worst, most baseless, unsubstantiated ranting idiocy about the rest of us. And their political leaders rule.