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Apocalypse Soon: Why Are Christians So Obsessed With the End Times?

How can Americans make major life decisions on the basis of faith that the world will end in the very near future?

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For example, here's Christian pastor John MacArthur:

"The environmental movement is consumed with trying to preserve the planet forever. But we know that isn't in God's plan.

 The earth we inhabit is not a permanent planet. It is, frankly, a disposable planet -- it is going to have a very short life. It's been around six thousand years or so -- that's all -- and it may last a few thousand more. And then the Lord is going to destroy it.

I've told environmentalists that if they think humanity is wrecking the planet, wait until they see what Jesus does to it.

...This earth was never ever intended to be a permanent planet -- it is not eternal. We do not have to worry about it being around tens of thousands, or millions, of years from now because God is going to create a new heaven and a new earth." 

It would be comforting to think that beliefs like this are only held by an insignificant minority of kooks, but that isn't the case. As recently as 2007, a poll found that 25 percent of Americans subscribe to end-times beliefs: that's one in four people who, presumably, make major life decisions and cast their votes on the basis of a faith that the world will end in the very near future.

There's no easy solution to this problem. The apocalypse-sooners are motivated by a fervent faith which, by definition, is immune to contrary evidence. Their beliefs effectively pen them on both sides, seducing them with the promise of unimaginable reward if they stay faithful, herding them with the promise of unimaginable suffering if they fall into doubt.

But whether we can convince them or not, we can demonstrate that their beliefs are incredibly dangerous and destructive -- to human lives, to well-being and to the world itself. Too many people are passive in the face of fundamentalism because they labor under the misconception that religious beliefs are benign at best, neutral at worst. A more engaged progressive opposition would go a long way toward limiting the influence of the righteous warriors who just can't wait to see the planet destroyed.


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