Armageddon in the World’s Religions:
Comparing and Contrasting
Yet Another Fun Little Tidbit from the Twisted Mind of Rev. Peter.
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I love essay writing. So I figure that, instead of writing a short parable (as I did in Meditation 52: “Does God Have a Sick Mind?”), I’d write an essay about religion in general. I do indeed hope that the general reader enjoys reading from the teen minister’s point of view.
As an Apathetic Agnostic, I consider myself more agnostic and apathetic on the question of religion more than God. It seems to me that if there is a Supreme Being, he probably laughs his omnipotent and immortal self to death at people’s attempts to get his attention through cold ceremony and ritual that each one claims is pleasing to God (or the Gods). And also, being an amateur historian, I know that these differences, no matter how minor, have caused bloody wars in which the disciples of both parties involved have died brutal, gristly, and often unnecessary deaths all because of the charisma and bloodthirst of some religio-military leader (the Pope, for instance, in the Crusades, or the leaders of the Icon supporters and Iconoclasts during the Great Schism). Yet the question remains as to why all this happens. If God is so beneficent and merciful (as everyone’s favorite middle eastern holy book, the Qur’an, points out to us), why do people who follow him kill and slaughter each other? Or rather should we blame the idiocy of the people and not the Supreme Being? I’d vouch more for the latter than the former.
Back on subject, however, one of the many reasons people have killed those who follow other religions is because of a unique belief in the End Times, that people always believe to be just a day away at some time in every epoch of history. It could be called Armageddon, Yawmid Din, the Second Coming, Ragnarok, or more popularly, the end of the world. While different beliefs differ on what this event will actually be like, the modus operandae is almost always the same: God comes back to earth to gather the faithful to Paradise and everyone else gets roasted in a lake of fire. Because of this, warring religious factions have tried to preserve the “faithful” and demolish the “wicked” or “infidels” so that God will come back to a fresh, clean world when that fateful day comes. In essence, it would be like saving God the trouble of rooting through the sheep and the goats. In this meditation, I’ll look at the end times theories for three different apocalyptic religions: Christianity, Islam, and Asatru (Norse Paganism for the mythologically impaired).
First, let’s look at the greatest example of a gift to the world gone horribly awry: Christianity. Since as far back as anyone alive today can remember, it has always been Christianity and its followers that have become synonymous with “witnessing” and trying to establish “God’s Kingdom on Earth.” As a matter of fact, when most people are skeptical of any religious tradition or deity, it’s the Christian God and the literal interpretation of his book, the Bible, that are usually always used to prove either the illogic or bipolarity of God, while a handful of other traditions succeed in making the Supreme Being look benevolent and kind. And while Jesus expounded great teachings that, if put into practice as he wanted them put, could have changed the course of history, you don’t need to be a tried and true holy person to know that just about every person attending any Christian Church, even the clergyman officiating, is a lying hypocrite and has little to no intention of putting to practice any of the teachings he has picked up in church.
Onto the Christian belief in the End Times, contained mostly in the last book of the Christian Bible, the Book of Revelation. The entire book is too vague and cryptic in its meaning to be properly interpreted. First the author reports seeing a slew of malformed creatures worshiping around a golden throne. Afterwards, a dead lamb that is equally deformed opens the seals of a book, each seal bringing a terrible plague on Earth. Then a leader rises up, claiming to be God, and places a mark on all of the people that follow him. Then a reference to Babylon is made, comparing the old dead empire to a whore who falls and is forgotten. After a thousand years of peace and harmony throughout the Earth, another series of cataclysms befalls our planet, driving all of the unbelievers to Hell. The Bible gives the number 144,000 as the number of people who will be saved to reign in the New Jerusalem, with the lamb at the center of the city. The cryptic nature of this prophecy has given rise to many interpretations. Some say that it will happen just as the Bible puts it. Others interpret the symbols as meaning the nations of the world, with Babylon usually being the Vatican and the great leader being the leader of the United Nations.
Forging onward, we come to Christianity’s close competitor for the title of World’s Greatest Religion: Islam. Founded by the prophet Muhammad, said to be the last in a long line of prophets sent by God to peoples and cultures all around the world, Islam took its roots in the Arabian peninsula, gaining converts either by proselytizing or by the occasional use of arms. The Muslim concept of the end times, called in the Arabic language Yawmid Din, or Day of Reckoning, is contained in great detail in their holy scripture, the Qur’an and, unlike the Christian story, is meant to be taken literally. According to the Qur’an, the angel Gabriel will blow a trumpet, at which all the dead shall be raised body and soul from their tombs. Both the living and the dead will come before the throne of God, after having passed by all the prophets, for the judgment. Simply enough, the good will be rewarded in Heaven, being fed honey cakes and wine by a party of beautiful virgins, while the evil will be cast into Hell, receiving all sorts of unusual punishments for their unforgiven sins.
Finally, we come to the only apocalyptic religion that predates the former two: that of the Germanic peoples, called Asatru by its followers today. The Germanic people, particularly the Vikings, created Gods in the image of man. Like men, the Gods made love and war, drank, got drunk, and did all the stuff that people did. The only two major differences were that people worshiped the Gods and the Gods were immortal. Immortal, that is, until the day of Ragnarok. According to Norse mythology, two wolves individually chase the sun and the moon. When the wolves catch and swallow their prey, a horn will be blown in Asguard, the Kingdom of the Gods, alerting the Gods to Ragnarok. Odin, the King of the Gods, along with a team of warrior gods and the fallen heroes in Valhalla, will face off with the evil god Loki, his two children, the Fenris wolf and the World Serpent, and an army of frost giants. To make a long story short, Odin’s army (with the exception of the Sons of Thor and a few other gods) and Loki’s army will kill each other off and all land on Earth will sink into the Ocean, killing all life on Earth except for one man and one woman. After all of the devastation, however, the land will come back up, the children of the Sun and the Moon will rise, the world will be repopulated, and a new set of gods will be worshiped. Morbid as it seems, you have to admit that Ragnarok in the end seems more like regeneration than total destruction.
In conclusion, we have examined the doomsday prophecies of three world religions. Every other religion on Earth also waits for something or someone to come along and set the world to right, whether that is a specific day, or the Messiah, or a Great Prophet, or a Buddha of the Future, or whatever, every religion will continue waiting as long as religion exists for some great day when good will triumph over evil. Which gives me an idea. Maybe we Agnostics should have a prophecy of an Agnostic Messiah who will make the world think for themselves or something like that. Heh.