Why failed predictions DON'T stop apocalypse forecasters
LiveScience.com (Bad Science by Benjamin Radford, Jan. 3, 2011)
If a group of fundamentalist Christians is right, you only have nine more months to live.
Harold Camping, leader of the ministry Family Radio Worldwide, has concluded after careful study of the Bible that the world will begin to end on May 21, 2011.
It will actually take several months for the process to be complete, but Camping is certain that by October it will all be over. And his group is doing their best to warn everyone.
The sect is spreading its doomsday message using billboards, travelling caravans of RVs holding volunteers who pass out relevant pamphlets, and bus-stop benches, according to the Associated Press:
"Cities from Bridgeport, Conn., to Little Rock, Ark., now have billboards with the ominous message, and mission groups are traveling through Latin America and Africa to spread the news outside the U.S," the AP reported.
Fundamentalist Christians have a long and colorful history of searching for -- and mistakenly believing they have found -- clues about when Jesus would return to Earth and bring about the final judgment.
In the early 1800s farmer William Miller concluded from a Bible study that the world would end April 23, 1843. It did not. [10 Failed Doomsday Predictions to make you feel better]
One of the great popularizers of Christian end-times is Hal Lindsey, author of the wildly popular best seller The Late Great Planet Earth (Zondervan, 1970). After his prophecies failed to materialize, he wrote a follow-up called Apocalypse Code (Western Front Ltd., 1997). More>>
Wisdom Quarterly (COMMENTARY)
One thing used to puzzle social psychologists about apocalyptic cults that predict a specific date for the "end of the world." What? They do not disband the day after. They get stronger!
The prediction not coming true brings them together. Clever cult leaders can tell their followers that they averted the catastrophe. If it weren't for them, the world would surely have ended. This is a pattern as old as the Vedas.
Near Eastern pre-JudeoChristian religions were influenced by the empire to the east, which was called Bharat (India as an expansive empire). It gave rise to Buddhism, which influenced Christianity a great deal. Predictions the Buddha made were about the distant future. Often they were general, part of repeating cycles of human social decay and renewal.
The question is, What is the good of any prediction?
It seems it keeps people on the ball, on task, on top of their goals to insure that when they are reborn, and they will be, they are happy about how they lived.
Today seems to last forever, and we slack off. But tomorrow, we are overjoyed to have made merit that secured our future. The next buddha will not be coming any time soon. But the message of the historical Buddha still exists on Earth (with increasing distortions and misunderstandings).
Things will get worse. And everyone will die (except the enlightened, who do not "die"). Things will get better. And nearly everyone will be reborn right away (except the enlightened, who have overcome rebirth). Sound like a contradiction?
On the one hand, if an ordinary being passes away, then a name, personality, and opportunity ends.
But the accumulation of karma continues to bear results in a new form. It is not the same form or personality and does not go by the same name. On the other hand, if an enlightened person passes away, rebirth and suffering permanently end right there. So it cannot be called "death," which always rebirth. Overcoming samsara is final nirvana (parinirvana) -- the end of all suffering without remainder.
Given all this, it is easy to see how even ancient Westerners in Greco-Roman empires and all along the Silk Route began to reword these wisdom teachings. The "deathless" (nirvana) became "eternal life." Ultimate bliss became ordinary happiness -- that is, nirvana became nothing but a "heaven."
The end of the "world" came to mean the end of everything. In fact, all that ends in Buddhist, Christian, and Mayan prophecy is an age.
It's the end of an astronomical age. That's why people look at the stars (astronomy) and consult astrological charts, studying the meaning of celestial bodies moving -- looking for precession on small-seasonal and big-axial scales.
There's some tribulation. But there's tribulation even when it's not the end of an age. Whether the world is ending tomorrow or not, it's always good to do good and come into line with one's values.
It in an effort that these things be understood correctly that Wisdom Quarterly tackles Buddhist subjects no one else touches -- and points them out in connection to topics non-Buddhists do tackle: prophecy, karma, history, the heavens (literal worlds in space), "angelic" extraterrestrial involvement in human affairs, and more.
- Bible possibly written centuries earlier
Scientists have discovered the earliest known Hebrew writing -- pottery shard with an inscription dating from the 10th century B.C., during the period of King David's reign. The breakthrough could mean that portions of the Old Testament were written centuries earlier than previously thought. (The Bible's Old Testament is thought to have been first written down in an ancient form of Hebrew.) Until now, many scholars have held that parts of the Hebrew version of the Bible originated in the 6th century B.C. [at the time of the Buddha, although Dr. Ranajit Pal dates the Buddha as living centuries earlier], because Hebrew writing was thought to stretch back no further. But the newly deciphered Hebrew text is about four centuries older, scientists announced [in January, 2010].