Next Stop, Hades?

End of the World Cartoon by Matt Bors

In case it has escaped your notice, all is not right with the world. Far right, perhaps, but definitely not all right. As near as I can tell, the world appears to be on the slippery slope to Hell and picking up speed. Perhaps that is why it is hot as Hades outside. It can’t just be global warming. If it weren’t for the construction crew digging up the street right outside my door, I’d be keeping an eye peeled for the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to come barreling down the pike. And they’d no doubt be on horseback because it’s gotten too pricey to gas up their Hummers. Anyway, as you have no doubt gleaned, I am officially in a foul mood. If I was in a fowl mood, I’d be having chicken for lunch—fresh from the factory farm. Anyway, enough ranting for now. Here’s an apropos article (excerpted) by Karen Armstrong, which ran earlier this week in The Guardian:

Bush’s fondness for fundamentalism is courting disaster at home and abroad

From the very beginning, the conflict between religion and modern science was couched in extreme, even apocalyptic rhetoric. Thomas H Huxley, who popularised the Origin of Species, insisted that people had to choose between faith and science; there could be no compromise: “One or the other would have to succumb after a struggle of unknown duration.” In response, conservative Christians launched a crusade against Darwinism. After the first world war, the Democratic politician William Jennings Bryan claimed that there was a direct link between evolutionary theory and German militarism: the notion that only the strong could or should survive had “laid the foundation for the bloodiest war in history. The same science that manufactured poisoned gases to suffocate soldiers is preaching that man has a brutal ancestry.”

The struggle continues – nowhere more so than among the Christian right in the US, who still regard the evolutionary hypothesis as surrounded by a murderous nimbus of evil. In 1925, they tried to ban the teaching of evolution in public schools and developed creation science, based on a literal reading of the first chapter of Genesis. More recently, they have tried to introduce into the school curriculum the teaching of intelligent design (ID), which claims that the irreducible complexity of micro-organisms could not have evolved naturally but must be the result of a single creative act. The issue splits the nation down the middle: fundamentalists want to win a battle for God; liberals and secularists are fighting for truth and rationality.

The same passions are likely to be aroused by President Bush’s decision last week to veto the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, which would have loosened the restrictions on federal funding for stem cell research. “This bill would support the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others,” Bush said. “It crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect.”

His opponents point out that while the president zealously champions the rights of the unborn, he is less concerned about the plight of existing American children. The US infant mortality rate is only the 42nd best in the world; the average baby has a better chance of surviving in Havana or Beijing; infant mortality rates are unacceptably high among those who cannot afford adequate healthcare, especially in the African-American community. And, finally, at the same time as Bush decided to veto the stem cell bill, Israeli bombs were taking the lives of hundreds of innocent Lebanese civilians, many of them children, with the tacit approval of the US.

Is there a connection between a religiously motivated mistrust of science, glaring social injustice and a war in the Middle East? Bush and his administration espouse many of the ideals of the Christian right and rely on its support. American fundamentalists are convinced that the second coming of Christ is at hand; they have developed an end-time scenario of genocidal battles based on a literal reading of Revelation that is absolutely central to their theology. Christ cannot return, however, unless, in fulfilment of biblical prophecy, the Jews are in possession of the Holy Land. Before the End, the faithful will be “raptured” or snatched up into the air in order to avoid the Tribulation. Antichrist will massacre Jews who are not baptised; but Christ will defeat the mysterious “enemy from the north”, and establish a millennium of peace. [full text]

2 thoughts on “Next Stop, Hades?

  1. I was a member of a Pentecostal church for three years in the ’70’s. When Israeli athletes were murdered at the Munich olympics the rest of the world was expressing grief and horror, but in my church they praised the Lord because the end times were surely coming soon. now it’s thirty years later and these people are running the country. if you believe in a god, you better pray, because we are screwed.

  2. I’ve clicked on this link several times, but each time I find myself at a loss for words. Part of it is spectral_ev’s first-hand experience.

    What century are we living in?

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