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  • Sanal Edamaruku

Biblical Prophecy and World End Alarm

Doom is looming large. Our world is claimed to come to an abrupt end on 23rd September, 2017.

Christian myths point to an astrological constellation on September 23 matching Revelation 12:1–2, which will signal the start of the Rapture and the second coming of Christ. Revelation 12:1–2 reads: "And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of 12 stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth."

Biblical prophecies or claims of the arrival of Nibiru, are nothing new. Many previous dates have come and gone.

The present story revolves around an ancient Babylonian myth about an imaginary planet Nibiru. Based on this myth, many Christian groups believe Nibiru will arrive on September 23 into our solar system and will eventually destroy Earth, putting an end to life as we know it.

David Meade, a Christian fundamentalist, earlier this year released the book - Planet X - The 2017 Arrival, which claimed Nibiru would appear from September 23, to coincide with the "heavenly sign."

David Meade and the imaginary Nibiru

Nibiru, or Planet X as it is also known, is an imaginary planet supposed to be lurking on the edge of our solar system.

The claim goes as follows. The woman in question is Virgo, and on September 23, the sun and moon will be in Virgo, as will Jupiter. And Jupiter is said to represent the Messiah. Planet X or Nibiru system will become visible in the skies before it passes Earth, causing death and destruction as the gravitation force knocks us of our polar axis.

Conspiracy theorists believe that Nibiru is a rogue planet, making its way from the outer solar system inwards, where it will wreak havoc on Earth. They claim Nibiru's orbit is oval-shaped, meaning it travels far away from the sun and then is brought back in by our star’s gravity where it passes through the solar system.

The US space agency NASA, on an editorial update on 20 September 2017 clears all doubts: Various people are "predicting" that world will end Sept. 23 when another planet collides with Earth. The planet in question, Nibiru, doesn't exist, so there will be no collision.

World end alarms are spreading with increasing regularity since Noah built the ark. The really predictable part about doomsdays is: sure as eggs is eggs, there is always a morning after. This time it will be on coming Saturday. The triumph of good old reality over ever new grotesque paranormal believes leaves a sour taste though. Can you shrug off those millions all over the world who are running their heads against a wall, over and over again? Their needless suffering is reminder that the enemies of reason are potential holders of a weapon a mass destruction that cannot very easily be defused.

Doomsday prophecies may not be the most dangerous part of the problem. But as they are bound to collide always so harshly with the continued existence of the world after zero hour, they allow us a glimpse at a process – here in fast motion – that normally would play out too slowly to be understood. It is a process of immunisation against reason.

Déjà vu: taken to 1954, here is a snapshot, frozen in time.

On 20th December 1954, a small group of people sits together and waits for a great event. This night, they believe, a deluge will destroy the Earth. But before that, a flying saucer will land right in their garden and rescue all of them to an unknown destination. Their leader is Dorothy Martin, a housewife from Chicago, who claims to be in contact with aliens from the planet Clarion, who have chosen her as a medium for their revelations. Her true believers are well prepared for the great journey. They left their jobs, schools and families and gave away all their properties. Now, according to the last instruction, they remove all metal objects from their bodies. Ready. The clock strikes midnight. But nothing happens. Just nothing. What will they do?

The social psychologist Leon Festinger and his colleagues are watching them. They read in the local press about Ms. Martin’s mysterious messages, formulated a theory about things to come and infiltrated the group. Two years later, they will publish the path breaking study “When Prophecy Fails”, making Ms. Martin and her believers the textbook example for the “cognitive dissonance theory”. This theory offers the key to a social and psychological mechanism behind religion, magical thinking and various irrational behaviour patterns. It holds that the dissonance between conflicting ideas, beliefs, values or emotions, causes stark discomfort, powering a strong drive to reduce this dissonance by altering and adjusting cognitions or adding new ones. The simplest example is the fox of Aesop’s fable, that convinces itself that the grapes that he cannot reach must be sour.

Our little religious group, waiting in vain for their heavenly trip that December night, got deeply distressed, when reality clashed so hard with their cherished belief, in which they had already invested so much. They couldn’t afford to embrace reality. They modified and adjusted their belief system to reduce the dissonance. At dawn, after hours of shocked and tense silence and weeping, the aliens dictated Ms. Martin the solution: The god, moved by the sincerity of the little group, had abandoned his plan and saved the planet from destruction! This changed everything. The believers, earlier shunning the public, swarmed out and started to spread the “good news” with vigour and enthusiasm. Convincing others, they “proved” to themselves that everything was alright.

Not all the doomsday cults find such a “happy” solution. For groups like Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple or Heaven’s Gate, the only option left was mass suicide / murder. This is not a new phenomenon. Records from the 5th century CE show the case of one Rabbi Fiskis in Crete, who called himself Moses and announced he would part the sea and rescue his followers to the holy land. Of course, in reality waters did not obey him. And except a few, picked up by fishermen to tell the story, all of his followers drowned in the floods.

Ms. Martin (who soon became Sister Thedra) created a remake of one of the oldest doomsday classics. Her flying saucer is nothing but an updated version of Noah’s Arc in the Genesis. Doomsday prophecies are known since thousands of years and in all religions. In recent centuries, the classical ancient plots of a deity perfecting his/her creation got often sexed up with some fashionable accessories of their times. There are UFOs, killer bees, a communist or a Vatican world empire, black holes or worldwide computer crashes. One thing, however, invariably remains the same. At least since reliable historical records exist, none of the predicted apocalypses has come true. But never mind, they keep coming and going. The artist Loren Madsen has enlisted more than 250 doomsdays that never happened.

In recent times, such predictions use to widen their grip far beyond the small circle of a particular group of religious insiders. In 2011, Harold Camping, an American fundamentalist Christian broadcaster, was able to drum up considerable hysteria with his old fashioned fire-brimstone-and-plague End Time. But his deadline of 21st October, too, passed without any noteworthy event - quite like his previously predicted judgement days on 21st May 1988 and 6th September 1994. So did Sylvester 1999, though the millennium leap had gullible around the world shiver with fear from cosmic cataclysms and the “Y2K” total computer break down. The most recent in the past was on 21st December 2012, base on the Maya calendar.

On 21st December 2012 too Earth did not collide with the obscure Planet X nor got swallowed by a black hole. Also no sun storm occurred, no switch of poles, no eruption of super volcanoes. The notion of such cosmic catastrophes loomed around had no scientific base; it was clearly contradicted by simple astronomical observations. And as for the Maya calendar, it actually doesn’t end on 21st December 2012. Calendars don’t end. They only reset all places from time to time. But though utter nonsense and not even new, the pseudo-scientific concoction of the “2012 phenomenon” was massively spread via the Internet and media. The reason is simple: doom day is boom day. Nothing sells like fear.

The marketing strategy for the Hollywood disaster film “2012”, released in 2009, pulled out all the stops in aggressive viral campaigns. Distributor Columbia Pictures tried unscrupulously to sell the movie plot for reality, creating, for example, a website for a fake Institute for Human Continuity that runs a lottery for safe survival places in swimming space colonies. They reached some 140 million people via the Internet, mobile streams and television. It paid. The mediocre film became quite a box office producing $ 603,567,306 in total overseas earnings.

Before the film launch, David Morrison of NASA reportedly received over 1000 inquiries from people who thought the website was genuine. "I've even had cases of teenagers writing to me saying they are contemplating suicide because they don't want to see the world end," he said. "I think when you lie on the Internet and scare children to make a buck; that is ethically wrong."

That is a crucial point. In fact, I think we have to consider putting legal limits to the business with fear and irrationality. It is not about the film industry alone. There are scores of profiteers swimming on the doomsday wave. And it is not just doomsday, for that matter. Selling every day anything from bunkers to miracle bracelets and wonder cures to gullible, fearful people, they don’t just exploit them; they massively reinforce the mind crippling vicious circle of superstition in their lives. The superstition generator is running overtime, even in many of our otherwise so critical and progressive media.

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