“Bad moon revising” (End of the world)

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Last week’s end of the world came on Friday during a Black Moon. The second new moon in a calendar month is normally referred to as blue moon, but the color was changed by wannabe seers to make for a more sinister satellite.

Various tweets, blogs, and vlogs predicted end was coming Friday, with most saying it would mark the return of Jesus. Never addressed was why a manmade concept like a month would be relevant to a god deciding when to destroy his creation. As to why this second full moon of this month as opposed to any previous one would be the catalyst was mostly unexplained, though some tried to tie it in to the Jewish feast of trumpets, which began three days after the Black Moon.

As in previous Christian-themed astronomical doomsdays, the key Bible verses were in Luke, chapter 21: “There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations. Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and looking after those things which are coming on the earth.” With words this vague, one can create any meaning. It never outlines what the signs are, what they mean, or how to recognize them. Additionally, the verses establish no timeline, so believers can claim they have validity 1,900 years after being written.

Doomsayers point to disparate events such as beheadings, earthquakes, marriage between other than one man and one woman, and a Hindu giving the opening Congressional prayer as signs that Jesus is about to return. Yet decapitations, natural disasters, polygamy, and Hinduism all predate the birth of Jesus.

Christians who declare that the end is near must ignore the Bible verse that says only God knows the end date. They are willing to commit this blasphemy because they find it exciting to think they are living close to the end and it makes them feel in the know to interpret current events thusly. Best of all, it means everlasting bliss is tantalizingly close. Some keep it vague (“The end is approaching”), some are more specific (“Jesus will return in our lifetimes”), and some like Harold Camping set a date.

These are all representatives of the dominant variety of apocalyptic thinkers – the religious – while other persons subscribe to a pseudoscientific line of cataclysmic thought.

Since most religions don’t have an equivalent of Revelation, most faith-based doomsdays have a Christian flavor, though not always. One blogger calculated that the Black Moon coincided with the Greek goddess Hecate’s visit to Earth, which he said takes place every 200 years. During her latest stop, she was to mate with a demon, with the offspring’s fate being to devour our planet.

Overall, the Black Moon predictions drew little attention, but doomsday warnings are regular features on our extant world. The most well-known of recent years came from Camping and readers of the Mayan calendar, but there have been similar predictions for centuries.

Few persons making these cataclysmic predictions are fearful. It’s the end of the world as they know it and they feel fine. This is because they think the impending doom validates their religion and will transport them to a higher plain for eternity. That’s how Marshall Applewhite got Heaven’s Gate members to overdose on barbiturate-laced chocolate pudding in order that their souls would levitate to a spaceship being shielded by the Hale Bopp comet. Though not lethal like Applewhite’s prediction, John Hagee makes end of the world prognostications at least a biennial event. And Pat Robertson predicted world judgement by the end of 1982.

These predictions excite those making them, and most of us can relate to some degree. Be it the plausible “The Day After” or the glut of TV zombies today, it’s fascinating to be given a window to cataclysm. Watching a program about an asteroid slamming into Earth and the aftermath, we get to be among the survivors. The story of life on Earth is amazing, but without an ending the tale seems incomplete. For most persons, doomsday in entertainment form is enough, but others long for it to be real. In some cases, the desire is so strong that even failed predictions won’t dim their enthusiasm.

In fact, when those predicted days end up being apocalypse-free, most followers stay onboard the Crazy Train. This is due to extreme cases of cognitive dissonance. They refuse to accept that the time and energy they put into prepping for it was wasted. They cannot deal with the thought of having given away their money and possessions in vain. So the redouble and might say their piety saved the world from judgement. That’s what Dorothy Martin and her followers declared in 1954. Others accept their messiah’s assurance that it was merely a minor miscalculation. After his fire-from-the-sky guarantee fizzled, Camping changed the date to a few months later. Camping died shortly thereafter from non-sky inferno causes, and his protégé Chris McCann did another recalculation and arrived at Oct. 7, 2015.

Similarly, when the Mayan apocalypse didn’t happen, believers reinterpreted the date as June 4, 2016. This was the same experience of William Miller and his followers. He had guaranteed the end of the world as 1843, then had to adjust to 1844. Camping and Miller could have said their original calculation was off by 100 years and prevented a second public failing while keeping the parishioners and their money. But persons with their mindsets are unable to do that. It has to be in their lifetimes or it loses value to them. I have come across hundreds of end of the world predictions and have never seen one that would take place after the prognosticator’s probable lifespan.

Very few predictions of our planets demise center on notions such as the all-time tsunami, Earth’s core bubbling up, or even the plausible nuclear war. Most come from above, either a vengeful god or a rouge planet, or for maximum impact, a rouge planet launched by a vengeful god.

People have always been drawn to celestial bodies for their sense of wonder. In 1502, Jamaicans refused to let Christopher Columbus come ashore. He knew an eclipse was coming and told the natives to comply with his demands or his god would take away the moon. When this seemingly happened, the natives were alarmed, and not merely because they had a displeased deity on their quivering hands. The moon was central to their lives, being the focus of festivals and determining the planting and harvesting seasons. With it gone, their lives would be turned upside down and might even come to an end. Columbus told them he would supplicate to his god on their behalf if they would agree to his demands. Of course, they agreed.  

The moon can still be a source of wonder, as we can marvel at men having been there, or might erroneously consider a full one to be a cause of loony behavior. To some, eclipses, meteors, and star showers can seem to have supernatural overtones, usually detrimental ones. And of all the portents of doom, none is more complete or compelling than the one that ends it all. Most of these doomsdays have a religious bent, but some prefer a science fiction approach.

A 1997 book by Richard Noone laboriously titled, “5/5/2000 Ice: the Ultimate Disaster,” predicted a worldwide extinction by freezing. According to Noone, the Antarctic ice mass would be three miles thick by the titular date, by which time the planets would be aligned in the heavens. Not sure what that means, nor would I be any more likely to understand it after pouring over Noone’s 350 pages of detailed diagrams and extensive explications. The book is still available for purchase, way cheap.

Noone’s idea has flittered, but one of the most enduring SciFi suggestions for how Earth will end centers on it being targeted by a ninth Solar System planet, Niburu. This comes mostly from Nancy Lieder, the only Earthing in contact with aliens from Zeta Reticuli. Through her brain implant, they told her Niburu had gone rouge and was going to throw Earth off its orbit, giving inhabitants either a fiery or icy death, depending on which way we are hurtled. This was to take place in 2003. When this failed to materialize, she received a second, corrected message, but won’t give this date because world governments would declare martial law and imprison us all in cities. Why would lifetime banishment in Seattle be so bad? Because the countryside will offer salvation for some reason or other. At any rate, Niburu is said to be four times Earth’s size, meaning it would be visible, perhaps to the naked eye and certainly to telescopes. When this was pointed out, a hasty ad hoc rationalization was trotted out that it had been hidden behind the sun for all these years, a geometric impossibility.

There are an assortment of doomsdays that center on the alignment of celestial bodies doing damage, but the only bodies whose gravity significantly impact Earth are the sun and moon. Bodies will always align in certain ways, but all are unrelated to Earthly oblivion. By contrast, the flipping of Earth’s poles does take place, but won’t kill anyone, not even the penguins. It takes place over thousands of years and is not an immediate occurrence, and so is no threat.

By far the most well-known of the SciFi hypotheses was Y2K. The supposed inability of computers to differentiate 2000 from 1900 was to be the cause of calamity, from crashing airliners all the way to self-launching nuclear missiles. In the end, the most harmful result was the rare ATM malfunction. This was especially inconvenient to the families who had run low on cash after making food, supply, and shotgun runs as part of their Y2K drills.

The most ironic thing about this desire for doom from the religions and pseudoscientific is that there are genuine scientific reasons to suspect a horrific ending. Earth could be swallowed by the sun, or it might end earlier than that. UK astrobiologist Jack O’Malley-James predicts that environmental changes will lead to the extinction of all Earthly inhabitants within 3 billion years. He says oceans will evaporate and the last ones left will be microbes in the few water enclaves on what is otherwise a massive, uninhabitable sand dune.

His ideas are based on scientific models, observation, data, and inference, so they hold little interest for the likes of Hagee, Camping, Lieder, and Noone. But an even bigger reason for their indifference is because this doomsday takes place in a distant future. They may not think the world revolves around them, but they do think that the end of the world does.

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