Thursday, November 18, 2010

Threatdown to Armageddon

Despite not having been updated in over ten years, Countdown to Armageddon is the seventh search result for “antichrist” on google. The reason for the discontinuation of updates isn’t stated, but given the content of the website it can only be assumed that this is because the authors (known only as “The Family”) are currently hiding in a bunker waiting for the Battle of Armageddon to end. It’s hard to find a more staunch, literal view of Revelation, yet somehow this site has risen near the top of pages about Revelation-based end-of-the-world panic. In fact, besides a Wikipedia article, there are only two websites above it that deal with Revelation (the rest are about the film Antichrist by Lars Von Trier). Because of this, it can be implied that it holds some type of strong popular authority and is a force to be reckoned with in online Revelation information. It’s a shame that it’s comprised of equal parts leaps of logic, missing evidence, and hysterical panic.

The first issue I have to take with the website is that it is almost entirely lacking in evidence of any kind. Claims are constantly made with nothing to back them up. The only links go back to other pages on the site and no outside sources are even mentioned. The website is then not about warning outsiders of the oncoming end of the world, but instead about preaching to the converted who maintain that end of the world is almost here. For example, the website asserts that “history has proven the extraordinary unerring accuracy of bible prophecy,” but gives no example of this beyond the advancement of or ability to predict the weather. The fact that, of all things, the development of meteorology is seen as a sign of the apocalypse, says magnitudes about the rhetoric of the site. Facts are the playthings of these interpreters of Revelation, and many of the facts used are not backed up either on the site or elsewhere. It is entirely comprised of claims with almost no supporting evidence, apparently believing that the word of the website carries enough authority to not need outside support.

What historical evidence is offered is often warped and misleading. On the page about war, it is stated that “up until 1914, war had never been universal, but in both World War 1 & 2, total war was waged”. This ignores both that there were countries not involved in both of these wars, and that there were a number of previous wars that had numerous combating countries and locations of battle, such as the Seven Years’ War, Crimean War, and 30 Years’ War. It also describes HIV/AIDS and cancer as plagues, but turns a blind eye to older threats to public health such as the 1918 Flu Pandemic and the bubonic plague. The more hopeful news of the 20th century eradication of smallpox, is omitted. On an even more absurd note, it is asserted that “the rock n roll era has seen violence increase among young people by over 10,000%”. Justification for how this increase (be it real or fabrication) can be attributed to rock music is not given.

There are times when the website seems to negligently read the bible itself. It quotes Matthew Chapter 24, saying “This generation shall not pass away till be fulfilled,” and claims that this is directed to our generation However, this passage was written roughly 2000 years ago. Why then, are the authors of this website so sure that it applies to today’s generation? Furthermore, what do they mean by “our generation?” There are several generations alive today, but they do not specify which one “shall not pass away till all be fulfilled.” This shows the overwhelming willingness to apply a passage from the bible to the events of today. Without anything to back it up, this claim is presented as fact without any question of it possible. It does claim that this is the last generation because it will see the “signs of the end,” but ignores that many of them, such as wars, famine, plagues, and earthquakes are nothing new. In fact, they have been going on since the dawn of time. Even the more recent events given, such as the accumulation of knowledge, traffic accidents, and “rapid transport” have now lasted through several generations.

The reason for this lack of scholarliness in the website may be found on the page titled “Knowledge.” It is claimed here the the advancement of knowledge is one of the signs of the apocalypse. While at first page seems to be in favor of the growth of science and technology, but the tone changes in the last two paragraphs. First it is said that this intellectual development has not made “mankind any happier,” and next it is stated that our “‘advanced’ & expensive educational systems” have “been turning out the most confused, ignorant & violent children they’ve ever produced.” This may explain the site as a whole better than any other passage; the authors of the site do not care for intellectual development or our education system, and therefore do not feel the need for any outside evidence. The site is then not oriented to appeal to the mind, but instead to a gut-level reaction. In essence, the authors of the website feel that facts do not matter where faith is working.

Although the site says little to nothing about Revelation in any historical context, it does make the connection between it and other books of the bible. While a number of these refer to new testament works, the authors also tie revelation to the old testament as well. Since the Book of Revelation is very referential to older scriptures, it is necessary to address its connection to them. However, this is where the historical discussion of Revelation ends. For being a website about the book of Revelation, there is very little actually said about it. The author, time of writing, and other possible interpretations of it are nowhere to be found. This reflects the narrow-mindedness of the website as a whole. Their view is the only one discussed, which is fascinating because they are so sure that the book is about current times, yet it has been written about for hundreds of years. What makes their interpretation so much better than older views? It is not said.

I will say this about the website; it is not entirely doom and gloom. On the page How to Prepare, there is an implication that there is a bond between the Catholic and Protestant branches of Christianity, which shows a kind of acceptance and camaraderie not always seen between sects, especially on such a hot-topic issue. The site also avoids glorifying the pain and death of non-Christians, which goes to show that a viewpoint of Revelation can be apocalyptic, but not malicious. It also includes a glimpse of hope that after the horrible events; there will be a light at the end of the tunnel in the form of a millennium of peace and prosperity.. While the site does say that only Christians will rise from the earth in the rapture, it is kind enough to give a prayer for non-Christians who decide convert. I like that this allows for outsiders to be able to avoid suffering and enter paradise, because it reaches out to a wider audience instead of condemning them for their beliefs. This makes the website not just about describing the end of the world, but also providing a solution to those bound for suffering. It may not be the most pluralistic view that could be taken, but on a site devoted to horrors inflicted upon mankind, I’ll take what I can get.

Now, given the various faults found with this site, it has crossed my mind that it is perhaps not serious, but instead a satire of other very real apocalyptic websites. The bad layout, faulty use of history, and pervasive near-hysteria of the website could all very easily be used to ridicule those who believe the events of Revelation are about to happen. While it is always difficult, if not impossible, to know the true intent of the author, this is compounded when the text in question is attributed to an anonymous entity and published in a medium where anything goes. However, it does not matter if the site is a joke or not. There are enough sites like it that there will be a number people who take the website very seriously. Furthermore, there are numerous books and films dealing with the subject that claim to profess a similar type of truth, although they do so in fictional form. For example, the Left Behind series has sold over 63 million books and the authors claim it is the truth about the end of the world. Premillenialism is clearly alive and well in America. For this reason, I am forced to regard the website as genuine.

The problem with the website is not that it espouses a the-end-is-near interpretation of the Book of Revelation. The problem is that it does so in a haphazard, misleading, and uninformed way. It isn’t the message that is objectionable, it’s the method. The use of wild claims with no evidential backing undermines everything the site says. If the authors are so sure that the end of the world is about occur, then why can’t they back it up with anything that they didn’t write? They claim to see the same vision that “Nostradamus, the Fatima Children, Edgar Cayce and Jeane Dixon” saw, but when all is said and done, why should we believe them?

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