Tag Archives: end times

16:9-20 & 666 – numbers that debunk the Bible

Dr. Richard Carrier recently published a comprehensive article on Mark 16:9-20.  If you’re not aware, these final verses in Mark are unquestionably a later interpolation, i.e., falsification or forgery.  This is a pretty devastating verdict on the Bible’s own claim of divine inspiration.

Some Christians, no doubt, will reject this verdict, so allow me to present an even more devastating proof.  If you tally up the number of verses in Mark, less the interpolation, what do you get? 666!  That number, of course, is the Mark of the Beast (no pun intended), aka, Satan!  Satan has provided an unmistakable sign of his influence on the New Testament!  Muslims were right all along; the Bible is corrupted, and not just be its authors, but by the Lord of the Underworld himself.

This second “proof” is made completely tongue-in-cheek, of course, but there are many Christians who take great stock in biblical numbers.  Christian end-times prophecy is particularly indebted to creative numerological exegesis, yet Mark’s verse count is certainly as clear-cut, if not more so, than anything they’ve come up with.  Will they thus renounce the Bible?  Don’t hold your breath.

Nonetheless, whether it’s damning evidence or evidence of damnation, many Christians will shrug their shoulders and ask, “So what?”  Inerrancy is of no great concern to them, and I gotta say, that confuses me a lot.  If the creator of the universe’s main way of getting you to know him was through a book – which by itself is fraught with problems – you’d think he’d take great care to ensure its integrity.  That he didn’t is a huge gimme point for Bible skepticism.  It opens the door to legitimate doubt about any Biblical claim.  Or, as one apologist website put it even more starkly:

The issue is not simply “Does the Bible have a mistake?” but “Can God make a mistake?” If the Bible contains factual errors, then God is not omniscient and is capable of making errors Himself. If the Bible contains misinformation, then God is not truthful but is instead a liar. If the Bible contains contradictions, then God is the author of confusion. In other words, if biblical inerrancy is not true, then God is not God.

Any Christian who denies inerrancy care to refute such logic? (Bonus question: What is your method for delineating between errant and inerrant scripture?)

The unquenchable end-times thirst

There’s no better guarantee of a good laugh than the steady stream of batshit crazy quotes from such Christian sites as Rapture Ready and Rapture Forums, which are a mainstay at Fundies Say the Darndest Things.  Here’s one choice example, preserved in all its ungrammatical glory:

When I got saved in 1973 I went to a lot of prophecy meetings listening to Jack van Impe and really thot the rapture was near then,A lot of it was emotions,but now w/what,s going on in the world,IT IS FACT!!!! (24thchance)

I remember as a teenager my fundamentalist Christian step-mother handing me a copy of Hal Lindsey’s extremely popular The Late, Great Planet Earth, one of but a series of books going back centuries predicting the end-times, and her telling me that Mikhail Gorbachev was the anti-Christ. I was pretty convinced by the book’s arguments, and watched developments in the Soviet Union with “rapt” attention.  Unfortunately, things didn’t turn out as thought for poor Gorby, nor for “Magog” (as the Soviet Union was known in end-times parlance), as both faded into the dustbin of history.  The same couldn’t be said for Lindsey, who went on to write more end-times novels and make further boat-loads of money, despite a perfect track record of failed prediction.  But even Lindsey’s success can’t compare with the latest and greatest incarnation of end-times hopes, the Left Behind novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, which spawned a host of movies, and even video games.

Today, I’m still fascinated by the end-times.  No, not when they’ll occur, but by the seemingly unquenchable thirst for them among a persistent minority of religious believers.  Every failed end-times prediction seems only to serve as fodder for the next.  There’s no better example of the triumph of hope over experience than end-times belief.  Why?

 To understand the history and theology behind Christian eschatology (the fancy name for end-times belief), I picked up Bible scholar Robert Price’s recent work The Paperback Apocalypse: How the Christian Church Was Left Behind.  Price, too, is interested why end-times belief is the cat of infinite lives, and he arrives at a satisfying – at least for me – answer:

So, as Russell says, we do in fact see a consistent, long-enduring pattern throughout Old and New Testament concerning prophecy, only it is not what he thinks it is.  Instead of Jesus following in the footsteps of the prophets with their use of spectacular symbolism to describe historical developments, what we have is the New Testament writers continuing to do as their Old Testament predecessors did: banking on soon-coming events as heralding the end of the universe in fire and meteor storms.  They were wrong and they kept being wrong.  And that is why today’s fundamentalists, following the same trajectory, keep striking out, too.  Perhaps if they allowed themselves to understand that the biblical writers had so grossly and repeatedly erred, they would learn their lesson.  But that they will not do, for fear of forfeiting scriptural authority.  And this traumatic truth about the Bible they repress, but it is a burden their consciences bear with difficulty, so it manifests itself in neurotic, repeating symptoms, notably the incorrigible desire to calculate the end of a world they are not mature enough to deal with apart from magical fantasies.

I’ll be the first to say, Price is venturing into a field here for which he possesses no particular training; he’s not a psychologist, so take his opinion with a grain of salt.  But his explanation, which he elsewhere attributes to cognitive dissonance, has the ring of truth.  Have you ever noticed that believers most fanatical in their idolotry of  a religious work or of some “prophet” seem the most susceptible to neverending end-times mania?  I also think Price is on to something when he  connects end-times thirst to a lack of personal maturity, though what causes the other is unclear.   Could this immaturity drive another tendency common among end-times enthusiasts: antipathy, even hatred, of the world?  When we’ve made a serious mess of things and just can’t seem to summon the will to correct them, one inclination, most often witnessed among children, is to smash the whole project and start afresh.  I suspect something’s similar at work with these last-days believers.  It also conveniently relieves them of taking any responsibility for partaking in common human endeavors to alleviate the world’s troubles.  The earth sucks and it’s going to be blown away soon by a divine nuke, so why bother?

As I wrote before, this is one of the most worrisome aspects of end-times belief, though such apathy does not compare to the dangerous lunacy to actually effect eschatological doctrines through open conflict.  While such a vile strain is mostly isolated, it’s come too close to having one of it’s own in real power for me to breathe easily any time soon.  History, sadly, is littered with the victims of apocalyptic preaching.  Could it just be a matter of time before the rest of us are victims too?

Edit: Reflecting more on believers’ loathing for the world, I think a better, simpler explanation for it derives from the belief that God will one day blast it to smithereens.  What a terrible place this must be for him to do that!

Why do Christians want to save America?

One of the perennial laments of today’s Christians, particularly those on the right, is the decline of society.  Secular liberals, they say, are whitewashing America’s Christian heritage, taking God out of schools, and imbuing children with moral relativist values.  The results are inevitable: violence, drug use, abortion, failed families, and tolerance.  And when I say inevitable, I mean it.  Many Christians believe this was all foreseen in the Bible.

Now you’d think that Christians would be absolutely delighted to see the world fall apart.  Not only would that confirm what they’ve been saying about man’s inherent depravity, but it heralds the last days before Jesus’s return to restore Truth, Justice, and Apple Pie.  Or something like that.  Hallelujah, right?

Not so fast!  Christians aren’t pleased.  In fact, they’re downright indignant that this “Christian nation” has turned its back on God.  And, by gum, they’re not standing for it.  From scrapping evolution to banning gay marriage, Christians today are fighting to restore Christian values back to the centerpiece of public life. 

Well, pardon me for asking, but why?  Even if you do accomplish all that you seek to do, what’s the intended result?  A postponement of Armageddon?  Jesus didn’t say, “If you’re really, really good, maybe I’ll show back up.”  No!  He said, “Things are going to get really bad, and THEN (and only then) will I make an encore appearance.”

Look guys, face the music, the world is lost.  It’s done for.  It has a one way ticket to oblivion.  The only unknown is the timing, which you have absolutely no control over (God’s Plan, remember?).  Might I suggest simply hunkering down?  You know, try that whole “in the world, but not of it” tactic you say you follow.  What’s the point in forcing others to adhere to God’s law?  Preach the Gospel, and move on already.  It seems you have enough of a hard time following your own rules for you to be worrying about what everyone else is doing.

Does God like to punish?

Anyone who’s read the Bible knows that punishing people took up a goodly portion of God’s time.  And it didn’t much matter if you actually did anything wrong or not, or if you were under a certain age.  Guilt by association was just as much a crime as the “crime” itself–just ask the Canaanites or the pre-Flood inhabitants.

And if you think the punishments have stopped because we live in some period of grace, think again.  With every calamity–natural or not–some “man of God” dutifully proclaims it divine retribution for one human “sin” or another–gay pride parades, gambling, abortion, dancing–you name it.  Some even believe calamities are a herald of the imminent end times–the fact that the same things have been occurring for millions of years doesn’t seem to phase these people, however.

The funny thing about these prognosticators of doom is that they also believe in a god who sends the unrepentant (read: those who don’t belong to their particular sect, in their particular religion) to eternal suffering in the fiery pits of hell.  Their god, apparently not simply content with punishing us forever and ever after death, also feels it necessary to mete out punishment during our lifetimes.  And if we poor SOBs should die as a result, then tough shit.  Out of the fire, and into the frying pan!

So, you can see, God really likes to punish. And, I gotta hand it to him, in a number of really inventive ways.  A virus which progressively destroys your immune system, leaving you to die a slow and miserable death?  Who da thunk it?!

But what about the the innocent casualties?  You know, those who’re did everything right, muttered the correct magical words, dutifully contributed to the collection plate every Sunday in the red brick church.  Is God punishing them too when they get run over by a hurricane or tidal wave?

Oh, no!  They are merely being “called home.”  At the worst, they should recall that this is a fallen world, righteously susceptible to God’s carpet-bomb justice.  ‘Cause, you know, sparing the good and innocent is too much to ask of the Omnipotent Creator of the Known Universe.  If I was one of those Rapturians–people who believe they’ll be magically beamed into the sky before the real shit hits the fan–I would feel a little worried about this divine tendency to simply blow everyone away.

The really curious thing is the response of these men of God and their fellow believers.  They sometimes actually help the victims. WTF? I can think of no more sinful act than working against God’s justice.  They may think that poor, hungry child in Somalia deserves food, but they should remember, that kid has got sin-tainted blood and is almost certainly headed for hell.  Best to send ’em a Bible instead (only the KJV1611 version will do).

You can’t help but get the impression God is chomping at the bit to annihilate His creation as soon as possible, and is blowing off a little steam in the meantime.  With divine love like this…