Once again, something in the news has triggered a rash of Doomsday rants. This time it was today’s early morning start-up of the huge Large Hadron Collider with its blasting of atomic particles through a 17-mile underground chamber. The collider's eventual intent is to replicate conditions surrounding the Big Bang, but some critics believe the collider could inadvertently create black holes capable of demolishing the entire Earth.
The BBC looked into the human penchant for apocalyptic fright and today published a fascinating article on why we have these fears.
"It is a very ancient pattern in human thought. It is rooted in ancient, even pre-biblical Middle Eastern myths of ultimate chaos and ultimate struggle between the forces of order and chaos," cultural historian Paul S Boyer, author of When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture, told the BBC. "It is deeply appealing at a psychological level because the idea of meaninglessness is deeply threatening."
Although end-of-the-world thinking crops up in many religions, those in the West are probably most aware of Christian eschatology, noted the BBC article. In the early days of the church it was taken as a given by many believers that the Second Coming and the end of the world were imminent. Mainstream Christianity may have moved away from this type of thought, but large numbers of believers have returned to it at various times.
"It isn't just the lunatic fringe, it's an integral part of all Christianity. But [in mainstream Christianity] it is put into perspective that it may happen 'one day'," Stephen J. Hunt, a sociologist of religion and author of Christian Millenarianism: From the Early Church to Waco, told the BBC. "Certain groups and movements believe it is in their generation. They are saying ‘We’ve got the truth and nobody else has.’"
"It comes down to an issue of power," says Michael Molcher, editor of the magazine The End is Nigh. "What you get during times of particular discontent or war or famine or during general bad times is a rise in apocalyptic preaching and ideas.”
Click here for the complete BBC article.
Illustration from a 1939 Popular Science article, "How Will the World End?"