"At this time of great crisis in the world, we should be looking for nuclear disarmament, nuclear abolition - saving the world, not ramping up for Armageddon by nuclear proliferation." Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio).
"There's always an alien battle cruiser, or a Cyrillian death ray, or an intergalactic plague that's trying to wipe out life on this miserable little planet." (Tommy Lee Jones in "Men in Black.")
Armageddon is hot again and why not? We crave explanations for wars in the Middle East and madness at home, such as the shooting of six Jews in Seattle last week by a man claiming to be a Muslim and wanting revenge against Israel. Our country is flooded with illegal aliens of the human kind. Some contend the culture is collapsing. Gangs rampage. The economy is uncertain. There is open political warfare. In our ceaseless attempts to find solutions, or at least explanations for this and more, no earthly formula seems adequate, so some look to the skies.
End-of-the-world prophecies have been around almost since the beginning. Ancient prophets, like Daniel in the Hebrew Bible and John the Apostle, who wrote Revelation, laid down visions of the destruction of the world and its replacement with a peaceful, heavenly kingdom.
Many complex mathematical formulas have been solved, but not "666," which is the "mark of the beast" foretold in Revelation. Many have guessed at its meaning, but the answer has eluded them. For those interested in the history of false and phony end times prophecy, a partial list can be found at www.isitso.org/guide/endtime.html. It makes for entertaining reading. One of my favorites is the Anabaptist preacher in the early 1500s named Hoffman who declared the end of the world would begin in 1533 and that Strassburg would be transformed into the "New Jerusalem."
The 1991 Persian Gulf War produced a spike in end-times books and sales. Some of them flatly predicted Armageddon was upon us. Authors noted that modern Iraq is ancient Babylon and they saw the Iraq war as a possible, even probable, fulfillment of end-times prophecies. Like those before them, they were wrong. To paraphrase Stephen Sondheim, Œwe're still here."