Thursday’s News & Reviews: Armageddon Preppers

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From infancy I was taught faithfulness above all else. As a dedicated member of the Watchtower Society, I was trained to accept counsel and direction without question. To question implied a weak faith and vulnerability to the Satanic trait of rebellion.

I remember the first time I chose to disagree with something published by Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW’s). It was 1999. A was laying in bed in a cute little house I rented on the west end of Bend, Oregon. The spring breezes were wafting in the window and stirring the drapes around me. I was reading an article in the latest Watchtower magazine, which discouraged permanent forms of birth control (i.e. vasectomies, tubal ligation, etc.). As a person who never wanted children I found this a veritable death sentence. I didn’t just not want kids. I hated the little buggers! To feel like I was being forced into motherhood was more than I could swallow. The foundation of my faith cracked that day–a profound, irrevocable fissure that would lead to more and more weakening of my faith until the structure finally crumbled.

Fast forward 10 years to 2009. I was attending a meeting at my local Kingdom Hall when I heard a talk on “Go-Bags.” These were handy little receptacles a “faithful” JW would keep packed with essentials in the likelihood of “natural disaster.” They should be kept handy in the trunk of the car in case of instant and life-threatening need. Water, flashlights, batteries, change of clothes, food, compass–whatever one might need in a natural disaster. This talk fell right on the heels of Hurricane Katrina, so it may sound logical to some. It wasn’t logical in Central Oregon. The only natural disaster that threatened that part of the country was volcanic, and it’s not like the Cascade mountains are known for blowing up without warning. (This article in no way discourages disaster preparedness. If you live in an area known for natural disasters, power outages, or extreme weather please make the necessary preparations to protect yourself and your family.)

My bullshit detector went off. I knew the JW “brothers” were intentionally avoiding the mention of Armageddon or the Great Tribulation by couching their warnings in terms like “natural disaster.” For the first time in history, JW’s were being encouraged to prepare for “the end of this system of things” by putting bottles of water and granola bars in backpacks. The brother on the stage even insinuated this was a matter of faith, and the faithful would obey without question.

My bullshit detector was screaming. I’m surprised no one else heard it. One brother did hear about it after the meeting.  I approached him and asked him why he thought we were in danger of hurricane in landlocked central Oregon. He told me any number of other disasters could happen: earthquake, flooding (in the desert?!), spontaneous volcanic explosion, etc.

Up until this point, we had always been trained to believe that Jehovah would protect his followers when Armageddon struck. I told this “brother” that I thought go-bags were showing a lack of faith in God and his ability to take care of his people. I was given a patronizing look that indicated I was a sister and needed to stop asking questions.

So I did the next logical thing: I went to my dad. He had always been my rock. He knew the bible backwards and forwards and had read every piece of literature published by the Watchtower society since the 1940s.

He agreed with me. It was a lack of faith and he felt it was a localized attempt on the part of some area brothers to force others to succumb to doomsday prepping ideals. The fact that dad was an ex-Mormon might have also contributed to his aversion to such an approach.

Dad died a year later, but I wonder if his faith would have survived the latest attempt by the JW’s to force people into fearful scenarios.

Recently, I saw a picture that was posted in the latest copy of the Watchtower. It can be seen above. It shows people hiding in a basement, and an unmistakable look of fear on a child’s face to indicate the gravity of the situation. Undoubtedly, they are hiding from the rampant anarchy taking place over their heads. I imagine sounds of helicopters, bombing air raids, the shrieks of the dying, and the pop of gunfire. I can imagine those sounds because they haunted my dreams as a child raised with images of Armageddon and torture.

I have recently been informed that JW’s are now required to select a safe place to flee to in time of “Natural disaster.” Once a family, or group, have selected their “place of refuge,” they are to report this to the local elders who make a written record and share it with the Circuit Overseer, who then passes it on to the headquarters. This isn’t just a whimsical fantasy to make easily impressionable people excited over the prospects of global annihilation. All JW’s are required to submit a written document of their chosen place of hiding. (Is anybody else seeing images of Jonestown right about now?)

I spent 38 years deeply entrenched in that religion. They’re not about to drink any Kool-Aid, in spite of what their actions may sometimes indicate. I see this as nothing more than another ploy to keep people unstable and afraid. A lot has happened in the last 100 years of that organization, except for the one thing millions of people have lived, and died, for: Armageddon. After more than 10 decades of promising that “Armageddon is just around the corner,” if the JW leaders didn’t find a new tactic for threat and rescue they would start losing credibility.

I have to say, it’s a pretty good scheme. Twenty years ago, I would have been eating this stuff up. It would be so exciting to imagine my flight to some wilderness as the world fell apart and billions died at the hand of God. But I know that religion, and I know those people. I would be willing to bet you money that many of them have already initiated their flight. Just as in 1975 when many of them quit school and sold their assets in hopes of the imminent arrival of Armageddon, I am sure many are repeating those same horrible mistakes. The Ebola outbreak; the riots; the extreme weather–some serious bridges are being burned right about now, all in the name of faith.

Keep your eyes open. You might see some houses go on the market in hopes of a quick sale. If you are in the janitorial field, you might be able to pick up some new accounts as JW’s flee the western world to live in caves and bomb shelters. The most positive aspect of all this? If they are in hiding, at least they’re not knocking on our doors.

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Thursday’s News & Reviews: Suicide In All Its Forms

Topmost in people’s minds this week has been the news of actor/comedian Robin William’s suicide. The outpouring of sadness and compassion from the huge array of his fans has made us all wonder a bit about the painful depths hidden beneath his kind, and comical, grin. My first exposure to Robin was Mork & Mindy (1978-82), a show I adored as a child. His comedic genius was unmatched and the world has lost a light bearer who taught us empathy in the face of tragedy and gave us laughter as a healing salve. The greatest tragedy, perhaps, was his inability to find that healing when he most needed it. I wonder at the high price of comedy when I consider the greats that have been taken from us prematurely: Chris Farley, John Belushi, John Pinette, John Candy, Phil Hartman, Andy Kaufman, etc. etc. etc. Do successful comedians give so much they haven’t anything left for themselves?

On a related note, it never ceases to amaze me the depth of people’s cruelty when someone dies. I have experienced it, witnessed it, and am now stunned to find such vehement disregard for the feelings of friends and family who are suffering a terrible loss. Has our society become so devoid of human compassion that they take a man’s suffering and use it to beat his mourning family? Artists and actors commit suicide all the time with drugs and alcohol. What is it about this kind-hearted and selfless man that brings out the viciousness in people? Rampant jealousy?  Be warned, if I meet someone who says these things and doesn’t hide behind the safety of a computer screen like a fucking coward, I will kick you in the balls.

 

The recent, and still unchecked, outbreak of Ebola in Africa has westerners fearing contamination as doctors and travelers return home from infected countries. Ignorance and superstition are fueling its spread in Africa, but the centers for disease control within western lands seem to have the issue well in hand. This doesn’t prevent doomsdayers from proclaiming this pestilence another sign of the inevitability of Armageddon. As I mentioned in a previous blog, Jehovah’s Witnesses particularly are likely hoping 2014 will not pass without definite signs of The Great Tribulation, if not Armageddon itself. The ones that aren’t praying it will occur, are terrified it won’t occur and yet another year will pass with no sign of the prophesied “end of this system of things.”

 

In the last few weeks, the paranormal community has been following the latest kerfuffle involving Ryan Buell and the Paranormal Research Society (PRS). For those of you who don’t know, or don’t care, Ryan Buell has finally burned his last bridge and alienated many of his fans. I will say, however, that PRS fans are amongst the most loyal human beings on earth, as many of them continue to sing Ryan’s praises despite continued disappointments and thousands of dollars unaccounted for.

My first exposure to Ryan was with Paranormal State, a 30 minute A&E program, which portrayed Buell and his fellow Penn State students ridding homes of demons and bringing in priests for weekly exorcisms. I found the show entertaining in that it was saturated with Catholic dogma and demonology. The worst cases of demon possession always seemed to occur in trailer parks with hugely obese people who never left the house.

Ryan had apparently experienced difficulty with dark spirits since childhood. Which may, or may not, explain his constant issues with health. I attempted to take a class offered through PRS a couple of years ago. Elfie Music was the instructor. She always amused me when I watched Paranormal State. I got the impression that the producers of the show had given up trying to get her to look, or act,  presentable. She wore some of the worst ensembles I had ever seen, and I never knew what horrible thing she would do to her hair from one episode to the next. She was supposed to be the occult specialist of the group, but she always seemed a little lost.

I’m not sure why I took her class on the history of spiritualism, but I did. And, together with the book, it cost me $85. The book was mind-numbingly boring and the class was, basically, a waste of money. Elfie spent most of the time commenting on inane chatter in the chat box. She’d giggle, drink something, respond to some question by an empty-headed uber-fan, spend a few minutes discussing some slide in her Powerpoint, then go back to the chat box. The class had endless technical difficulties, and some of the participants had already been disappointed by other classes they had paid for that never transpired. I abandoned the class after the second attempt and wrote the whole PRS community off as badly run.

Sure I lost $85, but that is nothing compared to the hundreds of dollars some fans invested in a tour Ryan announced for this summer that never transpired. Fans all over Canada and the U.S. bought plane tickets, event tickets, and made hotel reservations for a tour that never even got off the ground. Ryan claims, not for the first time, that it is due to ill-health and bad management on the part of others. But like the boy who called wolf, many of his fans are shouting fraud and an investigation is underway. If the money isn’t repaid, a lawsuit will be the natural result.

I find this whole situation extremely short-sighted. This young man already had a career and a bevy of devoted fans. All he needed to do was travel around and spend time with people who thought he walked on water. Yeah, they may not be the most intelligent group of people, but who cares right? They’re willing to travel any distance to worship at the feet of their modern-day saint. Ryan has managed to commit professional suicide and will likely never regain the notoriety he enjoyed before he started screwing people over. I don’t get it. I would live that life in a heartbeat, and be way more deserving of the loyalty of my minions. As it is, I have no minions. Even my cats barely tolerate me.

Lurkers Are Welcome!

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On February 14, 2012, I published a blog here called, “Lurkers Beware!” It was in response to some contact we had received from a friend who was still a practicing Jehovah’s Witness. He thought Jehovah had directed him to contact us and try to save us from abandoning the “only true religion.” Once he realized he couldn’t convince us to “return to the fold,” he said his final goodbyes claiming we no longer had anything in common. Forget the fact that he and Roy still had a lot in common. All they ever did was discuss history and the Civil War. But because we could no longer worship in the same way as he, we were no longer deserving of his association.

I couldn’t let the situation rest though. I would not let him get in the last word. So, I sent him a message, unsigned. I didn’t want him knowing it was from me, I wanted him to think it was my husband whose opinion mattered more to him. I said, “As we are, you will be. Soon you will tire of the lies and hypocrisy. When that happens, you know where to find me.”

I didn’t realize till much later, but as a practicing witch, those words sounded remarkably like a spell. I didn’t light any candles, or cast any circles. I simply had my emotions to back-up my intention.

Exactly one year later, this soon-to-be Ex-Jehovah’s Witness contacted us and told us his story. He spoke of witch hunts, lying, manipulation and injustice within the organization. He spoke of being railroaded by false testimonies and a body of elders who wanted him out of their ranks. It was disastrous. He stepped down as an elder just before they disfellowshipped him for drinking–in spite of the fact that he brought witnesses forward that testified he was not drunk.

His family was torn apart. Everything they had ever known and valued was ripped out from under him in a matter of a few weeks.

That was a little more than a year ago. He has come to realize that the JW’s actually did him a favor by severing the tie. He and his family no longer want anything to do with Jehovah’s Witnesses.

I’d like to think we helped a little, but I believe the Universe did the bulk of the work. Some people leave willingly, others need to be kicked in the backside. It’s a wonderful thing when someone gets the opportunity to start all over again with a clean slate. It’s a gift.

I admitted it was me that sent that last email. He admitted he couldn’t get it out of his head. Roy has his friend back and they text continually about history, the Civil War, and why they are grateful to be out of the Watchtower organization.

Happy endings can occur. Not everyone will leave that religion, but I believe as time goes on that more and more people will start to recognize the lies. We live in an age of information. It is getting harder and harder to pull the wool over people’s eyes. Even as a JW, my limit was 2014. I knew if Armageddon hadn’t come by then (100 years after the JW’s claimed Jesus took his throne in heaven), then it wasn’t going to come and I was going to stop wasting my time. I believe a lot of people feel the same way. Once October passes (an auspicious month for JW’s), I believe we will see a mass exodus similar to the years following 1975 (the last time they tried predicting Armageddon).

I now have a small circle of family and friends who have left the JW religion. We love buying presents for each other and wishing one another Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas! We are like adolescents, learning new things, like how to make special brownies or smoke a pipe, and how to sing The National Anthem or wrap a present. We may not fit entirely into the world-at-large, but we can finally rejoice in the knowledge that we have the freedom to choose.

 

Cult Fear Tactics and Their Young Victims

December 2, 2011 marked the one year anniversary of my last visit to the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It was my father’s funeral and I knew when I crossed its threshold it would be the last time–unless someone else died. Over the last year I have had a lot of firsts: first cigar, first gamble, first birthday, first Halloween, and now I have my first Christmas tree up.

There is one first I didn’t count on however: first time fear has not ruled my life. I didn’t expect this collateral benefit. As a JW I was always told the world outside the Watchtower organization felt fear but those within the organization were free from fear. Supposedly, the world feared death, disease, Armageddon, God’s wrath, etc. Jehovah’s Witnesses knew what happens at death and that as long as they did what God–and the Watchtower–require they had no need to fear Armageddon or God’s wrath.

Yet, I remember having a dream when I was 5 years old that I was standing in a valley of skeletons–much like Ezekial’s vision of the Valley of Bones–and the names of each person was written on each skull’s forehead. I sorted through the piles looking for my best friends at the time: Jason and Eric. They lived next door and we would play Star Wars and Wizard of Oz. I finally found them, in my dream, two small skeletons with their names written on their skulls.

I remember having a dream when I was a teenager that I was standing at the threshold of Armageddon and an invisible entity was calling the names of those who would not cross-over, but die eternally. I remember the dread that I hadn’t been faithful enough and would die as a result, never to see my family and friends again. That dream spurred me on to be a more faithful Witness through all of my 20’s–until my soul withered away within myself.

I now find I do not fear flying. I don’t fear death, disease, or accident. I don’t fear violent crime or disaster. Life has become an adventure to take one day at a time without worrying about the future. I feel a measure of contentment I haven’t felt…well, ever. According to JW doctrine I should be living in morbid fear of my eventual destruction at Armageddon, but instead I feel happiness. The kind of happiness that comes with the knowledge that every choice is mine to make.

The children of JW’s have a lot to fear. They hear, from birth, how evil the world is. They hear how Satan and his demons are just waiting to devour them like a hungry lion. They see terrifying images of Armageddon, with people running screaming or dying in terror. Children are not protected from these images, but all the more exposed to them to scare them into submission. And it works, most of time, until the person realizes obedience is a worse kind of death than total obliteration at the hands of God.

In a recent book released by the Watchtower Society, “Learn from the Great Teacher”, is perhaps the scariest picture of Armageddon I have ever seen the Watchtower publish. This is a book for children. Why would they publish something like that unless they are trying to instill fear. The picture is the one you see above this article.

Am I an isolated case? No, many people have reported growing up with nightmares of Armageddon. Some deal with it differently, though. Please watch the video below to see the tragic effects of cult fear tactics.

 

Published in: on December 19, 2011 at 10:11 p12  Comments (28)  
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“Combatting Cult Mind Control”

As the anniversary of my father’s death approaches (Nov. 24th) I am reminded that it has been one year since the death of my childhood faith. The last time I set foot inside a Kingdom Hall was for my father’s funeral–and I knew at the time it would be my last visit. As I greeted familiar faces I had known my whole life I felt sadness at the divergent path I was about to embark on. I can’t think of a better way to say goodbye to everyone who had ever mattered than as they were sharing the grieving process with me.

That is not why I am writing this blog, however. I am here to do a book review. You see, in the year since I decided I no longer wanted to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses I have made a concerted effort to educate myself–my own personal Exit Counseling. I worked through the anger and resentment by sharing my feelings with others who felt the same. I read ex-JW literature, attended ex-JW forums, and studied the development of religion from a sociological perspective. These are the things I needed to undo the indoctrination of a lifetime.

After about six months or so I started to get on with my life–or at least I tried to. A few months is not enough time to deprogram a mind injected with 37 years of programming. In recent months I have been ricocheting from feelings of severe depression to claustrophobia. I feel like my life is floating in limbo and I need to do something diametrically different from what I have been doing. I have lost my zeal for college and even the desire to maintain relationships. I want to cut them all loose and I keep having dreams that I am killing my passion or walking on the edge of disaster, or even trapped inside a Kingdom Hall with no exits. Then something happened a few days ago that made me realize I still had not recovered. After posting someone’s parody of a Watchtower victim awaiting Armageddon, a disfellowshipped ‘friend’ unfriended me–but not before telling me that my “blatant apostasy was pissing [him] off.” My heart started to pound so hard I could hear it reverberating in my ears. I started to shake and felt overwhelming fear. This had happened after awaking that same day from nightmares of being forced to go out in the door-to-door ministry–and only days after having two JW friends try to “talk some sense into me.” My life came crumbling down around me. What was I doing? Had I just made a huge mistake? Was I going to get disfellowshipped? What if I ever wanted to go back?

I panicked. I actually changed my name on Facebook and made my account as impermeable to curious outsiders as I could. Some new ex-JW friends on Facebook were able to calm me down, but I realized something: It didn’t take much for the old programming to begin playing its familiar tune. So today I decided to take the time to finish a book I started months ago–“Combatting Cult Mind Control” by Steve Hassan. This book recounts Steve’s own experience being indoctrinated by the Moonies and his eventual escape. He goes on to become an exit counselor for others in need of escape from cult control. The book contains his observations of why some cults are so successful as well as how to overcome their programming. On page 41 and 42 he says:

“They indoctrinate members to show only the best sides of the organization. Members are taught to suppress any negative feelings they have about the group and always show a continually smiling, ‘happy’ face…(pg 42)It was always amazing to me to realize how many people in this category told us they had just been praying to God to show them what He wanted them to do with their lives. Many believed they were ‘spiritually’ led to meet one of our members…members regard themselves as ‘fishers of men’…They reinvest a great part of their capital back into recruiting new members…The average person doesn’t stand much of a chance. ”

Was he talking about Jehovah’s Witnesses here? Nope. He was relating his experiences with the Moonies, but he could have been talking about the JW’s. I don’t remember Mr. Hassan mentioning Jehovah’s Witnesses at all in the book. He didn’t have to. Every description matched their techniques precisely.

Mr. Hassan goes on to relate successful and failed attempts at exit counseling from a plethora of different cults. On page 167 he sums up his own feelings as a recovered cult victim:

“I left when I realized that deception and mind control can never be part of any legitimate spiritual movement: that through their use, the group had created a virtual ‘Hell on Earth,’ a kingdom of slaves. Once I was able to realize that even though I wanted to believe it was true [paradise earth/resurrection] my belief didn’t make it true. I saw that even if I remained in the group for another fifty years, the fantasy I was sacrificing myself for would never come true.” (italics my application)

He goes on to relate how people actually change personality while under the influence of cults. A study was conducted in 1982 in which a respected psychologist used the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator to test cult members. He had them answer questions based upon who they were before the cult influence and again after. A marked difference was noted between their pre-cult personalities and their peri-cult personalities. Whatever they had been before, most shifted to sensor-judger dominant (Hassan, 191). I found this interesting since I had done my own informal poll regarding types of personalities that left the JW’s and when. I had found that intuitive judgers usually left in their late teens-early twenties. Whereas, intuitive perceivers held on longer and didn’t leave until well into adulthood. This isn’t to say that sensors don’t leave cults, but it may be harder for them and might stem from emotional trauma. (These are my observations based upon a limited pool of participants.)

Steve Hassan summarized his book with the observation that:

“If people come to believe that someone else knows better than they what is best to do, they can be in real danger…We have free will and should never abandon our personal responsibility for making good choices.” (Hassan, 195)

I found Hassan’s book to perfectly address my emotional issues. He described my feeling of “floating” as the mind trying to reevaluate the world without the lenses of mind control I had been wearing. In a carefully controlled environment, information and thought are carefully mastered to always be in line with the group-think. Imagine a lifetime of controlling every word,  and every thought, that didn’t agree with the prime directive. Once one leaves that tight control, they must learn to think again. I still ask myself when things go wrong if I have displeased God. My emotional issues of late could be attributed to separation from the “truth”–at least that is how believers would interpret it. Thankfully I have done enough personal research that I can dismiss such thoughts immediately, but many don’t do the research. They are either too lazy, or too afraid, or cannot think clearly due to years of reading the same literature. Some of these may actually go back because they never stopped believing.

I realize now that, just as one has good days and bad days while grieving, I will have bad days as I grieve the loss of my faith. The most important thing is that I recognize these unconscious messages and replace them with conscious discernment. As the poet William Blake wrote: “I must Create a system, or be enslav’d by another Man’s.” (Hassan, 196)

Hassan, Steve. “Combatting Cult Mind Control.” Park Street Press, Vermont, 1988.

Crisis of Conscience

I have just finished reading a book considered taboo to my old system of beliefs. The book enjoys such infamy simply owning a copy would bring down the judgment from church elders. I didn’t even know the book existed until the last year or so, and didn’t know of the events it depicted until the last few years. The organization I belonged to has done such a thorough job of sweeping it all under the carpet that it is probably safe to say only 10-15% of its seven million adherents know of its existence. The book is entitled Crisis of Conscience by Ray Franz.

Ray Franz was a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW) from 1971-1980. The Governing Body is a small group of men (9-15 members) who perform all administrative functions for the global congregation of JW’s. These men are among the few (144,00 total) JW’s feel are chosen for heavenly life. Ray was among their numbers until he started taking issue with certain organizational procedures. He and those associated with him were eliminated with extreme prejudice.

When I say “eliminated” I don’t mean a mafia-style hit. I mean excommunication, otherwise known as being disfellowshipped. (Exactly what will happen to me if anyone finds this blog;). Men and their wives who gave decades of faithful service and only took issue with an unbiblical rule. They wanted to remain servants of Jehovah but were kicked out of their homes at the headquarters, losing lifelong friends in the process, in a trial reminiscent of that endured by the Christ in the hours before his death.

Is this a book filled with lies and exaggerations, as many opponents claim? No. The honesty of the writer, and the deep-seated sadness, come through with every word. For those who prefer their evidence in black and white, he has documented evidence supporting his claims. He reveals a number of situations that happened while he was on the Governing Body–from dogmatic stances against oral sex to healthcare and political decisions that have resulted in the deaths of many. He concludes with the assumption that the religion will never experience any reform as its adherents are captives of the concept that God has only one organization–and that is the Watchtower organization. As long as followers subscribe to that belief wholeheartedly any inconsistencies will be ignored. And books such as this, will be avoided as if they carried the black plague.

In the concluding chapter of the book, he quotes a friend as saying, “The mind which renounces, once and forever, a futile hope, has its compensation in ever growing calm” (345). This made me think of the initial psychological shock I experienced upon realizing I had spent my life subscribing to beliefs that were inaccurate. Doctrines that had been such a part of my mentality that every word and action mirrored their apparent reality. It is hard to turn our backs on the only thing we have ever known and believed in. But once I did, and I allowed other truths to break the veil of obscurity my mind had hidden behind, I experienced a calmness and freedom from fear.

Did I know I was living my life in fear? No. I knew I was never good enough and would never be good enough, but I was told everyone else was living in fear–not JW’s. Yet, I had been taught to look at only the bad in the world as evidence of its coming destruction. To never befriend non-witnesses as they would die at Armageddon. To fear for my own salvation lest I do anything that may cause me to become disapproved. I no longer need to micro-manage my life and I have felt the shackles fall away and the heavy yoke that Jesus said was “kind” has finally become what he described.

I recommend this book to anyone who has ever felt the need to answer the stabbings of their conscience in opposition to popular opinion. It takes courage to stand alone, as the analogy says, “The nail that sticks out gets hammered.”

Armageddon Postponed

“End-Times”, “Last Days”, “Armageddon”, “Rapture” are various beliefs that fall under the study of Eschatology. Eschatology is derived from the Greek terms eschatos meaning last or final and logos meaning word or study. It is therefore the study or word of last things (Bell 1). The term was coined in 1844 and its year of birth is significant. The year 1844 was when William Miller predicted the end of the world. He was not the first nor is he the last to make such predictions, but his assertions impacted tens of thousands of lives and we still feel its effects today. Eschatological, or Apocalyptic, belief is harmful and disrupts people’s lives resulting in resentment, disappointment, and life altering choices that would not have been made without the conviction that the “end” was imminent.

The years (A.D.) 666, 1033, 1260, 1284, 1492, 1496, 1524, 1588, 1656, 1666, 1700, 1789, 1800, 1844, 1914, 1925, 1975, 2000, and 2012 all have something in common. They were and are years proclaimed to be the time when Christ would cleanse the earth of sinners and his thousand year reign would begin. (Belief in the Millennial Reign is called Millennialism and those who believe in it are knows as Millenarians.) Mark Kingwell in his book Dreams of Millennium noted that while “not all the militant prophets have been Christian…millennialism has proved more popular with Christians than with people of other religious persuasions” (Kingwell 47); for this reason I will primarily focus on Christianity in this paper.

Reasons for Faith

There have been many reasons why people have declared a certain time “The Last Days”. The years 666 and 1666 A.D. are self explanatory as having the Mark of the Beast of Revelation (Revelation 13:18). Other years were preceded by famine, plague, fire, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, political coups, or simply the harbinger of another century. The reason such events inspire millenarian zeal is because the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke relate signs Jesus gave which we could recognize on earth as the sign of his arrival. These were: “nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, there will be food shortages and earthquakes in one place after another” (New World Translation Matthew 24:7; Mark 13:8; Luke 21:10, 11). Ever since those words were uttered, Christians have imagined themselves living in the “Last Days”, believing their specific lifetime particularly unique. Such ones find comfort in the belief that they and their time will see “the end”. To believe in rapture or some other form of deliverance enables Christians to imagine they can cheat death. They never have to watch loved ones die, or worry about their own mortality–hence, the reason every generation wants to be the one to witness Armageddon. On careful examination such reasoning appears rather self-serving. However, when faith and religious affiliation are based entirely on future rewards, worship tends to focus almost exclusively upon such things rather than the love and devotion we are told to feel. Such a single minded focus only creates disillusionment when predictions fail.

There are also other aspects of an apocalyptic fervor which will always provide plenty of adherents. According to the aforementioned author “the Jews and Christians predict the end of this benighted world, and the beginning of the next one, as a way of coping with their very real slavery. In these tales there is always, then, a chosen people who are beset by some complex of misfortunes, usually combining the political and the natural” (Kingwell 30). Judaism and Christianity have certainly had their share of persecution which makes the appeal for deliverance all the more appealing. Yet, one could wonder how much of their slavery and persecution is a direct result of their apocalyptic approach to life.

Millerites

The 1800’s seemed to have the lion’s share of failed predictions so let’s start then with William Miller. Mr. Miller was not a preacher but a military man. Yet, he did extensive research and thought he found the day when Armageddon would occur. He traveled widely and spoke extensively. His prediction, October 22, 1844, was anticipated by tens of thousands. How did they display their faith in Miller’s date? They “forsook family, friends, and beliefs to await this glorious arrival. Many gave away or sold land and possessions which they were quite convinced they wouldn’t be needing any longer” (Wimer 3). As dawn ascended on October 23rd, Miller lost his credibility and his followers. This time came to be known as The Great Disappointment:

Humiliations and hardships befell those who bought into the teachings of William Miller. In addition to shattered lives, lost homes and possessions, they were frequently scorned and ridiculed by others and in some cases even beset with violence. A Millerite church was burned in Ithaca and two vandalized in Dansville and Scottsville. In Loraine, a mob attacked the Millerite congregation with clubs and knives, while a group in Toronto was tarred and feathered. (Wimer 4)

These Millenarians not only received a great deal of persecution from their confounded neighbors but also brought a lot on themselves by cutting off all ties from a world they believed was passing away. Their faith was so complete they burned all bridges and lived to regret it. Creating such exclusivity offends those on the outside. To cut oneself off from society in general, in preparation for an apocalypse, indicates the rest of humanity isn’t going to make it. Only those exclusive adherents to the dictates of the current prophet can hope for deliverance. This creates anger and resentment among those on the outside, bringing persecution upon the ones arrogant enough to believe they are in sole command of the truth.

Millerites faded into obscurity, but William Miller’s conviction could not disappear. His teachings significantly influenced the foundation of the Advent Christian Church, which later splintered into such sub-groups as the Seventh-Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and even the Branch Davidians. These groups have continued to set dates for doom and millions of their followers have been impacted—sometimes to the cost of their lives (Kingwell 49).

Costly Faith

Imagine from birth, being told we will never die. We will never grow old. Disease or unhealthy decisions need not be a primary concern, for this life is passing away. Don’t get married or have children, they will only distract from total devotion to God. Millions on earth today have heard these exact words and still believe them. Such a life-altering set of beliefs oftentimes results in wasted lives. Children are pulled out of school so they can serve God before Armageddon resulting in a lifetime of struggle and low socio-economic status when Armageddon delays. People, like the Millerites, who sell all they have to serve more fully only to reach retirement age and have nothing to live on. Young adults encouraged to avoid higher-education for the spiritual damage it may cause. Now imagine approaching death. Sickness and disease push us toward our mortal end. But we were told we would never see death! How frightening! How disheartening! How disillusioning:

This belief, called the ‘Ur Delusions’ (Masserman, 324-333) is, in essence, the denial of the eventual reality that one will, someday, die. Observers who work with a large number of chronically ill and terminally ill cases find that patients with a belief in an afterlife tend to fare much better. Conditions which reduce the Ur Delusion tend to be associated with rising suicide rate (thus suicide is quite high among the retired, those over 65, and the widowed, and those who have recently experienced the death of a loved one, shocking their sensibilities to this reality). (Montaue 137)

This leads us to the next bi-product of apocalyptic delusion: psychological damage. Millenarian groups are typically isolationists. Their beliefs have a tendency to compartmentalize them and even teach exclusive association. This creates a “high level of fear anxiety, severe neuroticism, introversion and/or social isolation tendencies” (Bergman 4).With the viewpoint that this life is only temporary, higher education is not only not encouraged it is highly discouraged. There are few university professors among millennial adherents. In fact, there are few high school graduates. This contributes to a naiveté amongst the followers that guarantee total reliance and acceptance without question (Montaue 141). However, as time goes by, these faithful adherents lose satisfaction in their menial, blue-collar jobs. With years of service behind them and a fading faith in a future deliverance, they begin to question. Worries over retirement or social security never touched them in the past—but suddenly they do. These ones, who were told they would never graduate from High School, are facing middle-age, their children are graduating from High School, and the parents they thought would never die are doing just that. Time-tables are shifting, interpretations are being reinterpreted. Faith begins to falter as explanations for the delay fall short.

But it is not as easy as that. As doubt sets in and faith falters, panic rears its ugly head. Imagine having a future that has always been a part of life being snatched away. It’s like being set adrift without a life preserver. To realize everything in life has been misdirected is not only terrifying but traumatic. Add to the internal trauma, the possibility of losing all friends and family who still adhere to the old system of beliefs and it is easy to understand why “many suppress their doubts and continue in the same routine, true feelings hidden deep” (Bergman 10).

Certain ones of these apocalyptic groups have a strong evangelizing belief and send out all or some of their adherents to preach and warn their neighbors about the coming end. These laymen, although existing in an isolationist religion, are required to take the message to frequently hostile neighbors. Psychiatrists have found widespread incidence of “paranoid schizophrenia” among such ones due to the frontal attacks they are daily required to subject themselves to (Bergman 12).

Conclusion

Eschatology was coined in 1844, immediately after the Great Disappointment when William Miller predicted the end of times. The word comes from the Greek term eschatos which literally means farthest or last. It is used to identify all forms of theology that look to the second coming, Armageddon, the last judgment, resurrection of the dead, and the end of the world as we know it. My assertion is that it is unhealthy physically and mentally for people to live for a future event that keeps fading into the distance. It is tantamount to standing on a precipice, always afraid to move for fear of slipping off and losing the only chance at happiness. People postpone life always presuming if they make certain sacrifices now they will be paid abundantly in the “near” future. When death or sickness comes into such a life; questions, doubts, and resentment arise for a life half-lived. The very worst emotion one feels, however, is fear. Fear of the prospect that a lifelong goal may not exist. A life of self-sacrifice may have been for nothing. If one is unfortunate enough to realize this fallacy, the feeling of a life squandered is the result.

End of the world predictions create a mindset that is destructive. People, whose every decision is based on how it will affect their survival at Armageddon, live their life in fear, occupied by thoughts such as:

If we would like to take up a new hobby, better not. It will take away from the time that should be spent in the ministry or reading the Bible.

If we have a hungry mind; don’t read anything unless it is printed by the church for anything else could corrupt your mind and lend place for the Devil.

Everything in the world is there to tempt us away from God.

Be on guard at all times!

As soon as doubts start to occur, Satan has found place in the heart.

Everyone who follows their heart and neglects the specific tenets of the faith will die at Armageddon—forever.
Dying is not all we must fear, though. A change in ideation could result in the total alienation of family and friends. The loss of everything we have ever known and valued.

Don’t doubt! Don’t question! Accept as the only path to the real God.

Such viewpoints insure a regular following—until the emotional damage caused by the religion encompasses the fear of eternal death. Humankind cannot sacrifice everything—forever. There must be some rewards along the way, some freedoms to contribute to a happy, contented life. Living as alien residents is exhausting and emotionally taxing. Let the end come when it will—if it will. Only let us live our lives without fear. (Complete bibliography can be supplied upon request)