Tuesday, 6 March 2012

How Does The World End In Different Religions?

Apocalypse, the End of Days or predictions about the end of the world - Is it just a Christian obsession or is it a sentiment shared by people of different religious backgrounds? 

All these doomsday prophets, 2012 Maya Calendar merchants and other actors in the end of the world industry – is this urge to destroy the world a side-effect of our Internet and Video Games or has it been constant throughout history with periodic ups and downs?


In the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) opinions differ greatly about the ultimate fate of the world. The End of Days, End Times in Christianity is all the tribulations preceding the Second Coming of Christ while Yawm al-Qiyāmah "the Day of Resurrection" or Yawm ad-Din" is the Day of Judgment" in Islam. 

In Judaism, the Messiah or Mashiach is no Son of God but a human priest or king from the Davidic Line, who oversees the Armageddon, revival of the dead and ushers in a messianic age when everything is just perfect.

Christianity (Catholic kind) and Judaism


Catholic Christianity is probably the only religion that has a branch of theology called eschatology, fully devoted to interpreting how God will act in the end of days scenario. 

Can matters of such gravity be left in the hands of God? 

In some of most gripping lines in all literature, the dialogue between Christ and the Grand Inquisitor in Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov clarifies Everything was given over by Thee to the Pope, and everything now rests with him alone; Thou hast no business to return and thus hinder us in our work.”


A majority of the known instances of contemporary end of days predictions lie within a Christian context. Typically the concept is that the people are sinners, they can only repent in order to be saved. The saving usually means being admitted to heaven or some similar nice place among fellow believers. The price, needless to say, often requires total obedience and handing over the property or fruits of one’s labour to the one giving the message of the impending doom. 

This has been seen many times as in the case of the doomsday cults like Heaven’s Gate, Jim Jones and The Peoples Temple, David Koresh and The Branch Davidians, WKFL (Krishna Venta) and Aum Shinrikyo etc.


The Old Testament is full of graphic details of how Judaism sees God destroying the world. Word of advice - Don’t even think of asking tricky questions like how much you could bet on a good and kind-hearted Chinese nurse or a self-sacrificing but non-religious person from Syria surviving the cataclysm.

Jehovah’s Witnesses

They have the very Internet savvy acronym TEOTWAWKI The End of The World As We Know It. Since the church’s founding in the 1870s, they have predicted the imminent end of the world and missed more times than others. October 1914, 1915, 1918, 1925, 1932, 1966, 1975, 1994 came and the world didn’t end. So, nowadays the message is: “This means the end of the world is near. But, happily, there will be survivors.”

In this belief there is no place for everyone in heaven as only 144, 000 are chosen for the new earth while all others (no matter how moral or good they were) are annihilated. Here is a very neat Armageddon flowchart.


Non-Abrahamic Religions

Non-Abrahamic Religions have many different positions on this topic.


Ásatrú

Ásatrú (Icelandic, "Æsir faith") is a modern revival of the pre-Christian Nordic religion as described in the Norse epic Eddas and probably goes back 40 000 yearsÁsatrú followers or Ásatrúers (they might call themselves Heathen or Pagan) believe in the concept of Ragnarok: a kind of final battle between the gods and the giants, but a male and a female human are hidden in the trunk of Yggdrasil the tree of life. They wake in an earth becoming green again and repopulate it.


Baha’i

Baha’i faith takes a very mature approach to the whole issue. Followers of the Baha’i faith (7 million) believe that the end times is not the physical end of the planet, but rather the birth pangs of wonderful times, a Kingdom of God on earth.


Cao Dai

Cao Dai is a syncretistic Vietnamese religion with the concept of Karma and rebirth from Buddhism, ethical precepts from Confucianism, concept of Yin and Yang and occult practices from Taoism and all this presided by the Catholic style Pope called Giao-Tong. 4 million followers believe that Cao Dai does not concern itself about the end of the world.


Confucianism

Confucianism is a moral philosophy utterly unconcerned about matters like the afterlife, the fate of the world.



Falun Gong

Not obsessed with apocalyptic scenarios. Falun Gong or Falun Dafa is a syncretic ‘religion’ with traditional Chinese Qigong, Daoist and Buddhist components. It has probably 70 million followers. For them the "Dharma-ending period" (末法), described in Buddhist scriptures as an era of moral decline when the teachings of Buddhism needs to be renewed and rectified. 

The current era is the "Fa rectification" period (zhengfa, "to correct the dharma"), which ends in total destruction of evil, as represented by the China Communist Party, and establishment of the 'Fa' - law of 'Dharma'. Of course, the Chinese Communist Party wasn't very amused by being called bad names and in 1999, declared it xie jiao (邪教, “evil religion”) and banned it. For followers, enduring suffering while being tolerant to oppressors is a way to obtain a good 'Karma' and "ascend into the highest heavens" when the truth prevails during the 'Fa' period.


Jainism
This ancient religion (6th century BC, founder is the 24th Tirthankara or prophet) is very down to earth about all matters apocalyptic: Focus on what is at hand and stop bothering about such matters. The world is without a beginning. It has no end. Creation and destruction; production and disposal are always going on. The whole affair is a self-regulated one.

But, Karma plays an important role, so focus on your Karma is Jainism’s advice to the 4 million followers.

Rastafari
In Rastafari belief (1 million believers globally), people achieve immortality in Heaven or Eden, which is a place in Africa.


Shinto

In Shinto faith of Japan (3-4 million followers), there is no concept of any dramatic last day or end of the world.


Sikhism

Sikhism (about 23 million followers globally) has a delightful pragmatic approach focus on how to live a good life here and now and stop worrying about such matters.


Tenrikyo

With 1,75 million followers in Japan and 2-3 million worldwide and 17 000 churches it is still fairly unknown outside Japan. Tenrikyo envisions history as full of hope though God the parent might every now and then cause rains of fire and floods to admonish mortals. Source: Eschatological Though and the Historical View of Tenrikyo by Iida Teruaki (1982:81f) Tenri Journal of Religion 16:81-94


Wicca

Wiccans (1-3 millions globally) reject traditional Christian notions of Heaven and Hell yet most Wiccans believe in reincarnation. For some Wiccans reincarnation is eternal, due to the cyclical nature of the universe. 

Others believe they will eventually attain a place of rest called the Summerlands. (I've been shoveling so much snow for the last two winters that I love this idea of eternal Summerland!)


Zoroastrianism

Frashokereti is the World to come after the Saoshyant or saviour brings about the final renovation of the world when the dead are resurrected, restored to eternal perfection, time will end and everyone will be immortal. In Zoroastrian tradition, three future saviours are named: Hushedar, Hushedarmah and Saoshyant. 

They are all born of maidens, conceived while their mothers bathed in a lake that preserved the original seed of the prophet Zoroaster.


Hinduism and Buddhism

The end of the world is a recurring affair in Hindu and Buddhist cosmology and the timescales are enormous, so no reason to panic. Satya (Golden), Treta, Dvapara and Kali are the Yugas or ages composing one big Maha Yuga. In human years one Maha Yuga cycle is 4.3 billion years. No hurry here as according to some sources 427 000 years are left for this age to end.


Hinduism can be a real nightmare for people who want very simple models and know exactly what kind of beard their (one and only) God has. 

Hinduism has multi-dimensional universes: “Every universe is covered by seven layers — earth, water, fire, air, sky, the total energy and false ego — each ten times greater than the previous one. There are innumerable universes besides this one, and although they are unlimitedly large, they move about like atoms in You. Therefore You are called unlimited.” (Bhagavata Purana 6.16.37)

Even Shiva, considered a main figure of the Divine Trimurti or “Trinity” openly admits his ignorance: “Lord Śiva said: ‘My dear son, I, Lord Brahmā and the other devas, who move within this universe under the misconception of our greatness, cannot exhibit any power to compete with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, for innumerable universes and their inhabitants come into existence and are annihilated by the simple direction of the Lord’." (Bhagavata Purana 9.4.56)

Many of the concepts used by modern scientific cosmology can be found in Hindu and Buddhist cosmology. Shabda Brahma in Hindu creation myths says that primal energy is created by vibrations produced by the powers of the primal Trinity (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva). String Theory calls this the multidimensional vibrations of the infinitesimal strings that are at the basis of all that is. The concept of vinaash at world age changeover periods or pralayas means abject chaos and the laws of nature as we know them do not apply. Modern science calls it the Big Crunch.

Modern Scientific Theory of How the World Will End

Modern scientific thinking or Standard cosmology calls it the Lambda-CDM (Cold Dark Matter) model where everything begins with the Big Bang and ends in the Big Crunch.  The age of the universe is 13.7 billion years. Competing non-standard cosmologies vary from steady-state theories that the universe expands but does not change in density to tired light (light getting tired due to the distance it travels). To explain many things scientists assume concepts like dark matter and phantom energy. One example of a cyclical cosmological model is Baum-Frampton model (2007). This model claims that a septillionth of a second before the Big-Rip (when everything is torn apart after endless expansion), the universe comes back empty.


End of the world ideas are ubiquitous and eternal

About 30 cultures around the world share the concept of world ages and global cataclysms when the ages change. The typical pattern resembles a cyclical motion of extraordinary long time periods at the end of which a mass extinction of human and other life forms are followed by a renewal. Some cultures mention the visible signs of such events:
  • Around 2800 BC, an Assyrian clay tablet talks about the end of the world as it proclaims: “The Earth is degenerating today. Bribery and corruption abound. Children no longer obey their parents, every man wants to write a book, and it is evident that the end of the world is fast approaching."
  • Hesiod in the 8th century BC Greece writes in The Works and Days that till then at least three generations of humans had thus been obliterated. The ages of the earth are Golden, Silver, Bronze/Copper and Iron (In order of moral degeneration).
  • The Hopi mythology describes how the world was almost destroyed by fires at the end of the first cycle, by the coming of an ice age through a pole shift when the next cycle ended. The third cataclysmic change is by flooding.
  • Plato in the 4th century BC Greece in Timeaus further explains that “.. as you achieve literacy and what cities require, after the usual number of years, comes the heavenly flood. It sweeps everything and leaves only the illiterate and uncultured people behind. You become infants all over again; completely unfamiliar with anything there was in ancient times.
  • Mankind’s memory slate being wiped totally is echoed in the Bible, where God promises a new heaven and earth: "Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former will not be remembered nor come to mind."[Isa 65:17] The Revelation has a similar vision: "I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away."[Rev 21:1]
  • Gnostics in the first century AD were seriously waiting for the Last Judgment and God’s Kingdom, which followed it.
  • The Shakers expected the world to end in 1792
  • Sir Isaac Newton calculated that the world would end in 2060.

About 200 known cultures from the Inuit of Alaska, through the Old Testament traditions in the Middle East to India, China, Japan and South American cultures share the deluge myths.

People love to interpret scriptures literally. Car Gustav Jung (1875-1961), the Swiss Psychiatrist quipped that “Religion is a defense against the experience of God.” There is a lovely saying in The Gospel of Thomas, where Jesus blows this human penchance for literal interpretation apart when he answers the question "When will the kingdom come?" by saying "It will not come by watching for it. Rather, the father's kingdom is spread out upon the earth and people do not see it." (The Gospel of Thomas, translated by Harold Bloom, 113 p.65). 

The world is not going to end on 21st December 2012, so rather than wait for the pyrotechnic show, why don’t you do something nice for a change, today.

Make someone happy!


Post a Comment