Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Is the Rapture Coming?

I know that I have a fairly limited readership that mostly includes mostly geologists and earth science types, so I know the title of the post is rather provocative. To be honest, I hope to get a bit of attention beyond the geoblogosphere to help laypeople to understand something that they are presently finding incomprehensible...


  • Perhaps 100,000 people are dying in Burma as the result of a horrific cyclone (and even worse military meddling)...
  • Tens of thousands of people have died in a terrible 7.9 earthquake in China...
  • Dozens of people are dead in a series of record-setting tornadoes across the midwest and south...
  • Nearly two thousand people die in New Orleans after a terrible hurricane strikes...
  • Sea level is rising and polar ice masses are melting at an accelerating rate...
  • Commodities are becoming scarcer, and the price of food and fuel is rising at rates not seen before...
And now, read this quote from the Rapture Index, a religious-based website that "monitors" all the possible signs of the "End Times" in which the planet is suddenly bereft of all the believers, and the remainder are left to suffer (by my loose interpretation):


In the past four years, I have reported several times about the incredible spike in tropical storm activity. Time and time again records have been shattered.

Global warming can't be an explanation for the upsurge we are seeing today. Cyclone Nargis had all the makings of a perfect storm. Packing winds upwards of 120 mph, the cyclone became one of Asia's deadliest storms by suddenly going from Category 1 to Category 3 and hitting land at one of the lowest points in Myanmar.

The storms seem to be intelligently guided to inflict maxim (sic) damage [italics mine]. If they were random, the law of averages would cause most to strike uninhabited areas or follow paths that lead to the open ocean.

There are many more quotes, and many more sites like this on all of these events, and the Rapture Index has been played for laughs on some websites. But a great many people pay attention because once again, the magnitude of some of these events is incomprehensible (while others, like gas prices, are irritating, but they are a symptom of a very serious coming problem of resource scarcity). Humans have always looked for an underlying cause, whether it is the anger of the gods, or the movement of massive plates, or the warming of the climate. Scientists use more sophisticated tools these days compared to divining rods and tea leaves, but we still try to explain those things that are unexplainable. Fair or not, many people see scientists as simply one more kind of priestly class that explains the mysterious, and our pronouncements are to be considered, and then "believed", or "not believed".

So, if you are from a non-scientific background, and you are wondering if we are entering "the last days", I ask you to consider that many of these disasters are the natural consequences of ever more and more people living in marginal and dangerous places. The earthquake in China happened at the margin of a violently active geological fault zone. Overpopulation and lack of arable lands inland lead to too many people living in hazardous coastal areas, subject to hurricanes and typhoons. Sometimes these disasters do happen nearly simultaneously, it is the nature of randomness.

And some events are unusual. But there are verifiable reasons. Global warming is real, and it is having profound effects on our environment and our weather, so we are living through strange times. But we are the cause of the warming. This is not something to have an opinion about, it is not a political issue, even though some have caused it to become one.

But most of all, please consider that every time you are willing to call one of these disasters God's judgement, you remove the humanity and dignity from those who are suffering in horrible ways. If you allow yourself to belittle innocent victims, by calling them immoral, or illegal, or under God's punishment, you are defying the very tenets of your religion: that you love one another. The magnitude of these human tragedies is indeed overwhelming. But don't let the pronouncements of fools take away the humanity of the victims. Don't try to comfort yourself by thinking that these human beings are victims of God's judgement. Do whatever you can to help; the next time the victim may be you....

Sorry for an angry rant...

Another perspective (from a non-western view) on this subject can be found here.

5 comments:

Olelog said...

There are reasons enough to keep on telling why these things happen, and we also DO have readers outside the geoblogosphere (be it few). So just keep on blogging - all of you!

BrianR said...

well said!

I noticed a bunch of news reports, which is way more mainstream than the Rapture Index site, that had headlines such as "Angry Earth". While maybe not as overt as attributed events to God, this more subtle personification of natural events still acts to place 'blame'.

Anonymous said...

Well said.

I think people need the reminder that natural disasters shouldn't be used to further political or religious points (unless...the religous goals are to go out and help these people).

May this post get many views.

Tuff Cookie said...

On a lighter note, what the hell is "maxim" damage? Does that mean the hurricanes and earthquakes are in league with a vast conspiracy of girly magazines?

kaweah said...

Great blog, Mr. Rocks.

If I were to believe that a God somehow were the cause of cyclones, earthquakes, and childhood diseases (and that would have to be any omnipotent deity), I would much sooner curse that God than pray to him. I'd strangle him if given the opportunity. Theism is fundamentally immoral and nauseating, except of course for the theist who has the honesty to shake his fist at his Creator.