Same Message, Different Doomsday Vehicle

Warning: The following article contains criticism of a religious figure. Actually, it’s not really criticism, more pointing fun at a guy who should know better. If you feel the need to get angry in the comment boxes, feel free, but please use your CAPS LOCK sparingly, keep the language reasonable, cite any reference material and above all else, don’t blame the ancient Mayans for anything, they’ve been through enough.

Recognise it yet? Isaac's apartment floor painting depicting the destruction of New York in the TV show Heroes

Isaac's apartment floor painting depicting the destruction of New York in the TV show Heroes (source)

As a rule, I wanted to keep Astroengine.com away from religious debate, but once I became embroiled in the 2012 doomsday hysteria, religious views were bound to creep in. After all, 2012 is the latest date prophesied for Armageddon, End Times and Judgement Day, I was bound to start receiving emails and comments with a toasty religious flavour. That’s fine, everyone should have an opinion. Just because I don’t believe the year 2012 will bring anything of special religious/spiritual significance, that’s my view. I’m not religious and I’m not a religious specialist, it’s not my thing.

However, science is “my thing” so when I see authors banging on about the existence of Planet X, killer solar flares, geomagnetic shift and all the other wild and inventive ways the Universe won’t destroy the Earth, I do have a strong opinion. Now that “No Doomsday in 2012” has had over 1,000,000 hits (that’s a 1 with six zeros after it. I’m now in megahits), it would appear that 2012 is a doomsday theory that might not go away (place your bets on how many millions of hits that article will rack up in the next 3 years!).

However, having written about the key attributes of doomsday theories as presented by authors who use lies to sell a book or drive search engine traffic to their site (fear is a potent moneymaker after all), I know bullshit when I smell it. However, this time the doomsday prophecy doesn’t come from the misinterpretation of a Mesoamerican calendar, it comes from a popular American Christian evangelist. I have to say, I am impressed.

So, using my fool-proof “cheat sheet” on how to spot a doomsday fake, it wasn’t hard to cut through David Wilkerson’s dogma, revealing his “prophecy” for what it really is: rubbish.

When David Wilkerson woke up this morning, I suspect it wasn’t just coffee he was drinking. I know there are many ways to worship a God, but raving about the imminent destruction of New York and consequent ransacking of the world’s cities probably isn’t something any God would want. Much less when God is being blamed for the mess.

So what is the prophecy this time? In a blog post entitled “AN URGENT MESSAGE” (note the capitalization, scary isn’t it?), David gives the standard doomsday à la carte: something scary is coming and there’s nothing we can do about it. Nothing new so far. However, his urgent message is serving as a classic example of how not to write a doomsday prophecy. Let’s get stuck in!

(I’m using the rules outlined in How Do You Spot Science Abuse in the Social Media Soup?, to see if the rules apply in this case).

Rule: THEIR CAPS LOCK IS STUCK
David throws us right into the gist of the nonsense with a fabulous paragraph:

AN EARTH-SHATTERING CALAMITY IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN. IT IS GOING TO BE SO FRIGHTENING, WE ARE ALL GOING TO TREMBLE – EVEN THE GODLIEST AMONG US.

This rule is battered, bruised and kicked out of the ring with that statement. Naturally, this is a prophecy, so it is also vague. What flavour of Earth-shattering calamity? When will it happen? Frightening? Surely not as frightening as your frightening words? Really? Wow, that is frightening.

Rules: God is behind it and They jump to conclusions
Sorry, this was a cheap shot, after all David is a Christian evangelist, he’s going to get God involved. But the funny thing is that it is God’s fault for the financial crisis too:

What we are experiencing now is not a recession, not even a depression. We are under God’s wrath. In Psalm 11 it is written, “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (v. 3).

God is judging the raging sins of America and the nations. He is destroying the secular foundations.

From one line of Psalm 11 (v. 3), David has done some incredible detective work, jumping to a huge conclusion: we are in recession, therefore God did it, the Bible says so.

Then David goes on about how some teachings of the Bible somehow predicts the problems we are facing now. Well, that’s what this guy does, he teaches from the Bible. That’s fine, but tone down all this death will you?

Rules: Doomsday will usually occur imminently and They KNOW the future
I do not know when these things will come to pass, but I know it is not far off. I have unburdened my soul to you. Do with the message as you choose.” Need I say more?

On a practical note, is this rapture going to take very long? What kind of timescale was the longest rapture in the past? Looks like David has the answer for that one, and he’s being eerily exact:

First, I give you a practical word I received for my own direction. If possible lay in store a thirty-day supply of non-perishable food, toiletries and other essentials. In major cities, grocery stores are emptied in an hour at the sign of an impending disaster.”

We have a forthcoming 30-day rapture people! Get down your stores and stock your cupboards! It looks like impending doom might be good for the retail industry at least. Who said the end of the world had to be bad for the economy?

In Conclusion
At the end of the day, this is religious prophecy, so David Wilkerson can say whatever he likes without basing any of his words on fact. It is based on the Bible’s teachings interpretation, not a physics textbook, so it is very different from any of the doomsday/conspiracy theories I have tackled in the past. However, there is one striking resemblance between Wilkerson’s “prophecy” and the Mayan calendar prophecy, they are both intended to stir up fear of an imminent doomsday event. Neither are based on any fact, and both sound like the crazy ramblings of madmen.

I have little idea about Wilkerson, I’m sure he’s done some good with his position as a pastor, but this is not one of those times. He has jumped on the bandwagon in an attempt to gain attention (of which he has already received across the web) for a stupid, vague and irresponsible prophesy that will cause some upset. Apparently, he has done this kind of thing before, inventing prophecies that, of course, didn’t happen.

Hold on, perhaps Wilkerson is trying to add some fervour to the release of the doomsday comic-to-screen movie, Watchmen (as far as I know the storyline, in the comic at least, is based on a lot of people dying in New York)? Or he might have watched way too many Heroes episodes, thinking that he is the religious equivalent of Isaac the painter who could paint the future? Unfortunately, this guy is either crazy or (more likely) seeking attention for personal gain. In my experience, it’s usually the latter.

12 responses to “Same Message, Different Doomsday Vehicle

  1. @Ian – Your BS detector is indeed well tuned :)

    I’m not sure I’d agree that this is based on “Bible Teachings” as much as “interpretations” which is a far more slipery slope and better calls out the personal adgendas of the interpretter while transfering the focus from the book to the person. The person wants their followers to believe these are teachings of the Bible rather than misinterprettations, misquotes, out of context quotes, etc.

    I believe the Bible said something about the devil quoting scripture for his own purposes. Pitty it didn’t emphasise that all kinds of misguided and dishonest people would do so as well. Yeah – it’s included but it’s easy to forget it your just worried about the devil.

  2. “…so by your own arguments, you don’t exist. Q.E.D.”
    “Oh, I hadn’t thought of that,” said Mr. Wilkerson, who promptly vanished in a puff of logic.

  3. I have a question about this 2012 … (does it even deserve to be called “thing”) thing. Since we can not beat them with logic and scientific reasoning, should we join them? It would be very immoral, but we could get a ton of public support by supporting arguments by claiming various scientific missions will save us from this … . It is so tempting, I think we could even get funding stem cell research by using fear alone. But, it would be so wrong, yet, it would be like taking candy from a baby.

    I do NOT think the scientific community should every turn to the dark side, I was just pondering that idea. Don’t flame me, please.

    Thank you for the great blog post, you gave me an interesting idea to consider. Keep up the good fight!

  4. great artical Ian! hey could you do one on the novelty theory? i know that isint your expertise but peapole in the back swaps of the internet say your ignoring it

  5. You seem to be quite good at debunking wacky science. However I might suggest that you stay out of the field of religion and other religionists debunk their on kin. Personally I think he might be right but he is not speaking either scientifically nor physically. He is from a spiritual world and should not be considered in your physical world unless he gets specific about physical catastrophe. Then simply wait him out and either confirm or deny him as a prophet as his field requires. Not yours.

    Ray Bingham

  6. Pingback: 2012 Is Coming… And All I Got Was This Lousy Fridge Magnet - Astroengine.com

  7. Pingback: 2012: Not Doomsday, It’s the Last Stand for an Ancient Civilization - Astroengine.com

  8. @Mang, Hey David! You’re right, “Bible teachings” was incorrect, this may have suggested that all “teachings” are “misinterpretations”, so I’ve corrected for that.

    I’m not going to talk too much about evangelical pastors in the future, but this one bore a striking resemblance to the 2012 idiocy, I couldn’t resist! Now, back to space!

    Cheers, Ian :-)

  9. @some dumb kid, Ooohhh yes! Novelty Theory… I’ll have to have a look at that peach ;) Thanks for the tip off! It’s not that I’ve been ignoring it, I’m just swamped with all the other doomsday theories! It’s going to be a busy few years I think…

    Cheers!!

    Ian

  10. @Ray, Thanks for your thoughts. Sure, I even said that religion wasn’t my thing, but there was a striking resemblance between the religious dogma this guy is spreading when compared with the 2012 craziness. I don’t think I was out of line to criticise these ridiculous claims.

    You think he’s right? The fact Wilkerson is deliberately insighting fear for popularity? He points to absolutely no religious text that suggests something bad is going to happen. He is deliberately vague and blames the whole thing on some rapture. Don’t you think there is some room for skeptical thought when it comes to some outrageous claim by a religious figure? Unfortunately, this is exactly how religious extremists are born, provoking over-active imaginations to believe with no thought. Wilkerson’s words are no better than the crazed chants of a cult.

    Skeptical thought should be a tool used not only by scientists, but by everyone, whether you subscribe to a religion or not.

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