This is what I wrote before the new year that was to bring about the end of all things.
ON ARMING FOR ARMAGEDDON
What you don’t know won’t hurt you–it will kill you.
Sign in U.S. Air Force training facility.
Then said he unto them…he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.
Jesus, the Christ. Luke 22:36.
If, on December 31, 1999, at the very stroke of Midnight that heralds the dawn of the year 2000 C.E., the world ends, the Messiah comes or returns, the Apocalypse happens, the Battle of Armageddon begins, the saved are raptured from moving cars that careen on into busloads of godless, unbelieving, Camp Quest-type little children, believers ascend up into the air to meet Jesus who is on his way down to Earth to establish his Kingdom–if the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised, and if the Revelation to Saint John the Divine prove true and one third of the stars fall to the Earth, and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse ride, and the sheep be separated from the goats, and the believing good be lifted up unto the highest Heaven to take their reserved seat at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, whilst the unbelieving bad are dragged to their well deserved eternal torment awaiting them in the deepest pits of fiery Hell as Gounod’s Faust plays in the background–then, Gentle Reader, you should know that you are now holding your very last ever “Kagin’s Column,” because your narrator is going to repent, be saved, and be out of here, leaving you condemned remaining sinners with only this final heresy. That should make it quite a collector’s item–if anyone there be left around to collect it.
But, bless you, the world should go on as before, and there should be more Kagin’s Columns, because none of these dire things will happen. They won’t happen because such beliefs are superstitious nonsense. They are primitive myths. The only way they can be harmful is if they are believed. Contemplate, if you will, just what would really happen if one third of the stars “fell” to Earth.
Webster defines superstition thus: any belief, based on fear or ignorance, that is inconsistent with the known laws of science or with what is generally considered in the particular society as true and rational; esp., such a belief in charms, omens, the supernatural, etc. The myths are not the danger. Those who believe in the myths are the danger. A related problem is that there is very poor agreement in our “particular society” regarding what is “true and rational.” Some think the world is only ten thousand years old and that animals and people were created from nothing in six days. No evidence to the contrary makes any difference. They want their myth taught in schools. Others want their myths taught instead. For the past two thousand years, we have had a lot of wars over what myths should be taught in school.
The feared “Y2K bug” is somewhat different. For future researchers, reading this in the far future, Y2K (standing for “Year 2000”) is a code given for the unpredictable problems inherent in the unfortunate fact that lots of the computers that order our lives have not been taught to understand that time might go past the year 1999. Until the clock strikes 2000, we just won’t know how big a problem that little training defect really is.
Anyhow, a seemingly growing population of irrational humans are preparing for the disasters they are certain will flow from their end-of-the-world delusions that mingle the non-existent with the fixable, as they set about to bring upon themselves and us the chaos that is feared. People are hording food, water, and weapons to await the end of civilization, the end of the world, the coming of Jesus, Judgment Day, and Lord knows what else. And they are prepared to waste other believers whose eschatology (look it up) is only slightly different from theirs. Guess what they will do to people like those secular humanists, who they think really caused all the problems of the world in the first place by teaching evolution, and by taking the Ten Commandments out of public courthouses, and by prohibiting prayers in public places like Jesus ordered on his last visit.
Let’s say Jesus really did “return” to Earth. How well received do you reckon he would be, considering that the many different Christian denominations appear incapable of agreeing on even the smallest points of theological doctrine? Do you suppose His Holiness the Pope will step aside and let Jesus have his chair? Do you guess the T.V. preachers will leave their bully pulpits and, on bended knee, hand over to their Messiah their microphones and their diamond mines? Does one even wildly imagine that the many religious leaders of the world will be disposed to permit the god they have awaited to resolve for them the disputed points of their several faiths?
To survive the madness that seems certain to befall us, we need to understand that the feared coming millennium is not a real thing. There is no “real” millennium, just as there is no “real” line on the ground between the states of Kentucky and Tennessee such as one might see on service station road maps. A millennium, like all measurements of time, is something humans made up and then forgot that they made up. We can measure time any way we like. It makes no difference, so long as all agree on the rules. But even the rules are unclear. China, the Maya, and lots of other countries and peoples all have very different dates, based on different origin myths, for what we call 1999.
The year 2000 is not the beginning of a new third millennium. It is the last year of the second millennium. 2001 is the first year of the third millennium. Here’s why. When a baby is less than one year old, her age is cooed out something like, “five days old,” “nine weeks old,” “three months old,” that sort of thing. She is not said to be “zero” years old. When said child has lived a full year, she is then said to be “one year old,” and has her “first birthday,” surrounded by adoring relations. At one year old, the child starts her second year of life. For all of that second year she is said to be one year old. The second year of life, when finished, is celebrated as the child’s “second birthday.” And so it goes throughout life. One is always one day, to three-hundred-sixty-four days, older than one’s stated age.
If our numbering of years worked like birthdays, then 2000 would indeed be the first year of the third millennium. Like the aging baby, the 2000th birthday would mark the completion of the 2000th year of living and the start of the 2001st year of living, and 2001 would come at the end of the 2001st year of living. But it doesn’t work like that with dates. There is no dating of “three days,” “seven months” or such, during the first year of this imaginary calendar, as there is in the dating of the lives of babies. The first year of the calendar would have been the year “one” the entire year, from New Year’s Day on, not the year “zero” or some fraction of time less than one year. At the end of that first year, the year “one” was finished, and the year “two” began on New Year’s Day. The tenth year of the calendar means that nine previous years have been completed, and that one is living in a true tenth year, not working toward the end of the eleventh year, as would be the case if we were talking about birthdays rather than calendars.
For birthdays, the start of year 2000 would mean you have actually started the 2001st year of living. For calendars, the start of year 2000 means you are starting the final year of that millennium. 1000 was the last year of the first millennium, just as 100 is the 100th year of a 100 year period of time. 101 is the first year of the second set of 100. 2000 is the last year of this millennium. 2001 is the first year of the next millennium. Most people don’t understand this and think a new thousand year period starts at midnight on December 31, 1999. This is particularly true of the crazies who ascribe cosmic meaning to that event, as did their predecessors in religious madness in the year 1000. The world didn’t end then. The world won’t end now.
The whole idea of the importance of the coming millennium is that it is believed to be two thousand years after the birth of Jesus. But this is incorrect. If the Bible is to be believed, Jesus was born during the reign of Herod the Great of Judea. It is a well known fact of history that Herod died in the year 4 B.C.E. Therefore, Jesus could not have been born later than that date. Therefore, sadly, the real millennium occurred on or before 1996, and we missed it.
Chances are that, if you are reading this, you are a naively innocent liberal who thinks people are inherently good and well intentioned, and that religiously, or otherwise demented, fanatics won’t really shoot you in the face for no sane reason if, with tolerance and caring, you simply understand and accept them. People who hold this view are frequently identified only as “victims.” It has been said that a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged. Please accept, for your own safety’s sake, the truth that there really are dangerous people about who will kill you for the fun of watching you die, and please further accept that millennium madness will bring these types out around New Year 2000 like earthworms after a summer rain. There are Christian militia groups, often commanded by ministers, trained in the use of military firearms, committed to “regaining” America for Christ. They have trained home invasion units to deal with the enemies of God–you know, those who practice the “religion of evolution”, promote the “murder of the unborn”, want “special rights” for homosexuals, want God out of the classrooms, and so forth. Do you know the type? You better, because they know you.
Your narrator has been denounced by them in churches, as have other identified individuals who disagree with them. Well, they are making straight the way for the return of Christ to lead them against the Antichrist, believed by some to be already among us, and revealed by the “mark of the beast” in such things as the bar codes used in food stores. Yeh, no kidding! They really are that nuts, and they are armed and extremely dangerous.
If you don’t have enough respect for the value and importance of your own life, and the lives of those you love, to acquire and learn the safe and disciplined use of appropriate tools for self protection and home defense, then at least try to acquire a working knowledge of the belief systems of those committed to harming you. Defending one’s life is a moral obligation. Knowledge is indeed power, and you may learn enough to avoid a deadly confrontation. Jews in Germany tried to avoid confrontation. Ask someone in Israel today how they feel about the liberal’s dream of making their family safer by not having a gun in the house.
Here’s a crash course in just what, in broad overview, those looking for something supernatural to happen around New Year’s Eve or Day believe:
Chapter One. God, for uncertain reasons, decided to make everything from nothing, including our universe, our planet, and ourselves. God made people, and they disobeyed God by gaining knowledge of good and evil. Although they could not have fairly been held to know it was wrong to disobey God before gaining knowledge of good and evil, God punished them for not being the kind of created beings God wanted them to be.
Chapter Two. The numerous descendents of the two created people that had disappointed God also disappointed God, so God killed all of them in a flood. Only eight adult people survived, by living for a year in a large floating box that was 450 feet long, by 75 feet wide, by 45 feet high, that also contained samples of every kind of animal, bird, and bug of the inundated planet. Every living child on earth was killed by God’s flood, as was every pregnant woman and every fetus. God’s views on the murder of children could not have been made more clear. God promised not to do it again.
Chapter Three. The Earth is repopulated by the eight people and the animals that survived the flood in the box. God was still disappointed by the behavior of the descendents of the people he had saved from drowning. God then supernaturally produced a son from the body of an unwed teenage girl, so that the boy could grow up and be killed as a sacrifice to God for the sins of everyone else. After the son was killed, God brought him back to life and took him to Heaven. All people have to do to go to Heaven when they are dead is to believe that God let his son be killed, as a child sacrifice for their sins, and then brought him back to life. Before he went back to Heaven, the reanimated dead son said that he would return shortly to Earth to take believers back with him to be with him and God.
Chapter Four. For nearly two thousand years, the faithful have waited for the son God made, permitted to be killed, and then brought back to life, to come to Earth and get them as he promised he would do. For some reason, this is thought more likely to occur on thousand year round numbered years. So, despite the Bible’s assertion that no one can know the day or the hour it will occur, the crazies prepare for the return of the son of the god, with wildly differing versions of what will happen upon his return. Some, but far from all, of the possible events and outcomes predicted are set forth in the opening paragraph of this blasphemy. As in most matters of faith, you can take your choice.
Naturally, nothing supernatural will happen, because there is no supernatural to happen. That is not the concern. What is of concern is the possible actions of those who believe something end-of-the-world like will happen and who are committed to helping it along. Some such have already emerged, and they have worked much mischief. We can be certain more wait the fast closing end of the year 1999. It is these living persons set upon harming others and achieving self-fulfilling prophecies that we should fear and guard against, not the fears and fairy tales that drive them. They are the darkness we need fear.
Here are some of your narrator’s prophecies for the future, drawn far more specifically than any of those of the Bible or of any of the 900 telephone line psychics. The year 2000, the last year of this millennium, will come. The Messiah will not come. The world will not end. Neither Jesus nor Satan will appear. Nor will the Antichrist. There will be no Rapture. There will be no apocalypse. There will be no battle of Armageddon. The failure of these events to occur will strengthen the faith of some, as the people continue to imagine a vain thing. There will be more Kagin’s Columns.
The final year of this millennium, that will so quickly come, should be for us a time of reflection. The dating of our years, the structure of our centuries, and the very idea of a millennium, are, to be sure, artificial. But so are most of the many signposts that mark our roads and measure our days. Symbols are powerful. They are of great importance and value, so long as we don’t mistake the symbol for what it is meant to symbolize. We can find meaning in the final year of this arbitrary thousand year period that is a slice of how we measure time. The past one thousand years has been filled with war and with superstition, the latter often giving birth to the former. The next thousand years can see our kind populate the stars, or it can see us regress to the worst of the past darkness from which our evolved human minds have delivered us.
Consider, as a benediction for our age, the words of Thaddaeus, said to have been from the first century of the first millennium (see Kagin’s Column, “On the Gospel of Thaddaeus”):
May that measure of peace, justice, harmony and understanding denied religion and its deities be attained by mortals through the use of their minds, and may reason, science, curiosity, and discovery replace the fear, the guilt, the pain, and the ignorance of trembling in terror before capricious gods. Ecce homo.
Happy New Year!
(c) Edwin Kagin.