Well, maybe just one more word.
As a civilization (or as serial civilizations within a vaguely Judeo-Islamo-Christian mold), we’ve never wanted for end of world date predictions. For a decent rundown of many of them, see the Library of Date Setters of The End of the World. Going back to the hubris of Theudas in 44 A.D. — a fellow who had declared himself to be the Messiah, but was beheaded by the Romans before he could start passing judgment on mankind in bulk — there have been numerous Messiah-wannabes fooling some of the people some of the time.
I get some interesting things in mailbox. In one recent message, a press agent for someone named Yisrayl Hawkins is touting September 12, 2006 as a date on which a nuclear war will begin, and in which “a third part of mankind will be killed over a fourth part of the earth.” This, in turn, according to the press agent, will lead to the involvement of all nations and ultimately to “four fifths of the earth’s total population being killed by October 13, 2007.” Yisrayl Hawkins, born Buffalo Bill Hawkins, was a country singer until 1974, when he and his brother Jacob (Yaaqob) founded the House of Yahweh sect. An offshoot of this sect in Kenya caused a stir last month when sect members were being urged to sell all their worldly possessions in advance of the coming nuclear conflict on September 12.
Then, of course, there’s the hapless British doomsday mathematician, Gordon Ritchie, who is currently predicting that a nuclear bomb will hit the UN Plaza between sundowns on August 25 and 26. This comes as the 11th such prediction since May of this year — after 10 wrong predictions, a track record he readily (and rather refreshingly) admits.
There are numerous other end-of-world predictions floating around out there; these are just two of the more entertaining currently operative ones in my book.
Will either August 25-26 or September 12 build into a full-fledged blog-fests, the way that August 22 seemed to? I think not. The difference here is a basic question of credibility. When a Syrian politician and a Princeton Islamic scholar point out the possible motives real people might have for carrying out a particular act on a particular date, it would be surprising if we did not take some notice of it — especially in a context of existing global conflict. Again, the issue that Mr. Ghadry and Professor Lewis were raising was whether the leaders of Iran were acting under primarily spiritual pretenses, or primarily practical ones. In most cases, practical motives will argue for behavior that perserves life — or at the very least, for behavior that preserves strategic advantage. Our experience of August 22 outed the Ayatollah Khameini as a practical fellow — at least for the purposes of Tuesday.
When, on the other hand, a Texas doomsday cult or a harmless British apocalyptic call out a mysterious prediction about a nuclear attack of unknown origin based upon an interpretation of scripture, we have cause to be a tad skeptical. We may also have cause to report about it here on the Cocktail Hour . . . but that’s an entirely different question.
For those of you who were kind enough to let me know that you appreciated yesterday’s articles, my sincere thanks. Tune in for more when you can.