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Machines Like Us

The religious drive for war

Thursday, 12 September 2013
by Mano Singham

There are a lot of people in the US who advocate for war. The neoconservatives are one such group, because they have as their goal the projection of US power all over the globe to establish complete dominance. The Israel lobby is another group that seeks to have the US act on Israel’s behalf and attack and destabilize and even overthrow all the Middle Eastern countries that it sees as enemies. And of course, there is the military-industrial complex that makes a lot of money out of the death and destruction wreaked by the US on other people.

But there is another group that eagerly wants war and massive death and destruction and that is the Christians who believe in the Armageddon, the massive war that will signal the end of the world and the return of Jesus.

I recently watched the documentary Waiting for Armageddon that follows that group of people that think that the second coming of Jesus will occur any day now and just can’t wait for it to happen and look on any war in the Middle East as a good thing, the bigger the better, because they see that as the sign of the end. These people seem delighted when violence periodically flares up and want it to escalate.

It is a good documentary. I thought a little too much time was spent in the beginning following a particular group of true believers in their churches and homes in the US where they spoke emphatically about how certain they were that we were in the final days. It got better when it followed them on their pilgrimage to Israel where they visit all the sites that they think the Bible tells them are going to play important roles in the final days, such as the places where the bloody final battles will be fought. The second half was better as the film gave voice to various religious people and scholars in the Middle East who spoke about the various factors that lead to this kind of apocalyptic thinking.

It is truly something to watch the rapture believers talk with steely-eyed certainty about something that has no basis in reality. It is also disconcerting to listen to them, who are of course certain that they are saved, describing with glee how great it will be for them to have ring-side seats to observe the carnage unfold before their eyes when the forces of Jesus battle those of the anti-Christ. Some of them have the grace to realize that it may not reflect well on them to be seen relishing the massacre of others and try to cover this up by expressing some regret for us unfortunates, but that clearly comes across as an afterthought.

One of their prophecies is that a key sign of the imminent end is when the Jewish temple is rebuilt in Jerusalem on its original site. The catch is that the site is currently occupied by the Al-Aqsa mosque with its golden dome, considered one of the holiest shrines for Muslims, the destination for Mohammed for his night flight from Mecca on his winged horse. The deeply religious significance of the site for Muslims, even though it too has no basis in reality, makes it unlikely that the mosque will be ever replaced. Or so you would think. But such a trifle does not deter the true believers. Some of them hope that during one of the conflicts someone will lob a missile, perhaps even a nuclear one, and obliterate the mosque, opening the way for it to be replaced by a Jewish temple. Yes, they actually hope for that to happen.