07/14/2014 11:57 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Religion's Connection to the End Times

According to Pastor Mark Blitz and the surprisingly popular "Blood Moon prophecy," we've all got about a year left on the planet, but I, for one, am still making longer-term plans.

Armageddon. The End Times. The Rapture. Ragnarok. There are many different terms for the end of humanity brought on as part of a divine plan or by the deities themselves, but most religions maintain a similar belief that mankind will eventually experience some sort of reckoning at the hands of the gods.


Some of those who do believe in this "end times" scenario will resort to extreme actions in order to prepare, such as selling their homes, quitting their jobs, blowing up their family pets, and even committing suicide. And fringe groups aren't the only ones who believe in these apocalyptic situations, as many mainline Protestants believe in the second coming of Christ, and Muslims, Hindus, and other mainstream faiths contain similarly destructive scenarios in their scriptures. In fact, this death-cult mentality is shared by many: Some 22 percent of Americans believe that the world will end during their lifetime.

This fatalistic belief in the end of humanity, most often because of our sins or lack of virtue, is as frightening as it is harmful. If we believe that no matter what we do, the majority of us will perish in some reign of heavenly or demonic fire, what is our motivation to plan for our collective future?

Humanism is opposed to this ideology, not only because it's always based on unprovable religious superstition but because humanists believe strongly that the fate of humanity is not subject to divine whims but rests with humanity itself.

For this reason, humanists work hard to ensure that our collective future is one that is sustainable and desirable for all. This motivates strong support of the environment because a stable ecosystem is necessary for a long-term existence. Humanists are also supporters of governmental policies that promote peace and mutual disarmament, because constant war is untenable and could mean the destruction of all life on the planet. And humanists are supporters of scientific inquiry, for without it we are vulnerable to diseases and natural catastrophes.

The religious predictions of how the world will end are rejected by humanists not because we think that humanity is invulnerable but because we recognize that there are real threats to humanity's survival, and that by focusing on unrealistic and uncontrollable "end times" distractions we neglect to take ownership of our own choices, and in the process decrease our chances for continued existence. Our opposition to this religious fatalism is motivated entirely by our own belief that the ability of our species to preserve itself is entirely in our own hands and minds.

We need not be afraid of the four horsemen, or of Jesus' return in a chariot of flames; rather, we should fear uncontrolled pollution, high-stakes warfare, underfunded scientific and medical research, and apathy from leaders and common citizens when it comes to solving our own problems. We can survive and thrive, but we will only do so if we reject the idea that we are all doomed to die because of what ancient books and divine prophesies tell us. Instead, let's embrace the notion that our future is what we make of it.