In West Palm Beach, Florida, the Jehovah’s Witnesses are beginning their convention season by hosting 14 consecutive weeks of conventions. That’s a lot of doom and gloom, considering that this year’s theme is “Keep On The Watch!”, relating current world events such as earthquakes and the swine flu to biblical prophecies of the apocalypse. Heavy stuff indeed.
Religious prophecies of the apocalypse and the end of the world are nothing new, of course. Many proposed dates have come and gone, and at least these particular Jehovah’s Witnesses temper their predictions this time out: “We feel it is imminent. We can’t really put a date on it, and the scriptures tell us that nobody knows days or hours, but we’ll look at the signs as a theme of our convention and keep on the watch,” says spokesman Richard Ferris.
Why do they feel it’s imminent? What are the signs? “The fighting against nations, we’re seeing more earthquakes, you can look at the swine flu, all this, and it just points to the things that shows we are getting very close to what we feel is the end.”
Well, I don’t want to be flippant here. But earthquakes and other natural disasters are…natural. They happen all the time, have happened all the time, and will continue to happen all the time. They happened well before humans were here, in fact even before life was here, and they will continue to happen long after we’re gone. We only consider them “disastrous” because they kill living things that are nearby, but it’s really just natural processes brought about by the fact that the Earth is composed of huge rocky plates and crusts that move, which is bound to cause some turmoil on the surface.
Fighting against nations? Again, I don’t think there has been a time in recorded history when humans have not fought one another. Let’s face it: looking over the course of human history is a pretty dismal prospect, if you’re looking to see how rotten we’ve treated each other. And yet, things are better today than they have ever been, basically. Perhaps that’s a sign that the end of the world is not imminent.
The swine flu? It’s just another influenza. The flu kills approximately half a million people worldwide every year. There is nothing particularly special about this flu, and again, with respect to death from disease, things are better now than they ever have been. Of course, Jehovah’s Witnesses could probably do a little more to take care of themselves to allay some of their medical worries.
So, with all due respect, I don’t see Mr. Ferris’ point. These things have always happened and they aren’t happening at any greater rate today than they have in the past. In fact, in many respects, they are happening at a greatly reduced rate. The end seems farther away now than it probably did back in the Dark Ages, so if I were a Witness, I wouldn’t worry about it too much. My advice: enjoy your lives without scaring yourselves.
But then, religion has always traded on fear, so I don’t have much hope that things will be any different here. Besides, you guys have other things to worry about, even if you don’t acknowledge it.