Posts Tagged “prophecies”

Our Lady of Fátima and the Children - Igreja de São Domingos - LisbonIt’s the hundredth anniversary of the Virgin Mary’s famous appearance at Fátima, Portugal. Pope Francis celebrated it by going on a pilgrimage there, and as the Jesuit America magazine reports, he canonized two of the children who saw the apparition (WebCite cached article):

History was made at the shrine of Fatima at 10:30 a.m. on May 13 when Pope Francis declared that Francisco Marto and his sister Jacinta are saints. Francisco and Jacinta are the first child saints who are not martyrs in the history of the church.

Francisco, Jacinta and their cousin Lucia are buried here side by side in the basilica. Before Mass, Francis prayed in silence at the tombs of the three shepherd children. When Jacinta’s body was exhumed before being brought here, 15 years after her death, it was found to be totally uncorrupted. Because of this, the local bishop asked Lucia, by then a contemplative nun, to write the memoirs of Jacinta and Francisco, detailing the extraordinary events that have so powerfully impacted the lives of believers ever since [cached].

The Fátima sighting, of course, was not just a single event: it was six of them. Today is the anniversary of the first of these appearances; the last was 5 months later in October of 1917. The now-famous “three secrets” were delivered during the third of the six appearances, in July.

These secrets — mainly, the third — are the subject of more than a little conspiratorial thinking. The third was withheld, and put in writing in the early 1940s by the surviving witness (at that time), Lúcia dos Santos (who had become a nun), sealed in an envelope by her. It was not to be opened until 1960, for some reason; Pope John XXIII read it at that time, but decided not to disclose it. John Paul II finally revealed the “third secret” in 2000, and the Church decided then that it had referred to the assassination attempt against him in 1981. It’s been published, and is even available on the Vatican’s Web site (cached).

The Church’s interpretation of the “third secret” is rather deficient, by any standard. Its vision of a bishop in white being killed by soldiers does not, in any way, reflect the shooting of John Paul II. This, plus the sketchy way the “third secret” was treated, fostered conspiracy theories. Many of these theories assume the Vatican’s published version of the “third secret” is either incomplete or fraudulent, and the actual “third secret” is being withheld for nefarious reasons (which they’ve spun out of thin air, having nothing else to base them on).

There’s just one problem with all of this: Sister Lúcia was alive in 2000, and published commentaries on the “secrets” as late as 2001, and died in 2005. She never contradicted the Vatican’s released version of the “third secret.” (This is why Lúcia wasn’t sainted along with her two friends today; they died long ago due to the Spanish flu pandemic and qualified for canonization already; Lúcia’s sainthood cause has yet to run its course.)

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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The End is Not NearI recently blogged about how fundamentalist Christians are leaping for joy and rubbing their hands over the possibility that the US might attack Syria, as the so-called “Biblical prophecy” in Isaiah 17 coming true — a development that, they further think, will trigger “Armaggedon” and Jesus’ return. They are, as I explained then, absolutely fucking wrong about that: First, because any chance there had ever been of all of Isaiah 17 ever coming true, has already gone by, long ago; and because all Biblical prophecy is bullshit in the first place.

This hasn’t stopped the Religious Right from stomping around, declaring that the “prediction” of Isaiah 17 is about to come true — even though the proposed attack on Syria may not even materialize. They just can’t seem to let go of it. In fact, as the Raw Story explains, Neil Cavuto, of Fox News and Fox Business Channel has weighed in and is shilling for this bogus proposition (locally-cached article):

Fox News anchor Neil Cavuto on Monday devoted an entire segment to the possibility that a United States attack on Syria could be a sign of the End Times, a period in which Christians believe that Jesus Christ will return to face the emergence of the Antichrist.

“This Syria stuff is way old,” Cavuto explained. “I mean Old Testament old. That’s how old I’m talking about. Don’t laugh. Some biblical scholars say it’s all there in black and white.”

The Fox News host invited author Joel Rosenberg to weigh in on the link between the Syrian conflict and the Bible passages, which he said were “uncanny” and “kind of scary.”

“These are prophecies more than 2,700 years old, some of them, but they have not actually been fulfilled,” Rosenberg said. “But this prophecy, as you just pointed out, talks about the complete and utter destruction of Damascus. That’s an End Times or eschatological prophecy.”

“It’s a very sobering thought to think that a judgment of a city or a country could happen in which an entire city could be wiped out, but that is, in fact, what the Bible is predicting,” he added. “I think it’s wrong for people who teach Bible prophecies to guess — I mean, in a sense try to say for certain it’s going to happen now.”

The Raw Story helpfully provides video of this little exchange:

I’d have thought someone like Cavuto would have better things to do … like scream and rant and whine and cry that Barack Obama and the other Democrats dare remain in office, insolently thwarting corporations’ efforts to disband the government, eliminate taxes on businesses and the wealthy, and relegate most of the country to indentured servitude … but like most of the rest of the folks on the Right, he seems committed to this erroneous “End Times” theology. Sigh.

Hat tip: Michael Shermer, via Twitter.

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The Jupiter temple in DamascusThe Bible is a rather large collection of documents. There’s a lot of material there, and if one cares to do so, one can easily sift out of it things that, on the surface, might appear to have been ancient predictions of subsequent events, or “prophecies.” As I’ve explained before, though, this approach to the Bible is invalid, because it contains a number of predictions that have utterly failed and literally can never come true. Even so, fundamentalist Christians continue acting as though the Bible is full of “prophecy.”

Most recently, as Time reports, fundamentalists are viewing the US’s imminent attack on Syria as yet another example of Biblical prophecy coming true (WebCite cached article):

“See, Damascus will cease to be a city and will become a heap of ruins. Her towns will be deserted forever.”

That’s a prophetic passage from the Biblical book of Isaiah, chapter 17, and now some fundamentalist Christian blogs are buzzing with the belief that the escalating violence in Syria means the ancient text may soon be fulfilled. ”The long prophesied end days are here,” one blog announces [cached]. “With the terrorist groups that operate out of Damascus building up arms caches on the border of Israel in anticipation of another war in the near future, it may not be long before this prophecy from Isaiah 17 becomes history,” another group awaiting Jesus Christ’s return predicts [cached].

Nearly all Biblical scholars, however, argue that such a literalist interpretation of the text is highly problematic. The passage was written more than 2,500 years ago, and it condemns Jerusalem’s enemies around the time of the Assyrian invasion. The prophetic oracles, as that section of Isaiah is called, name not just Syria but numerous ancient nations, including Moab, Babylon, Egypt, and Tyre, that threatened the Jewish people at the time.

Isaiah 17 indeed refers to the apparent destruction of Damascus, and the district or country to which it belonged, Aram. But it also mentions lots of other places and things. For example, Aroer, whose location is unknown but which may have been any of several settlements or cities that have long been ruins. It mentions “Ephraim,” probably meaning the district in which the tribe of Ephraim lived, but they, too, are ancient history. Verse 4 says that “the glory of Jacob will fade,” but that probably means Israel which doesn’t appear to be going anywhere just now. It also mentions “the valley of Rephaim,” which refers to a valley outside ancient Jerusalem, now part of the modern city. I’m not sure what that, in particular, could have to do with an attack on Syria. It mentions humanity forsaking “Asherim,” most likely Asherah poles, but those haven’t been used since classical times. Incense stands, however, are mentioned as being forgotten along with the “Asherim,” but they are still used in Catholic and Orthodox churches.

The bottom line is that, while Isaiah 17 does literally mention the defeat of Damascus, it also mentions other places and things which can no longer be read literally, either because they don’t exist, or because if one does read them literally, there are conflicts (such as the Asherah poles that haven’t been used in centuries and incense which has been). The appearance of a “prophecy” works only if one reads some parts of this section literally and others metaphorically, and willfully mixes ancient and modern places and practices together as though they’re all present at the same moment.

When one does this, the only thing one can produce, is nonsense.

As I said, I’ve explained why all Biblical prophecy — and I do mean ALL of it! — is bullshit. You see, the Bible contains specific, explicit predictions, given by none other than Jesus himself, which have failed to come true and by now cannot ever come true (emphasis mine):

“Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” (Mt 16:28)

“But I say to you truthfully, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.” (Lk 9:27)

All of these first century people who were present to hear Jesus say these words, are dead, and have been for nearly 2,000 years. Yet, Jesus never returned during their lifetimes. Thus, Jesus’ prediction failed completely.

Fundamentalist Christians really need to grow up and get over their Bible-worship. Their ideas about the Bible force them to lie about it, which is simply unacceptable. It needs to fucking stop already.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Repent The End Is NearAre you excited? I’m sure the idiotic sheep from Family Radio who follow Bible scholar religionist crank Harold Camping are. They’ve been roaming the country lately, telling everyone they meet that Jesus Christ is returning in less than a week to suck up all the Christians and leave the planet to wallow in misery and torment, until the End of the World arrives, six months from now.

I eagerly await Camping’s prediction going bust, but cringe to think what sort of twisted rationale he’ll cook up to explain why it was wrong. The last time he made such a prediction, back in 1993, that September 6, 1994 would be “the End of the World,” he later said he’d made “an arithmetic error.”

I leave you with a link to a Salon article about Camping and his latest prediction, which ends thusly (WebCite cached article):

What will the Nostradamus and Mayan Calendar people say if the apocalypse doesn’t come in 2012? And how about the Family Radio believers and other Christian Adventists, with their appointed dates for Armageddon?

Well, the current predictions may prove false, but the doomsayers need not worry. The numbers can always be crunched again — and again and again.

Photo credit: Robert Bejil Photography.

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