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Sunday, July 14, 2024

Religious extremists have been emboldened by the self-fulfilling prophecy

In attempts to bring about the apocalypse, Christians, Jews and Muslims forgo the basic principles of their religions

The reaction to violence is almost always violent retaliation. If one commits violence on a sufficiently mass scale, the likelihood of war is high. Therefore, when discussing religious extremists who believe they are God’s faithful workers in bringing about the apocalypse and leading their group to salvation, it’s important to note that violence as a response to violence is not prophetic; it’s simply the mathematical and horrific outcome. What drives continued attempts to end the world, ironically, is when things go according to plan — the self-fulfilling prophecy.

When discussing self-fulfilling prophecy, religious extremists are a flashing “Exhibit A.” Through their violence, they’ve successfully created war — perhaps something they see as an affirmation of the end of the world and subsequent justification for their actions. But perpetuating a cycle of war is not affirmation of end times; it’s the natural consequence of organized violence. Religious extremists’ ridiculous yet successful attempts to bring about the apocalypse has emboldened them.

There is a shared belief among Christian Zionists, and some evangelicals, that the return of the Jewish people to the Holy Land and the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 is in accordance with Biblical prophecy. The return is necessitated by the rapture, or apocalypse. This has led many Christians to assist, either monetarily or with time, in the building of settlements on Palestinian territory. Obviously, these actions — especially those of settlement construction — angers Palestinians. Belief and behavior in this scenario go hand-in-hand. Some people believe the apocalypse will occur after Jews “repossess” Palestinian territory and destroy the Jerusalem Mosque al-Aqsa to rebuild the Temple of Solomon and try to assist by contributing to one of the most tense international issues. In turn, they foment violence. Is this prophecy or logic? One group occupying another group’s land will obviously create problems — that doesn’t make you a servant of the Lord because you contributed to international turmoil.

Attempts at the apocalypse extend beyond Christians. There are also Jews and Muslims who have tried to carry out their extremist versions of the end of the world.

In Israel, for example, there have been multiple attempts by Jews to destroy or blow up the Dome of the Rock, a holy site for Muslims. One attack, by gun-wielding extremist Alan Harry Goodman, led to the deaths and injuries of worshippers inside the Dome of the Rock. He had fliers from the Kach Movement, an extremist group of ultranationalists who advocated for the expulsion of all Arabs from Israel and replacement of the mosques on the Temple Mount with Jewish temples.

The days and weeks following the incident brought about uproar from both Israelis and Palestinians. Violent clashes ensued, stirring up enough anger to the point where a 17-year-old Palestinian boy was shot and killed by Israeli forces for throwing a rock at a tank. Now imagine if attempts at destruction of the Dome were successful: What kind of violent reaction would the world see then? If you’re trying to bring about the end of the world, blowing up the Dome of the Rock is the best way to do that — it’s the excuse some might need to wage full-blown war.

It’s sad that humans believe in myths (I am not talking about religion in general) and even more tragic that they are willing to act violently based on those myths. For Muslims, the apocalypse (a myth based on historical accounts called hadith, not the actual Koran) will occur in stages, the first being world-wide injustice in addition to the oppression of Muslims. Settling on Palestinian land or blowing up the Dome of the Rock play into these apocalyptic narratives by either justifying the violence (violent response) necessary for end times or creating a society of religious followers who, in light of the comfort provided to them by the possibility of end times, view the regression of their country passively.

It’s tragically sad that humans ignore God’s basic message of compassion and tolerance in favor of focusing on religious nonsensical prophecy and, in turn, brutalize one another.  Perhaps this is why the New Atheists like Sam Harris and Bill Maher are accumulating a following — they properly ridicule the barbarity of religion and focus on the compassion and logic of universal humanity. Ironically, these New Atheists may be the people walking closest in line with God’s path.



Written by: Hanadi Jordan — hajordan@ucdavis.edu

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual columnists belong to the columnists alone and do not necessarily indicate the views and opinions held by The California Aggie.


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