Friday, May 20, 2011

The End of the World

As today might prove regrettably penultimate, why not inform yourself on what the world’s major religions think of The End of the World?

The general term for the study of the end of the world and/or the ultimate destiny of humanity is eschatology. Let’s start with the Christian take.

Most Christians believe in a common set of events involved in the End of the World, drawing from passages throughout the Bible (including the apocalypse-focused Book of Revelations). Eventually, certain signs will arise, including the conversion of Jews to Christianity; natural disasters; and the reign of the Anti-Christ, a charismatic leader who enacts Satan’s will.  Eventually, Jesus returns in the Second Coming to defeat the Anti-Christ in The Battle of Armageddon and judge all humanity – living and dead. The wicked are sentenced to eternal damnation, heaven and earth are destroyed, and the righteous enter the perfect World to Come with God.

Islamic eschatology also looks towards a set of signs including the coming of the Dajjal (the Anti-Christ) and the Second Coming of Jesus to defeat the Dajjal in a grand war. After this battle, all will believe in Islam and a peaceful age will begin until the return of Ya’juj and Ma’juj, two tribes (or a pair of mischievous troublemakers) who create chaos on earth.  Eventually, this earth ends in the resurrection of the dead and Final Judgment of all people, where we are sent to Jannah (paradise) or Jahannam (damnation).

Conversely, Judaism teaches a golden age of peace here on earth. Eventually, the Messiah – descended from the Biblical king David – will reveal himself and unite all people – living and dead – in belief of God. Interpretations of this teaching range from a literal age of peace lead by a Messiah figure to a symbolic reading that calls for every individual to strive for a better future world with their actions. 

Hindus believe that the time is an endless cycle, with one divya (revolution) of 4.3 billion years divided into four yugas (periods). These periods decrease in length as they go on, with human life-span and the number of virtuous individuals on earth decreasing as well. Most Hindus believe that we are in the final yugaAt the end of a cycle, Shiva – god a destruction – ends the universe and Brahma – god creation – begins it again.

Buddhists similarly believe in a four-age cycle (a mahākalpa made of four kalpas)
 of creation and destruction. The kalpa mark the universe’s creation, existence, destruction, and – finally – nothingness. Similar to Hindus, some Buddhists believe that the human life-span and virtue decreases over time (from 80,000 to 10 years), until we degrade into senseless murder and violence. A small sect of virtuous people will survive this period, and life-span and virtue will gradually increase.

Obviously, this is a simplified picture of some complex and varied beliefs about the end of the world. Regardless of what you believe, why not spend today doing something you enjoy? I’ll see you back here on Monday. Hopefully.

Source: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5