History of religion

The apocalypses in the 21st century

(Published in GralsWelt 45/2007)

Centuries before Christ: the first end-time proclamation

Between 1,500 and 600 BC BC - archaeologists and philologists are far apart in their time specifications - proclaimed the Persian bringer of truth Zarathustra (Greek: Zoroaster. Cf. "A Persian Bringer of Truth" under "history of religion") the highest god Ahura Mazda, the creator of all things, from whom only good things proceed.

But in the world man is exposed to two driving forces: One is “spenta” (holy, virtuous) and assigned to Ahura Mazda, the other is “angra” (evil, hostile) and comes from Ahriman, the “evil spirit”. Good and bad face each other harshly until, at the end of the days, Ahura Mazda enforces a final judgment, in which good and bad receive their just reward. That is the big decision towards which the course of the world rushes.

Zarathustra was therefore the first to announce an apocalypse. Since then, believers of the most varied of religions have been awaiting the "Judgment Day": Buddhists, Hinduists, Hopi Indians, Jews, Catholics, New Age followers, occultists, Orthodox, Paganists, Protestants, Shiites, Sunnis, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc.

Over the centuries, prophecies, theologies, visions, and future novels have been used to depict the likely events of the end times in many different ways - depending on the religious attitudes of their authors and the tastes of the time. The corresponding literature is incalculable, but basically follows the same pattern.

One would like to assume that these apocalypses are medieval ideas that are not well received in our post-industrial times. But that is a mistake. For example, in the three Abrahamic world religions that are most important to us in Europe - Judaism, Christianity and Islam - there are currently fundamentalist groups that are anticipating end-time events in the near future, preparing for them and even trying to influence them. The followers of modern end-time prophets are so numerous and of such great influence that they are also politically effective.

Jewish apocalyptic: On the way to Yahweh's world domination

Long before the New Testament was written, there was an apocalyptic in the Hebrew Bible that Jews, Christians and even Muslims use as a source to this day. The focus is on the book of Daniel, which speaks of the resurrection of the dead, the last judgment and the ultimate world domination of Yahweh:
“The rule and power and the glory of all kingdoms under all heaven are given to the people of the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all powers will serve and obey him " (Dan. 7, 27).

The book of Daniel was probably written in the second century BC, after the so-called Babylonian captivity; but his eschatological prophecies are also important for strictly religious Jews in the 21st century, for example.
The Jewish apocalyptic (which has never completely disappeared over the centuries) received new impulses from the rabbis Abraham Isaak Kook (1865-1934) and his son Tzvi Yehuda Kook (1891-1982), who are venerated like saints. Today there are different varieties of Jewish Messiah expectations that differ, for example, on whether the predetermined process must be accelerated through active human action - including violence - or whether the believer should humbly wait for the unstoppable - because God-willed - development .
The fundamentalist groups of the Jewish religion agree to some extent on the following beliefs:
* All significant historical events are more or less stages in the history of salvation (eschatology), at the end of which is the appearance of the Messiah.
* The story follows the primary events described in the Holy Scriptures and other traditions.
Thus, the most important events for modern Jewish eschatology, for the future of Israel and Judaism in the context of the biblical end-time prophecy are given as follows:
* the reconquest of the Holy Land;
* the declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of a large Israeli kingdom and the establishment of the Third Temple;
* the establishment of a sacred kingship in Israel;
* the appearance of the Messiah.
* Even after the appearance of the Messiah, the Jews remain so "Chosen people of God". The rest of the people are not forced to accept the Jewish faith. But all peoples recognize Yahweh as the highest God.
* Paradise on earth is eternal under the rule of Yahweh, not - as in Christianity - limited to the "millennial kingdom". The Jewish end-time expectation is also tied to a specific landscape. (7, p. 231).

From a Zionist perspective, the Jews were in exile until 1948, the year the State of Israel was founded. Finally, after two millennia, Yahweh had kept his promise and led his people back to the “Holy Land”. Now this people chosen by him must take possession of the "land of promise" against all odds, make Jerusalem the capital of a new Israeli kingdom, and rebuild the temple that was destroyed by the Romans.
Deeply religious Jewish fundamentalists live with this conviction in Israel and in the diaspora. In today's secular state of Israel they are only a minority. However, you are represented in the Knesset with a few MPs.

Christian Apocalyptic: The Struggle for Truth

For two millennia there have been convinced Christians in every century who believe that Judgment Day is near and imagine the end-time events to be expected. Various Christian interpretations of the end times, most of which are based on the John Apocalypse in the New Testament, also found attention in the 20th century. Vladimir S. Solowjew, for example, offers a modern poetic version in his “Tale of the Antichrist” (6).

Until 1991, the end of the Soviet Union, the Cold War was the focus of apocalyptic exegeses. The Soviets were considered the realm of the Antichrist, and the Great Apocalypse, for example, could be interpreted as a description of nuclear war (4). This image of the enemy has changed. Since September 11, 2001, Christian fundamentalists have identified terrorist Islamist fundamentalism as the opponent of “true faith”.

The battle of Armageddon
The Christian end-time scenario, which has also been designed in a variety of ways for centuries, looks, in short, something like this:
* Problems are increasing in many parts of the world: wars, natural disasters, famines, epidemics, hardship, inflation. Those responsible are less and less able to cope with the challenges.
* A charismatic leader appears - with tremendous charisma and compelling power. The lukewarm and the fake believers let themselves be bewitched by the trifling words of this personality.
* The goal of this "Antichrist" is the unification of the world (with the capital Jerusalem) under the auspices of materialism, whereby Christianity is rejected.
* When the Antichrist believes that he is almost at his goal, the returned Christ appears and, with divine help, gathers the good around him.
* Then follows the great final battle of light against darkness, the "Battle of Armageddon". This battle rages both spiritually and earthly.
* The wicked will be destroyed and Satan will be shackled. The earth will be cleansed and the surviving, purified people of all races (including the Jews) will convert to true Christianity and build a new world under the direction of Christ.
* The kingdom of the thousand years follows, after which Satan will be unleashed. But he can no longer seduce humanity, which has matured up to that point, and he remains forever disempowered. (3).

As in past centuries, there are believers today who expect this end time in the near future and try to prepare for it through a Christian way of life and inner purification. Unfortunately, some are not satisfied with this spiritual preparation. They feel called to advance the great event that God himself promised through earthly activism and, for example, to anticipate some of the prophesied events at least partially - even violently.
Since Jerusalem and the conversion of the Jews belong to the end-time scenario, some Christian fundamentalists have an ambivalent relationship to Judaism: Although the Jews should also be converted to Christianity, Israel and its most important city are needed for the end-time events and must be preserved until then stay. For Muslims, this has the effect of Christian solidarity with Judaism.

George W. Bush: Politics “on behalf of God”?
When the American President George W. Bush speaks of the "axis of evil", he seems to be carried by a religious conviction, which Gerhard Schröder reports in his memoir:
“What preoccupied me despite the relaxed atmosphere and made me suspicious in a certain way: Again and again in our conversations in private, it was evident how much this president saw himself as 'godly' and in harmony with what he considered to be the highest authority. That kept me busy during his visit. I can well understand when someone is a very religious person and aligns his private life to dialogue with God, in this case in prayer. The problem I have with such a position begins where the impression arises that political decisions are the result of talking to God. Anyone who legitimizes political decisions in this way cannot allow them to be changed or even relativized through criticism or the exchange of ideas with others. If he allowed this, he would be violating a commission from God that he received in prayer. This absolute claim, which I encountered again and again in 2002 not only in conversations with the American President, but also in his statements to the public, increased my political skepticism - regardless of my personal sympathy for America and its President. " (5, p. 200).

A family friend of President George W. Bush - who describes himself as a "born again Christian" - is the Reverend Franklin Graham, son of the legendary preacher Billy Graham, known as "the machine gun of God." In an NBC interview, Franklin Graham stated two months after September 11, 2001:
“… The belief of Muhammad was a 'very bad and evil religion'. In his book The Name, published in 2002, he wrote that the 'God of Islam is not the God of the Christian faith'. The two are as different as light and darkness. After the star preacher was invited by the Pentagon in April 2003 to hold the Friday prayers there and thereby provide spiritual support to the US soldiers in the Middle East, American Muslims protested and liberal politicians were Graham's choice extremely embarrassing to the 'court chaplain'. " (7, p. 143).
Graham was and is not the only Evangelical close to the President. (7, p. 176).

Questionable Christian missionary attempts in Iraq
The anger of the Muslims is also arousing attempts at conversion by Christian missionary societies in Iraq. In the first year of the occupation, tens of thousands of brochures “Christ Bringing You Peace” and a million Bibles in Arabic were distributed.
Many Muslims believe that apostasy from Islam is a death-worthy crime. The victims of this mission carried out by American Christian fundamentalists include the Iraqi Christians.

Christian crusade against Islam
Since September 11, 2001, Christian fundamentalists have seen the USA fighting the devil, who exposes his ugly face as the Taliban, terrorist or enemy of America. High-ranking decision-makers like General William Boykin (blamed for the abominations of Abu Ghraib) preach the struggle against the princes of darkness who threaten the land of the free (7, p. 131). Accordingly, a modern crusade would be the necessary answer to the jihad.
Militant fundamentalists find the ideological tools for their concept of a religious US army in scriptures, which Viktor and Victoria Trimondi find in the book "War of Religions" (here under "Book Reviews") summarize as follows:
* The American Militia Christi wages its “holy war” as a combination of patriotism and militant Christianity.
* She fights as a champion of good against evil, against the "axis of evil".
* In the last instance she fights for God and against the devil.
* Your warfare is accordingly cruel and merciless.
* She kills and prays.
* She awaits the arrival of Jesus Christ as the Militant Messiah.
* It is based on a warrior Christ as described in the Apocalypse of John.
* She is leading a crusade against Islam.
* She is ready to be martyred for her Christian faith.
* She believes that she will be rewarded with entry into paradise. (7, p. 146 f.).

It is difficult to imagine that militant clergymen and evangelical generals in a democratic western country could spark crusade hysteria like the one in the 11th and 12th centuries. But they supply propaganda ammunition for fanatical Muslims who justify their tirades of hate and the call for jihad as a necessary reaction to the allegedly planned destruction of Islam by the West.

Islamic Apocalyptic: The World Revolution
When Mohammed began to proclaim his new faith, he hoped for the support of the Jews; because he wanted to achieve a more comprehensive summary of Judaism and Christianity. He was bitterly disappointed. Because precisely the Jews refused to recognize Allah as the highest God and showered his prophets with their mockery. Mohammed made them atone for it with the massacre of 624: Jewish men were murdered in Medina, women and children enslaved.
In the Koran there are a number of anti-Jewish statements that serve anti-Israeli terrorists to legitimize their actions.
A hadith by the Prophet entitled "The Gharqad Tree". Many hate preachers refer to this saying, which is also part of Hamas' basic program. About the end times it is said here:
“The hour will not come before the Muslims fight the Jews (and the Muslims kill them) until the Jews hide behind trees and rocks and the trees and rocks say, 'Oh you Muslime, you servants of God, here are the Jews, come and kill them! ' - with the exception of the Gharqad tree, because it is the tree of the Jews. " (7, p. 386).

For a strictly religious fundamentalist Mohammedan, the murder of the Jews becomes a precondition for the appearance of the Islamic Redeemer, the Mahdi or Isa (Jesus).
The Middle East conflict - the ongoing dispute between Palestinians and Israelis over a country that is too small for its population and with too little water - is thus drawn into the vortex of eschatological prophecies; it is hyped up as a question of fate for all of Islam. Because the Islamist world revolution is considered an essential part (or equivalent to) the end times!

Revolutionary Islamism
The basic ideas of revolutionary Islamism are based on an eschatological-apocalyptic pattern that Victor and Victoria Trimondi summarize as follows:
* The existing world (especially the West) is bad, evil, decadent and godless for Islamism.
* The existing, bad, secular world must be destroyed to the roots so that a new, good, holy world can arise. The basic values of the New Holy World correspond to the basic values of traditional Islam.
* The destruction of all currently existing western social conditions is carried out by the Islamist world revolution.
* The method by which the Islamist world revolution comes to victory is the "holy war" (jihad), which legitimizes and demands extreme violence, terror and martyrdom (shahadat).
* After the victory over the existing unholy world and its annihilation, a new, perfect and holy world, a global Muslim theocracy (the caliphate), is established, which is governed by the true laws of Islam. (7, p. 305).

The idea of an Islamist world revolution is complex and cannot be dealt with in just a few slogans. But the five theses mentioned above summarize principles and models of thought that are supported by powerful Islamist groups today. In any case, it emerges from these theses that a dialogue with Islamist fundamentalists would be as promising as a discussion with a medieval inquisitor about human rights.

The Islamist Apocalypse
In addition to the end-time statements in the Quran (e.g. 82nd sura), there is extensive end-time literature in Islamic culture. This also attempts to describe the last days; it is as diverse as the various currents in Islam, but can be easily compared with corresponding Jewish and Christian approaches, albeit with the opposite sign.

On the path of a dubious cultural exchange, fundamentalist currents from the most varied of religions orientate themselves on the same apocalyptic matrix. This is already expressed in the basic ideas of revolutionary Islamism mentioned above. In addition, there are the following ideas about the end times, which are widespread in the Islamic world and appear, for example, in statements by Osama bin Laden or in speeches by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (1 and 10):
* The war between Islam and the West is a cosmic war between good and evil, God and Satan.
* The Judeo-Christian culture of the West and Western secularism together make up the “Empire of Evil”.
* The extermination of the Jews is a primary goal.
* Muslims also expect the coming of a counterpart to the Antichrist, the "Dajjal" (a Jew), who precedes the longed-for Savior, the Mahdi or Isa.
* In the eyes of many Muslims, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Taliban, Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda are “holy warriors” in the Last Judgment, which has already begun. (7, p. 421).

Western politicians*) who want to counter such religious aberrations with the usual diplomacy are naive at best. But a response through Christian fundamentalist counterterrorism or even war would be fatal.

The fanatical fundamentalists do not form a majority in most Islamic countries; but they find much, too much approval. They are often powerful enough to influence government decisions. There is currently hardly a government in an Islamic country that could dare to question the Koran. This alone contains enough ideological explosives - just like the Bible. (Which can be viewed critically in Western countries, while for most Muslims the Koran is "the uncreated word of Allah".)

The educated elites of the Islamic countries know of course that the many - sometimes contradicting - apocalypses are not suitable as concrete instructions for political action. But no government of an Islamic state can simply ignore the state of mind of the mass of believers, who are perhaps incited by fundamentalist mullahs. The Age of Enlightenment has hardly begun in Islamic countries.

On the way to "Eurabia"?
In Europe, too, there are now (2006) around 15 million people who can be assigned to the Muslim religion, and the number is rising. As a result, Western and Islamic values seem to be clashing in Europe lately. Revolutionary Islamism has carried out terror attacks in Europe too. Some of the Muslim assassins were born and raised in Western Europe. Further attacks were threatened.
Why did hostility flourish under the liberal, democratic civilization of the West?
* Is it the post-colonial exploitation of the so-called Third World that incites rebellion?
* Do we have to be resigned to the failure of the integration of Muslims in western European society, which is shaped by the Enlightenment?
* That the Enlightenment cannot prevail in Islamic countries?
* Is Oriana Fallacis (2) Kassandra Ruf true, that we are on the way to "Eurabia"?
* Is Islamist fundamentalism compatible with European constitutions?
* Have we closed our eyes for too long to anti-constitutional groups abusing religious freedom?

End times - turning point: where do we really stand today?

The global population growth is unchecked. Global warming will hardly be controllable any more. Many resources, especially water, are becoming scarce. Economic globalization is causing severe distortions in world trade, industry and the capital markets. The social networks are becoming fragile. A feared battle for raw materials and places to live could break out on the overpopulated earth at any time. The solutions to economic and socio-political problems offered by helpless - or irresponsible - decision-makers either fail or fall far behind plan. More and more people are concerned about the future.

As always in critical times, believers seek solace in their religion. They look up and ask for the help of the Most High.
In uncertain times, prophecies and prophetic interpretations of the holy scriptures also regularly boom. When rational considerations show no ways to escape the feared, felt or prophesied coming calamity, there remains the hope of divine intervention, of the Last Judgment.
Throughout the past millennia, people found signs of the approaching end times in every century. Often they also believed that they recognized the Antichrist in a great personality.
Always in vain so far.
Will it be different in the 21st century?
Or is our earth left to the laws of nature without supernatural, miraculous help from outside?

Abd-ru-shin says in his work “In the Light of Truth” that the laws of creation coming from God include the free will of the human spirit. That is why people have a great deal of freedom, which even enables them to ignore the limits of natural law. But the larger the limit is exceeded, the more drastic the interaction that has been set in motion must be.
Both the people who await the apocalypse and the unbelievers in it should be able to meet on one basis: on the basis of reason. With an honest effort we must strive for a peaceful coexistence of all people on our planet. Economists, ecologists and politicians cannot solve this task alone. Religions also have an obligation. Especially they should make themselves particularly aware of their responsibility towards the "Creator of Heaven and Earth" wear that believers in all Abrahamic religions believe.

In my opinion, hostile, denominational, fundamentalist, militant, apocalyptic slogans are in no way a godly contribution to the future of the earth, humanity and all earthly life.

Final grade:
*) Barak Obama's speech in Cairo on June 4, 2009, which received much attention at the time, was also based on a misjudgment of fundamentalist Islam. Obama wanted to ease relations with Islam, which had been strained by the "axis of evil" statements of his predecessor, President Bush.

(1) Der Spiegel, 22/2006 of May 29, 2006.
(2) Fallaci Oriana, Die Kraft der Vernunft, List, Berlin 2004.
(3) Hagl Siegfried, The Apocalypse as Hope, Droemer-Knaur, 1984.
(4) Philbert Bernhard, Christian prophecy and nuclear energy, R. Brockhaus, Wuppertal 1980.
(5) Schröder Gerhard, decisions, Hoffmann and Campe, Hamburg 2006.
(6) Solowjew Vladimir S., The story of the Antichrist, Vita Nuova, Tübingen 1946.
(7) Trimondi Victor and Victoria, War of Religions, Wilhelm Fink, Paderborn 2006.
(8) Urban Martin, Why man believes, Eichborn, Frankfurt 2005.
(12) Elmar Thevessen / Souad Mekhemmet, The Great Trench - Religious Fundamentalists on the Rise, ZDF documentary (March 8, 2007).