Is the world going to end in 2012?

Hi! I go to a very religious private school. There have been loads of rumors going around that the world is going to end in the year 2012. Some say that Jesus is going to return, and others say that we’re going to die of natural hazards. Even the priest at a local church told us that we have to prepare.

I’m really confused and i would really like a logical explanation. Thanks :)

Posted: November 17th 2009

Mike the Infidel www


Really, it doesn’t require more explanation than that. People have been saying for years that the world was going to end. So far, they’re batting 0.000.

In this specific case, the whole 'the Mayans predicted the end of the world’ thing originally claimed that it was going to happen in 2003. Nothing happened, so the cranks just waited long enough for people to forget about it, then started it up again to milk the book sales. Really, that’s all it’s about: money for the kooks.

Posted: January 22nd 2010

See all questions answered by Mike the Infidel

George Locke

My pet theory is that end-of-times hysteria is a sort of egotism. It’s the same impulse that says, “What’s wrong with kids today?” and, “Times ain’t what they used to be,” gone berserk. Not only is the state of the world degenerate, it is so horrible that the world is going to end. I call this egotism because it arises from the natural human impulse to mistake one’s personal concerns for universal concerns. It’s not just that I think things are getting worse, God knows it too. People like to think that their point in history is the most pivotal, most special time, rather than simply part of never-ending sequence.

Well, we’re not that special.

In any case, if there were good physical evidence that an avalanche of natural disasters were upon us, you’d think that the scientists who study such things would have alerted the media. As for Jesus’ return, well, rest assured that people don’t come back from the dead except in fairy tales.

Posted: November 18th 2009

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brian thomson www

Considering that the whole 2012 scare had its origins in a Pagan culture (the Mayans), I find it bemusing (OK, amusing) to see it popping up in a Christian context too, when it has absolutely nothing to do with Christianity. This is a good article on the background to the 2012 nonsense.

The original idea has its origins in the fact that the Mayan calender apparently “ends” on 21 December 2012. A skeptic can see a problem with this statement right away: how do you align the Mayan calendar with ours, considering how arbitrary ours is? Well, someone took the time to work all that out, it appears.

But what does it mean for a calendar to “end”? A better interpretation of “end” is “recycle”. Does a car fall apart when its odometer goes from 99999 to 00000? Is it somehow reborn? No: it’s just numbers. In the same way, a calendar is just a culture’s way of marking out time, but there’s no reason to believe the Mayans had any kind of knowledge of the future. If they had, they might have been able to foresee and avoid their own destruction.

So, why is your priest telling you that you “have to prepare”? Well, isn’t that what they always say? Can you see through the bullshit? This goes to show how religion is always ready to prey on your worst fears, regardless of their origin, or whether they are valid or not. If I sound annoyed, it’s because I am: no-one should live in fear.

Posted: November 18th 2009

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Paula Kirby www

Predictions of the end of the world have been ten-a-penny throughout human history. This article lists just 30 of them. The one thing they all have in common is that they haven’t come true.

And why should they have? Since when have humans been able to see into the future? Since when have we been able to predict specific events on specific dates? It’s true that those addicted to superstitious nonsense, who are desperate to read the magical into real life, point to vague statements by supposed mystics in the past and claim they predicted, say, air travel. But the idea of human flight fascinated humans LONG before we knew how to do it. To predict that one day we would have a machine that would allow us to do it is no more than applied imagination. How much more impressive such predictions would be if they were specific. Something along the lines of: 'The first powered flight will take place on 17 December 1903, and will be made by two brothers.’ Likewise, there have been plenty of vague predictions of calamitous natural events, but nothing, for instance, along the lines of, 'On 26 December 2004 a huge wave will kill hundreds of thousands of people living around a huge area of the Pacific Ocean.’

No, the predictions that appear to come 'true’ are always the really vague ones that make no commitment as to specific events on specific dates, and which could therefore have happened anyway: after all, floods, tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes and the like do happen several times a year in the natural way of things; and human progress happens too, so it hardly requires mystical powers to predict that future generations will be able to do things that are now considered impossible.

So far ALL predictions that have been silly enough to predict specific events on specific dates have all been wrong.

I can’t see any reason to take the 2012 one any more seriously than all the others, can you? I don’t know if you are old enough to remember all the silliness about the new millennium: all the silly esoteric nonsense about the world ending in the year 2000; topped up by all the panicky nonsense about 'the Millennium bug’, which was going to knock out all the world’s computers on the stroke of midnight between 31 December 1999 and 1 January 2000, causing all the world’s nuclear weapons to be unleashed at once … People got AT LEAST as worked up about that as they are now about the 2012 thing. Well, here we still are. And I don’t mind betting a LOT of money that here we’ll still be in 2013 too.

Humans LOVE this sort of thing. We love to scare ourselves. We love horror stories. (How else do you suppose ridiculous stories such as the existence of hell could take hold of our brains so successfully?) We love bizarre stories. We love to imagine that there is some kind of mystical element to the universe and that some humans are able to tap into it. (Have you stopped to consider what power and status this gives those allegedly special humans in the eyes of their peers, by the way? And that this gives them a real incentive to continue with their nonsense?)

And the media love all this stuff too, because it makes for cheap sensationlism, which always sells well. THAT is why there is so much talk about 2012, in newspapers, in magazines, on websites, in films. It doesn’t FOR ONE MOMENT mean that there’s any reason to believe it’s true.

I am 45 and have lived through at least 3 of these predictions that I am aware of. The predictions are made. The sensation is caused. People get terrified or worried or irritated or bored, depending on their make-up. The date comes. And nothing happens. Ever.

Don’t get caught up in the silliness. It’s a HUGE waste of time, energy and intelligence.

May I recommend a book to you? It’s on critical thinking, weighing up what you’re being told and assessing calmly and rationally whether it is likely to be true or not. It’s one of the most important skills you can learn, as it will help you to avoid falling into the trap of taking at face value a whole range of things that should be engaged with more critically: newspaper reports, politicians’ claims, pseudoscientific claims etc. Teachers’ and priests’ claims too! And contributors-to-Ask-the-Atheists’ claims too! (It is good to assess everything you’re told, rather than simply taking it on trust.) And it doesn’t sound as if your school is very well placed to teach this essential skill, if it is not itself explaining why it would be a foolish person indeed who took the 2012 hysteria seriously. The book is How do you know it’s true? Sifting sense from nonsense, by David Klein and Marymae Klein. Don’t leave it until after 2012 to read it – NOT because I think the world will have come to an end, but because you’ll be missing out if you do!

Posted: November 18th 2009

See all questions answered by Paula Kirby


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