Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Rapture: Immorality Disguised

Do Christians believe the world will end, that we don't need to plan for the future?

A friend of mine once came into some money and decided to completely gut and remodel his house. To celebrate, he held the biggest, wildest party you've ever seen, and told everyone "Don't worry, I'm remodeling, trash the place!" He even provided plenty of beer and pretzels, and even spray paint for graffiti on the walls. It was quite a party. But even he was shocked at the damage his friends caused. It went beyond spray paint and spilled beer – people got violent and really tore the place up.

The other day I "overheard" a couple of Christian friends of mine on Facebook discussing some esoteric theological details of the rapture, the idea that some day soon Jesus will return and all Christians (dead and alive) will be gathered together to meet Christ on his return to Earth. They were contemplating what the various Bible verses mean: is rapture a worldwide event or something that happens to each person? Is it coming soon or is it some far-future event? There are dozens of these confusing and unanswerable questions about the rapture.

I think they overlooked the most important aspect of the rapture. The very idea of a rapture, that the world will end, makes Christians immoral. It's just like my friend's house: if you think the end is near, there's no reason to take care of anything. Trash the place! Use it up! Throw it away!

James G. Watt, who was Secretary of the Interior under President Ronald Regan, once famously told Congress, "I do not know how many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns." Not surprisingly, Watt held the record for protecting the fewest endangered species, for opening up new lands for oil drilling and mining, and for letting loggers cut down some of the last stands of virgin redwood trees in America. Why protect and cherish the Earth if it's all going to be destroyed soon? Watt even said he thought it was a sin not to use the resources that God put here for us, and was known to ask his staff to solve problems by praying together.

What is immorality? To a Christian, it's whatever God says is immoral. But the rest of us have to actually think about it, to contemplate why something might be considered moral or immoral. We have to go back to first principles: morality is that which brings happiness, fairness, and minimizes pain and suffering to our fellow humans or animals. And that doesn't just mean today, it means trying to live in a way that ensures that happiness is sustainable, so that our children and grandchildren and their children and grandchildren, ad infinitum, can enjoy their lives too.

Happily, most Christians are quite moral by any standard. It happens that Christian morality is for the most part in alignment with natural morality.

But not the rapture. The rapture is completely contrary to natural morality. It tells Christians that they still have to be good when it comes to their fellow human beings and to God, but not to the Earth. That is especially true if they believe, as millions do, that the rapture is coming in this generation.


  1. As a person living outside of the USA, I have to say that the "Rapture" has never been mentioned to me by any of the religious people around me - I have only red of it on the internet, and we did have a class discussion on the apocalypse way back in high school - so I believe this is a purely local phenomenon.

    This means, also, that the burden of dispelling this fantasy falls on you and your rational friends. It's you that has to tell people that this idea is probably fictitious, and that it's too implausible etc.

  2. Maybe BP and Obama are secret fundamentalist Christians. That could explain why nobody seems to be doing anything to make sure that this doesn't happen again.

  3. vjack -- LOL! Or maybe Dick Cheney is still secretly in charge...


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