End time stories

Jan 12, 2013

Discussion by: mikenlynn
I was wondering what other world religions, besides Christianity, has an end-time narrative?  It doesn’t have to be apocalyptic. It can be anything that is a course of events which culminates in the world as we know it ending and a new status maintained in perpetuity.  And it must also involve some  degree of supernatural events.  Not talking about believing in a natural event like a super-volcano eruption that decimates the earth.  That certainly can, and will, happen with no help from a god.  It can to be something along the lines of the Christian view, which weaves together natural events with those steered by some supernatural force.

Interested just in those religions which would be considered at least semi-prominent.  Not looking for every weird cult of 100 people who latch onto some wacky story.  The end-time story seems so central to the Christian view of life on earth, that I find it hard to believe they are the only ones who would conjure up such crazy tales. 

The reason I would like to know is that every proselytizing Christian you ever meet is always preaching that scary “better hurry and accept Jesus before the end” line.  Would like a rejoinder that forces them to consider that they aren’t the only ones with an irrational, made-up story.  Like all the creation stories that have ever been devised, I would have to think there are at least as many end-of-the-world scripts that people have come up with.

Anyone have anything for me on this subject?

12 comments on “End time stories

  • 1
    Sjoerd Westenborg says:

    What you are interested in is called eschatology, the study of end time mythology.

    There’s Ragnarokr, the end times in Norse mythology, but I think it’s authors were inspired by Christianity. And Norse mythology isn’t exactly a major religion any more. But it is an example.

    Islam has a Day of Judgement (Sūrat al-Qiyāma (Arabic: سورة القيامة ‎)) which sounds awfully similar to Christianity/Judaism.. It’s supposed to be preceded by a ton of signs, but I’m not familiar with the details.

    Hinduism has a more cyclic believe system (not unlike the Mayans, whose prophecies have been done to death in American movies and journalism lately). We are now in the final phase of a cycle, characterised by impiety, chaos etc. The avatar Kalki is supposed to appear to raise an army and ; ‘establish righteousness (again) on earth’ and leave ‘the minds of the people as pure as crystal’. It’s a bit like hitting the reset-button I suppose.

    That;s the only stuff I remember from the top of my head, but 10 mins. on Google should give you a fair idea of what is out there. Hope this helped.

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  • 3
    Nodhimmi says:

    Since ‘western’ religions all derive from primitive beliefs going back to the Sumerians, all of which have doomsday prophecies it’s safe to say yes. Incidentally, devout christians/Jews/muslims are all in denial about the historical roots of their own ‘special’ faith.

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  • 4
    Cairsley says:

    On the occasions where I have been confronted by proselytizing Christians and have had the time to stop and respond (I have usually just said, “Ugh!” and walked on), my approach has always been to ask for a reason for adopting whatever the particular proposal it was that they were making. One such proselytizer did mention the approaching end of ages as an inducement to accepting Jesus then and there as my Lord and Savior, to which my immediate response was: “Gee, are they still waiting?! That was supposed to happen in the first century!” When the proselytizer stared back at me, apparently lost for words, I added, “Paul of Tarsus expected Christ to return in glory in his own lifetime; hence the urgency of his preaching.” The proselytizer recovered enough to say that the time of Jesus’s return was not known, and he quoted one of the Gospels to that effect, and then took up the more conventional mainstream position of maintaining the need for accepting Jesus etc. because, regardless of when the end times would be, we all faced judgement after death. I had an hour to kill and had succeeded in quieting the hyped-up, ranting tone the proselytizer had been using, so I was happy to spend time on questioning him further on his reasons for believing what he was saying, an account of which would only bore you, but my own hope at the time was to sow a few doubts in his mind. I would, however, suggest that pointing out some comparable belief in end times in another religion would seem irrelevant to the proselytizer and might even be taken by him or her as a confirmation, albeit from a heathenish source, of an imminent end of ages. Better just to respond to the suggestion dismissively and bring attention to bear on the more central ideas of the proselytizing pitch, requesting explanations and reasons for believing such things. If you have some knowledge of scripture scholarship, you can have quite a bit of fun in this way, because it always comes back to the Bible. It is crucial in such discussions with proselytizing Christians to challenge their belief in the divine authority of the Bible. One is spoilt for choice on which particular approach to take on this, but the aim is always the same: to request a reason for believing in the divine authority of the Bible (or in any other Christian belief) and to find none available. Besides the Bible (written tradition), Catholics and Orthodox also have Tradition (living tradition), which can be challenged in a similar manner with the use of history. Why, for example, should the Pope be believed to represent the divine Jesus himself in matters of faith and morals and in this role to be protected from error by none other than the Holy Spirit? This is actually a cluster of examples that need to substantiated (divinity of Jesus, the Trinity, papal infallibility, and others), but you get the idea, and, of course, referring to biblical texts in support of these matters is of no help.

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  • The Adamsonian religion has long held that there is a restaurant at the end of space and time.

    There is also plenty of science fiction in this direction such as Childhoods End. Of course a Christian’s response to science fiction will be to say it’s just a story whereas their version is … . Nevertheless as a kid reading science fiction for me was important in helping me recognise that they are all stories. The only difference was Asimov’s were better than the christian ones.


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  • 6
    astrophysics says:

    Well, Judaism has got at least three versions of what ought to happen at the end of the world and when it will happen. I have a debate coming up with a Israeli Rabbi later this week on which theory is the true one (my parents introduced me to him in the hopes that he’ll make me see the light), so I’ll update this if he can add anything.
    Anyway, one version is that there’ll be some major war within year six thousand from creation and all sinners will die. A third temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem and whatever gentiles survive will serve as slaves to the Jews.
    What I find sad about this is that I probably won’t live the two hundred years necessary to absolutely disprove the claim. Interestingly, several rabbis have in the past five years declared that the Messiah is nearly here- meanwhile, they’re wrong.

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  • 7
    CdnMacAtheist says:

    If religions didn’t have an end-times paradise story, where would they hide the goodies they promise if you will just have faith in their myths, and become a slave of their god in this life.

    If their goodies were realizable in this life, then they would need some evidence – and that ain’t happening, so – due to the convergent fitness evolution of their viruses – they all have goodies that can’t be seen before our death….

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  • 8
    This Is Not A Meme says:

    Buddhism has the Maitreya, who is a future teacher that is able to express the teachings in a way that everyone can understand. The story varies in different schools, but my favorite asserts Maitreya comes at a time when the average lifespan is 50,000 years, so people are pretty wise already. It also suggests a highly technological society where the teachings can reach all people. This event is referred to as “The Gathering”.

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  • 10
    Simpleton says:

    Does one really need to expand on apocalyptic narratives known or unknown when in fact such narratives are a way of explaining away the fear of death & destruction pure and simple?. There isn’t a narrative of this kind which isn’t a construct to appease the ending of time by proposing immortality or continuum in one form or another.
    Apocalyptic events are a constant in this universe mirrored in our particular world where life, death & destruction is an ongoing activity.

    There is no rejoinder possible other than to ask why are you afraid? when confronted by such irrational proselytizing because apocalyptic events are in reality facts subjectively misappropriated for the reason already mentioned. The best you can offer is to receive such concepts with compassion and gratitude for their concern, and wish them well in their lives.

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  • 11
    GospelofJudas says:

    A lot of older stories and mythologies had a cyclic element; a ‘world’ or ‘age’ would end, often violently or dramatically, and then a new one would begin. The ‘End of Days’ often meant of an age (as per the Mayans, as mentioned previously). The ‘Rapture’ isn’t even mentioned in the Bible to the best of my knowledge, and being a good boy or girl (who listens to religious authority without question) so that you’ll go to Heaven or whatever when the world ends is shamelessly manipulative. If pointing out flaws in dogma in that fashion isn’t enough, I’m not sure how else to reach folks.

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