Earth Day / Doomsday

22 April 2010

Happy Earth Day!

Today was a long day, but a pretty good day. In the evening, we ventured over to our friends’ (Ryan and Esther) place. We got to join them in their inaugural use of the grill and fire pit this season.

Ryan’s trying his hand at gardening. He paged through a tomato catalog with us, like a little kid show showing off his favorite comic book. I hadn’t realized there were so many types of tomatoes, but I guess it’s not too surprising.  Ryan purchased packets of different color and flavor tomatoes, and he offered us a few of his seedlings once it’s time for him to thin out the crop and transfer them from pots on a shelf out to the actual garden.

He even had a topsy-turvy upside-down tomato planter. The claim is, since the plant does not have to fight gravity, it grows better. And since it’s less likely to suffer from root rot or pests, it has a better shot of growing. I’m skeptical; getting it off the ground is certainly a good idea, but defying gravity? Maybe that’ll work…but isn’t the device forcing the plant to work against millions of years of genetic selection? I’m curious to see how that experiment plays out over the summer.

On the other hand, we may not live to see the end of the summer…

23 April 2010

So, today is an odd sort of anniversary. Three years ago today, I was embroiled in an email discussion with my Uncle Bill. He’s a life-long, loyal Jehovah’s Witness and, continuing from an exchange that had begun three days earlier, he was responding to my email in an attempt to win me back into the ‘fold.’

Here’s what he said towards the end of the email he sent me on April 23, 2007:

But know this for sure, you have all, yes ALL of your family backing you 110%.  We ALL love you and want to see you happy.  And most importantly, in the new system with us.  I can’t believe that this system will go on for more than two to three years.

This is typical Witness-speak. They just can’t possibly imagine the world – this “system” – lasting too much longer. My response, in part, said:

How do we know it’s going to be destroyed in our lifetime?  When I was a kid, people said things to me like “You’ll never graduate because the end will be here by then”.  I remember a Watchtower saying the end would come by the end of the 20th Century.  Then they changed the definition of “generation”, so that the end could basically come anytime.  Even the date of 1914 is incorrect, because it’s based on the belief that Jerusalem fell in 607bc.

I was trying to point out to him that, while I couldn’t be absolutely sure the world would last for 2-3 more years, if we look at the history of the religion, we see that they have always claimed the end is right around the corner.

One thing that was unusual, however, was his usage of an exact time frame. Usually Witnesses just say the end is coming “soon,” taking refuge in the vagueness of that word. Using my Uncle’s time frame as a springboard, I wrote this article, which has been on Minnesota Atheists’ homepage for a few weeks now. It would appear that, today, my Uncle’s words have proven false. Yet another Witness expectation dashed to pieces.

But here’s the funny thing: the most recent issue of the Watchtower, instead of fulfilling my Uncle’s hope that the end would be here by now, has instead postponed the end yet again! Check out this paragraph from page 10 of the April 15, 2010 issue:

Let me break down that rambling penultimate sentence for you: It’s basically saying that the end will come before the people whose lives overlap with people who were “on hand” in 1914 all die out. Maybe an example is in order: let’s say someone was born in 1913. They were certainly “on hand” in 1914, right? Okay, now let’s say that person lives to be 100 years old. That means they’re still alive today. My wife is slated to give birth in July…so our infant’s life will clearly overlap with the life of the person born in 1913. Now, let’s say our new child lives to be 100. That means they’ll still be around in 2109. Viola! According to the Watchtower Society, then, a “generation” can last from 1913-2109 (at least – I could have argued for longer lifespans here). So, far from my Uncle being correct that god will bring an end in April 2010, his religion has just informed him that he could have another 100 years to wait. Wow. I’m so surprised.

For the past three years, I’ve held onto this date, wondering if I should write to my Uncle. With the benefit of the elapsing of his hope, I could say something like: “See? It never comes. The Society just keeps dangling the carrot, and you keep thinking you’ve almost got it, then they pull it further away from you again. How far away do you think the end is now? Two years? Or three? I’ll write to you again in 2013.”

But, I probably won’t write. At any rate, his very next line in his email said:

I will wait for however long, but the world is going to destroy itself and man cannot stop it.

So, pretty much, though he wants the end to come really soon, he’s learned to couch his hopes in a pattern of postponement.

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