Friday, September 3, 2010

363: The Number of the Beast

Revelation 13-16
"This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man's number. His number is 666." - Revelation 13:18

I would call this section completely insane, but I feel like I'm getting a little redundant. For brevity's sake, just pretend that after every paragraph I write today, I say, "What the fuck? How can anyone possibly believe this heaping pile of bullshit?". Even if this craziness is a metaphor, you'd have to be a little insane to come up with seven headed dragons and grasshoppers with human faces and long hair.

This section begins with yet another seven headed, ten horned beast. This time, instead of having crowns on his head, he has crowns on his horns. On each of this beast's heads is written a "blasphemous name". John goes on to further describe this beast as looking like a leopard, but having bear feet and a lion's mouth.

The dragon from yesterday comes and gives this new beast all of his powers, his throne, and his "great authority". John says that one of the heads of the beast "appears to have a fatal wound" but it's been healed (this appears to have no relevance to the narrative). The beast then starts wandering around the world, and people start worshiping him.

Then John sees yet another beast. This time coming out of the earth. This beast is described as having horns like a goat, but "speaking like a dragon". The new beast goes around the earth, performing miraculous signs, including causing fire to fall from the sky. He also (somehow) receives the power to kill anyone that doesn't obey him, and gives people a "mark" on their hands or foreheads such that they can't buy or sell without it. This mark is either the name, or the number of the beast, which is "666". I'm sure it's a complete coincidence (not), but the Roman Emperor Nero's name just so happens to add up to 666.

Where has God gone off to? Why is he letting (presumably) Satan kill people who are just trying to worship God? In short, why is any of this necessary?

Next, the seven-eyed seven-horned lamb-Jesus is back! He is standing on Mount Zion with the 144,000 saved people standing around him. That means if the apocalypse happened today, a whopping 0.0021% of the population would be saved. That's a 1 in 47,000+ chance, for those keeping track.

Then three angels fly around the world, shouting in every language that the judgement has come. They say that anyone who has the mark of the beast is going to drink wine out of the cup of God's wrath. These people will also be tortured with fire and sulfur in the presence of angels and of Jesus. This torment will go on "for ever and ever".

After this, angels start coming out of heaven with sharp sickles. A voice from heaven tells them to go down and "harvest the earth". They go down, harvest the "grapes" of the earth, and toss them into the wine press of God's wrath. When they crush these "grapes" blood comes out. Either these are special grapes with blood inside them, or the grapes are people.

There is then yet another set of seven angels. These seven angels have come to deliver the final seven plagues of God. Isn't everyone dead yet? I think we're up to about four thirds of humanity killed. Humanity has been crushed in a wine press, hailed upon, all the stars have fallen out of the heavens a couple of times.

Before these plagues begin, John sees all the people that resisted the beast on the edge of a sea of melted glass and fire. They are all playing harps (given to them by God, of course), and singing songs of Moses. I couldn't make this shit up if I tried. Aren't all these righteous people supposed to be dead? Wasn't the beast just given the power to kill anyone who didn't believe in him?

John then looks into heaven and sees the "Temple". Out of this temple come the seven angels with the seven final plagues. One of the eyeball covered six-winged creatures hands the seven angels seven golden bowls of God's wrath. I think my brain is melting. Bowls full of wrath? What does that even mean?

A loud voice from the temple (God) tells the seven angels to pour out the seven bowls of wrath onto humanity. I'll go through these seven plagues quickly. First is the plague of painful sores. The second plague turns all the oceans to blood, killing every sea creature. The third turns the rivers and springs to blood. The fourth makes the sun terribly hot and burns those who are alive. The fifth plunges the kingdom into darkness, and men gnaw their tongues in agony. The sixth dries up the river Euphrates, and frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, the beast, and the "false prophet" (who I don't think we've actually been introduced to). All the kings are gathered together for battle at a place named "Armageddon". The final plague causes a massive earthquake, breaking up all the cities of the earth.

Today's section ends with 100 pound hailstones coming out of the sky, crushing people. Wonderful.

I'm sure most of you have heard about Stephen Hawking's assertion that there is no God. Or at least that God wasn't needed to start the universe. The Christian News Wire is on the case. They've decided that Stephen Hawking doesn't know what he's talking about because... wait for it... Ray Comfort says so:
An extract of Hawking's latest book, The Grand Design, was published in Eureka magazine in The Times, in which the professor said: "Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist." Comfort, said, "It is embarrassingly unscientific to speak of anything creating itself from nothing. Common sense says that if something possessed the ability to create itself from nothing, then that something wasn't nothing, it was something -- a very intelligent creative power of some sort."
Wait, what? Here's Comfort's logic as I understand it: "If nothing can make itself into something, then the nothing isn't nothing, it's actually a super intelligent being". First of all, let me give you the disclaimer that I'm extremely skeptical of anyone that thinks they can say anything about the beginning of the universe. I obviously haven't read Hawking's book yet (it's not out) so I'll reserve judgement.

However, I'm at a loss as to how God suddenly coming into existence makes more sense than a homogeneous singularity suddenly coming into existence. As usual, the reaction from the fundies is "this is not what I believe, therefore it's wrong". It's hard to immediately reject just about any argument (unless it's seven headed dragons) without first reading the whole story (i.e. what was Hawking's line of thinking?).

Needless to say, the book should be an interesting read.

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