Frequently Asked Questions, Or: Everything You Need to Know About the Apocalypse, but Were ... Yeah, Yeah, Etc. Etc.

We’re just getting started here, so to be honest, there aren’t any Frequently Asked Questions yet. Even so, drawing on BlastGal’s special empathic ability to anticipate your needs, the Moderator has decided that these will probably come up.

General Millennialism & Christian Doomsday

Q. How do you spell “millenium”?

It’s “millennium,” actually, but don’t be embarrassed. Lots of people get it wrong now and then -- including The New York Times and C.N.N., outfits that should know better, since they’re staffed by professional “wordsmiths.” We’re not sure why it’s so confusing, but here’s a trick to play on your friends. Ask them to spell “millennarian.” Unless they say “millenarian,” they’re wrong. Other terms that may come up as you delve deeper into this exciting subject:

Eschatology: Favored by snooty academics, this simply refers to any theology concerned with “last things.”

Apocalypse: from the Greek word apokalypsis, which means to “uncover” or “unveil.” Apocalyptic writing is writing that concerns revelatory prophecy about the ultimate destiny of the world. The word gets its doomsday connotation in large part because the most famous “apocalypse” -- the New Testament’s Book of Revelation -- uses Technicolor prose to describe a future period of destruction that will precede the millennium.

Chiliasm: used only by shows-offs. Take pride in not knowing what it means.

Q. What is the millennium anyway? Where does the word appear in the Bible?

It doesn’t appear in the Bible, but the idea of a millennium does. The millennium is a thousand-year period of peace that will follow the final conflict between the dueling powers of God and Satan. This “thousand year” business is mentioned six times in Revelation 20. A key moment comes in Revelation 20:1-2. Jesus has returned, defeated Satan at the Battle of Armageddon, and chained up the Horned One.

”And he laid hold on the dragon,” the passage says, “that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years.”

Q: Then why is the year 2000 supposed to be the year when the End happens?

It isn’t necessarily, and in fairness to fundamentalist Christians and most other types of millennialists, they don’t tend to say that. (The media often simply assume they say that.) The Bible specifically warns against date-setting, and the year 2000 isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Bible. Some people think thousand-year blocks of time have great significance, and some people do think the year 2000 is the “it” year. But the majority of End Time Christians don’t set a date -- instead, they maintain that the End will happen “soon,” giving rise to a sort of perpetual state of holy readiness.

Q: Isn’t the year 2001 the actual start of the new millennium?

Yes. And during 1999, you will probably hear this observation made many, many times, usually by windbags at cocktail parties. The windbags are right, but it doesn’t matter. The year 2000 is the “big kahuna.” 2001 is for wimps.

UFO Deliverance

Q: Why do some people believe UFOs are piloted by angelic beings who want to bring a New Age-y sort of consciousness to Earth?

The idea that UFOs contain gentle “space brothers” rather than tree-froggy E.T.s has been around a while, long before Heaven’s Gate. For instance, the Unarius Academy of Science, one of the most venerable of American flying saucer groups, has pushed this line since 1954. A key guy in the development of ang els-in-the-saucers theory was the late George Adamski, a California occultist who in 1952 claimed that he experienced physical and mental contact with a groovy, loving extraterrestrial from Venus, who came to Earth to warn mankind about the foolishness of building nuclear bombs.

Avenging Planet

Q: I’ve been hearing a lot about a belief called “Earth Changes.” What is it?

Earth Changes is the idea, popular among a surprisingly large number of New Agers, that the planet is so sick of our slovenly ways that “she” is somehow willing a rise in the number of earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanoes, emerging viruses, and other people-killers. Before it’s all over, sometime early in the next millennium, the surface of the Earth will be drastically reshaped. There are books and maps that show what the U.S. and the world will look like after the dust clears -- Gordon Michael-Scallion and Lori Adaile Toye produce the best ones -- and, yes, this is meant seriously. Some “Earth Changers” seem to regard the Changes as symbolic. But many don’t, and are taking the same sort of short-term survivalist measures that are popular among far-right antigovernment types and adherents of Y2K survivalism.

Y2K Survivalism

Q: I’ve been hearing a lot about Y2K, but I’ve been afraid to read the articles. What’s up?

The Y2K problem -- also called “the millennium bug” -- is something everyone should be aware of. It’s definitely serious, but what’s unclear is how serious it’s going to be. Some people think it will be a headache, others think it will bring levels of disaster leading to chaos in the cities, mass starvation, electrical blackouts, and the perilous collapse of society. (In an ad often played on the seminal Art Bell Show, it’s said that Y2K will be the worst human disaster since the Bubonic Plague.) Some people are banding together in Y2K survival communities, like the 54 Ranch in Arizona.

Whoever is right, Y2K is certainly not your typical apocalyptic tizzy. Unlike doomsday visions based on religious prophecy, it’s a tangible, serious problem, hardwired into the basic circuitry of our industrial society. Its origins date back to the early era of mainframe computers, the 1950s and 1960s, when storage space was so tight that days, months, and years were shorthanded to two digits each. As a result, computers and embedded microchips all over the world will read “00” when the year 2000 arrives -- digits that, unfortunately, will actually be interpreted by many machines to mean “1900.”

Fixing this situation is a multibillion-dollar enterprise, and at this point it’s generally agreed that not every system will be made “Y2K compliant” in time. As for what will happen . . . we’ll just have to wait and see. The Moderator leans toward this wishy-washy position: there will many headaches and maybe some blackouts, but the survivalists are way over the top.

Free Energy

Q. What is “free energy” and why do you include it in a site devoted to millennial beliefs?

Just a reminder: This site is devoted to millennial and utopian beliefs. Basically, we’re interested in any form of revelatory enthusiasm whose bottom line is that the existing order is in for a big surprise. “Free energy” fits the utopian bill nicely. The term refers to fringe-science research into forms of energy and types of science that, if proved to be authentic, would shatter “existing paradigms” of scientific knowledge. Among them: machines that somehow produce more energy than they consume (also known as perpetual-motion machines); cold-fusion gizmos; anti-gravity devices; weather-modification systems; and so forth. The basic idea of free-energy enthusiasts like Brian O’Leary, a former astronaut and author of a free-energy book called Miracle in the Void, is that the world would be turned on its head if free energy were unleashed.

Q. So why isn’t it unleashed?

Free-energy buffs will tell you that it’s because the existing power structure -- big government, big oil, big science -- actually persecutes, destroys, and even kills free energy inventors. Thus, they’re wary of coming out into the open, which is why so many of the people O’Leary visits in his book live somewhere other than the United States. In an increasingly popular fringe-world drama, many free energy folk believe that aliens already possess the secrets that human inventors are still struggling to understand. Buffs like Art Bell, Steven Greer, Richard Hoagland, and a bold new Silicon Valley player named Joe Firmage, are convinced that the government and tuned-in others have “reverse engineered” major developments by studying the wreckage of downed or captured flying saucers.

Whatever the details, the bottom line is the same: Once this information gets out, mankind will be liberated into a cleaner, brighter, techno-magical future that will do away with the old power structures.

Angry Separatists

Q: After Oklahoma City, haven’t we basically seen the last of the anti-Government far, far right?

No, no, no we haven’t. Several notable bust-ups of right-wing fringe groups have occurred since Oklahoma City, involving fairly frightening people. Among many others, there was the Aryan Peoples Republic, an alleged group of Christian Identity believers who were indicted in Arkansas in 1997 for murder and conspiring to revolt against the government, assassinate public officials, and create a whites-only nation. Still at large is the dreaded Eric Robert Rudolph, the alleged bomber of an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, and reportedly a Christian Identity adherent, who vanished into the woods of North Carolina.

Q: You keep mentioning “Christian Identity.” What is it?

It’s a weird, underground religion that is popular among far-right racists. A modern mutation of an older belief called British Israelism, Christian Identity has it that white Anglo-Saxons are the lost tribe of Israel (the white man’s real “identity”), and that Identity believers are fated to fight a race war against Jews, blacks, and other minorities who are sometimes seen, literally, as the “seed” of Satan. Not all Identity believers hold to this so-called “seedline” idea, but many do.

Q: Why is it that white people are always the ones who think they’re the “chosen”?

They’re not. There are black religions with identity-style beliefs as well. The Nation of Islam teaches that whites are a devil race, with blacks being the chosen people who temporarily are under the boot of the evil whites.

Utopian Builders

Q: Are there people around who try to form “perfect” communities, the way people did so often in the19th century?

Glad you asked: yes. Many such communities are scattered around North America. Some are leftover hippie communes, some are expressly religious utopian experiments. Here, we’re mainly interested in futuristic utopian attempts that involve creating a whole new nation separate from the bad old U.S. of A. These schemes usually involve political libertarians who have been heavily influenced by Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged. In that novel, Rand wrote of an America that was sliding into the corrupt malaise of communism and collectivism. She imagined the country’s most productive citizens - bankers, inventors, industrialists, transportation magnates - checking out and holing up in a perfect community.

(An apologetic note to Ayn Rand fans: sorry, sorry, sorry about the typo in the first edition of Apocalypse Pretty Soon, in which Galt’s Gulch is referred to as Gulf’s Gulch. The Moderator dutifully inked in the correct spelling on the page proofs, but the publisher ignored or muffed it, so blame them. We’ll fix it on the next round, or at least in the Taiwan-edition paperbacks. Meanwhile, Ayn folk, we apologize!)

Such Randian experiments go on in real life. Probably the most interesting right now is New Utopia, a scheme to build a new nation in the Caribbean, being planned and (maybe, though we doubt it) executed by a flamboyant gent who calls himself Prince Lazarus Long.

Life Extension

Q: What is “life extension” and why is it a utopian belief?

Life extension refers to a subculture of people who practice a variegated pile of health regimens aimed at increasing their lifespan for as long as possible. Serious buffs -- and there are thousands of them around the country -- believe that science will one day unlock the secrets of aging, conquering it, and opening the door to vastly longer lifespans, perhaps literal immortality. These hopes are utopian because the buffs are longing for the ultimate deliverance-from-harm: a way to escape death.

Q: Is it or isn’t it possible for human beings to live forever?

We don’t know. Right now it certainly isn’t possible, and many scientists think it’s always going to be impossible, but as yet, increased lifespans haven’t been “ruled out” for good. The average lifespan in the U.S. has increased by 26 years since 1900 (it’s now 76), thanks mainly to advances in medicine and nutrition. And there are scientists -- real ones, not crackpots -- who think lifespans could be doubled again in the 21st century, thanks to technical advances in genetics, surgery, and drugs.

Q: Where does that leave the people who want immortality now?

It leaves them feeling desperate! To be an immortality buff in 1999 means that you do what you can to keep yourself going, in hopes that science will deliver the long-life jackpot soon enough to save you. For now, all you can do is swallow and inject vitamins and hormones (like DHEA and human growth hormone), while puzzling over whether you want to sign up for cryonic preservation as a safety net.

Q: What’s cryonic preservation?

The Freezing of dead bodies, with the hope that someday the bods can be thawed and revived. Such freezing actually happens, of course -- there are several companies that will ice you down for this purpose -- but so far nobody has figured out how to bring the frozen dead back to life.

Q: Would human cloning be a form of life extension?

The buffs tend to say no, that “a clone isn’t you, it’s your twin.” Cloning could be useful as a life-extension technique, though -- for example, as a means to produce cheap, readily available, very compatible transplant organs.Soul Travel

Q: What is an out-of-body experience?

That refers to a longstanding belief among paranormal types that it’s possible for the soul to travel outside of, and return to, a living body. This practice is also called “astral travel” and “astral projection.”

Q: Why is this a utopian belief?

We thought you’d never ask! Actually, that’s a good question this time. When you delve into the subject, you quickly discover that modern soul travelers have more in mind that just zipping around the block or looking at their body on an operating table. Almost always these days, out-of-body experiences, or O.B.E.s, are tied into a larger set of beliefs about the immortality of the soul. Researchers at the Monroe Institute-- a leading hub of O.B.E. activity, based near Charlottesville, Va.-- believe they have successfully traveled back and forth between the material realm and a heavenly realm that they call The Park.

Like the longing for physical immortality, the quest for spiritual immortality can’t really be proved or disproved. Hey, baby, it’s a faith thing!