Michael Baigent has written an interesting and provocative book Racing Toward Armageddon. In it, he has portrayed the differing and yet similar obsessions that parts of the three major monotheistic religions have about the end of days. All three, Christianity, Judaism and Islam have seen over the past decades a significant growth in those within their religions who believe in a future messianic period heralded by great changes and in two of the cases a great battle.
Baigent starts with Judaism, which is different, then the others in that its fundamentalist does not discuss any great battles that will precede a new era, they merely want to rebuild Judaism ancient temple in Jerusalem. Of course to do that they need to destroy the mosques currently are built there, thus in there own way bringing about the holy war that the other religions talk about.
The religion that has the most developed view of an apocalyptical future is the fundamentalist Christians. They inspire their views from the last book of the New Testament- the Book of Revelations. In it, a future battle is foretold that takes place after the Jews return to their land- hence the support of many Christian fundamentalist for Israel. They have even concluded the location of the battle- Megiddo- located in the Jezreell Valley of Israel. That battle which will be the ultimate battle between good and evil will presage the return of Jesus. One of the frightening statistics that Baigent cites is that 58% of Americans say that they believe in these teachings. I am not sure that I buy that statistic, but even if the number is much lower, it is unsettling. Baigent also posits that over the last generation a number of Presidents have also been believers in some or all the fundamentalist worldviews. Biagent claims that both President Reagan and both Presidents Bush subscribe or subscribed to the fundamentalist worldview.
In some way even more frightening is Baigents description on the developing views within Islam toward an Armageddon like event. Among Shiite’s there are growing numbers of believers who believe in the coming if the 12th imam the final successor to Mohamed. His arrival according to the believers will be preceded by a great final battle. What is truly frightening about this is that one of most well known believers in this theory is the President of Iran, a man who is leading his countries relentless quest for nuclear weapons.
Racing Toward Armageddon is an engaging book. While I do not fully agree with the basic premise of the book: that these fundamentalist beliefs will inevitably lead the world toward Armageddon, it is clearly a book worth reading.