Date: Fri, 3 May 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for May 3, 1996 nn nn AANEW
Date: Fri, 3 May 1996 12:25:24 -0700
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for May 3, 1996
Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net
nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn
#30 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 5/3/96
In This Edition...
* A Special Report On CBS's "Mysteries Of The Millennium"
MILLENNIUM MYSTERY OR MEDIA MISINFORMATION?
(Part One of Two)
On Wednesday, May 1, the CBS television network aired a special program
titled "Mysteries of the Millennium."
It opened with a ponderous statement:
"Are you going to witness the End of the World? The Bible, Nostradamus,
the Mayan Calendar, and the ancient Hopi Indians all predicted that Doomsday
will be sometime in the next few years. But now modern science seems to
What followed was a hodge-podge of new age musings, innuendo and
scientific statements taken out of context to support one thesis -- the end
of the world or some other apocalyptic, transformational scenario, could well
unfold in the next several years.
In both the tape program version and on its web site, "Mysteries of the
Millennium" develops a theme that some say will captivate the public
imagination as we approach the year 2000. This millennialist anticipation is
manifested through a number of social phenomena. By themselves, these events
would be considered peculiar, odd, even interesting; but it is the context
of such happenings which creates a feeling of anticipation and "angst."
Author James Oberg, for instance, has speculated that as we approach the end
of our century, we will witness widespread examples of "a synergistic climb
Cited in "Mysteries of the Millennium" were claims such as the following:
* People are having dreams of an apocalypse. Tornado clouds appear,
mountains rise out of the sea, earthquakes and tiday waves strike. The fact
that many people have such dreams is interpreted to have profound
metaphorical and eschatological significance.
* The number of sightings of the Virgin Mary is growing, a virtual
"explosion of apparitions" according to author Michael Brown. He cites the
alleged appearances at Medjugorge, and apparitions in Africa where teenage
visionaries insist that the Virgin Mary is warning humanity of impending
doom if we do not "come back to God."
"I believe that the end of the millennium is going to cause prophecies to
come at us from across the board," says Brown who adds, "We saw this a
thousand years ago in 999."
* Mysteries of the Millennium claimed that religious legends throughout
history have prophesized an apocalypse, such the Biblical accounts found in
the Book of Revelation. Indeed, Revelation is perhaps the most significant
source for those attempting to divine the exact time and events leading up to
Final Judgment, including the identity of the "Antichrist." "Mysteries"
viewers were told by one observer that the antichrist is alive, today, is in
his forties-to-fifties, and is relatively unknown at the present time.
* Scientists are warning of natural calamities, including the dire
consequences if the earth is struck by an asteroid or VLB (Very Large Body.)
While the program interviewed a number of reputable people in the field of
Astronomy, including Brian Marsden of the Smithsonian Astrophysical
Observatory and the famous comet discoverer David Levy, it created the
impression that such a cataclysmic event was not only possible but probable.
Levy warned viewers that an impact of a body like Shoemaker-Levy (which
struck Jupiter) against the earth, would have deadly consequences for the
human race. The number of individuals hunting for such large, rogue bodies
in the solar system is equal to the staff of a single McDonald's restaurant.
Distortion of Historical, Scientific Data
"Mysteries of the Millennium" joins a growing number of television
"specials" dealing with paranormal fringe topics such as UFO's, alien
abductions, "missing persons", miracles, psychic phenomenon and
"un-explained" events. Many of these programs regurgitate the usual New Age
legends about topics which have been thoroughly explored and often refuted as
hoaxes, or accounted for by more prosaic explanations. Even so, the topics
are continually recycled and embellished, often with new unverified claims
Some programs like "Sightings" create the visual impression that one is
watching a legitimate news program. The public is urged to contact
"hotlines" and communicate their own psychic or paranormal experiences. On
air, a serious commentator narrates a script , while in the background people
sit at desks, talk on phones, or walk around with folders or papers. It is
reminiscent of the "working" stage sets popular with major network news
broadcasts, and serves to lend an air of credibility and authenticity to the
Skeptics who criticize the outlandish claims which are stock in trad on
these "specials" receive little or no rebuttal time. One program which
dealt with alien abductions, for instance, provided skeptics with about
one-and-a-half-minutes. (This was culled from an interview which took over
three hours!). Many of the "unsolved" or "mystery" type programs even admit
that they are presenting "only one possible explanation" of what might be
going on, although they rarely discuss the more prosaic explanations
(including outright fraud) about UFO sighting, the "Face on Mars", dowsing,
crank health cures, psychic experiences and other topics.
"Mysteries of the Millenium" appears to be the first major network
presentation linking some of these new age subjects with the onset of the
year 2000. For those watching the nascent "rise to panic" which Oberg and
others have anticipated, it comes as little surprise. In literature and
movies, as well as the dire predictions of pop-eschatologists like Hal
Lindsey, we are indeed living in the "End Times." Social scientists like
Stjepan Mestrovic and others find parallels between events in our era and
previous "fin de siecle" epochs, including growing interest in the occult, a
fascination with religious fundamentalism, and an erosion of rational,
scientific explanations about how the world operates. Otherwise disparate
events are melded into a "confluence" or "convergence" in the human
imagination, constructing a new narrative of the coming apocalypse.
"Mysteries of the Millennium," though, skillfully manipulated both the
verbal and visual presentation, and distorted a number of facts.
* Book of Revelation is often quoted by end-of-the-world prognosticators
as a symbolic depiction of the "Final Days" and the Second Coming of the
messiah. There have been literally hundreds of doomsday scenarios
constructed around the florid allegories of this biblical text. Most
reputable contemporary scholars, however, suggest that Revelation was a
description of circumstances during the time of the early church,
specifically during its persecution at the hands of Roman emperors. Both Nero
and Domitian are considered suitable candidates for the post of the
Antichrist. Other places described in Revelation were well known to
believers of the early period, and already a part of Judeo-Christian history.
Revelation (possibly written by John the Apostle) was less a vision of the
future than it was a commentary on the author's past and present. It
describes the immanent overthrow of the pagan Roman Empire and the rise of
the early Church.
* Scientific claims about the possibility of impact between earth and
large bodies such as rogue asteroids were not fully explained. The physics
behind such impacts is fairly well understood, and there is considerable
evidence to suggest that global events such as the disappearance of the
dinosaurs may well have been the result of an impact by a large asteroid-type
body. Geologists have found evidence of such cataclysmic events in the
Yucatan and elsewhere; and astronomers see similar evidence on the cratered
face of our moon, Mars and other bodies in the solar system.
But much of this cratering activity occured early in the history of our
solar system. On earth, evidence of these impact events has been wiped away
through wind erosion, shifts in the earth's crust and other forces. Such
impacts do not occur with the frequency they did even 65,000,000 years ago.
Comet hunter David Levy remarked that "The chances of you and I dying
because of a comet impact destroying the earth are statistically the same as
the chances of you and I dying on an airliner." Figures such as this are
widely debated, of course, and often based upon incomplete data and
statistical models; even so, that figure is somewhere around 1 out of 20,000.
That means, therefore, that we have a 19,999 chance out of 20,000 of NOT
having civilization come to a fiery end through an impace with a huge comet
or asteroid type extraterrestrial body. Those are most heartening odds.
(End of Part One, "Mysteries of the Millennium," AANEWS Special
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