Simon Carr: After Armageddon will come the 'Rapture'

The Rapture Ready website considers Tony Blair to be too lightweight to be the Beast
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My son has found religion. It wasn't a quick or easy discovery. He journeyed a long way in his early teens through several ecstatic versions of Christianity. Now, in his early twenties, he has found a mystical billet in a cult, or a sect, or a schism of the Intelligent Design movement. Of course, it comes from America (you can Google it for full information).

In its open letter to school boards in America the cult pleads for tolerance of different viewpoints.

The charismatic founder says: "There are multiple theories of Intelligent Design. I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. It was He who created all that we see and all that we feel.

"We feel strongly that the overwhelming scientific evidence pointing towards evolutionary processes is nothing but a coincidence, put in place by Him."

It sounds unlikely to me. A Flying Spaghetti Monster has little explanatory power in cultures too primitive to have developed pasta. And the FSM language lacks mystical realism. "His Noodly Appendage" is a phrase devoid of transcendental resonance. And the liturgical dress (full pirate regalia) is, frankly, capricious.

Their doctrine relies on many dubious scientific assertions. The Flying Spaghetti website tells us that global warming, earthquakes, hurricanes and other natural disasters are a direct result of the shrinking numbers of pirates since 1800.

"As you can see," the site tells us above the graph, "there is a statistically significant inverse relationship between pirates and global temperature."

Nor is it clear how beer volcanoes and stripper factories work into the Pastafarians' cosmology. But the T-shirts are likeable (if expensive).

The founder of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster demands equal time for his theology in science classrooms, if Intelligent Design gets onto the curriculum. We can but pray.

More plausible, and therefore much more popular in America is Rapture theology. This gets 16 million Google pages compared with just one-tenth of that for Flying Spaghetti. The documentation is very much more considerable, of course it attracts more believers.

In summary: We are in the End of Days. It's a period that will be ended - and sooner than we think - by the Rapture. This overwhelming event will take the top 144,000 believers into heaven leaving doubters and evil ones behind.

The Rapture will be prefaced by Armageddon (the battle of believers against Arabs and Russia fought at Megiddo in northern Israel).

This battle won't go well, and will leave earth under the control of the Beast. Candidates are Bill Gates, Vladimir Putin or King Juan Carlos (descended as he is from Roman emperors). The Rapture Ready website considers Tony Blair to be too lightweight to be the Beast. But observers of the prime minister's growth in the past five years suggest that this might change.

The Beast will sit in the rebuilt temple, declare himself to be God and reign for seven years. Eventually, Christ's bridal celebrations will end and he will descend from Heaven to rule earth for a thousand years. Those whose names aren't in the Book of Life will be thrown, obviously, into the Lake of Fire.

The Rapture Ready website's Frequently Asked Questions include the following: Will the Antichrist be a homosexual? Is the Pope the Antichrist? Is an EU constitution a sign of the Antichrist coming to power? Why is there no mention of America in prophecy? Does the Bible allow spanking? I am afraid of the end of the world - what should I do?

They have a chatroom. Some of the contributions attracted mockery and were taken down. But the website Bartholomew's Notes penetrated Google's cache to republish, amongst others, this: "Sound the shofar! Let the Enemy know the alert has been sounded and Yeshua is stepping onto the battlefield. I am a Jewish princess. My father is the King of Kings. . . If He tarries, I will just have time to get my hair and nails done (you know, let all I come into contact with know of my Bridegroom and what He has/will do)."

Satire? Forensic linguists don't think so. It was a close call, but the entry has been pronounced genuine. The Rapturous, incidentally, bombard their congressmen and women with e-mails and letters if Israel's interests are being threatened. Bible prophecy must not be interfered with by liberals, sceptics and the ungodly.

Goodness knows how many enraptured voters there are in America, but it's a devil of a lot. Sixty two million people have bought the Left Behind books, for instance.

Jerry Falwell says the Apocalypse is around the corner. Popular preachers say two billion will die in Armageddon, that Revelations ch. 9 tells us it will all emanate out of the River Euphrates (or, Iraq, as we call it). And CNN reports that, according to a Harris poll of 1,000 Americans, 59 per cent say they believe the events described in Revelations will happen in their lifetime.

If they believe it, it'll probably come true. And Flying Spaghetti disciples will be laughing on the other side of their faces. Literally.

NB: The Rapture Index stands at 156 (+ 1). This is out of the "heavy prophetic activity" band and into "fasten your seat belts".