I just read a very interesting article by Amanda Marcotte on why Evangelical Christians in the United States seem so positively gung-ho about the allegedly looming End of the World and the untold suffering that it will bring. She identifies four reasons for this mindset:
(1) They don’t think they’ll be around for the worst of it, (2) the end of the world would mean they get to have the last word, (3) it provides a distraction and an excuse to avoid real problems in the world, and (4) they want to see nonbelievers punished and themselves instated at the rightful rulers of all mankind.
While I’m sure that all of these are significant factors, I would respectfully suggest a fifth reason, which I think may well be animating principle behind all of the four which she names. Namely, a very profound fear of the future.
Change has always been the way of the world, but it has only been since the industrial revolution that people have been able to see significant changes in culture, society, cosmology, and technology taking place on the scales of their own lifetimes. Indeed, I myself have barely been alive a quarter of a century, but things have already changed quite significantly since my childhood–not just in terms of new science and technologies, but in cultural attitudes as well*; when I start to think about what the world will be like in one hundred or one thousand years, I start to feel dizzy. And I tend to be fairly optimistic about the future; conservatives, almost by definition, are inclined to view most change as negative. So, facing the prospect of looking down into an infinite abyss of years which must and shall eventually unmake everything that they believe in and have fought for, they do the obvious thing: they cut it short. They say: not only is this pit not bottomless, but the bottom is coming-up really soon. That way, in a curious sort of sense, the things that they believe in can be frozen-in forever.
*If you don’t believe this, I encourage you to watch any random episode of a television series that was popular in, say, 1992 and compare it to any random episode of a television series that’s popular now.