Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

AN IDLE THOUGHT

Most mornings, at 6:30 or 7:00 a.m., I take a four mile walk, up and down hills, starting and ending at the front door to our condo building. Since I follow the same route every day, the walk requires virtually no thought, save of course for the ritual greetings to joggers, cyclists, and young parents running with three wheeled baby carriages whom I encounter along the way, leaving me free to engage in idle reflection.

This morning, my thoughts turned to the Christian end-times true believers who are convinced that the rapture is right around the corner. If I understand their views correctly, they expect that some time very soon, those among us who are marked for salvation [which includes themselves, of course] will be taklen bodily into heaven in a process called "the rapture," condemning the rest of us on earth to a rather bloody thousand years or so leading to our eternal damnation. Since it is the body sanctified and purified that is to be taken to heaven, this abrupt departure will leave behind all unnatural bodily accoutrements -- clothing, of course, but also dental fillings, artificial hips, rings, piercings, and hair transplants. Should these "meek members of the resurrection" [in Emily Dickinson's lovely phrase] happen to be driving cars at the moment of transportation, the cars will simply continue driverless on their way until they crash. The same goes for born again airline pilots.

Atheist though I be, I am something of a connoisseur of religious doctrines, and the rapture has always been one of my favorites. There is a sensory immediacy about it, a matter of fact, quotidien ordinariness, that stands in sharp contrast to the mystified theology of most mainstream Christian churches.

So I calculated, as a trained philosopher must, the relative likelihood that the end timers are right, as opposed, say, to the Roman Catholics. There can be no question that from a secular point of view, the doctrine of the rapture is, shall we say, improbable. But the doctrine of the Trinity, central to Roman Catholic theology, is a logical impossibility. And as between the improbable and the impossible, the improbable wins every time.

So next time Republican wingnuts mouth off about the rapture, end times, and Godless America, just keep it in mind that from a logical point of view [to quote the old calypso song], they are way ahead of mainstream Catholics.

Well, you can see what a long walk does to me.

2 comments:

Eoin said...

For some reason, I'm reminded of this line from Bertrand Russell:

"I knew a parson who frightened his congregation terribly by telling them that the second coming was very imminent indeed, but they were much consoled when they found that he was planting trees in his garden."

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Indeed. I would like to see a study of end timers who have college accounts for their childrwen and who buy life insurance!