Religion

06.06.06

Wheeeeee!
Wheeee!

Today, as many of you know, is June 6, 2006. We currently abide by the 12-month calendar, arbitrarily numbering each month beginning in January. This makes June month number six. We also sometimes abbreviate the year by the last two digits, though we don’t really do it all that often any more, since we learned that could present some problems when we turn over a new century. If you ignore that, then we can all get a big thrill out of the fact that today’s date can be abbreviated as 06.06.06, which kind of looks like “666,” which may have been mentioned in passing as a number of importance in the acid trip that is the book of Revelation.

Crazy religious nutballs everywhere have looked toward today’s date with a kind of terrified anticipation. They don’t know whether to hide from the rogue bands of satanists roaming the streets or stand on their rooftops playing old Amy Grant standards and awaiting the second coming of Jesus. There are reports of women who induced labor last week to avoid giving birth to the anti-christ, which just makes me wonder how much control they think they have over supposedly divinely-inspired prophesy. After all, just look at all the trouble the Greeks had whenever they tried to sneak one by those clever oracles. My guess is that the anti-christ was just birthed by a woman who was due today, but who induced labor last Thursday on the first. The actual number “666” is disputed as being what was originally written — many scholars believe that the number is actually “616.” Whoops!

I’m sure a number of you spent this morning waiting in line outside your local bookseller in order to purchase your copy of The Rapture, the most recent Left Behind novel, that highly intellectual series widely considered to be masterpieces of literature. By “widely considered” I mean “considered by Kirk Cameron.”

Speaking of the Rapture, are you a fan of Grand Theft Auto but thought that it could’ve used a bit more proselytyzing? The last time you beat cash out of a diseased hooker in the back of a vacant lot, did you think, “Man, I could get this done so much faster if only I had a heavy book to use, like maybe a Bible”? Well, good news! Blog reader Wendy sent me a note to let me know that Rick Warren — author of The Purpose Driven Life and recently named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the country — is helping to promote a new video game that allows good, Christian teens and adults to gun down heretics and nonbelievers on the virtual streets of New York City. If you’re surprised, you haven’t been paying attention.

I can only assume that if you’re still reading, you’re a masochist with a finely tuned hatred for your own brain. So, here’s your very own 6.06.06 present: a link to a thread about today on the Rapture Ready Message Board. Enjoy such gems as

Does anyone besides me feel that something terrible is going to happen today? I’ve had this feeling now for over a week, and I hope I’m not just being superstitious. This day is an important day in the calendar for satanists. Let me know your thoughts. Thanks!!

Cringe as some people on the RR forum — who seriously believe that long-term stock options are worthless since JESUS will descend from the heavens in the next few years and kill everyone anyway — dismiss other people’s worries about the date as “superstitious.”

Get your false hopes up as they occasionally display hints of sanity:

SOmetimes, I think we are paranoid on RR. Rather, lets live and celebrate the life the Lord has given us.

only to be let down just moments later:

what I find absolutly silly is how the liberal media won’t give credable stories about Christ half a sceond, but this whole 666 thing they are jumping all over…maybe deep down those without Christ aknowledge that there is something to fear with out Christ..that empty hole is eating away at them and they don’t know how to fill it, but fear can be a good thing, maybe the fear of what the number could be, could bring lost souls to dig deeper, we could hope right?

If you want to talk about it with slightly more sensible people, there’s a thread going on in the Skepchick forum right now.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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25 Comments

  1. Also, and I'm not sure of the historical basis for this, 666 written in Roman numerals uses every letter under M once, which meant it may of being like when we use '123456' on fake or example credit cards and the like; used as shorthand to refer to some imaginary but large number in Roman times.

    Example legionnaire ID:

    Name: John Doe

    ID #: DCLXVI

    Unit: DC-LX-VI

    I don't think the arguments of whether 616 or 666 is more valid as an identifyer of 'evil' is important because they're dealing with subjects that have no basis in reality. 616 can't invalidate 666 – they're both bullshit to begin with ;-).

  2. The report at talk2action is very inaccurate. The game does not have the player try to establish a theocracy or "blow away" people who don’t convert. In fact, you are penalized for killing people, even though Christian forces are fighting against the anti-Christ’s army.

    See more about the nature of the game, with quotes from secular reviewers who have actually played it:

    http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/2006/06/truth-

  3. Well, look– if so many think that their stock options are worthless now, could I please have their assets wrapped up in a nice trust fund? Pretty please?

  4. To Jack's point, the [number] was a sum, and a play on words (thought to be Nero). I suppose the modern day equivalent would be to say "watch out for she who is skeptical, she who blogs at a site that sounds like 'peptic'." Gaaah! Ulcers everywhere!

    So what's the over/under on self-fulfilling prophecies today?

  5. Just to show how small the RaptureReady crowd's world is:

    Mailman Dan writes:

    Just set your watch alarm for 11:11 am, Pacific time. If God's going to destroy the world, that'd be the time zone to pick!

    Dan~~~>thinks 11:11 PM would mean west coasters might sleep through their impending doom

    Apparently, he doesn't realise that by that time, most of the populated world will be wide awake and well into the next day already. Yeah, gotta make sure we surprise those folks on the north American continent in their sleep. They're special. All the other 5 billion 700 million of the planet's inhabitants can be awake when terrible unimaginable horrors befall them. They're not important.

  6. Of course, they all ignore the Calendar adjustment by Pope Gregory XIII in October 1582. He took 10 days out of the year because the seasons ahd drifted so much. So when should 6/6/6/ really occur? Did we miss it by 10 days? Are we using a solar calendar or something else? Of course, the whole time zone thing isn't addressed in the Bible.

    If the world is going to end these are vital things to know!

  7. Hmm. We have a primary election today; I suppose if I were in one of the major political parties I'd get to vote for the Governor of the Beast. I do get to vote against the Measure of the Beast.

  8. Jack, that's an interesting thought I hadn't considered before, thanks for that.

    Layman, thanks for the link. I think you may be right that the article I link to is a wee bit over the top, however, it does appear to be a game in which one strategy is blasting away at infidels and then praying for more godliness points. Or, blasting them away until you acquire your own team of demons. The crux of the game, like most other games, seems to be defeating the other side. In this case, "the other side" is anyone who doesn't conform to the fundamentalist's ideology and the means to do it is either by killing them or converting them. I think it's understandable that the less righteous feel a bit disturbed by that.

  9. Rebecca,

    Thanks for following the link.

    I do think there is some misunderstanding in that peopel seem to think that the game is "us (Christians) vs. them (everyone else working for the anti-Christ). In fact, there is a third group which seems to be the most predominate: the noncombatants. There is a large group of people in the game who are not Christians who do not work for the anti-Christ but who have not sided with the "Tribulation Force." It is this group that you are competing to convert and if you kill you will lose the game.

    So you are not just "blasting" infidels or anyone who is not a Christian. The game does not assume that all nonChristians affiliate with the anti-Christ.

    Anyway, I'm not defending the game and have expressed some of my concerns about it too (I have done a new post at the blog about the game). But I did want to correct some of the more outlanding descriptions of the game.

    Thanks again,

    Layman

  10. Ethan, it's just conjecture (nobody take me seriously), but Nero lived AD 15 to AD 68 and given the Book of Revelations was probably written around that time is it possible that it was a coded dig at Nero and Rome? An 'in joke' ;-).

  11. I'm no Bible scholar, but Revelations struck me as the ravings of a rather bitter guy with a persecution complex. So I view it as being more a product of that time/author than anything relevant to the present day (specifically meaning "prophecy"). Has Hari Seldon taught these people nothing?!

  12. Isaac Asimov wrote a column about this (no surprise there–he wrote about everything). He presented the theory that 666=Nero and suggested that the obscure style of the book was due to it being a criticism of Rome. If you're criticizing people who would tie you to a pole and set you on fire, it's best to be a bit circumspect about it. The target audience at the time would presumably have recognized the allusions

    I suppose the big question was why it was later included as canon when a number of other writings weren't.

  13. "I suppose the big question was why it was later included as canon when a number of other writings weren’t."

    I suppose it's because they knew what would sell papers 2000 years later. ;-)

    Ya know, Gregorian calendar snarking aside, the goofballs who are fretting over "06/06/06" are not bearing in mind that the final 06 is a shortening of "2006". So no, it's not really 6/6/6. For that matter, shouldn't the world have ended during the entire month of June 1966?

  14. George Bush is landing tonight in my state. He is arriving at 6:00 pm (allright actually 6:35) and this is his sixth visit to Nebraska since he was elected and…..damn I ran out of sixes,…….

    Anyway, just to be safe, does anyone know if weather stripping keeps out locusts or frogs.

  15. When my friend Stacy sent me the link to that article about the game, the part that impressed me was the thought of little X-tian kiddies in their footie pjs, electronically practicing either vaporizing the atheists or converting them, while their mommies made french toast for Xmas breakfast this coming December. The criticisms of the alarmist tone in the article do not cancel out the marketing plan to distribute this game to impressionable youngsters who will carry with them for a lifetime the image of anyone not of their faith as targets, and reinforcing the messages in the Left Behind series.

  16. Actually I was disappointed nothing happened. Imagine, all the fundies dissapearing! Including George Bush !!

    Unless… Is Cheney born again ?

    Maybe it's a good thing the rapture didn't happen after all…

  17. Actually, under the Gematria numerology that most Biblical scholars believe was used to encode the Number of the Beast, both 616 and 666 are encodings for Nero. I think encodes "NRWN" and the other "NRW" or something like that. (Specifically, the Hebrew characters corresponding to these consonants.) That explains both what the Number of the Beast actually was (a coded reference to Nero) as well as the transcription error that resulted in 616 becoming 666 (since both numbers decode to Nero).

    The whole Revelation of John is pretty clearly a reference to current events when it was written, steeped in the contemporary language of prophecy. Sort of a pep talk to Christians like, "Hey, this nasty guy is persecuting us, but I swear it's really a sign that Jesus will return soon to kick his ass and take us all to Heaven!" I mean, the book contains messages directed at the seven major Christian church communities of the day, borne by seven angels. That, even more than 616/666 is a pretty clear sign that the book was intended for contemporaries rather than people living 2000 years later.

  18. Regarding the game, I think it's funny they would take a Simpsons joke ( the episode where Ned's wife dies) and actually make that game. (Actually, it's shooting bibles at barbarians).

    Bart: Allright! Full conversion!

    Rod (or Tod): Nah, you just winged him and made him a Unitarian.

  19. There's a rebuttal of Layman's assertions on Talk To Action.

    http://www.talk2action.org/story/2006/6/9/32014/8

    Excerpt:

    "

    Layman repeatedly states on Wikipedia that his core concern is Talk to Action's report that the Christian militia – called the Tribulation Force in the Left Behind novels, graphic novels, and video game — uses the power of prayer and modern military weapons to conduct physical and spiritual warfare, which means converting or killing New Yorkers.

    "It is inaccurate, untrue, not factual, to say the game calls for people to `convert or kill.' That's simply anti-Christian propoganda [sic]," writes Layman. "The secular reviews by people who have played the game completely contradict the nonsense espoused by Talk2Action."

    Enough. Let's go fishing for facts – in the very waters where Layman claims to have caught his "whopper". Let's see if we can catch a real whopper. Layman has searched Technorati.com (a web site that aggregates information about blogs) for days, he says, posting on dozens of blogs that Talk to Action has spread inaccurate information, and this is his key contention, his claim to fame. Layman thought he hooked the big one, and he's bragged to everyone about it for days. Let's see what kind of whopper he really reeled into the Christian Cadre boat.

    Layman asked for reviews by credible people who have actually played Left Behind: Eternal Forces, and which document the "convert or kill" claim. Here are two."

    But, I'm a visual thinker – the issue seemed fairly cut and dry simply from the promotional images of the game as it's being played that were released by the game's makers :

    Those image quite clearly depict paramilitary forces firing close range at civilians, and those civilians dropping – apparently from being shot.

    Here's a collection of images:

    http://www.talk2action.org/comments/2006/6/7/4183

  20. Layman repeatedly states on Wikipedia that his core concern is Talk to Action’s report that the Christian militia – called the Tribulation Force in the Left Behind novels, graphic novels, and video game — uses the power of prayer and modern military weapons to conduct physical and spiritual warfare, which means converting or killing New Yorkers.

    “It is inaccurate, untrue, not factual, to say the game calls for people to `convert or kill.’ That’s simply anti-Christian propoganda [sic],” writes Layman. “The secular reviews by people who have played the game completely contradict the nonsense espoused by Talk2Action."

    Interesting read. Perhaps the Layman doth protest too much.

    Either way, it's pretty obvious that the game is indeed some rather blunt christian propaganda, and that the core message is: "if you're not with us, you're against us". And if you're "against" them, the purpose of the game is very simple: kill you before you summon more demons.

    Now there's nothing wrong with that idea, since this is how the world from the game works, and those are the rules you play by. However, what's wrong with it is the very clear underlying message to the kids the game is marketed to, that this is actually an accurate depiction of the real world, which it clearly isn't. Fundies seem to have a very hard time getting to grips with the grey area, at least when concerning the actions of others. It's OK for christians to kill innocent people to further their goals, it's not OK for good, decent, caring people to help wounded "unbelievers", because that act of kind, selfless compassion is evil and warrants extermination.

    Makes one wonder how thoroughly they actually read their bibles …

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