Beware False Prophets

Posted by on January 15, 2011 in Thoughts | 8 comments

Some believe the prophecies that May 21 2011 is the date for the rapture, when all the true believers in the Christian faith will be swept up by god into heaven, a final act for humanity in our six thousand year journey on this planet. Others Believe that 2012 is the date for the mass extinction of humanity, due to a shortfall in foresight by the creators of the Mayan calendar. Others again insist there will be a great battle on earth between the good and righteous and the wicked and evil which will cause the end of human kind. Some day. How do people “know” this? They just do.

Prophecy is an odd thing. It’s said that a prophet receives messages directly from God, that God’s word is somehow syphoned down from heaven and emparted into the soul of the receiver to then be disseminated to the people. Prophecies can predict war, disease, famine and death, as well as things like deliverance, salvation and recompense.

There are also prophecies from so-called “mystics” like Nostradamus, who claimed to be able to receive messages from the future directly, like a TV tuned into the future.

But what is a prophecy really, and why is it that once a prophecy is made that so many strive to make it come true?

It could be that prophecies are nothing but an extrapolation of current events into the future, taking into consideration the way events tend to unfold, and then arriving at an outcome. In this case I would call this “prophecy” a prediction, and is anything but divine. But more often I think a prophecy is nothing more than the wishful thinking of a charismatic individual. And in the case of Nostradamus the prophecies are so vague that they could apply to almost any era, and kingdom or government, and could “mean” a great many things depending upon the person who deciphers them.

If I were to make a prediction, for instance, that there will be a great fire, and many lives will be lost, and then went to an old-persons home and set it on fire, would you call it prophecy? I’d say not, most would call this an admission of guilt of the intentions I had. So why is it then that there are people who read biblical prophecies, see them as God’s will, and then do everything they can to try to make these events happen? Why is it that when the prophecy becomes intention that so many can’t see it as a decision rather than the deterministic will of God?

We live in a universe of cause and effect, every action has an equal and opposite reaction, not a deterministic or pre-determined story as written by God. All the observances of the universe point to this fact, so unless you are blind to seeing what is around you, prophecy can hold no water.

The thing about prophecy is, not whether the events described will eventually unfold, but the vagaries surrounding the information presented. It has to be “interpreted” by someone, a gnostic scholar or some-such, someone “wiser” than the average person. Interpretations of this kind so often comes from assumptions and suppositions that the interpreter already holds, so how can it possibly be believed? Interpretations talk of what a prophecy “means” rather than what is “says”, and as pattern seeking animals, we so often let superstition lead us when seeking meaning. When meaning evades understanding, or when a situation has no innate meaning, we so often will throw up our hands and claim “divine will” as if to placate the part of us seeking an answer.

The biggest trouble about prophecies is that people are so willing to believe them. We all suffer in life, in fact it’s the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do, but in times of particular hardship things like prophecy act as a beacon of hope of better times for those who suffer. Those who stand by prophecies of redemption and deliverance prey upon these people, making promises that may or may not eventuate if things are let to run their natural course. As soon as the label “prophecy”is tacked onto a random prediction, people seem to give it credence, especially if the prediction falls into line with the desires of the individual.

We live in a very complex world, and almost anything someone says could be predicted to happen to someone, somewhere, and at some time. The likelihood of a “prophecy” being fulfilled is very high especially when we take into account the interpretation, and the wants of the interpreter. Of course if things turn out differently to prophecy, the prophet will claim that things changed, that God was testing him or her, or that disaster was averted because so many prayed for forgiveness.

Anyone who delivers a “prophecy” desires for his predictions to come true, so be wary of anyone who claims to know the future. What will happen? Who knows, but surely if there are a thousand possible outcomes, and a thousand people each prophesise one of these, then at least one person will be right. A broken (analog) clock is still right twice a day. And do not mistake predictions about climate and the economy for prophecies. All things are liable to change, and real predictions are based on information gathered and weighed up against evidence.

Surely if an all-powerful God wished to give a message to all the people of earth he’d write it in the sky, broadcast it like an invading alien race or just embed that message directly into our brains. But god works in mysterious ways.

Prophecy is nothing more than a way for a charismatic person to control others more vulnerable than themselves, or the random ramblings of possible futures. Beware all prophets, not one of them is predicting the future.

Can I prove any of this? No, not really, but the burden of proof lies with the claimant, not the denier. Show me one example of prophecy coming true, to the letter, and not some half-baked excuse for why the interpretation was wrong, and I’ll reconsider. But I predict this won’t happen.

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