Apocalyptic fun

Josh Levin, senior editor of Slate, wrote an epic series this week on the theme “The End of America.” The series begins here, and rolls on in eight segments and about 23,000 words. That’s not counting Slate’s embedded notes and thousands more words in The Fray. Slate also offered discussions on Facebook and Twitter, so the most obsessive readers easily could have devoted an entire week to debating Levin’s reporting.

Levin discussed the many doomsday scenarios in which the United States would be greatly diminished or cease to exist entirely. The savviest Web feature was “Choose Your Own Apocalypse,” which allowed readers to pick their top five threats to U.S. survival.

I highlighted the factors that are connected in any way to religion, including:

• Social critiques attractive to some believers: decadence; Obama as God; neo-humans; cloning; red vs. blue; the Rapture.

• Arguments or strawmen presented against believers or their concerns: the influence of intelligent design; passivity induced by Christianity; gay marriage leading to a separatist, “heterosexual-only state”; voluntary human extinction; tribalism; theocracy.

• A few leftovers: Dec. 21, 2012, doomsday scenarios; militant Islam; Israel-Arab war.

I’m pleased to see that the random array of readers who voted in Slate’s feature chose only one of these factors — the Israel-Arab War — among the top five threats. It appears these readers are not worried about the civilization-threatening potential of intelligent design, Christianity, red vs. blue tensions or theocracy.

Levin writes on an especially engaging theme when he explores the idea that Mormons would preserve American ideals even in a world without the United States.

Read the entire piece, because it’s so sprightly and well-argued, but this paragraph is a good sample:

Seen as honest and incorruptible, Mormons are recruited in great numbers by the FBI. Dubbed by Harold Bloom “perhaps the most work-addicted culture in religious history,” they have proved spectacularly successful in both secular and Church business. (1999′s Mormon America: The Power and the Promise pegged the church’s assets at $25 billion to $30 billion.) They venerate the traditional family unit, rarely divorce, and live as much as a decade longer than the average American. They are just like us, only they’re always on their best behavior.

Levin writes far more about sports than about religion. That is sportswriting’s gain and the Godbeat’s loss.

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  • Jerry

    Thinking about the end of America or the world is great fun of a certain kind so I’m glad that alien invasion is on the list. Are we all prepared to welcome our benevolent lizard overlords who will be landing soon?

    More seriously, the wingnuts on the left were sure President Bush was going to cancel the election and declare martial law. Now the wingnuts on the right are outdoing the wildest leftist fantasies with some that score new records for being disconnected from reality.

    But I’m glad to see that “EndOfAmerica” site had enough choices to satisfy everyone.

    When all is said and done, my selection is “The end of history”:

    American values propagate throughout the world as representative democracy and capitalism reign. America loses its distinctiveness and identity as the world becomes one happy nation.

    with one amendation to say “representative democracy and spiritual values reign“.

  • HiveRadical

    Levin does do a pretty okay job. His article is among the best I’ve seen in all my years of scanning LDS/Mormon related commentary & reporting.

  • Marian

    That would be December 21, 2012

    • http://www.getreligion.org/?p=2 Douglas LeBlanc

      Thanks for the correction, Marian. Fixed.