What the Puritans Teach Us About Our Current Apocalypse
I tend away from religious, and especially Christian, eschatology because it is well worn and not of my interests. However, I recently learned of an interesting apocalyptical thread in Christian/American history that does not require an exegesis of the book of revelations which I found interesting and think lends an interesting lens to the colonization of the Americas which we pass over.
For the puritans, the “new world” was a promised land, an escape from the depravity of the “old world” that they felt they had divine right to given their status as proper Christians. To them, the Europe represented the end of times, as humans partook in decadence and other bad vibes. To them, the new world was their rightful place to colonize as reward for their attention and dedication to scripture. I argue that in our society we still have these feeling both in a continued (arguably) religious sense and in new atheistic sense which is newly unique (in western history) to our modern times.
Firstly, cult leaders continue to reference the decadence and decay of our values. Not only cult leaders but also politicians (though if you want to count 45 as a cult leader, be my guest) as they speak to “a return to traditional values” (which is exactly what the Nazis called for (talk about a cult speaking which felt it was owed a “promised land”)). There are promises of an ideal in exchange for believing in something. Both the puritans and our current society fail(ed) to properly recognize that the existence of indigenous people proved them (us) wrong. The Americas could not have been the promised land for the puritans because it already exited for Native Americans. There is no promised space for any people today, because all space belongs to one culture or another (we even have designations for whose part of Antarctica is whose even though nobody really lives there). We speak out against the decadence, corruption, and decline of our society, this time struggling to find a promised land to be our salvation in the apocalypse. There is no planet B after all.
Or is there? In an often more atheistic vein, our modern society looks to space as an escape from our apocalypse. This one is also atheistic: climate change and other issues. The question of space raises a number of interesting question, particularly when one keeps sight on our past. If we find a hospitable planet, which also has life, will we repeat our cycle of colonization? The puritans and other colonizers sought a clean land, found one, and tarnished it with all the bad crap they had in Europe. Will humans enact a new genocide in the name of making more space to ruin things? We won’t send our best and brightest after all. It will naturally be the worst, greediest, and most despicable among us who can afford a rocket off the rock they destroyed, before they realize that they have no survival skills, their money is worthless in space, and that they have doomed humanity. And ultimately, this whole thought process is an escapism from addressing, correcting, and living with the mistakes of our species. The easier, more effective, most surefire, and shortest time investment strategy would be to fix the mess we created. The puritans and other colonizers could have remained in Europe and fixed their own home before venturing out and bringing their self-destruction with.
Even is there is a planet B, let’s not be colonizers. Let’s be the adventures we write about in Sci-Fi.