A Virtual Apocalypse

The April issue of Wired has a fascinating article about the search for "the God particle" -- the Higgs boson.

According to Wired, the God particle is "supposed to be the key to explaining why matter has mass. Physicists believe that Higgs particles generate a kind of soupy ether through which other particles move, picking up drag that translates into mass on the macroscopic scale. The Higgs is the cornerstone of 21st-century physics; it simply has to be there, otherwise the standard model of the universe collapses."

A few pages after the God particle, comes a religion story that's really out of this world.

Called Apocalypse Now the article's subtitle tells it all:

How a hologram, a blimp, and a massively multiplayer game could bring peace to the Holy Land.

Writer Joshua Davis deserves a medal for his straightforward reporting about a story that could have easily been turned into a "crackpot of the week" religion story.

As Davis reports, Yitzhaq Hayutman, an Israeli hi-tech businessman wants to build a virtual Temple that would hover over the site of the Dome of the Rock mosque, one of the most holy sites in Islam. The temple would be a hologram that would be projected from a blimp hovering over the Dome of the Rock--allowing Jews to have a rebuilt temple and Muslims to keep their mosque.

He also has an idea for a virtual temple---an online role-playing computer game that would recreate the temple and allow visitors to go inside with the click of a mouse.

Here's what Davis says about the plan:

It may sound crazy, but every other effort at peace has failed, and partisans on all sides are surprisingly open to Hayutman's proposals. People in the Middle East are used to radicals who carry guns and explosives. Hayutman is a radical who envisions a peaceful, technological advent to the end of the world. For him, the Bible is a Read Me file for Earth 2.0. Some think he's out of his mind, but in a region where extremists often set the agenda, Hayutman is preparing to click the Install button.

What Davis has gotten a hold of is an alternate view of the Apocalypse--as something that ushers in an age of peace.

God has given me a mission," Hayutman says, speaking in a thoughtful, accented English as rain pounds the windshield. "I am here to show that the temple can be rebuilt peacefully and in such a way that it will bring the beginning of a new age."

What's fascinating about his vision of the apocalypse is that it's not the bloodbath that fundamentalist Christians imagine. It is the end of the current world - with all its inequity and injustice - and the beginning of a new, perfect Earth ruled by the Messiah. The trigger will be a peaceful, technology-fueled spiritual revolution. A velvet apocalypse.

For all it's imagery of doom that has inspired the final battles of the Glorious Appearing, the book of Revelation also has some remarkably hopeful and tender words about what follows the end of the world. It's not all the "bloodbath" that Davis seems to think Fundamentalist Christians are after.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

Though he's Jewish - and so isn't looking for a second coming of Jesus- Hayutman's vision of a peaceful new world isn't that far off from the vision of Revelation 21. In fact, Davis quotes Hayutman as saying his virtual, online temple could in fact fulfill the promise of Revelation 21.

Douglas Leblanc of Getreligion.org has some critiques of the Davis piece but does, in general, give it a thumbs up.

And given Davis's assessment of the Temple Mount (where the Dome of the Rock stands on the site of the former Temple) as a "powder keg" whose "fuse is already burning"--perhaps it's time for a kinder, gentler, virtual apocalypse.


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