Thursday 21 February 2008

Fantasy holiday: The End of the World Bus Tour

The BBC's recent run of five TV documentaries in the Wonderland series ended a week ago with this film about about a group of fundamentalist Christians on a tour of Armageddon. For many it was their last chance to see significant locations that will apparently figure in the Rapture, and in the end of the world, as foretold in the Book of Revelation.

Here's a link to the BBC's trailer on YouTube:

It's nice to have a theme for a holiday - it provides focus for sightseeing and other jolly activities. Don't fancy traipsing round a musty museum? Try helping out with menial labour on an Israeli military base. Bored with rubbernecking at old buildings? Then how about viewing the actual site of the nuclear apocalypse? When did that happen, you ask? Not yet, but just you wait - it will, we're told, be bloody. Don't worry, you won't be affected, not if you're a believer. You'll be raptured into Heaven with the other believers, disappearing from Earth in the blink of an eye, while the rest of us are left behind to perish (after which, of course, we have the small matter of an eternity of damnation to endure).

These are, by any rational standards, kooky beliefs, based on ancient texts of dubious authority. But they're beliefs held by a not insignificant minority of US citizens, this sample of whom appeared from this film to be decent (if deluded) people. Mostly they were pensioners. One teenager, however, on the trip with her parents, might have been tagging along simply for the chance to get way from her studies for a while. But no - she appeared to be as fundamentalist as the rest of them.

She said she was studying A-levels (in England, as it happens, quite close to where I live), photography (she was using the trip as part of a photography project), and - get this - critical thinking.

When explaining to the interviewer why she held her particular beliefs, she used Pascal's Wager. Perhaps when she actually gets around to that final part of her studies she'll learn what a false dichotomy is.


This wasn't actually the last in the present run of Wonderland, but there was a two-week break.

And for those who missed the broadcast, but can use BitTorrent, try here, here or (recommended) here.

Another gem from the broadcast: after seeing Armageddon, contemplating the end of the world, and looking across the landscape towards the 'enemies of God', our little group of devout tourists assembled at the airport for their trip home. Naturally they prayed. For world peace? An end to conflict? Relief for the afflicted?

No, they prayed that their flight would not be delayed.