This is Lee Carter for Atheists United. On Sunday night, November 20, 1983, millions of
Americans saw one of the most frightening movies ever made. It was called "The Day
After," presented on ABC-TV, and it was about what would happen to every city and town
in America in the event of an all-out nuclear war. But it was followed by an even more
frightening program on TBN, The Trinity Broadcasting Network, called "The Moment After
the Day After." This was an analysis of the program from what is alleged to be the
Now, organized Atheism does not take a position on the issue of which strategy is more
likely to cause, or prevent, a nuclear war – whether it be arms build-up, or arms freeze.
There are rational reasons for both points of view. But we do take a position in regard to
some of the rhetoric used by the radical Christian right, and which President Reagan,
himself, seems to endorse as one of the prime reasons for his policies.
This TBN special was hosted by Paul and Jan Crouch, and the guest speaker was Hal
Lindsey, a fundamentalist preacher and author of "The Late, Great Planet Earth,"
"Countdown to Armageddon," "There's a New World Coming," and "The Rapture." The
fact that he was presented by the Christian network as the foremost spokesman on this
subject, and the way the host and hostess fawned over his every word, indicates that
most Christians apparently regard him as some kind of latter-day prophet with a
supernatural ability to predict the future.
The program was promoted by a quarter-page ad in the L.A. Times, which read: "Atomic
Bombs Don't Kill People... People Kill People." They couldn't have chosen a more
appropriate headline, because it sets the stage for the half-witted thinking which it
advertised. You might remember that the ABC movie was not about an invasion of
Russians, armed with spears and stone axes. It was about an exchange of ICBMS, in a
war that would be over in half an hour, that might exterminate all life on the planet, and that
would be precipitated by the hair-trigger mechanisms built into the defense systems
themselves. If there were any future generations, they'd probably never know who pushed
the button first, whether it was the Russians that did it, or some other country entirely. And
it certainly wouldn't make any difference. So the ABC movie was not about Russians, it
was about bombs.
The thrust of the TBN program, however, was that the Soviet Union is the seat of Satan's
empire; therefore, communists are all agents of Satan. They are dedicated to conquering
the entire world and making everyone their slaves. These commie demons are the mortal
enemy of everything that's good and decent. So it's impossible to negotiate with them in
good faith. Power is the only thing they respect. We must not be fooled by their outward
appearance as decent humans. That's only a disguise. Deep down inside, their soul
belongs to the arch fiend. So the only good commie is a dead commie.
Does this kind of thinking sound familiar? If you've been listening to Atheist Commentary
for some time you may recognize it as the same attitude that created the Inquisitions and
the persecution of witches. Lindsey spent most of his time explaining in detail why
communists are so evil. It's because Satan has deluded them into believing that the
ultimate triumph of communism will create an earthly paradise, so anything which brings it
closer is good and anything which delays it is evil. Facts, promises and treaties are
irrelevant to them.
Well, Lindsey is quite correct on this last point, but what he doesn't realize is that
Christians believe precisely the same thing. Christ is THE answer, they say, to all
problems. And it's the ultimate return of Christ that will bring about an earthly paradise.
So anything that helps spread Christianity is good, and anything which impedes it is evil.
Consequently, Christianity has also been propagated by lies, hypocrisy and coercion.
And they've had nearly two thousand years more practice than the communists have. The
Bible teaches that Christians have no obligation to keep their word to non-believers. In
fact, Christians have always felt they had a divine mandate either to convert unbelievers,
or to exterminate them. So the cold war is not really a political or economic conflict, but
another holy war.
In the White House we have a doctrinaire group of ideologues who believe that God has
appointed them to spread the holy gospel of capitalism, and that any form of socialism is
a manifestation of evil and a cancer on the body politic. America has a sacred obligation
to stamp out any vestige of it everywhere in the world. Lindsey spent several minutes
listing all the countries that were no longer willing to take orders from the U.S. State
Department; and these, he said had been "captured," "brainwashed," and "enslaved" by
Satan's army of atheistic communists.
Now, Carl Marx was very much aware of this kind of thinking, and he saw the injustices
produced by it; so in formulating his philosophy he over-reacted by being equally
dogmatic and irrational in his opposition to it. In the Kremlin, therefore, we have a group
of doctrinaire ideologues who also see everything in terms of black and white. "Das
Kapital" and the "Communist Manifesto" are their infallible Bible. "Revisionism" is their
version of heresy. Every country that's not under their control is infected with the disease
of capitalism and, therefore, a threat to world security. This is because, they say,
capitalism must continually expand, conquer and exploit in order to survive. They see
capitalism as analogous to cancer. If it were allowed to grow unchecked, it would
inevitably lead to world annihilation, because it is based on competition rather than
cooperation. So eventually, various capitalist countries would begin to squabble over
territorial rights, and that would escalate to nuclear war. They see religion simply as a
brainwashing technique, managed by the ruling classes for the purpose of making
On this point, as TBN so clearly illustrates, the Soviets are at least partially correct –
because fundamentalists are primarily uneducated, blue collar workers who are fanatical
supporters of the capitalist system which, they've been led to believe, God himself has
ordained. The fact that TBN is supported primarily by tax-deductible donations from multi-
national corporations usually escapes their attention.
The Soviets believe that education, particularly the study of science, will lead to an atheist
philosophy, which will create a rational and peaceful world order. But the TBN point of
view is that Satan is the one who leads people to "pseudo-scientific" atheism. So the
spread of atheism is the heart of Satan's plan for enslaving the world. The real conflict,
says TBN, is not between economic or political systems, but between Christianity and
Eventually, says Hal Lindsey, an all-out war with Russia is inevitable. And how does he
know this? Because the Bible tells him so. According to his interpretation of various
prophesies, these are the signs of the last days:
1. Establishment of the state of Israel
2. Rise of the European Common Market
3. Unification of all Arab states
4. Establishment of a world government, presided over by the Anti-Christ
5. Detente with the Soviet Union
6. War will then break out between Israel and the Arabs, which will escalate into
annihilation of the Anti-Christ and his world government.
So there's nothing to worry about until all these prophesies are fulfilled. Lindsey says:
“The United States cannot be destroyed until the Anti-Christ arrives and establishes a world
government that leads to a temporary peace. There is not going to be an accidental nuclear war.
So stop being frightened by this propaganda.”
But even after all the prophesies have been fulfilled, he says, there is still nothing for
Christians to worry about, because some time BEFORE Armageddon all True Believers
will be turned into angels and swept up into the sky. Lindsey says:
“The Bible definitely predicts there's going to be an instantaneous coming of Jesus Christ in the
clouds above the earth – wherein he's going to instantly snatch up to meet in the air every living
believer on earth.”
This event is what Christians refer to as "The Rapture," and Lindsey says this will occur
just before the formation of a world government; so no True Christian will have to endure
the horrors of being governed by atheistic foreigners, much less the “inconvenience” of
world destruction. After the war, Christ will then reign over the entire world and turn it into
a heaven on earth.
Well, this is certainly a poetic view; and like all mythology it has a satisfactory dramatic
structure, viewing history as a cosmic melodrama with a clear-cut beginning, middle and
end. We have Jehovah as the protagonist and Satan as the antagonist. The basic conflict
is to see which can win the greatest number of souls. A super-hero savior is introduced to
add complications to the plot. Suspense increases as the stakes become higher and
higher, through bigger and better weapons, until the climax occurs with world destruction.
In the denouement, the good guys live happily ever after.
This is the basic structure of virtually every story in Marvel Comics; and if you study all the
holy books of the world you'll find they say the same thing, differing only in such minor
details as when and how the world will end, the names and natures of the gods who are
fighting over it, and what we are all supposed to do about it in the meantime. Every
generation in history has thought they were living in the final days; and there probably
hasn't been a year in which someone didn't write a book predicting that doomsday was
imminent. In the Gospels, Christ is alleged to have said that "This generation shall not
taste death before the son of man returns." Obviously, the world did not end during the
reign of Augustus Caesar. So every age since then has thought "this generation" referred
But the situation in which we find ourselves today is different. No longer are we
threatened with vague supernatural events. The physical means of destruction have been
built and thoroughly tested. In past ages, reasonable people ignored the doomsday
ravings of religious fanatics. But today no reasonable person doubts that the world could,
indeed, end at any moment, and it's only the religious fanatics who doubt it.
The Bible does predict Armageddon as marking the end of the world and the return of
Christ. And President Reagan did brazenly defy the constitution by establishing the Bible
as the infallible "Word of God," and worship of it as the official religion of the United
States. In various speeches and casual remarks he has indicated that he believes the
scenario proposed by Hal Lindsey.
Now, with such a lunatic sitting in the White House with his finger on the button, can we
blame the Soviets for being nervous?
Under these conditions, we have more cause to worry about Reagan than we do about
Andropov. Reagan is afflicted with the Jonestown syndrome; he doesn't even worry about
killing everyone on the entire planet, because he thinks death is an illusion; it would only
be the ceremony for a better world to come. Andropov at least realizes that this is the only
planet we've got, and that genocide is real and permanent.
There are legitimate differences between East and West. There are advantages and
disadvantages to both a planned economy and to a competitive one.
There is room for argument over which political system better serves the interests of its
people, whether it be direct, competitive elections, such as we have in the United States,
or a hierarchy of committees, as in the Soviet Union.
If the two systems can only coexist long enough, perhaps world opinion will eventually be
able to pick and choose the best aspects from the two competing models. But when
America believes that its system is infallible because it was ordained by God, and the
Soviet Union believes it is infallible because it's based on the laws of nature, dialog and
compromise are impossible, and the only resolution is mutual annihilation.
Belligerent behavior always provokes defensive behavior in response. The only way to
defuse a potentially explosive conflict is for one side or the other to behave more
rationally. Perhaps the other side will then be induced to behave rationally in response.
So the only way we can ever get the Soviets to resolve our legitimate differences
peacefully is by behaving more rationally ourselves. But when we have a president who
publicly admits that he bases his policies on the advice of soothsayers, this doesn't give
the Soviets much reason to relax.
Not only TBN, but Jerry Falwell and his Moral Majority also condemned ABC for showing
the movie, calling it communist propaganda, and even threatening a Christian boycott of
all the sponsors. When Pravda ran an editorial approving of the program, the right-wing
crowed that it proved they were right.
This is the kind of either/or thinking I described in an earlier program as a latter day
version of witchcraft. Anyone who disagrees with a Christian is an agent of Satan.
Anyone who disagrees with Ronald Reagan is a commie. If the Russians approve of
anything we do, that proves it was wrong. Anything they are opposed to must be right. If
there are any right-wingers listening to this program, I'm sure they'll accuse us of being
communists. This kind of dichotomous thinking leaves no room for compromise or
shades of gray. So it can only lead to conflict. Two thousand years of history should
provide sufficient proof that Christianity does not prevent wars, it causes them.
Lindsey says we cannot negotiate with the communists because they believe in the
inevitability of war between the socialist and capitalist systems. That's true, but he forgets
two things: First, the Soviets say they cannot negotiate with Christians because they also
believe in the inevitability of war – according to Lindsey's own doctrine. But the second
thing Lindsey forgets is that doctrines have a way of evolving over the years and gradually
becoming rationalized to conform with reality. So, just because Carl Marx may have
thought war was necessary, that does not mean future generations will continue to
believe it, provided the basic causes of conflict are removed. It's true that some
communists regard revisionism as heresy. But virtually all Christian beliefs of today were
regarded as heresy a few hundred years ago.
Both America and the Soviet Union like to think of themselves as enlightened and
scientific. But neither of them are. No true scientist has delusions of infallibility. So the
only way to peace is for the United States to grow up and abandon its childish belief that
"God is on our side." When the Soviet Union sees that it is no longer confronted with a
mob of religious fanatics, perhaps they will abandon their equally irrational view that the
"natural law" of "dialectical materialism" is on their side. If America survives long enough
to become an atheistic country it still won't guarantee peace – any more than it has
between Russia and China. Legitimate differences will continue to exist. But it is the
necessary first step.
We thank you for listening, and be sure to tune in again next week at this same time for
another commentary by Atheists United – the Rational Minority.
The Day After