How does religion influence apocalyptic circumstances? We all have experienced religion in some form or fashion in our lives most likely, but does religion truly play a crucial role during an apocalypse? I believe it most certainly does, and I think that Margaret Atwood does a phenomenal job of exploring the significance of religion in The Year of the Flood.
The word apocalypse was first recorded in both Latin and Greek in the 12th century. In those days, it was literally translated to ‘revelation’ or, in other words, an uncovering. Nowadays, this word certainly bears a religious connection through the book of Revelation in the Bible, where there is prophecy of a day where good will inevitably conquer evil. However, it can also be utilized in a more negative way. More specifically, many people tend to use this word to refer only to an impending doom that lurks in the future (Apocalypse | Definition of Apocalypse at Dictionary.com).
I find this broad definition of the word extremely intriguing. It seems suggestive that there is a dichotomy of beliefs pertaining to the nature of an apocalypse: there are those that may embrace the apocalypse and those that fear the apocalypse. I believe that Atwood examines this dichotomy as well. More specifically, she uses the God’s Gardeners and the MaddAddams sects to contrast the differing definitions of an apocalypse. The God’s Gardeners seemingly embrace the days of impending doom because they feel as if they are prepared for them. Further, they believe that the doom will eventually bring a renewed world where those that brought destruction to the world around them will be gone. In contrast, the MaddAddam faction holds to the negative beliefs of an apocalypse in the sense that they fear the impending doom. Moreover, they want to avoid it by taking decisive and even violent action against those that are leading the world towards this doom.
In turn, it seems that the influence of religion in an apocalypse stretches beyond simply creating community or safety. It strives to coerce the individual to think a certain way. Christianity, for instance, achieves this through the belief that the end of the world will coincide with the return of Christ. This results in Christians sometimes embracing the apocalypse as simply a new beginning (The Meaning of Apocalypse in the Bible). While there is nothing inherently wrong with this sense of hopefulness, it may be neglectful of the potential travesties that may loom in the distance that could be avoided with preemptive action. Thus, the best definition of an apocalypse is likely one that encompasses both the fear and new beginnings brought about by it.