Why is pessimism–and even fatalism–so prevalent in conservative religions today? For example, in a recent LDS publication (Ensign; Mar 2011) is the subheading: “As the world continues to grow more wicked, . . .”
I believe that part of what drives this philosophical negativism is the belief that we are in the “Last Days” and that satan is running rampant on the earth. This concept causes me all kinds grief.
Christ’s apostles thought they were in the Last Days, as has every generation since (for the last 2,000 years). Parley Pratt when he saw a meteor shower, thought it was a sign of the rapidly approaching end. The alleged signs of the end-of-times are so vague they are useless. And 24/7-cable news makes everything seem more immediate, skewing our perceptions of time and space. An obsessive belief in the Last Days gets us nowhere.
In fact, we are living in a time of great opportunity. Our capacity to do good is magnified by any number of things. For example, the Internet (and social networking) makes possible almost instantaneous communications. We can see that as bad (concern over pornography) or good (distance education). Instead of obsessing over the negatives, lets pursue the positives.
According to David H. Bailey in an Internet article titled: Mormonism and the Idea of Progress:
Bemoaning the decline and degradation of modern society has become common fare. . . . But tilting against the tide of human progress is a dangerous thing to do, since progress generally triumphs over decline.
In an article in Sunstone, members of the Mormon Transhumanist Association warned: “Whether tomorrow is wonderful or horrible may depend on the extent to which persons with good minds and loving hearts become actively involved in shaping the future.” Instead of looking at man’s future as careening towards an inevitable cataclysmic event, we need to work toward improving the human existence.