On December 21, 2012—the day of the winter solstice—the 5,125 year cycle known as the Long Count in the Mayan calendar ends. Russia, which as a “minister of emergency situations,” said on November 30 2012 that he had access to “methods of monitoring what is occurring on the planet Earth” and that he could confirm with confidence that the world was not shortly to end. A top official of the Russian Orthodox Church and Russia’s “chief sanitary doctor” echoed the minister’s words to calm the Russian masses, which have a penchant for superstition.
Lest the penchant be presumed limited to Russia, in France access to Bugarach mountain was to be blocked on the “fateful day” out of concern that visitors would inundate the area due to its “sacred” character. Meanwhile, the patriarch of Ukraine’s Orthodox Church issued a statement assuring the faithful that “doomsday is sure to come,” but that it will be provoked by the moral decline of mankind, not the “so-called parade of planets or the end of the Mayan calendar.” That the patriarch knew that doomsday is sure to come is no less of a dogmatic claim for him to make than those of the believers in the Mayan calendar. Even so, making a claim that is in the mainstream or at least is in line with a biblical basis is typically not viewed as an over-stretch of human reason beyond its capacity.
More generally, religious belief, being treated as though it were known (i.e., as a fact of empirical knowledge), can be regarded as an encroachment by human beings beyond our native fauna. Even were there a “doomsday” by supernatural design or “intent” revealed to us, we could not say for certain that we had interpreted the signs correctly. Particularly troubling is the presumption of being correct regarding a domain that is inherently transcendent. The habit at issue is the willingness to overlook or ignore the fallacy wherein one can know what lies inherently beyond human cognition and perception. Rather than being rooted in religion, the nature of the error is epistemological—based on what the human mind can know.
Whether it is known that the world will end at the end of the Mayan calendar or as a religious Armageddon, the sheer certainty in the declaration itself is almost always overlooked or taken for granted rather than treated as a problem—even a sickness. Put another way, the old sin of pride may be all over the place in the form of presumption. The “sin” is in the asserting itself, rather than the content of that which one is asserting. Whether that content seems odd or is familiar, the presumption is the same in that it goes beyond human capacity as though with impunity.
For more on superstition based on the Mayan calendar, see Ellen Barry’s report, “In Panicky Russia, It’s Official: End of World Is Not Near” in the New York Times (December 2, 2012). http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/02/world/europe/mayan-end-of-world-stirs-panic-in-russia-and-elsewhere.html