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Review of “End of Days: An Encyclopedia of the Apocalypse in World Religions”

March 1, 2018

Back in 2012, when the impending date of destruction and doom of December 21, 2012 – based on the Mayan calendar not going beyond that particular date – lingered in our subconscious and played out on daily media, I often enjoyed the History Channel’s programming on apocalyptic events which could have spelled the demise of humanity and even our planet. Over-the-top, theatrical programs detailing the worst-case scenarios of solar flares, collisions with extraterrestrial bodies, deadly pandemics, violent volcanic eruptions, threat of nuclear annihilation and the overthrown of humanity by artificial intelligence were a nightly regular, even to the point that the History Channel had its own Armageddon Week, which I enthusiastically (maybe not the right choice of word) watched. When December 22, 2012 heralded its arrival with birds chirping, the sun still faithfully in the sky, and holiday shoppers scuttling for last-minute bargains, I emerged from my bunker bed, and I had to chuckle to myself. The History Channel would now have to re-do about ninety percent of its programming.

Regardless of the apocalypse not occurring on that particular date, or any other date predicted in the history of mankind, the notion that one day there may be no us and no Earth and the events leading up to that cataclysmic hour have been the topic of concern and discussion since the dawn of our modern species. Most world religions touch upon the end times and the demise of our planet, which is usually defined by exceptionally violent natural catastrophes and the final showdown between good and evil. It is of such poignant interest that the Collection Development and Evaluation Section (CODES) of the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) named ABC-CLIO’s “End of Days: An Encyclopedia of the Apocalypse in World Religions” (ed. Wendell G. Johnson) as one of the most noteworthy reference publications of 2017. The unveiling of the 2018 Outstanding References Sources List on which this encyclopedia appears occurred at the ALA’s Midwinter Meeting held in Denver, Colorado, earlier this month. (http://www.ala.org/news/member-news/2018/02/reference-experts-announce-annual-outstanding-reference-sources-list-adults)

Intrigued, I investigated what this reference could contain. Was such a dismal reference source in high demand? I would have no qualms adding this to my own personal collection, as it looks very interesting. (Am I the only one who is really serious about that?) The encyclopedia covers a range of religions and philosophical views from various time periods, including the apocalypse as interpreted by the Judeo-Christian biblical figures Abraham, Enoch, Baruch, John, Peter, and Paul. For a more scientific approach to how everything will all end, there is discussion of cosmology, such as the theory of the universe ending in what is known as the Big Crunch. This encyclopedia references the religious views about eschatology as held by Roman Catholics, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Entries can be located about how the apocalypse has weaved its way into the mainstream, both past and present. In medieval times, it was Dante’s Inferno which kept its readers in dire fear of a never-ending afterlife marked with descending levels of cringe-worthy punishment based on the nature of an unfortunate soul’s actions in his or her time on Earth.  Today, stories occurring with the end times all but dominate pop culture: The Walking DeadLeft Behind, and The Hunger GamesThe Maze Runner, and The Divergent literature and movies series have amassed critical acclaim and blockbuster status. Cult leaders who proclaimed themselves to be sent by God (or whatever other name attributed to any given deity) to save as many souls as possible before the End Times are also touched upon in this reference. I immediately think of being back in high school in 1993 when David Koresh held down his fort in Waco, Texas in a violent standoff. His saga is a recent television mini-series on Paramount Network. Koresh and other individuals such as Jim Jones and Harold Camping are mentioned in this encyclopedia. (https://www.abc-clio.com/ABC-CLIOGreenwood/product.aspx?pc=A4838C)

After reading the reviews, I believe that “End of Days: An Encyclopedia of the Apocalypse in World Religions” would be a welcomed addition to any academic or public library. There is certainly no shortage of interest in the apocalypse; an interest which will not wane anytime soon. This reference is definitely going to take up a permanent residence in my personal library – or at least as long as the world is still here.

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