If religion is the opium of the masses, then the beliefs about the end of the world are overdoses. The belief in the imminent end of the world is one of the most powerful and radical motivations of the human psyche. It is the overspill of adrenaline of the religious beliefs that combines urgent passions with deep megalomaniac tendencies. Fatalistic beliefs have the ability to generate incredible powers by setting into motion large masses of people and converting their feelings into a collective force. People caught in this kind of phenomena are capable of out of the ordinary things; they can commit the most shocking cruelties or, on the contrary, account for the most exceptional cases of human societies.
Negru, who describes himself as neither a believer nor an atheist, didn’t use the popular phrase “a brief history” in his title for good reason. At 581 pages, the tome is anything but. Negru reminds readers that fascination with the apocalypse isn’t a recent cultural obsession; rather, it’s been a subject of intense interest since the earliest days of recorded history, as evinced by the doctrinal beliefs of all three Abrahamic religions. He also points out that the phrase the end of the world can be interpreted various ways, such as the extinction of humankind, the destruction of Earth, or some other type of transformation or migration. After delineating the views of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam on eschatology (the study of the last days), Negru zeros in on how the Christian view, in particular, has been presented from the first to the 21st century, and how it has changed due to “greater knowledge and discovery.” The book is well researched and includes quotes from sacred texts and other scholars. Those obsessed with zombie movies or modern stories of survivalist living may be disappointed that the book stays away from Hollywood’s take. But for those who want to probe the historical and religious teachings on the apocalypse, Negru’s not-so-brief book won’t disappoint. (BookLife)