Unfortunately, the Bible never mentions anything called the Rapture. Undeterred, Rapture-ites weave their fantasy with a hodgepodge of biblical passages, the main one being I Thessalonians 4:13-18. Paul opines that first the dead believers, then the living, will "meet the Lord in the air." I hate to bring bad tidings, but Paul was merely deep-sixing a common First Century belief that only those alive at the time of the Second Coming would go to heaven.
The vast majority of Christians who believe in the Rapture probably have no idea that it is a modern heresy. The Rapture was invented in 1830 when a Scottish lass, Margaret MacDonald, had a feverish vision, which was quickly embraced by ambitious religionists.
The Rapture is the stuff of Elmer Gantry prophets, which is to say America's religious, Republican right. The reasons include the doctrine's abandonment of social responsibilities — why protect the environment since God is about ready to wreck His creation?
Aristotle once mused: "A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. Subjects ... do less easily move against him, believing that he has the gods on his side."
If you take the strange patchwork fabric we call religion in America — a belief that the select (i.e., rightwing Republicans) are saved and Raptured while liberals, gays, Unitarians, Arabs, French and just about everybody else are damned — a tyrant can get positively rapturous at the political windfall such devilish thinking bestows.
Group Senior Editor John Sugg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.