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Sunday, June 23, 2024

666: The numbers tell the story

As 06/06/06 nears, the devil's in the e-mails -- and the billboards, the talk shows and even the election booths. For many, those triple sixes conjure up the infamous Number of the Beast -- 666 -- cited in Revelations 13:18.

As 06/06/06 nears, the devil’s in the e-mails — and the billboards, the talk shows and even the election booths.

For many, those triple sixes conjure up the infamous Number of the Beast — 666 — cited in Revelations 13:18.

Hollywood, rock stars and a conservative pundit are all hopping on the apocalypse bandwagon. The blogosphere is aquiver with satanic speculation.

A recent Google search of “06/06/06” and “mark of the beast” popped up 660 hits, including an ad for a self-inking 666 stamp (“wear mark on your right hand or forehead”)and dozens of putdowns by grouchy bloggers.

Some take the concatenation of numerals seriously. Also on Google is an article from the Sunday Times of London stating that expectant mothers fear their babies will be born that day.

This worries professor Allison Coudert _ but not because she’s afraid of the Number of the Beast. Coudert, a religious studies professor at University of California-Davis, is concerned about the pervasiveness of superstitious belief _ a belief she sees as childish.

“It’s terrifying that people would be afraid of a date,” she said. “Dates are completely arbitrary. That date is just pulled out of a hat. None of this is rational.”

She explains what she calls “apocalyptic rapture thinking” as humanity’s coping with the unknown. “People want the inside line, to foretell the future,” she said. “We’re vulnerable and we die, and religion preys on that vulnerability.”

One person’s Armageddon is someone else’s marketing ploy. June 6’s creepy numerals make it a natural as a release day for satanic-themed products.

The California rock band Slayer _ which describes itself as epitomizing “satanic speed metal music” _ has declared June 6 the “National Day of Slayer.” Ann Coulter’s new book slamming liberals, “Godless,” will be launched on the date.

And a remake of “The Omen,” the 1970s horror classic, will open on 06/06/06. The film tells the story of Damien, a 666-marked child who is the Antichrist. Marketers of “The Omen” have blanketed the nation with black billboards stating: “You have been warned. The signs are all around you.”

Pastor Rick Cole of the Capital Christian Center dismisses that warning. The spiritual leader of the 4,000 people who attend his Sacramento, Calif., church, Cole believes that the Mark of the Beast will be real enough one day _ but June 6, 2006, probably isn’t that day.

“The number 666 does have meaning, but the date on the calendar does not have meaning,” he said. “I don’t fear the date or the movie. I believe that there is good and evil, and a battle in every person’s heart. But for Hollywood, it’s just another huge opportunity to make money.”

The ominous date won’t even make a blip on the Internet’s Rapture Index, which tracks the likelihood of the world ending on a particular day. Todd Strandberg, webmaster of the index, keeps track of floods, famines, droughts, hurricanes, earthquakes and other perceived harbingers of the rapture, including Christ’s second coming.

He assigns a numerical weight to all these things _ even deception and apostasy.

“The index is very helpful,” Strandberg said in a phone interview from his base in Nebraska. “It’s a way to standardize prophecy _ you track trends. But I can’t see that the date 06/06/06 will even be a factor on the index. On the 7th of June, we’ll be laughing at this whole thing.”

There is another issue. The number 666 may have been an ancient typo. Fact: A recently translated 1,500-year-old scroll, written in Greek, indicates that the Mark of the Beast is actually 616.

That would mean that June 1 — 06/01/06 — is the day.

You have been warned.