During the summer of 2002, the world came as near to nuclear war as it had since the Cuban Missile Crisis, and I was as happy and content as I’ve ever been. I was working as a backpacking guide/instructor in northern New Mexico. I was among good friends, my job was worthwhile, and drought-induced wildfire was the greatest catastrophe I could imagine. That same summer, on the south-eastern frontier of Abrahamic civilization, Pakistan and India very nearly fulfilled each other’s end-times prophecies. I had graduated from college a few weeks prior, and understood that crises such as this were almost always the result of convergent factors: economic, ethnic, political, and so on. I understood that concept, but none of those factors accounted for a genuine, sincere enthusiasm to extinguish 20% of our species. Before I began to consider the question in full, New Mexico caught fire and Armageddon on the Indian subcontinent became a very abstract idea.
In the 13 years since, I’ve had plenty of time to consider what could spark desire for such a horrifying end-state. Any such “factor” would almost certainly be the product of either a delusion or a poorly considered lie. 21st Century religious faith is the perfect synthesis of both. I do understand that, once initiated, the ultimate consequences of such a violent event would likely be completely untied to the initial cause. However, I’m still more at ease with the idea of President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev taking the world to the brink over an ideology than I am with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Ayatollah Ali Khomeini doing the same over divine prophecy. I will alway prefer a purely political standoff because, as irrational as political ideologies can be, the predicted effect will or will not occur in this world, and in this lifetime.
The Iranian nuclear program has been foreign-policy background chatter for my entire adult life, as has been political hand-wringing about the United States’ “responsibility” to the nation of Israel. I’m accustomed to it. I’m desensitized. I’m able to not worry about Iran and Israel and Belief and The Bomb because I’ve forced myself to accept what’s likely a delusion: That at the second prior to thermonuclear midnight, the leaders of those countries – and my own – will not believe.