Apocalyptic fun

Josh Levin, senior editor of Slate, wrote an epic series this week on the theme "The End of America." The series begins here, and rolls on in eight segments and about 23,000 words. That's not counting Slate's embedded notes and thousands more words in The Fray. Slate also offered discussions on Facebook and Twitter, so the most obsessive readers easily could have devoted an entire week to debating Levin's reporting.

Levin discussed the many doomsday scenarios in which the United States would be greatly diminished or cease to exist entirely. The savviest Web feature was "Choose Your Own Apocalypse," which allowed readers to pick their top five threats to U.S. survival.

I highlighted the factors that are connected in any way to religion, including:

• Social critiques attractive to some believers: decadence; Obama as God; neo-humans; cloning; red vs. blue; the Rapture.

• Arguments or strawmen presented against believers or their concerns: the influence of intelligent design; passivity induced by Christianity; gay marriage leading to a separatist, "heterosexual-only state"; voluntary human extinction; tribalism; theocracy.

• A few leftovers: Dec. 21, 2012, doomsday scenarios; militant Islam; Israel-Arab war.

I'm pleased to see that the random array of readers who voted in Slate's feature chose only one of these factors -- the Israel-Arab War -- among the top five threats. It appears these readers are not worried about the civilization-threatening potential of intelligent design, Christianity, red vs. blue tensions or theocracy.

Levin writes on an especially engaging theme when he explores the idea that Mormons would preserve American ideals even in a world without the United States.

Read the entire piece, because it's so sprightly and well-argued, but this paragraph is a good sample:

Seen as honest and incorruptible, Mormons are recruited in great numbers by the FBI. Dubbed by Harold Bloom "perhaps the most work-addicted culture in religious history," they have proved spectacularly successful in both secular and Church business. (1999's Mormon America: The Power and the Promise pegged the church's assets at $25 billion to $30 billion.) They venerate the traditional family unit, rarely divorce, and live as much as a decade longer than the average American. They are just like us, only they're always on their best behavior.

Levin writes far more about sports than about religion. That is sportswriting's gain and the Godbeat's loss.

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