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The Doomsday Clock: Now 90 Seconds to Midnight

Rodney Richards | Jul 1, 2023

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Rodney Richards | Jul 1, 2023

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

In January of 2023, the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the hands of the Doomsday Clock the closest to global catastrophe it has ever been.

The Clock now stands at 90 seconds to midnight.

The Doomsday Clock – set every year by the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board in consultation with its Board of Sponsors, which includes 10 Nobel laureates – has become a universally recognized indicator of the world’s vulnerability to global catastrophe caused by manmade technologies.

RELATED: Eliminating Nuclear Weapons – Not Later, but Now

In their statement, the scientists said they made their decision to warn the world largely (though not exclusively) because of the mounting dangers of the war in Ukraine. 

That massive invasion took place in January of 2022, with Russia’s troops and missiles pounding Ukraine. Thousands have died and are dying on both sides. Many of Ukraine’s cities have now been reduced to rubble, and Russia’s leaders continue to threaten to use nuclear weapons.

The Atomic Scientists group, formed in 1945 by Albert Einstein and University of Chicago scientists who developed the first atomic weapon in the Manhattan Project, included this warning in their statement:

Russia’s thinly veiled threats to use nuclear weapons remind the world that escalation of the conflict — by accident, intention, or miscalculation — is a terrible risk. The possibility that the conflict could spin out of anyone’s control remains high.

In this past year also, nuclear-capable North Korea has launched a record number of missiles into the Sea of Japan, demonstrating its destructive defenses and threatening instability. China, also, in recent massive air and sea drills, threatens to “take back” independent Taiwan. 

We, the citizens of the world, hold our breaths and watch. We all know that in the next war between multiple nations, if nuclear weapons are widely used, billions will die. Modern civilization would end.

But wars have root causes. Some result from aggressive leaders who seek political or territorial gains. Some are fought first as revolutions. Deep-rooted tribal, social, historical, or ideological hatreds form the basis of others. When we consider modern wars, though, a deeper cause emerges – the Baha’i teachings state plainly that all these ruinous wars result from prejudice. In a speech he gave in Paris in the early part of the 20th century, Abdu’l-Baha said:

All prejudices, whether of religion, race, politics or nation, must be renounced, for these prejudices have caused the world’s sickness. It is a grave malady which, unless arrested, can cause the destruction of the whole human race. Every ruinous war, with its terrible bloodshed and misery, has been caused by one or other of these prejudices.

So what’s the cure for prejudice? Usually it involves a combination of moral education, training, and example, combined with enlightened policy and a fair, equitable, and just system of governance. Not being taught to harbor prejudice, or living in a society that doesn’t exhibit it will help eliminate it – but many people believe those things are not humanly possible.

Are we doomed to prejudice, and to the wars it creates?

The Baha’i teachings say no.

If everyone and their social, religious, family, and other circles don’t learn prejudice, and if all levels of society teach respect and love of others as our true human purpose, and if we adopt spiritual solutions to racism and bigotry, we can unite. Abdu’l-Baha, in a speech he gave in Pittsburgh in 1912, cited the example of the Baha’i Faith and its teachings bringing about unity among formerly divided peoples:

About sixty years ago the greatest enmity and strife existed among the various peoples and religious denominations of Persia. Throughout the world generally war and dissension prevailed. At this time Baha’u’llah appeared in Persia and began devoting Himself to the uplift and education of the people. He united divergent sects and creeds, removed religious, racial, patriotic and political prejudices and established a strong bond of unity and reconciliation among varying degrees and classes of mankind. The enmity then existing among the people was so bitter and intense that even ordinary association was out of the question. They would not meet and consult with each other at all. Through the power of the teachings of Baha’u’llah the most wonderful results were witnessed. He removed the prejudices and hatred from human hearts …

All of us are products of our environment, experiences and learning, especially moral training and education or the lack of them. Since creation, religion and the messengers of God have showed us, in their own lives and in their teachings, how to live harmoniously.

RELATED: What Can We Do About the Growing Nuclear Threat?

The world knew little of Baha’u’llah and his profound, peaceful teachings when his revelation began in the middle of the 19th century. Most were told he was an agitator, and after torture, authorities restrained him as a political prisoner under house arrest. He was exiled from place to place, imprisoned, and tortured. But those who met him fell deeply in love with his message of unity, justice, and peace.

The Baha’i community, although growing around the world, is still small. It joins with millions of peoples, faiths, and organizations who feel we can change the world into one where peace and prosperity reign. The advances humanity has made in every area are astounding. With unity of will, we can make the ultimate change from aggression and warfare to peace – and set back those hands on the Doomsday Clock.

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