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Two minutes to midnight: how humanity copes with disaster

Fears of an imminent apocalypse have haunted our imaginations for millennia

Everyone loves a good disaster. As Niall Ferguson writes in this sparkling, provocative and entertaining book, “the end of the world… has been a remarkably recurrent feature of recorded history.” Religions teach us that we are all doomed. For Jews, Christians and Muslims, the end of times will be upon us all—and woe betide us if we are not ready to meet our maker. Other faiths, like Buddhism and Hinduism, offer a little more hope, promising that although we are all doomed, we’ll go back to the beginning and start again. And then there are secular belief systems like Marxism, says Ferguson, that offer their own prophecies and visions of apocalyptic fulfilment. As the wheels of the Russian Revolution began to turn, some automatically likened Lenin to the Antichrist: ideas about the end of the world are ubiquitous.

Expectations of disaster, however, are more based on fears than…

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