From the internet: "is what evangelicals believe based on anything more substantive than unscholarly, recent reworking of traditional mythology into literal revelation? Why is this not addressed?"
One reason it is not addressed is that it is not so simple. The writings of St. John (The Divine) of Patmos, which form the basis of the eschatology of most Christian churches, date to ca. 70 CE. John, who I - non Christian though I am - consider to be the historical Anti Christ, wrote what is known as the "Book of Revelation" or "The Apocalypse". It is hard to consider beliefs based on this book as an "unscholarly, recent reworking of traditional mythology into literal revelation" when it has always been seen as "revelation" and is still not seen as "literal".
In fact the "novelty" of current interpretation of the overtly allegorical "Apocalypse" is itself at least three centuries old, dating to certain extremist sects of European Protestantism in the late 1600's and early 1700's, and drawing on themes tracing to Calvin in the 1500's.
For most of that period, the extremism of these interpretations was acknowledged and directly opposed by mainstream protestant theologians, dating at least to the early 1700's.
The task of orthodox Christian theologians was made more difficult - as is our own - by the fact that these eschatological extremists were split into two opposing camps - the Arminianist (Darbyist, Plymouth Brethren) "pre-millenial dispensation" camp, which held that the "Great Sucking Up" would come before the millenial apocalypse and the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth (KOHOE). This group believed that all sins had been atoned for by Christ's sacrificial crucifixion, and the only requirement for salvation was the acknowlegement of the Christ as Savior.
This group was in opposition to the "Calvinist" "post millennial dispensation" group who held that the apocalypse,and return of the Christ as King could only occur after Christians had, through whatever means required, helped God along by establishing the earthly preconditions for the Return. These include the reestablishment of Israel in its traditional territory, the conversion of the Jews (ring any bells?) and the establishment of
Sharia, umm, I guess that should be Old Testament Law, e.g. the 10 Commandments, as the basis of civil law on earth. (Silly things like Bush's "piece of paper", our Constitution, being suborned in the process.)
An interesting feature of this Dominionist (The Dominion of Christ on Earth, in the KOHOE) theology and political program is that any act, including any deception, dissimulation, lie, or slander, which contributes to the establishment of the Dominion is justified before God, and therefore "moral". We can easily both imagine, and find examples of this principal at work in our recent political discourse. In churches the world over it is reflected in the "steeplejacking" of congregations, where churches are subverted by ministers presenting themselves as orthodox, but who are secretly agents of Dominionist theology.
Please also see Mahanoy's June 21, 2006 DKos posting "Deconstructing the Dominionists"
These features of the pre-millenial and post-millenial varieties of the dispensational eschatology were being criticized by mainstream Christian theology even in the 1700's and earlier. The excesses and amorality of those involved in these extremist cults were defined and described in tract and sermon against them then and later.
Yet, the sects kept springing up, the bad seed alway with us, as new denominations. This was especially the case in England and the US, and less so in Europe. We should keep that in mind when contemporary heirs to the dispensationalist and Dominionist tradition who are running for President find it convenient to criticize Europe's religious traditions and practices.
After the Civil War the influence of extremist dispensational eschatology in the US was greatly enlarged by the Schofield Bible - an immensely influential commentary on the KJV of the bible which many adherents confuse with the bible itself. Schofield's personal history is mysterious and more than a bit disreputable. The source of the resources he relied upon during the years he lived in Switzerland, Land of Calvin, and in England, while writing his commentary are both unknown, and suspect. (His itinerary - St Louis, London, Switzerland - mysteriously parallels that of Aaron Burr, the Hamilton killing grandson of the famous American revivalist of the same name, decades earlier.)
In recent decades the problem of dealing with these formerly opposing extremist theologies as been compounded by an effective truce between the two of them, in which, somewhat as in "we are all dispensationalist together, pre or post millenial regardless", they have joined forces politically. As a result the politically driven program of the Dominionists has been augmented by non Dominionist, but socially conservative pre-millenial believers' votes.
The conflation of the two traditions also makes it harder to sort out exactly who is who and what is what when dealing with a particular preacher, congregation, or believer. (I once told a post millenialist that they were harder to keep sorted out than the varieties of famously schismatic Shia Islam - he figuratively "hung up" on me.)
My point is that it is both important, and difficult, to understand and deal with the tradition these folks represent, the ideas which motivate them, and the threat they represent to orthodox Christian belief, the Constitution, and our liberties and potentially our lives - (see "LEFT BEHIND: Eternal Forces; A "Christian" computer game - "Killing for the Kingdom" - for more on that. Think Eric Prince and Blackwater.)
suborned >> subverted - para. 4.