“You just can’t make this stuff up, folks” would be the title of my magnum opus about bizarre things that I have run across while being involved with veterinary medicine.

The latest piece was titled “Why some evangelical Christians see this pet technology as the work of the Antichrist.” The piece was written by Jordan Frith, an associate professor of technical communication at the University of North Texas, which makes it legit. It wasn’t published April Fools’ Day, either. You can read it here: theconversation.com/what-your-pets-microchip-has-to-do-with-the-mark-of-the-beast-114493.

The technology in question is the simple microchip many of us have our veterinarians implant into our pets in the event they are lost. The size of a grain of rice, the inert chip does nothing until it is hit with a specific radio wave. When a radio wave is directed at the chip, it doesn’t come to “life” either. It simply bounces back the energy in the form of a detectable serial index number. The number is held in a database elsewhere and identifies the pet and owner only so they can be reunited.

Not all radio frequency identification, or RFID, technology works this way, as some is powered. The utility of such electronics in all forms is limitless to industry including retail merchandising, transportation, supply chain tracking and more. Frith says some 10 billion of the devices were deployed around the world in 2018 alone.

Some people have chosen to have RFID technology implanted under their skin, too. Usually, it’s placed in the hand, important for later on. Some are for the convenience of opening a lock or approving a payment, or even identifying who they are. Mostly, they are novelties right now.

The technology promises in the near future to be able to do much more. Imagine being a diabetic and having a chip that monitors your blood sugar constantly and conveys it to your phone? Or how about a cardiac patient who has one that monitors the heart’s electrical activity and automatically downloads arrhythmias to your doctor? Yes, we have external monitors that do that now, but convenience will drive this market.

So how did the simple microchip in our pooches and kitties become a tool of Satan? Well, it seems some religious people believe the indexing provided is linked to the apocalypse detailed the Bible’s book of Revelation. Frith says the reasons given by such believers is perhaps more connected to modern concerns than one might expect.

The passage in question is Revelation 13:16-17 and reads:

“He (the beast) causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.”

For nearly 20 years, some segment of the Christian population has been spooled up into a French-Canadian frenzy over this. At least two well-sold books and a few stump preachers have kept the fires of fear burning hot, too. Fundamentally, the charge is that numbering, indexing, enumerating or whatever else they want to call it is the work of the devil. And it doesn’t help that the body mod crowd puts these chips in their hands, a site where the mark of the beast is said to appear.

Maybe I should worry about this? No, I’m just going to lie down and count sheep until the thought goes away and you beast believers can just keep up the fuss without me.

Charlie Powell is the public information officer for the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, which provides this column as a community service. For questions or concerns about animals you’d like to read about, email cpowell@vetmed.wsu.edu.

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