Monday, May 23, 2011

You can lead a rapture believer to reason, but you can't make him accept it

Harold Camping, debunked crackpot rapture obsessive, is "flabbergasted" that he and his followers weren't lifted into paradise yesterday.
"I'm looking for answers," Camping said, adding that meant frequent prayer and consultations with friends.
"But now I have nothing else to say," he said, closing the door to his home. "I'll be back to work Monday and will say more then."
Camping's followers will surely be listening.
"I'm not as disappointed as everyone since I didn't fully believe him," said one, who asked to remain anonymous Sunday because he worried he would be shunned for admitting he was "upset" with Camping.
The middle-aged Oakland resident said he'd been listening to Camping since 1993, when he said the world would end in 1994.
That was strike one, the man said. And this is strike two. Even so, he said, that doesn't mean the message is wrong.
"I just know he's biblically sound," the man said. "I've never been one of these guys who think everything he says is true.
"I don't think I am going to stop listening to him," the man added, heaving a deep sigh before continuing: "I don't know, I gotta listen to him on Monday, see what he says on the radio."
What the hell is wrong with these people?  They guy clearly said Saturday would bring about the rapture and the beginning of the end of all things.  Nothing of the sort happened.  But this guy wants to hear what Harold Camping has to say this week, which I would assume will start with a very loud, "OOPS!"  What could Camping possibly say of value after he staked his entire reputation (not that he really had one to begin with) on a prophecy that has manifestly not come to pass?

There's just no convincing some people.  Their prophet of doom is embarrassed and yet they still want to hear what he has to say.  But the article gets better!
"I would encourage them not to lose their faith because they listened to a wolf in sheep's clothing, and Jesus said there would be wolves in sheep's clothing," said Jackie Alnor.

Alnor, a resident of Hayward who blogs about the rapture, said Camping had twisted the word of God by trying to predict the end. Only God knows when the world will end, she said.

"He's in big trouble with God," she said.

If that isn't bad enough, she said, Camping's false prophecy could have bigger impacts on religion.

"It's given people who hate Christianity an excuse to hate it even more," she said. "People can just paint with broad brush strokes."
I love the "I'm a true Christian, but you aren't" trope.  For a religion supposedly founded upon the teachings of a guy who warned in no uncertain terms about judging lest you be judged, a great many Christians sure do like them some judging.  And yes, those of us who aren't Christians will use the nutbags to show the fundamental absurdity of the religion.  When you base a religion on fantastical claims of the universe being created in seven days, talking snakes, people living inside whales, a messianic figure born of a virgin, executed, resurrected, and magically lifted into heaven, and a book that features a whole lot of killing and soothsayng, I'm pretty sure there's no real basis to say that Harold Camping is altogether that much more out there than the entire institution.

And what irritates me the most is the self-sustaining nature of the religion.  People criticize Christianity, and Christians refer to certain passages in the Bible that foretell of people criticizing their faith in order to say, "Look!  We're right!  It says so right there!"  Of course, the same argument protects the faith of Harold Camping as much as any other Christian, and then there's my problem: Why should I care what a bunch of illiterate inhabitants of the ancient Middle East, utterly ignorant of any of the discoveries of modern science, had to say about anything whatsoever?  Nothing they say could possibly have any application in the modern world unless the book is divinely inspired, meaning you have to presuppose the existence of God in order to accept the book.  Hence why those of us who see no evidence supporting the existence of any God at all don't accept the Bible or any other holy book as proof of anything useful.

If this whole phony rapture obsession teaches us anything, it should be to demonstrate, once again, the deep desire of the religious to see all things come to an end.  To quote Christopher Hitchens:
One of the very many connections between religious belief and the sinister, spoiled, selfish childhood of our species is the repressed desire to see everything smashed up and ruined and brought to naught.  This tantrum-need is coupled with two other sorts of "guilty joy," or, as the Germans say, schadenfreude.  First, one's own death is canceled - or perhaps repaid or compensated - by the obliteration of all others.  Second, it can always be egotistically hoped that one will be personally spared, gathered contentedly to the bosom of the mass exterminator, and from a safe place observe the sufferings of those less fortunate.  Tertullian, one of the many church fathers who found it difficult to give a persuasive account of paradise, was perhaps clever in going for the lowest possible common denominator and promising that one of the most intense pleasures of the afterlife would be endless contemplation of the tortures of the damned.  He spoke more truly than he knew in evoking the man-made character of faith.
Consider that the next time you hear someone telling you about the rapture and tribulation.  Keep it in mind when those who criticized Camping because he claimed to know the hour and the day tell you that, although they don't know when it will occur, someday God will summon the faithful to Heaven and leave the rest to suffer and die horribly for months and years until the coming Apocalypse.  Remember that people who believe such things (and not all Christians do) ultimately want you to die.

I, for one, will not have people who believe such things dictate to me that I am immoral because I do not believe in their God.

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