More on the Rapture

After writing “Life Goes On“, I had some extra material that had been left on the cutting room floor. Since it was too good to pass up, I just had to write another post. How could I pass up the opportunity to share a belly laugh like this?

Because the tribulation will be hell on earth, there is hope that even the most stubborn of sinners will be forced to admit he or she needs a savior. In the following section, I’ve selected a group of celebrities who are known to be atheists, or who are hostile toward the Christian faith.

This article, from the reliably hilarious Rapture Ready website – which has been faithfully charting the signs of the end for almost twenty years, and has steadfastly refused to draw any conclusions from this – is titled “Future Employees of Rapture Ready” and lists some prominent nonbelievers whom the author fantasizes will become converted evangelical Christians in the days after the Rapture (which, as always, is due to happen any day now). A few examples:

Richard Dawkins – A biologist by trade, he has written several books that promote evolution and debunk the idea that there is a God. I’ve read Mr. Dawkins’ book, “The God Delusion,” and I was surprised to find him mention Rapture Ready. On page 254 of his book, he focused on a comment I made about the site, which is a perfect fit for this article. At the bottom of RR’s main page is an announcement that reads, “If the rapture should take place, resulting in my absence, it will be necessary for tribulation saints to mirror or financially support this site.” I don’t understand why Dawkins found offense in an obligation that he believes will never come his way. Well, Dick, that obligation may soon be upon you, and I think it would be a very fitting end to have the money you earned debunking the idea of a God to someday be used to magnify His glory.

Penn Jillette & Teller – The team of Penn & Teller are most widely known as professional magicians. They also host a program on the premium cable channel Showtime that debunks pseudoscientific ideas, supernatural beliefs, popular fads and misconceptions. There will be plenty of falsehood in the days that follow the rapture, so Penn & Teller’s skills would be very helpful in combating error.

I ought to write the author of this site and ask to be listed on that page. Granted, it would be a great honor to me, as I’d be among most illustrious company! Regardless, I find it greatly amusing that the author finds solace in daydreaming about famous atheists converting to Christianity – the outward sign, perhaps, of a tacit recognition that his arguments are unlikely to convince anyone without supernatural aid.

Another amusing commentary on the Rapture warns believers not to try setting dates, but seems to overlook an obvious implication of its own words:

The Word of God is clear on this subject of Date-setting. To set dates on the return of Christ is to err.

Does that mean Jesus will not return on any date when he is expected to return? Ironically, the perpetual date-setting by Christian believers may be what’s keeping him from coming back!

And lastly, another excerpt from Rapture Ready, this time from their feedback. I’m surprised they chose to post this, without even a response, but it gives important insight into how the ceaseless frenzy of end-times anticipation does real harm to human beings:

I grew up in a rapture believing church. I was a premillenial dispensationalist for many years. I was sincere in this belief and found your site during that time of my life.

To make a rather long story much shorter, it was very spiritually damaging for me. I was so caught up in thinking the world was ending tomorrow or in the next moment that I was in a constant state of fear. The here and now became pointless. Would my unsaved loved ones make it in time? Was this or that particular political figure the next anti-Christ? Which poor deluded souls deceived by Satan would find themselves part of a group that thought they were Christian but were really part of the ‘one world religion of the beast’? It was an awful and extraordinarily stressful way to live.

It’s a tragedy that so many millions still lead lives full of stress and fear brought on by their belief in an imminent end. Contrary to the often-heard claim that religion brings peace and comfort, many variants of religion are intended to inspire terror and paranoia in their followers, the better to secure their unquestioning allegiance against the external world.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • marty

    Does that mean Jesus will not return on any date when he is expected to return? Ironically, the perpetual date-setting by Christian believers may be what’s keeping him from coming back!

    Oh no, it’s worse. Because they expect the rapture “any day now!” (and have for 2000 years), this unspecific expectation is what is preventing it! The way for the second coming would be for them all to stop expecting the rapture!

    Jesus. He’s like the Spanish Inquisition!

  • yoyo

    I too have laughed at the antics and delusions of the RR crowd however it is the last comment you quoted that makes me stop. The damage this attitude has on people who are fully enculturated to this mindset and have no space to question it makes me very sad. If they are good humane people they either live their life in fear or are shunned by their family and peers. If they are total asshats, they glory in the idea that most people will burn rather than join their supernatural country club.

    Politically I do wonder what it is like to live in a country where Rapture is a foundational belief of a significant % of the voting population. In the very secular environment of Aus it is seen as a weird quirk.

  • Rick

    Whenever I make appointments for future dates and they ask if that date is ok, I reply (I am 74 years old)that I guess it is and that I am so old I don’t buy green bananas. I wonder, since I am an “arrogant atheist”, what they would reply if I said “I don’t plan ahead because I never know when the Rapture is going to happen”.

  • Alex Weaver

    Suggestion:

    Add an HTML anchor to this post, immediately above the last quote. It’s a perfect quick response to the “why do you care if people believe” trolls.

  • Eric

    I used to tell a quite intellectual fundy friend of mine that if rapture happened I would cease being an atheist. All those “end times” dramatizations that depict experts attempting to give a naturalistic explaination of events ring false. Almost everyone would recognize that the rapture would be the intentional action of a being of immense power. Spock recognized that the “cloud organism” was an intelligent lifeform even while McCoy was still committed to the idea that it was some kind of regional toxic gas.

    While I would no longer be an atheist, I can’t say I’d become a tribulation saint convert. Any god who set things up like this is an untrustworthy asshole. I would explore alternatives. The Serpent of Eden seems a friend of humanity, and never lied to us. The Serpent said the was good for food, would open Eve’s eyes, and would allow her to be like god and know good from evil. The fruit did exactly what The Serpent said it would. God had lied about the fruit. The serpent is as least trustworthy; God is not. I should not believe the bible when it says god will ultimately win. The Serpent, the Adversary, may have a few tricks up his sleeve. Post-rapture, I would try to serve the serpent first.

  • Scotlyn

    The book “The Omens” by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman is the best fictional anti-dote to Rapture belief I’ve ever read. The jokes are both insightful and uniquely hilarious to anyone who has come from an evangelical background and stepped away from it. I’d recommend it heartily, especially to anyone still infected.

  • GodlessInND

    “Tribulation saints?” I’ve never heard that phrase before. It’s laughable that the RR author thinks any of us will continue his/her work in the event of rapture. What an ego!

  • http://anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommykey

    It’s a tragedy that so many millions still lead lives full of stress and fear brought on by their belief in an imminent end.

    I remember I believed stuff like that when I was a Catholic teenager. I really believed that there would be an anti-Christ and an end times. But by the time I was 19 I realized it was all a load of nonsense.

  • Christine

    Scotlyn: It’s “Good Omens”, actually, and I second the recommendation. It’s bloody brilliant.

  • nfpendleton

    After a year of frequently brushing up against RR via FSTDT.com, it became obvious that what drives many of their vistors/commentors is grief over lost children. They want to know if their children are in a better place and if they’ll see them again – and grief drives many of them down this irrational belief in Jesus’ Fantasyland where there is no sickness or grief. RR exploits this, just like any physical church does.

    I went from finding it funny to finding it disturbing and unpalatable. They need counselors, not snake oil salesmen.

  • Nurse Ingrid

    Eric,

    I like the cut of your jib.

    I have always particularly hated the Garden of Eden story, mostly because it seemed to me that Adam and Eve had the perfect insanity defense. How is it fair to punish them for something they did before they had “knowledge of good and evil”?

    You raise an excellent point. God did lie about the fruit, and the serpent told the exact truth. That never struck me before.

    Stupid, stupid myth.

  • Leum

    It’s only a stupid myth if you interpret it through the Original Sin lens. It makes a fine puberty/coming of age myth.

  • http://thegreenbelt.blogspot.com The Ridger

    “Good Omens” is indeed brilliant. And I wasn’t ever evangelical.

  • Jim H

    Regarding “date setting”: To set dates on the return of Christ is to err.

    This is nothing but the paradox of the Unexpected Hanging.

    Leum, that’s a great insight into the serpent/knowledge myth. Thanks.

  • velkyn

    Indeed, my calculations say that Jesus will come back in about 7 million years since so many Christians claim that a day is like a thousand years for God. If Jesus is coming back within a “generation” that’s about what it works out to. Poor theists who die wondering why Jesus didn’t think that they were as special as they thought they were and didnt’ come back on command.

    I agree with Eric, I wouldn’t belief from fear. Sorry, Christians, but your God is a sadistic moron.

    Oh, and rick? If you said something like this “I wonder, since I am an “arrogant atheist”, what they would reply if I said “I don’t plan ahead because I never know when the Rapture is going to happen”. I’d just laugh at you and your pitiful ignorance.

  • http://uncyclopedia.org/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Ah, but Velkyn, a thousand years is also like a day. This means that He came back sometime before He left, which lead to an unfortunate conflict over His parking space (it’s covered in the Parable of the Purloined Parking Space. In Luke, I believe. Spoiler Alert: Each cursed the other’s Hyundai Excel, causing them to burn oil and have questionable build quality).

  • Scotlyn

    Thanks for the correction, Christine, you’re right! “Good Omens” – just reread it last month – can’t imagine how I got it wrong! I also found interesting commentary on religion and its peculiarities in Pratchett’s “Small Gods” and the wonderful conversation between Mightily Oats and Granny Weatherwax, on their journey to Uberwald, in “Carpe Jugulum”. I have decided Terry Pratchett is my all-time favourite religious writer…(ie the subject, not the author).

  • Andrew

    My advice: dont go to Rapture Ready to learn about eschetology. As a matter of fact avoid Rapture Ready for anything except maybe a good laugh.

    And speaking of laughs: I didnt like Good Omens. I LOVE Pratchett’s Discworld novels, and most of Gaimen’s books have been pretty good, but Good Omens was just…not funny. Oh and the ending sucked. hard.

  • Leum

    I’m also not a Good Omens fan. I think Pterry’s religious writing is at it’s most superb in Carpe Jugulum, although Small Gods is almost as good (and more religion focused, so there’s more of it).

  • Andrew

    I was actually talking about its literary content. A lot of Pratchett’s religious commentary misses the mark, but can still be good for a laugh.

    However Good Omens lacked in the all important laughter department, imo anyway.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    For Pratchett fans, I highly recommend one of his latest books, Nation. It’s not a Discworld novel, but it treats religion even more frankly than Small Gods, and expresses his humanist views even more strongly.

    Eric:

    While I would no longer be an atheist, I can’t say I’d become a tribulation saint convert. Any god who set things up like this is an untrustworthy asshole. I would explore alternatives.

    The most morally wrenching aspect of the rapture scenario, I’ve thought, is that it puts you in a situation where there are no good guys. True enough, the god of the LaHaye-Jenkins scenario is a sadistic evil tyrant, deliberately tormenting humankind with plagues and massacres; but at least if we go by the Christian conception, the Antichrist is no better, demanding that people worship him and torturing and murdering those who won’t. The two are basically mirror images of each other. I have no idea what I would do in a horrible dilemma like that, and I find considerable solace in my knowledge that it’s a choice I’ll never have to make.

  • Leum

    I do. In the face of Hell, I will always side with the entity that will get me out of it. Likewise, I would commit any action necessary to avoid Hell, no matter how morally repugnant. Which is why I reject the idea that Hell scares people into doing good. It scares them into obeying church or priest, regardless of good and evil.

  • Eric

    Ah, but Ebonmuse, how do we know there will be no good guys during the Tribulation. All this could be God’s prophetic propaganda. Maybe the Antichrist isn’t so bad. I’ll check him out first.

  • http://prostituee.wordpress.com/ Meretrix

    I haven’t hear of RR, but as a former fundamental Christian, his ideas sound very familiar. Since I used to believe in a rapture scenario very like the LaHaye/Jenkins version, and not so long ago at that, I have (since I quit god) thought that if the rapture did happen, I’d reconvert immediately.
    Being rather a recent atheist convert, the idea that it might happen still kinda scares me. But at least I think I have now realised that reconverting wouldn’t be the course of action most in line with my beliefs about morality, I guess, what with the christian god being a sadistic bastard.

  • http://www.mindonfire.com xJane

    This is going to sound like an annoying plug for my own website, so feel free to ignore the link which follows, but this quote jumped out at me:

    [Living in religion is] an awful and extraordinarily stressful way to live.

    I have only recently realized that, 13 years after admitting to myself that I was not religious, 10 years after admitting to my family that I was not religious, 6 years after living my life for me instead of for my family’s expectations and for some religion (and all that that implies), I’m happy. And this came as such a shock to me because it meant that before now, I was not only unhappy for my entire life, but I had no idea that I was unhappy. This above all I want to share with the world: that each of us should live for ourselves and create lives of contentment.

  • Rob

    For the real skinny on the long-covered-up history of the 179-year-old, fringe-British-invented, American-merchandised-as-long-as-there-are-suckers pretribulation rapture fantasy, visit the “Powered by Christ Ministries” site and read “Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty.” Yes, Virginia, pretrib rapture traffickers really ARE criminals – and everyone should be warned! Rob