Disappointment, despair and Harold Camping

Thinking about the despair, fear and trauma of Harold Camping’s devotees leading up to and through and after his supposed Day of Judgment this weekend, I keep thinking back to a man I once knew. He was an old fundamentalist preacher and retired military chaplain with whom I spent several holidays years ago when I was briefly married to his granddaughter.

The old preacher bore more than a little resemblance to the farmer in Grant Wood’s “American Gothic.” That was a good word for his personality, too. Gothic. If Pat Conroy, Flannery O’Connor, Barbara Kingsolver and Stephen King got together to write their ultimate stern father/religious zealot/ominously dour character, they might have come up with something like the chaplain. He was a sullen and depressive, but volatile man who cast a long, dark shadow over the lives of his two daughters, never forgiving them for not being sons. He drove one into a lifetime of therapy and the other into a lifetime of denial.

He was not a man who invited fondness, but he was family, after all, and so we loved him. If that love tended to be more an expression of duty than of affection, it was also warmed by occasional bursts of pity. It was hard not to feel pity whenever he had one of his bouts of maudlin emotion and uncontrollable weeping. He was a lifelong teetotaler, but when these sudden moods struck him he became a sober version of a mawkish drunk, sobbing and proclaiming his deep love for strangers in the bar. The strangers in this case were his own daughters, grandchildren and family who would exchange nervous looks and do their best to comfort him as, one by one, we would each make and repeat the promise he would beg us to make him.

“Don’t worry,” we would say, “you won’t be cremated. I promise. No, no, it’s OK. We won’t let that happen to you.”

The old preacher, you see, was a “Bible prophecy” enthusiast. He was a devotee of John Hagee, and of TV host Jack Van Impe and of anyone connected with Dallas Theological Seminary and its premillennial dispensationalist obsession with the End Times as interpreted through their crazy-quilt re-editing of Revelation and Daniel. He eagerly devoured all of their books and many other, even stranger works — self-published volumes of cryptic numerology, cramped and fevered tomes identifying the Antichrist as Kruschev or Kissinger or Ted Kennedy.

And somewhere, in one of those fringe-of-the-fringe books, he had encountered and adopted the idea that cremation rendered a body immune to resurrection. When the last trump shall sound and the dead in Christ are raised, when the sea gives up its dead and every grave is opened, he believed, those who have been cremated would remain only ashes.

The idea fit somehow with his stubborn illiteralist approach to the Bible. Those verses that spoke of the graves being opened or of “those that are asleep” being raised from their graves said nothing about those who had no graves but whose ashes had been, instead, scattered to the winds. And the idea was fortified by whatever author or radio preacher promoted it with a diatribe against cremation as a supposedly unholy, “pagan” practice — as though it were some sort of evil anti-sacrament that trumped every means of grace. I think he may have identified cremation, somehow, as the supposed “unforgivable sin,”  a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

And it terrified him. Constantly. He expected the Rapture to occur any day, any moment, but he also knew that he was an old man and that, if the End tarried another year or five or ten, he might well die before Jesus came like a thief in the night. Once he was dead, he would be powerless to prevent the living from having his body cremated and if that happened he would be eternally separated from God. This is what he believed and what he lived in fear of every day.

Witnessing that terror and hopeless fear, seeing the suffering that it brought, I stopped thinking of his “Bible prophecy” obsession as a kooky, but mostly harmless set of beliefs. I began to realize that it was a framework that burdened its followers with the inevitability of disappointment, false hope, denial and an inconsolable fear. Its adherents were its victims. There were other victims, too, but its main damage was wrought in the lives of those who most believed it.

Again, this business about cremation isn’t taught by the “mainstream” Bible prophecy salesmen. This is not something that Tim LaHaye or Hagee or Hal Lindsay believes. But their teachings offer a host of other, similar ideas just as baseless and just as cruelly oppressive.

Talk to anyone who grew up in a Rapture-believing church or family and they will tell you stories about panic-inducing moments when they found themselves suddenly alone and feared that everyone else had been raptured while they had been rejected by God. This guy thinks that’s funny, but it’s actually traumatic. That’s why no one forgets the horror of such moments. Laughing at one’s own trauma can be transformational and healthy. Laughing at someone else’s trauma is just cruel.

That fear and trauma, we were sometimes told, was a good thing. It was a holy terror — a reminder to make certain that we prayed the right prayers and felt the right feelings to ensure that we would not be among those left behind. This is what they thought the scriptures meant when they spoke of “the fear of the Lord” — the powerless terror of the child of an abusive parent.

And that terror is what Harold Camping and his followers are feeling now. And it is what they will be feeling again Saturday evening, after that terror and despair first abates, then metastasizes in the realization that the world has not ended and that they are not the righteous remnant they staked their identities on being.

Fortunately, Camping is not as widely influential as LaHaye, so we’re talking about only thousands of followers, not millions. But that’s thousands of people, thousands of families experiencing one kind of trauma now and due for another, existential, shaken-to-the-core trauma come Saturday. That some of this trauma is self-inflicted or that, like most victims of con-artists, they are partially complicit in their own undoing doesn’t change the fact that we’re still talking about thousands of people in pain, fear and despair.

It may take a while to help them pick up all the pieces after the great earthquake that never happens, and I’m not even sure how to help them. But I want to try — partly out of pity, partly out of duty, but ultimately out of love because, after all, they’re family.

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  • Mackrimin

    While there would still be people predicting the end of the world
    through one scenario or the other, it would lack the Eternal Damnation
    reverb that Camping and the rest impart to their End Time Scenario.

    Wrong.

  • Mackrimin

    While there would still be people predicting the end of the world
    through one scenario or the other, it would lack the Eternal Damnation
    reverb that Camping and the rest impart to their End Time Scenario.

    Wrong. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Have_No_Mouth,_and_I_Must_Scream

    And damn Disqus too.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sue-White/1605859612 Sue White

    Guess what?  The billboard was no longer there yesterday.

    It’s already started – the billboards have been raptured! 

  • Jay Lake

    Fred, you are a lot more patient and understanding with wilful ignorance than I can find it in my heart to be. I admire you for this.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ACWAPPPYNHKPBFDOC2LRKJJ5G4 Jason C

    I’ll cop to being one of the smirkers for the last few months.  Then I saw one of their heavily-decorated vans parked in a local Wal-Mart lot and I just HAD to get a look at the freaks. 

    When I parked and approached the van, I noticed that one of the side panels was open and someone was helping life a small, palsied boy in a wheelchair into it. 

    Then I thought about the lies they must have told that boy.  About the crushing disappointment he’s going to feel tomorrow.  About the total betrayal of trust he’s going to feel when none of their sweet words about “salvation” come to pass and Camping’s group ends up a bigger laughingstock than they were before.

    I don’t laugh at them anymore.

  • http://www.blogger.com/home?pli=1 Coleslaw
     No weapon forged, remember?

      

    Yeah, I remember, but the “no weapon forged thing” was a technically true. I’m not seeing how other human(s) can, in the view of a Biblical literalist, fail to be part of creation. I also think it would be difficult for a Biblical literalist is say that fire isn’t part of creation. I’m not seeing the angle here.

    The “angle” is verb tenses. At some point before he was crucified, Jesus said, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”  “No one knows“, not “No one will know before it happens”. Now it could be a matter of translation, but the translation “no one knows”, present tense, is consistent across translation. So reading it literally allows quite a bit of wiggle room. The statement is true even if five minutes after Jesus said it, the father, the son and all the angels said, “Hey, look, there is a spot on our calendars when we’re all free at the same time after all”. It only had to be true at the time he said it.

  • Lori

    Ah, I see. We’re discussing different things. I wasn’t talking about Camping believing that he knows when the end will come. I was talking about Fred’s ex-grandfather-in-law thinking that being cremated against his wishes could keep him from going to heaven. 

    As far as I can tell that belief violates Romans 8:39 because it would mean that another person (part of creation) could separate one from God. 

  • http://www.blogger.com/home?pli=1 Coleslaw

    Oops. I wasn’t following the conversation closely enough. Sorry. And I don’t have an answer for that one.

  • http://timothy.green.name/ Timothy (TRiG)

    Disqus is annoying me.

  • http://www.blogger.com/home?pli=1 Coleslaw

    If you go to your disquis dashboard, you can delete posts from there. Click on the link below the comments box where it says, “blog comments powered by DISQUIS”.  Click on the link that says, “only you” toward the upper right. When you find the comment you want to delete, click on the “X” below  it to delete it.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Forgive me if someone else already posted this in another thread, but “How God is Managing the 2011 Rapture“.

    As for the reality shows, I am unsurprised.  Any time there is some popular media or genre which tempts people to watch, listen, or read, someone in a cultural authority will see it as a threat to cultural dominance and make a substitute.  In the case of religious authorities, they will try to give that substitute a religious spin, no matter how shoe-horned in the religious message would be.  Heck, even the Left Behind series is arguably a religious substitute for other “airport fiction” like Dan Brown and Tom Clancy.  TvTropes has a good page on it.

    I am uncertain if it is possible to make potash from creamating human remains, but if it were, I would certainly like my husk to be disposed of in that manner.  What better way to celebrate my death than by using it as a catalyst for sustaining the growth of life? 

  • David H-T

     http://www.body-mindandspirit.com/2011/05/rapture-wizard-of-oz-and-our-eternal.html  Here’s my take on all this stuff:  “The Rapture, the Wizard of Oz, and Our Eternal Home.”  Enjoy!

  • hf

    Hapax, if you see this and you don’t mind clarifying one point related
    to my last comment: you use a personalized form of the linked post’s Alternative Two in
    deciding you shouldn’t reject theism, yes?

  • hapax

    hf, I’m not sure I’m following the logic of the linked post (it’s Friday after a lo-o-ong week, and I am already Experimenting With Cocktails), but I *think* I’d endorse more of a combinaton of  Two and Three.

    That is, if I’m understanding the argument correctly, there is a “Platonic algorithm” (although I’d call it the Logos or Divine Plan) that would determine the “innards” of me, the putative atheist, and every other variety of world-view; and the Omega that was doling out payoffs based on its scan of our innards and the extant to which they conform / deviate from the appropriate algorithmic output for that individual.

    Does that make sense?

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Leave aside issues of whether or not Camping should want to spend money to get the word out: If you know that you have no future financial needs, nor will you be in a position to take care of others’ needs from Sunday onwards, what possible excuse do you have for not selling all you have and giving the proceeds to the poor?

    I mean, I haven’t done it because I’m not sufficienty trusting in God to provide for my and my family’s future needs except through my own stewardship. But I have enough food in the cupboards to last a few days, and the electricity is connected for the rest of the month regardless of what I do, and the car is full of patrol. If I knew that there was nothing for me beyond this week, giving away all my savings and possessions would be a pice of cake. Unless I was an arsehole…

    ——————————

    I’m still confused about when exactly this is happening. Rolling raptures at 6pm local time–in which case I have 326 minutes to go–or is the big show at 6pm in one particular location, probably in the US, being the centre of the universe. That would work better for me, cos it would come tomorrow morning when I’m at mass or hanging out with my friends. Also, I’m near the end of The Half Blood Prince and I’d like to finish it tonight.

    ——————————

    I heard a radio show a while ago where a guy was talking about a burial method he uses for pets, and is trying to get gov’t approval for humans. The body is submerged in liquid nitrogen, frozen right through, then broken into dust with sound waves. Less polluting than cremation, and you end up with something equivalent to ashes to scatter. I’d like that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

      

    I’m still confused about when exactly this is happening. Rolling raptures at 6pm local time–in which case I have 326 minutes to go–or is the big show at 6pm in one particular location, probably in the US, being the centre of the universe. That would work better for me, cos it would come tomorrow morning when I’m at mass or hanging out with my friends. Also, I’m near the end of The Half Blood Prince and I’d like to finish it tonight.

    Supposedly, the earthquake will be at 6pm local time. That gives about an hour and a half until it would start in the middle of the Pacific ocean.

    We don’t even have to wait for tomorrow. I am trying to suppress my schadenfreude regarding the distress the believers will no doubt be feeling as the ‘curtain’ of 6pm sweeps over the globe and no earthquakes or unexplained disappearances occur anywhere.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

     

    Supposedly, the earthquake will be at 6pm local time. That gives about an hour and a half until it would start in the middle of the Pacific ocean.

    That’s fascinating from a geological point of view. So the techtonic plates stop moving at exactly the point where one time zone is separated from another? Or they stop moving however far back from the boundary it takes for the shock waves to reach the boundary, but no more. Wow.

    6pm local time really sucks, because I have a whole lot of housework to do this afternoon. I’d really hate for the most monumental event in history to find me cleaning the toilet :(

  • Lori

     

    Leave aside issues of whether or not Camping should want to spend money
    to get the word out: If you know that you have no future financial
    needs, nor will you be in a position to take care of others’ needs from
    Sunday onwards, what possible excuse do you have for not selling all you
    have and giving the proceeds to the poor?

    Well, if Camping is correct then anyone who is still poor on Sunday is, by virtue of still being on earth, eternally damned and therefore persumably unworthy of help.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

     

    Well, if Camping is correct then anyone who is still poor on Sunday is, by virtue of still being on earth, eternally damned and therefore persumably unworthy of help.

    ‘Cept that Jesus didn’t tell the rich guy to sell everything he had and give the proceeds to the derserving poor…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

    Well if you read between the lines you’ll realize that that’s what it actually means, otherwise Jesus would be a socialist and that’s unpossible!

  • Lori

     

    ‘Cept that Jesus didn’t tell the rich guy to sell everything he had and give the proceeds to the deserving poor… 

    While this is certianly true, I suspect Camping doesn’t see it that was. I don;t know exactly what Camping believes, I’ve heard more than one person say that the story of the rich young ruler was (all and only) about the rich young ruler. That the point wasn’t helping the poor, it was for him to show is devotion to Jesus by giving up what mattered most to him.  (IOW, what Andrew said.)

    Anyone being Raptured would by definition have to have already have done a suffieciently good job proving their devotion to Christ, so sacrificial charity would no longer be required or have nay point.

    One could also say that the poor who would have been helped by the rich young ruler’s money still had an opportunity to repent and become deserving. According to Camping there’s no opportunity for repentance and salvation once the Rapture has taken place. Anyone not Raptured will simply suffer here on earth until the world ends and then they’ll suffer for all eternity. The period from the Rapture until the End (which he said we would be in now) is just a sort of torture amuse-bouche before the full torture feast that is hell.

  • Tonio

    About all those billboards that Family Radio rented…if I owned the billboard companies, I would have asked the group to pay the full cost of the rental period upfront, just to see their reaction. 

  • Shadsie

    I thought of the perfect geeky thing for me to do tommorow:

    The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask.

    I have a save file with the Fierce Diety mask and everything, so instead of just waiting for the End, I can kick it’s butt!  

  • hf

    hapax: yes, I think, but I meant to ask how you interpret the question of what would happen if you did X, rather than the question of what should happen.

  • hf

    This seems like a better link for learning about Newcomb’s Problem itself, by the way. But it may not help for my question.

  • http://www.kmellis.com Keith M Ellis

    I think the assumption that the believers will be distressed, traumatized, even “shaken-to-the-core” is, well, uninformed.  There’s a lot of literature on this sort of thing and pretty much the one thing that never happens is that the believers are traumatized and forced to reevaluate everything they’ve believed and all that implies.  Generally, they rationalize the disconfirmation away somehow.

    And I don’t really understand why anyone would find this surprising.  Most people have very strong beliefs that are disconfirmed by experience/evidence at numerous times in their lives and their (our) own experience of it is of a minor adjustment.  Others around them see it as a frustrating selective blindness.  And we all recognize this is how people are and how they behave.

    Camping and his followers will be no different.  Expect no tormented soul-searching tomorrow–if you do, you’ll almost certainly be disappointed.  (Though, to be sure, the non-believing friends and family will find themselves at a loss as to how to deal with this.)

  • Anonymous

    Except that we know there are indeed people who are occasionally traumatized simply by finding themselves alone in a room.  Imagine a gay follower of Camping who’s been feverishly trying to “pray the gay away” for the last week.  Imagine where this person will be at 6:01 P.M. local time.

  • Anonymous

    I think there will be a variety of different reactions to this, but you have a point that many people will not have a crisis of faith because of it.  Ironically, the people who have become the most invested in this will be the least likely ones to stop believing.   The people who gave up their life savings, dropped out of college, or quit their jobs will desperately want to believe that Camping wasn’t wrong, so they’ll latch on to any excuse, no matter how weak it may be.

  • Matri

     

    …so they’ll latch on to any excuse, no matter how weak it may be.

    I suspect this excuse will also include blaming all non-RTCs. Which becomes hilarious when you realize they are implying that their omnipotent god can be rendered powerless because of a non-zero amount of unbelievers.

  • hagsrus

    Well, it’s past 6pm on Christmas Island and they haven’t noticed any earthquakes.

  • ako

    No earthquakes in Fiji, and the 180-degree meridian runs straight through the country!

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    No action here in eastern Aus, either. There was a bit of a bang around 6pm, but that’s cos someone dropped their wheely bin on the curb when they were bringing it in.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    What concerns me is the cognitive dissonence that is sure to hit the believers if the rapture does not happen at the expected time.  While it would be nice if they would use that oppertunity to critically re-evaluate their world view, the more likely outcome is that they will throw themselves onto yet greater heights of fanaticism, just because confronting the idea that their close held beliefs were wrong is more painful an option than embracing the disproven belief. 

  • Tempus Vernum

    Certainly nothing happening in Kiwiland, although I think someone was having some fun in town by setting off some very loud fireworks to spook people.

  • J.

    Pffft.

  • Anonymous

    This reminds me of the live of Jezus: did he became king of the jews and kicked the romans out of the proised land before he conquered the world?

    Almost good people: he got falsely accused, whiped, humiliated, betrayed by his followers and last but not least: crucified.

    So for the people who were waiting at the rapture, sorry but Jezus didn’t do what people expected him to do while he was on Earth.
    And I don’t think he will do what people want him to do when he comes back.

    And I think that that is a VERY good thing, because now you can live your own live without looking the whole time over your shoulder looking for a sign of God.

    You want to have God in your lives?
    I suggest you start living your own live.
    I can’t do it for you.

  • Shadsie

    Update: I played and it was good. It’s been a long time since I got to see the last credits on that game.  And now… to work!

  • muteKi

     Unrelated to anything but my sister graduated 8th grade recently and at the mass for that they had the bishop for the diocese come over.

    He gave a speech about how people in the real world will hate you for being Catholic, and about “anti-Catholic” elements out there (in context it seemed to imply that those who aren’t Catholic are just “elements”). 

    Naturally it didn’t go over particularly well with us (my mother’s Lutheran, incidentally).

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sue-White/1605859612 Sue White

    6:01 PM and no catastrophe here.  Just an amazingly gorgeous day. 

  • Lori

    It’s raining here, but it’s a fairly gentle shower. This is a major problem for the local farmers because it’s been too wet to plant, but I don’t think it counts as a Rapture-worthy horror. Either Eastern Standard isn’t one of the God-created time zones or Camping was wrong again. Either way, no car for me. Sigh.

  • Anonymous

    Either Eastern Standard isn’t one of the God-created time zones or Camping was wrong again.

    Eastern Standard? I think the good Lord meant us all to be on Daylight Savings time this time of year.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Why would He want me to be on Daylight Savings time in winter? 

  • Lori

    Heretic! The Good Lord never meant for us to be on Daylight Savings at all. We talked about this a few pages back right? That Daylight Savings is “government time”. Clearly ungodly.

  • Rikalous

    So the time isn’t one of the things we should render unto Caesar? It’s so hard to keep track.

  • Lori

     

    So the time isn’t one of the things we should render unto Caesar? It’s so hard to keep track. 

    That’s a fair point. I have no idea if time would fall under the “render” rules or not. The whole issue of what has to be rendered to Caesar and what it means that all authority is appointed by God seems to be highly “flexible”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sue-White/1605859612 Sue White

    The world should have ended today.  Did I mention how gorgeous it was here?  I had the day off, so I spent the morning shopping yard sales.  I spent most of the afternoon riding a bike in the Dogwood Parade to promote the bikeshare program.  Then I hung out with friends for a while, then did yard work.  If the world had ended around 6:30, while I sat on my back porch with my cat on my lap, I could have gone out happy.  But I would have missed Doctor Who, so it’s all for the best.

  • Michelle

    Growing up with the constant fear of a world-wide calamity can cause life-long depression. It’s a horrible belief system to inflict on a child. And having it pounded into you daily makes it even harder to simply give it up. It haunts your dreams. It follows you. It makes it seem that nothing you do in life is worthwhile, because it will all be gone. It causes irrational decision-making.  It’s  one thing for adults to chose this, it’s another to be a child brainwashed by it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jess-Goodwin/28602067 Jess Goodwin

    Spent the day at Coney Island. Sun, sand, salt water, hot dogs, roller coasters. The only thing I saw being raptured was the occasional balloon.

    We should have more Judgment Days like this.

  • http://twitter.com/SatyrOnline The Satyr

    Fred, my name’s Tony. I’ve come across your writings through an atheist friend of mine who admires you very much. I’m a Roman Catholic, and I admire you very much. I just started an online magazine primarily devoted to arts crit called “The Satyr.” (satyronline.com). The first full article discusses the storytelling tradition in Catholicism and Judaism vs. Protestantism, and I’m posting one tomorrow (I’ve been saving it for a Sunday) entitled “What Would Jesus Say to an Atheist?” about the Gospel According to John, Chapter 9-10, which I think is also a heavy refutation of the whole “salvation through faith alone” thing that’s so much a key point of both John Calvin’s and Martin Luther’s re-imagining of Christian philosophy. I think you and I and maybe Sean could have some very interesting conversations on any number of topics, and I think people would be interested in reading those conversations. Would you please drop me a line at tcaroselli@satyronline.com if you’re interested in having those conversations? Thanks.

  • tiredofit

    I disagree.  These people are little different than the “Christians” who claim that we need to do whatever Likud says to bring on the Apocalypse, that global warming is a plot, that God gave dominion over the Earth to people so we shouldn’t have environmental protection, that Muslims are with the Devil, etc., etc., etc.  They poison our government, our culture, and our political conversations so badly that it does damage to real people all the time. 

    Just because these ones are pathetic in their pathology doesn’t mean that people like them are not doing real damage and we should just be nice.

  • http://profiles.google.com/scyllacat Priscilla Parkman

    I’m tired of this particular wank.  Every time someone tries to be mature and approach people like this as victims, to try to find a way to correct what’s happening, someone always chooses to misinterpret this as “shut up,” “leave them alone,” “be polite,” “play nice,” etc.  “They don’t know any better” does not come automatically with a side of “…so just let them victimize people without restraint or consequence.”

  • tiredofit

    There’s nothing you can do to change people’s minds who are willing to believe and even proselytize this tripe.  They are just as unbalanced as people who claim that aliens are going to come and take us away to a beautiful planet if we wear purple shoes, drink poison and lie down in a particular pattern.  The difference is that these folks are often given a pass because they call themselves “Christians” and thus are able to provide cover to other people who believe this stuff but keep it to themselves while trying to bring about Armageddon.

  • http://profiles.google.com/scyllacat Priscilla Parkman

    So, your answer is “othering” and consigning them to darkness.  So, I guess what I should do now is give up on you… your theology leaves a lot to be desired, IMHO.

  • tiredofit

    Nope.  My solution is to ignore them, and wish everyone else would.  They are harmless to others, and mostly harmless to themselves.  And if you had ever had contact with folks like this — and I have from the time I was 10 and a cult split off from the local Catholic church (I’m not Catholic) including some friends of mine — you know that they have a pathological need to believe in something and will find something else.  If they don’t, it will likely drive them mad and I am not qualified to either give them the new belief system nor to provide therapy to ameliorate the underlying cause.

    Instead I spend my time and money making a difference in people’s lives, making sure they have food and shelter after a disaster, for instance.  Or that medical care is available for the indigent.  Or food for people who have been looking for work for a year or more.

    My theology is just fine, thank you.  No theology makes each person responsible for every misery out there.  That would be overwhelming and self-defeating.  I don’t feel the need to save every person on the Earth, and especially not people who are delusional but not harmful. 

  • http://profiles.google.com/scyllacat Priscilla Parkman

    So, your answer is “othering” and consigning them to darkness.  So, I guess what I should do now is give up on you… your theology leaves a lot to be desired, IMHO.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    There’s nothing you can do to change people’s minds who are willing to believe and even proselytize this tripe.

    How many people are there who onced believed whatever exactly it is that you’re calling tripee (doomsday cults, I think), but no longer do?

    If n>0 then you are wrong. I bet it is. 

  • tiredofit

    if n>0 but at such a low % that it makes identifying them impossible, then it is not worth it unless you can gather all of them in a room and do group therapy.  There are people who can be helped, but why would I or you be the ones to do it?

    I suspect that x>(n * y) or whatever with x being the number of people who find another baseless universal belief and y being some hugely ridiculous number.

    And it is tripe, since people have believed in doomsday since the beginning of time and the world is still here. And so are people. 

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Well, it might be close to impossible to identify such people from the population of the whole world, but since we each live in skewed little subpopulations, for some of us it’s not hard at all to identify them within our own circle of infuence. Personally, I’ve never met anyone who I’ve known to believe in the rapture, but that’s because my little circle has very few people of the particular brand of fundamentalist that tends to go in for that sort of thing. But clearly Fred and other commenters here do know people who believe in this stuff, so identifying them is not the problem.

    As to why one would want to help them, Fred’s last paragraph answered that. He didn’t say that you have to, just that he wants to. Why object to what someone else wants to do, partly out of pity, partly out of duty, but ultimately out of love?

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    There’s nothing you can do to change people’s minds who are willing to believe and even proselytize this tripe.

    How many people are there who onced believed whatever exactly it is that you’re calling tripee (doomsday cults, I think), but no longer do?

    If n>0 then you are wrong. I bet it is. 

  • Metallicaman5150

    If they dumb enough to follow him when he was wrong once before. They deserve everything get!!!

  • atheist1

    When this happend in 1844, the day after became known as The Great Disappointment.

     “… A more specific date, that of October 22, 1844, was preached by Samuel S. Snow.
    Thousands of followers, some of whom had given away all of their
    possessions, waited expectantly. When Jesus did not appear, October 22,
    1844 became known as the Great Disappointment.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Disappointment

  • http://sophia8.livejournal.com/ sophia8

    Anybody remember the New Age loons who were in communication with aliens and who predicted that Planet X would wipe out the  earth in May 2003?  They came up with all kinds of excuses when the month went by and nothing happened.  Take a look at Zetatalk,com.  It basically boils down to “The aliens lied – and anyway, lots of things actually did happen, even though it wasn’t the end of the world. So there.”

  • http://sophia8.livejournal.com/ sophia8

    I’ve not read through all the comments, but I’m puzzled as to how that “no resurrection without a body” is actually supposed to work?  What about amputees who die?  Or people who die in bomb explosions and only leave  a few disconnected body parts to bury?  Do they get resurrected with only what they were buried with?  If so, what about people who die of cancer?  Do they get resurrected complete with their tumours? Do people who die of CJD or Alzheimers able to wake up with the comprehensively trashed neural tissues they were buried with?

    It just doesn’t work, does it?

  • P J Evans

     sophia8, there have been people who had their amputated limbs preserved so that the limbs could be buried with them.

  • Shadsie

    If I had a limb amputated, I doubt they’d let me do what I’d probably really want to do with it.  If it were up to me, I’d get it stripped down to the bone and see if I could make art out of it.  I posted a link to my wildlife-bone art earlier.  Making a painted cross out of my own femurs would be… well… neat.   And yes, I am crazy. And, no, they’d never let it happen… though I did do a painting after my own x-ray once.  

  • Michelle

    People who try to bring about Armageddon are really scary.
    They’ll destroy the world in hopes of speeding up their own rapture. In effect they are doing the work of the Devil for him (if you believe in the Devil).

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7KUWW2NDDTAFQS5NLCA2OKNTEQ Kyle

    I can’t believe anyone took that video seriously.  That’s a sad statement unto itself.

  • HeadShoulders

    I know you want to be sensitive, Mr. Slacktivist, and I agree that’s a good thing, but it’s not (if you’ll forgive the pun) the end of the world.  Most religious fanatics who learn they were wrong about something like this quite easily accept it as part of their world view.  Mostly, they use the “false prophet got it wrong” excuse, which neatly relieves them of any real responsibility for the “failure”.  There will be some few who react far more negatively, especially those who sunk their life savings into this, but they’ll be a tiny minority.

  • P J Evans

    Most of them will continue to believe, because it’s easier to believe their leader missed something minor or made a mistake in arithmetic than it is to admit that they were fooled into believing something (even if all their friends and relations Told Them So). Otherwise the JWs would have disappeared decades ago.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

     There will be some few who react far more negatively, especially those who sunk their life savings into this, but they’ll be a tiny minority.

    Perhaps Fred considers that tiny minority to be as valuable as the righteous men of Ninehah?

  • Anonymous

    Off topic, but anyway
     
     Good news people I have placed 134 comments And I have received 100 likes.
    Woohoo!!!!!!!!

  • Mackrimin

    “They don’t know any better” does not come automatically with a side of
    “…so just let them victimize people without restraint or consequence.”

    Problem is, it kinda does. Our current culture has taken the counter-reaction to racism to the other extreme, where we consider all cultures equal. That works just fine until we encounter a culture – or one develops within ours – which oppresses people. In fact, I’d say that this is one of the biggest challenges of our globalizing world: how do you deal with the fact that all cultures are not equal (if you disagree, remember that Nazi Germany and Ku Klux Klan are/were cultures too, and ask yourself if you’re willing to consider them moral equals) without becoming the oppressor forcing your will on others yourself?

  • hapax

    The KKK is NOT a “culture” — it is a criminal organization.  That is, a formal organization specifically created to carry out terrorist acts. 

    There was in the USA a racist culture that supported and protected that criminal organization.  That culture is now vanishing, because of social pressure and disapprobation.  I live right down the road from the headquarters of one of the KKK splinter groups, and even here in the (still) racist and bigoted God’s Country, the KKK is looked on as low-class, nasty, the punchline of a joke.

    This is because we *engaged* with the culture, and improved it — not perfected it, the dear Lord knows, but it is much better than it was.

    Nazi Germany was not a “culture” — it was a country, ruled by a dictatorship with a nasty ideology that capitalized on the widespread anti-Semitism in European culture and the grievances (some justified) of the population of that specific country.  The rulers of that country were treated as the war criminals they were.  The people of the country were engaged with, educated, and for the most part freed of that horrible ideology — Google “deNazification — to the extent that the populations of the former Nazi countries are among the least anti-Semitic and pro-fascist in Europe.

    As a citizen of a country that is currently spending BILLIONS throwing bombs at how many? five now? different countries and fighting drug racketeers all over the world, I am baffled as to where you get the idea that “our current culture” has become all that tolerant and accepting of organizations and regimes that we have (justifiably or not) deemed immoral.

  • http://profiles.google.com/scyllacat Priscilla Parkman

    I have no idea what you just said.  (I have a nice bunny with a pancake if you’d like, or even pie.)

     I have the feeling my statement has been turned on its head.  Urging compassion for people who are “doing it wrong” does not exclude preventing them from harming others or subjecting them to the consequences of doing so, is what I meant to say.  Is it so hard to figure out what “harm” means that if I think someone is doing something wrong, I can’t do anything about it for fear of oppressing them?  I think not.  And how did culture get into this?  When did I say anything about culture?  

  • Mackrimin

    The KKK is NOT a “culture” — it is a criminal organization.  That is, a
    formal organization specifically created to carry out terrorist acts.

    The KKK is an organization with multiple persons agreeing to certain values. As such, it most certainly _is_ a culture. Furthermore, it was created as a continuation of a certain culture – namely, the slave-owning South.

    There was in the USA a racist culture that supported and protected that
    criminal organization.  That culture is now vanishing, because of social
    pressure and disapprobation.

    You contradict yourself here. You say KKK is not a culture, yet you say its culture is vanishing. And good riddance, but make no mistake: it existed, and it still does. In US and elsewhere.

    Nazi Germany was not a “culture” — it was a country, ruled by a
    dictatorship with a nasty ideology that capitalized on the widespread
    anti-Semitism in European culture and the grievances (some justified) of
    the population of that specific country.

    Of course it was a culture. Compare Nazi Germany to Weimar Republic that preceded it, or to West Germany that succeeded it, and tell me it wasn’t different. And, more importantly, tell me what the difference between these was – it couldn’t be the people, since those were mostly the same, so it was…?

    The people of the country were engaged with, educated, and for the most
    part freed of that horrible ideology — Google “deNazification — to the
    extent that the populations of the former Nazi countries are among the
    least anti-Semitic and pro-fascist in Europe.

    Yes… And just what was de-Nazification? A genocide? No? So what was destroyed by de-nazification? It couldn’t possibly be… culture? Nazi culture?

    As a citizen of a country that is currently spending BILLIONS throwing
    bombs at how many? five now? different countries and fighting drug
    racketeers all over the world, I am baffled as to where you get the idea
    that “our current culture” has become all that tolerant and accepting
    of organizations and regimes that we have (justifiably or not) deemed
    immoral.

    As a citizen of a country that is not currently throwing any bombs anywhere, I’d like to keep it at that, and am trying to figure out how to live between two cultures which, I’m afraid, could well turn out to be mutually incompatible.

    Or, to put it blunter, I’m trying to figure out how the Hell I can reconcile Islam to Finnish culture. Especially when there are (mostly Finnish) influences who want to enable Sharia law, despite this being contrary to Finnish constitution (which guarantees equality before law at 6th paragraph).

  • hapax

    You seem to define “culture” not as  I’ve usually seen it used — something like “the attitudes, feelings, values, and behavior that characterize and inform society as a whole or any social group within it” — but rather something like “the behavior of a subgroup that I’m going to characterize as a whole.

    The culture of the Southern USA =/= the criminal behavior of the KKK, although they shared some things in common (e.g. racism).

    The culture of early twentieth century Germany =/= the criminal policies of the Nazi party, although they certainly shared some things in common (e.g. anti-Semitism).

    And the culture of Islam most certainly =/= “Sharia law”, which I’m not sure that you understand, since first of all there are maybe four major schools and innumerable minor schools. 

    The point of my examples above is that we can’t simply write off entire cultures — or individuals within these cultures — by pointing to the most extreme behaviors supported by one bad belief within those cultures.

    Instead, it has been proven by your very own examples that the most effective technique is to punish the *bad actors* — by whatever legal means available — and work with the broader culture to alleviate and eliminate the particular bad beliefs.

    I know very little about Finnish culture.  But I know a fair bit about Islam, and I can’t think of a society that is inherently inimicable to Muslim “attitudes, feelings, values, and behavior.”  Perhaps you could isolate the *particular* belief or actions that you feel are so incompatable, and engage with the culture to alleviate those?

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Or, to put it blunter, I’m trying to figure out how the Hell I can reconcile Islam to Finnish culture. Especially when there are (mostly Finnish) influences who want to enable Sharia law, despite this being contrary to Finnish constitution (which guarantees equality before law at 6th paragraph).

    Finland has Lutheranism as the official state religion, right?

    I sincerely doubt there are anywhere nearly enough Finnish Muslims to replace Luthernalism, so I suspect you’ve been listening too much to whoever the Finnish version of Rush Limbaugh is.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Ruuhka Limbäugh?

  • Lori

     

     You contradict yourself here. You say KKK is not a culture, yet you say its culture is vanishing 

    No, hapax did not contradict herself. What she said is that the KKK is an organization that was supported by a particular culture. That culture is now vanishing and as a result the organization has lost it’s power and position. 

  • Mackrimin

    No, hapax did not contradict herself. What she said is that the KKK is
    an organization that was supported by a particular culture. That culture
    is now vanishing and as a result the organization has lost it’s power
    and position.

    Fine. Let us say that KKK is simply an ultimate expression of a particularly disgusting culture. Now who wants to argue that that culture – the one that spawned KKK – is equal to ours, speak up? And any who doesn’t, consider my question: how to reconcile different nonequal cultures to each other without becoming a tyrant yourself? Because that is what “multiculturalism” is really about.

  • Anonymous

    things are different in Europe than they are in the united states: they took some things over from Europe we took some things over from them.

    Cultures changes because of wars, technology, fiction etc.
    Change happens sometimes incredible fast and sometimes it takes generations to change something. 

  • hapax

     

    Now who wants to argue that that culture – the one that spawned KKK – is equal to ours, speak up?

    [waves hand]

    What do you mean by “ours”?  Because the culture of the US South is MY culture, thank you very much: gospel music and the blues, sweet ice tea, long summer nights, the smell of curing tobacco, NASCAR and football, fried catfish, deb balls, and deep black mud; and yes, anti-intellectualism, religious conservatism, fetishization of poverty, and racism.  I’m working real hard to get rid of the vicious evil parts, while keeping the parts I love.

    Maybe it’s inferior to YOUR culture.  I don’t know much about it, beyond what you’ve said here.  I do know that most cultures are made up of a multitude of beliefs, behaviors, values, and expressions, and I would be a fool to try and lump all of this together on an absolute scale of “Good” and “Bad”.

    Your culture may indeed be an unalloyed paradigm of tolerance, freedom, creativity, and sophistication that puts all others to shame. But judging by your repeated sweeping dismissals of the entirety of Islam on several threads, I don’t think you can boast of a lacking a certain strand of ethnic bigotry.

  • Lori

    How good of you to try to sort out how to pick up the White Man’s Burden for the 21st Century. [/sarcasm] 

  • Mackrimin

    What do you mean by “ours”?

    Whatever anyone cares to claim as their own, pretty much.

     

    Because the culture of the US South is
    MY culture, thank you very much: gospel music and the blues, sweet ice
    tea, long summer nights, the smell of curing tobacco, NASCAR and
    football, fried catfish, deb balls, and deep black mud; and yes,
    anti-intellectualism, religious conservatism, fetishization of poverty,
    and racism.  I’m working real hard to get rid of the vicious evil parts,
    while keeping the parts I love.

    I see. So do I. However, I have to wonder if “long summer nights” are really a cultural feature :).

    But I grant you “ice tea” as a superior cultural achievement :).

    Maybe it’s inferior to YOUR
    culture.  I don’t know much about it, beyond what you’ve said here.  I
    do know that most cultures are made up of a multitude of beliefs,
    behaviors, values, and expressions, and I would be a fool to try and
    lump all of this together on an absolute scale of “Good” and “Bad”.

    “Good and bad” are a useful filter to reject the obviously evil and accept the obviously good. They are also the only scale that truly _matters_: if something is not “bad”, why reject it? And if something is not “good”, why root for it?

    Your
    culture may indeed be an unalloyed paradigm of tolerance, freedom,
    creativity, and sophistication that puts all others to shame. But
    judging by your repeated sweeping dismissals of the entirety of Islam on
    several threads, I don’t think you can boast of a lacking a certain
    strand of ethnic bigotry.

    Well, it’s true that my culture is not the best in the world yet. But I won’t rest until it, and I, indeed are (or I’m dead). That’s my goal in life – to refine my culture into the best it can be – the best in the world. The reason I’m “dismissing” Islam is that I’m simply not sure of how to integrate the best of it with the best of mine – all the religiousness makes things even more difficult than they otherwise might be. And yes, I suppose I should reconsider that attitude. But I’m not a religious student; how should I go about learning about it? Oh well, my current job gives me enough free time to go back to university, so I guess I could simply take classes in a year or so.

    And yes, I figure I have my work cut out for me, especially considering my own personal imperfections, which also need to be overcome. Nothing of worth comes easy, I suppose.

    Isn’t that kinda the whole point of life: constant improvement?

  • Rikalous

    [blockquote]”Good and bad” are a useful filter to reject the obviously evil and
    accept the obviously good. They are also the only scale that truly
    _matters_: if something is not “bad”, why reject it? And if something is
    not “good”, why root for it?[/blockquote]

    I think that what hapax is saying is that, while we can clearly identify, say, racism as bad and fried catfish as good, cultures are too complicated to say “That’s a good culture and that’s a bad culture,” or even (usually) “That’s a better culture.”

  • http://profiles.google.com/turton.michael Michael Turton

    It’s not just Christians. Try getting autopsies done or cadavers donated in Buddhist cultures where people believe the body must remain whole after death. 

    Michael

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Move along, nothing to see here.

  • Anonymous

    Camping: “Did I say May?  I meant October.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Was he using an old Julian calendar?

  • Harold Fail

    Another Harold Fail starting tomorrow.  LOL.

  • Anonymous

    I am so happy here and enjoy this story. It brings me some special feelings. Hope you have a cheerful day.Good post.

    http://www.highschooldirectory.com

  • chaitanya

    I am not going to say what everyone else has already said, but I do want to comment on your knowledge of the topic.
    You are truly well-informed. I can’t believe how much of this I just wasn’t aware of.

  • Makabit

    Devout Christians don’t believe that. Unless, like many other people, they are terribly confused about what ‘immaculate conception’ means.

  • tiredofit

    That’s kinda my point. So many people believe Mary was born without sex, instead of without sin. Biblical “literalists” believe all sorts of things that are not in the Bible, but are told to them by equally ignorant religious “leaders.”

    I used to worry when talking to these folks that they didn’t have a grasp on basic science, on American history, on basic facts that make up our lives. But eventually I realized that I should give up on judging their rationality based on my own experience, accepted scientific theories and historical knowledge.

    These folks can’t even get their own history, science, religion, facts right! They base everything on a book that they haven’t read, don’t understand and refuse to study.

    It is willful ignorance, a position that starts at the finish point and then forces everything to meet that point. You cannot argue with such people, cannot convince them with logic or facts. You can simply walk away.


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