Not raptured

It’s easy to make jokes about the end of the earth that didn’t come yesterday at 5:59 p.m., as predicted by Harold Camping. There were so many things wrong about Camping’s prediction — the convoluted interpretation of the King James Bible, Camping’s past track record with false warnings of doomsday, the inability to see how culturally conditioned such predictions are, the notion that only one person would have access to such a prediction, etc. — that it’s really tempting to mock him. I did it myself, multiple times, this morning at church.

But it’s not really funnyr. Lots of people believed Camping, and some gave away everything they had thinking they wouldn’t need earthly possessions after yesterday. And everyone I know is capable of fooling themselves, and it’s a rare person who doesn’t delude themselves about something in their life; it’s better not to mock others about something for which we ourselves can be mocked. Finally, Camping’s well-publicized failure has brought out the anti-religion fundamentalists who are now gleefully declaring that because Camping was wrong all religion must be bunk.

I found one of the nicest responses to Camping’s message buried deep in story on the National Public Radio Web site:

…people from more than one religion — and even a few atheists — admitted to being a bit introspective about the world on this particular weekend.

That was true for Maddie Calhoon, a Unitarian Universalist from St. Paul, Minn., who was at a gathering Saturday night that guests renamed a “rapture party.”

“We said, ‘We’re just glad we’re all together.’ And it was a joke,” said Calhoon, 24. “But of course it made me think about things, and about how I don’t reflect often about what I’d do if my time was coming to an end.”

Nice response to this craziness: go hang out with some friends and reflect on what’s most important in life.

One thought on “Not raptured”

  1. Dan … I don’t know if you’ve seen this commentary on the Washington Post’s “On Faith” portion of their web site:

    “Science explains the end of the world”
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-faith/post/science-explains-the-end-of-the-world/2011/05/10/AFaLvBiG_blog.html

    You’re right that it’s very easy for people to delude themselves about something in their lives. People see “patterns” where patterns don’t exist. Richard Feynman was quoted as saying “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool. So you have to be very careful about that. After you’ve not fooled yourself, it’s easy not to fool other scientists. You just have to be honest in a conventional way after that.”

    One approach to reducing the chance of self-delusion with a successful track record is the organized and systemic use of reason and evidence to explore the universe we inhabit.

    I certainly wouldn’t mock the folks who were victimized and taken advantage of by Harold Camping. Folks have been left financially destitute because they believed Camping’s faulty forecasts. And some have even committed suicide according to the Washington Post.

    But Harold Camping is certainly deserving of some mockery at the appropriate “Stewart – Colbert” levels. Ideas do have consequences and his ideas have hurt people.

    BTW, the rapture was a running joke at last weekend’s OWL K-1/4-6 teacher training that I attended at Coral Gables Congregational UCC. We kept wondering who would be present for the peer facilitation activities where the participants are responsible for presenting a portion of the curriculum as part of their training.

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