Pharyngula

The world didn’t end last Saturday (obviously), but Harold Camping and his predictions are just a smokescreen, and everyone is missing the heart of the problem.

Camping has now spoken. He now claims that Jesus did arrive ‘spiritually’ on the 21st, and that in his generous mercy, God has decided to spare us the 153 days of the tribulation, but that the world will still be ending on 21 October. This is no surprise. This is exactly what these crackpot prophets do: they’re never right, but they are great at rationalizing.

His followers are busy readjusting. Here’s a radio interview with one bible-thumper; the guy who threw away his life savings on subway signs was left wandering in Times Square, confused and disappointed. None of them has changed their beliefs about the biblical apocalypse, they’re just fudging the dates.

The Family Radio website has been scrubbed clean of mentions of Judgment Day.

And what do I see from most people? A stern finger-wagging with biblical authority reaffirmed.

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I was sent that image by someone who clearly thought it was a joke, but I am not laughing. I’m angry, instead. I don’t fucking care what fucking Jesus fucking said. The problem is NOT that some kook in California plucked numbers out of the Bible and conjured up a numerological justification for a date: the idiocy runs much deeper than that.

  • The entire myth of dispensationalism — that time is divided into distinct ages with discrete beginnings and ends, characterized by distinct bodies of knowledge granted us by divine will — is nonsense. These fairy tales of a rapture and tribulation and world destruction are entirely the invention of crank theologians elaborating on the ravings of the 19th century Irish priest, John Nelson Darby. It’s no more sourced or historical or rational than the goddamn Book of Mormon.

  • Christian eschatology is a vile and hateful message about their imaginary tyrant god who, once again, is scheduled to have a temper tantrum in which he kills almost everyone, snatches up their souls, and makes them suffer for eternity for being human. A few will be spared; their reward is an eternity of servility, but at least they get to know they’re better than everyone else. And that’s the real lesson here: it’s all about elitism and the most extreme threats imaginable to anyone who does not support these self-appointed masters of dogma. Again, there’s no reason to believe any of it, other than that people have absorbed the propaganda for the whole of their lifetime.

  • The Christian bible is supposed to be the ultimate source of authority, and to many of the more extreme, the only source of authority. It’s got ‘bible codes’ in it; it’s a rich vein of numerological bullshit to be mined; it’s vagued, confused, ambiguous, and contradictory, a refuse heap of tribal gobbledygook hallowed by nothing other than long ages of accumulation. Our minds try desperately to find pattern and meaning in what we observe around us, and the best source to trigger all kinds of lunatic pattern generating theories is a nearly totally incoherent mass of text with huge cultural signposts pointing at it and screaming that it is important.

    It’s like being told that a tangled, confusing clump of jungle, all bewildering with shadow and random shapes slashing across it, is the home of a fierce tiger that will kill you if you get close. Stare hard at it, and you can convince yourself that there is something dangerous lurking there, even if it contains no animal larger than a rabbit.

Sure, everyone is laughing at Harold Camping now, except his followers, who are undeterred. But you’re missing the real joke. Look at every Abrahamic religion, with their myths of prophets and favored peoples and fate. Look at the crazy conservative church in your town, that preaches homophobia and anti-science and supports Israel because of the Armageddon prophecy. Look at the liberal Christian church down the street from you that has the nice Vacation Bible School and puts on happy plays for the older kids, and also teaches that one day you will stand before a great god and be judged. Look at your family members who blithely believe in death as a mini-apocalypse, in which they will be magically translated into another realm, again to be judged.

It’s the very same rot, the poison of religion that twists minds away from reality and fastens them on hellish bogeymen. They’re demented fuckwits, every one, and the big lie rests right on the fundamental beliefs of supernaturalism and deities, not on the ephemera of one crank’s bizarre interpretations.

And to the next person who quotes Matthew 24:36 at me: you’re part of the problem, too.