Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Short-Sightedness and the Rapture

I've already ranted about the recent rapture prediction and how ridiculously people behaved because of said predictions. That's right, I was making fun of the Rapture before it was cool. Unfortunately, I couldn't celebrate the rapture as it happened because I was attending a microbiology conference on the Day of Deliverance. How inconsiderate! It's almost as if scientists don't take unfounded predictions based on flawed hypotheses seriously.

My End of the World Barbecue was easily rescheduled though, seeing as how the world didn't end. It was a blast, and I'm looking forward to having another one in October. The fiasco is already fading from the public eye, and I hadn't intended to write much more about.

But since Harold Camping was publicly humiliated and started backpedaling like a bear on a unicycle (after a significant profit and tons of free publicity, the bastard), the way people have been reacting to the Failed Rapture has been making me think.

First, many of Camping's followers remain as devoted to him as ever. This is disappointing, but not really much of a surprise. It's actually a documented aspect of human behavior to believe what we hear first, even when presented with evidence to the contrary. In fact, corrections or conflicting facts are sometimes more likely to affirm our convictions than change our minds. After all, the alternative is admitting that we were wrong. I've also already ranted about how destructive misinformation can be, so I'll simply reiterate here that critical thought and skepticism are crucial weapons in the battle against frauds like Camping.

Second, other fundamentalist Christian groups have been awfully condemning towards Camping and his predictions. I guess they're just excited to have someone who makes them look sane by comparison. 'No man knows the day or hour' is being thrown around with a sickening sense of smugness. Which is insanely frustrating, because the only difference between what they believe and what Camping believes is that he picked a day. That's it! They agree on every other ridiculously implausible aspect of Jesus' return, the Rapture, the Time of Tribulation for us sinners and the eventual destruction of our entire planet/universe because God is feeling verklempt...yet they're the sane ones? It makes me want to tear my hair out.

But what really got me thinking were the stories of Camping's followers. One man in particular took his family on a cross-country trip to the Grand Canyon. Because of the strain of his financial debt, he felt that the Rapture would have been 'a relief'. The End of the World would mean that he didn't have to deal with his problems.

That mentality disturbed me, and I started pervasive is it? One of the things that frustrates me the most about conservative thought is how short-sighted it can be. Little or no value is placed on things that don't benefit you, immediately and directly. If you really believe the world is going to end during your lifetime, why bother taking care of your environment or conserving resources? Why care about policies that benefit the community or further scientific development? The long-term is basically rendered meaningless. It explains so much.

Now I know that conservative politicians aren't all fundamentalist Christians, but there is an awful lot of overlap and the Rapture is a significant aspect of Christian belief in general. Even if an individual thinks the Rapture is unlikely, accepting a divinely-mandated 'End of the World' as a possible future has got to affect your long-term thinking to some degree. Personally, I think this is just more evidence for why atheists make the best politicians. Too bad we're pretty much un-electable.

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