It’s the end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine)

Posted by on April 27, 2011 in Quick Note, Thoughts | 7 comments

Further to my post about May 21 being the Rapture according to Harold Camping, I have a few more points to make about the whole idea of apocalypse fear and the damage it can do.

According to the website What’s The Harm, which is dedicated to “make a point about the danger of not thinking critically” there have been numerous people who have either been killed or injured because of fear of the apocalypse in its various guises both of religious and non-religious natures. The most shocking of them was the Jonestown Massacre which claimed the lives of over 900 people in Jonestown Guyana. The People’s Temple, a quasi-religious cult founded by Jim Jones, was a doomsday cult that, when their appointed apocalypse date of November 18 passed, the congregation was forced to drink cyanide laced soft drinks.

In a separate incident, but also quasi-religious in nature, members of the Heaven’s Gate cult (who believed that they would be taken away bu aliens that were hiding in the tail of the Hale-Bopp comet) all committed suicide. 39 bodies were discovered, and needless to say, the earth wasn’t destroyed.

But not all end of world scenarios are so grand in nature. On a smaller scale, and non-religious in nature, in 2008 an Indian girl was so traumatised about the Large Hadron Collider and the misinformation given about its potential to destroy the world when it was switched on, that she took her own life. She was only 16.

Future apocalypse settings include the end of the Mayan calendar on or about 21 December 2012, and Isaac Newton’s proposal that the end of the world will be in 2060.

Bad information and a lack of critical thinking is to blame in all of these situations. I have said in the past, I don’t care what others believe as long as nobody gets hurt, but these are examples of people getting hurt, and they are not that far removed from the kinds of lunacy that happens within established religions. I fear for the lives of the people who truly believe that May 21 is the end of the world. Many of them have sold all their possessions, and are eagerly waiting to be swept up by the hand of God. They have really put all of their eggs into one huge non-existent god-shaped basket, and when the illusion is broken, I wonder how badly they might take it. And while it’s fun to tease the believers, it’s not really the point of trying to point out their mistake. If even one mind gets changed about the inevitability of The Rapture, then maybe that one life gets saved. This is why it’s important to debunk the Armageddonists.

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  1. “…sold all their possessions..”

    Why bother? Does God only accept cash?

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    • I would like to see some psychological profiling done on this. If it has not been done I am sure it will be soon.
      In the meantime we could get some ideas from Freud and Hitchins.

      Hitchins – God is not great
      We shall have no more prophets or sages from the ancient quarter, which is why the devotions of today are only the echoing repetitions of yesterday, sometimes ratcheted up to screaming point so as to ward off ‘the terrible emptiness.’ Hitchins

      (Sigmund Freud) —- ‘what the common man understands by his religion – with the system of doctrines and promises which on the one hand explains to him the riddles of the world with enviable completeness, and, on the other, assures him that a careful Providence will watch over his life and will compensate him in a future existence for any frustrations he suffers here’

      ———- ‘Devout believers acceptance of the universal ‘neurosis’ spares them the task of constructing a personal one’.

      My own thoughts – Added to this is the terrifying, or deadening, mind boggling wonder of the universe and everything, that has been revealed only to us lucky few.

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    • LOL!

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    • I think they’ve finally decided to actually try and follow Jesus’s teachings, ‘Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go [and] sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come [and] follow me.’ Matthew 19:21 King James.

      I wonder if the, supposedly Christian, right-wing theists have actually managed to break the habit of a lifetime and give money to the poor or start doing any of those other terrible liberal things that Jesus suggested? I somehow doubt it.

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    • That’s a good point, and it’s also why I created the End of the World Fund on my blog. If they really believe it’s the end of the world, then they should also believe that they don’t need their money (aside from what they need to survive from now till Judgment Day, anyway). It’s all dust and ash in the end. So why not give it away as a sign of faith?

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  2. A normal person would feel rather stupid when they wake up after May 21st. I wonder what kind of excuses this group will give for the world not ending……Oh, we mixed up the dates ?

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  3. …I don’t care what others believe as long as nobody gets hurt,

    This is a good attitude to have, and put more succinctly than I occasionally have.

    I have a lot of relations who are still Adventist, and considering the eschatology of the Church, I fear for their well-being if they were to get caught up in this sort of fervor, and become at least penniless but disappointed, and at worst, dead.

    After all, beliefs have consequences, for what we believe to be true we base our decisions and thus our actions on…

    …even if those actions get us or others killed. Good post, Marty.

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