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