Post-Rapture – The Mop-Up Begins

Posted by on May 23, 2011 in Thoughts | 14 comments

Well as you know, the Rapture has come and gone, and it would seem that I am left behind. Not surprising really, I don’t believe that there is a God, let alone one that would be interested in a heathen like me, so I came to Rapture Day, May 21 2011 with no sense that I would be saved. Kinda sad really because…

But wait, what’s that you’re saying? The rapture didn’t happen? Oh silly me, I thought it was certain! I thought the Bible guaranteed it! Remember, there’s no Plan B, right? Well if the rapture didn’t happen then what did?

Well, something happened. To quite a few people also, all the faithful believers in Camping’s prediction. As I feared, there were examples of people harming themselves and others because of this, and I for one find it very sad that someone would believe so much in something completely irrational that they would be willing, or feel compelled to, take such drastic action as this woman did in the USA.

This is exactly the kind of thing I was afraid of happening because of the delusions of Harold Camping and his followers. The woman was obviously so distraught about the “5 months of torture” that Camping promised us that she thought the only solution was to kill herself and her two daughters. It’s terrible, and the finger of blame can be squarely pointed at Harold Camping for causing such a hysteria in so many people. This is the only case I’ve heard of attempted murder/suicide from THIS apocalypse prediction, but I’d hazard a that guess it’s not the only example of people taking drastic actions.

If I had my way, Harold Camping should be held accountable for this, and be forced to give back all the money his listeners have donated to him, and also be forced to donate money to suicide prevention groups in the USA.

The only problem is this: under the banner of free speech, Camping is allowed to say pretty much anything he likes. If people believe him, well that’s their decision. Therefore, Camping has done nothing wrong, in the eyes of the law.  Likewise, all the money he garnered from his followers was given to him completely by choice, and he claims to have truly believed that the Rapture should have occurred. In other words, it can’t be deemed fraudulent unless he knew it to be so, and was thereby deliberately misleading his followers.

So did Camping truly believe?

Well, I’d say, “Yes he truly believed that he was right.” Of course there is no way to verify this claim, it can be so easy for a charismatic person to lie to get what they want. So is delusion or belief a defence against causing other people to act irrationally? In this day and age it would seem, the answer is most definitely yes. The biggest example is the spectre of religion that still holds sway over so much of our world, using its influence to change decision making in social and political spheres. Most people think this is just fine, or accept it as the norm. But why is it that almost everyone decried Camping as a fake, when so many people actually believe that a rapture could occur according to their own faith? Pot, meet kettle. Kettle, this is pot. The similarities are there, but those who believe, or have religious faith will so often say “that is not what I believe,” or “they are not true Christians”. The Camping people believe in the same God and Jesus as the rest of Christianity, they just think that their version is the right one.

If it comes down to an act of freedom of speech, then at what point do you say that enough is enough? If free speech causes people to harm themselves, or others, has the free speech gone too far? This is an example where I think that with free speech comes responsibility. If you say something, and you truly believe it, and it is disproven, you should be willing to take the responsibility and blame for any actions that are directly linked to it. In a similar vein, Westbro Baptist Church in the USA have been allowed to continue their crusade of hatred against pretty much everyone because of the laws of free speech. In March this year, a US court ruled that they are allowed to continue to picket at the funerals of dead US soldiers, spewing their vile hatred toward the family and friends of the deceased. It is a completely deplorable action by the Westbro Baptist Church, but they are free to say what they want even if it wrecks a day of mourning for the family and friends of a deceased person.

Don’t get me wrong here. I agree with what Voltaire is famous for saying “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it” but with one addition: “and in return you must be willing to face the consequences of your actions.”

So I guess the real question is, how do we stop people from believing in things that can hurt others, and is that even possible? Again, as I have in previous blogs, I call on education as the one way to get people to think for themselves. Do not tell people what to think, but how to think. With bad ideas come bad decisions, and I will stand by that notion to the death. I am hopeful that in this day, where communication between people and the ability to disseminate ideas is easier than ever before, that bad ideas are constantly in question, and that these ideas will eventually be exposed for what they really are. But at the same time, I see those would have us believe in bad and harmful ideas being just as noisy as those of us who would wish to educate them.

I don’t have all the answers, but I hope that from the “mistake” of Harold Camping and his crew so heavily in the media comes some good. Hopefully people who are disenfranchised by this failed prediction stop and take a moment to ask why they followed Camping. Hopefully, even some who have not even been affected by it can see what delusion can do. And hopefully one day, as the whackoes and quackoes of the world are revealed, we can start to move society forward into a new era.

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14 Comments

  1. Religion has always demanded, and received, a free ride on everything from taxes to hate speech.

    At some point, rational people are going to have to say, “Enough is too much” and demand that kooks be held responsible for the harm they cause.

    The founding fathers intention was protection from religious persecution, not to license it. The religious reich, as always, have twisted the interpretation of the bible and now the constitution to mean what they want it to mean. How long can we permit this Cheshire cat attitude to warp our society and lives?

    Most of the problems of the world are, and always have been, caused by religion. For example, Northern Ireland, the Middle East, 9/11, and family planning clinic bombing in the USA. Then there were the crusades, the inquisition, witch burnings, and the dark ages. Get the idea?

    Humanity will never truly be free until the black yoke of religion is lifted by the clear light of truth and rational thinking.

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  2. I believe he CAN be held responsible under the current law, as his words can be taken to be words of action. This is similar to inciting a riot or a lynching or any other violent action; if your words lead directly to it, you can be held liable. I would love to see Camping be charged. I know he probably would not be found guilty, but it would send a message that people who lead other people to their physical or monetary demise are criminals, regardless of whether they cloak themselves in religion.
    As far as I am concerned, this was a spiritual (or psychological if you prefer) Ponzi scheme, where the few at the top benefit, and everyone below suffers in varying measures depending on how invested they were.

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  3. So I guess the real question is, how do we stop people from believing in things that can hurt others, and is that even possible?

    What about some of the atheistic dictators who slaughtered millions based on the belief that they were not accountable to anything higher than themselves? Does that mean atheism should be stopped? Just want to make sure you’re acknowledging the log in your own eye before trying to take the speck out of others (apologies for the Biblical reference, but it was the most applicable thought here).

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    • Did you even read what you quoted? Or are you just picking on my words because that’s your habit?

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    • “based on the belief that they were not accountable to anything higher than themselves”

      [citation needed]

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    • Marty would have to be an atheistic dictator or strongly support one for him to need to take a log out of his own eye first.

      I think the question of when atheists have done evil (as some of them certainly have) and how that affects our view of atheism is worth discussing. However, that’s not the focus of what Marty is talking about here so I think it’s better to drop this for another time.

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    • What you are saying, Marty, is that belief in the Rapture such as Harold Camping did and some of the WBC stuff is detrimental to others. I don’t think I’m mis-representing your position here. But it is common knowledge that atheism was a driving force behind someone like Stalin imposing his will on others and slaughtering millions. It was this belief that caused severe detriment to others, but you wouldn’t denounce Stalin’s atheism, so why denounce Camping’s and WBC’s position other than due to the fact that it doesn’t serve your purpose to decry both?

      Marty needs to take the log out of his own eye because he is decrying belief in something he doesn’t agree with as harmful but won’t decry something he DOES agree with, even though it’s been harmful as well. I don’t agree with Camping or WBC, but it seems like we would need to keep people from believing in ANYTHING if the justification for doing so is that it’s harmful to others, religion and non-religion alike.

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      • “But it is common knowledge that atheism was a driving force behind someone like Stalin imposing his will on others and slaughtering millions. It was this belief that caused severe detriment to others…”

        Atheism is just a lack of belief in a god or gods, not a belief system in itself. Atheism can be part of a belief system or a philosophy, such as humanism, or Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, or nihilism, anarchism, or in Josef Stalin’s case, Communism. Atheism was not a driving force in him slaughtering millions. Atheism was a part of Soviet Communism, and in Stalin’s worldview, the only thing worthy of worship was Stalin.

        There are MANY philosophies that include atheism as a part of it, and most mix about as much as oil and water. Ayn Rand spent her entire life in literature fighting Socialism (Trotsky-ist and Stalinist), yet Objectivists and Socialists are both atheists.

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      • To: Sabepashubbo
        Well, where should I start? After attending a church school, Stalin received a scholarship to an Orthodox seminary. A clergy life wasn’t for him. Revolutionaries had more exciting life: living abroad, more money, more freedom, more women. After becoming a ruler of Russia, he continued with already established way – separation of church and state. During the World War ll he reopened churches, for his own benefit. Stalin wasn’t an atheist. He simply couldn’t share his dictatorship with anybody else, let along such powerful institution as church. The genocide of the Russian people has nothing to do with his wrongly assumed “atheism”. He had schizophrenia that explains his paranoia.

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      • “But it is common knowledge that atheism was a driving force behind someone like Stalin imposing his will on others and slaughtering millions.”

        Here let me fix that for you:

        It is common knowledge that the Stalin/Pol-Pot/Hitler atheism argument is just a strawman argument especially when used to say that “atheism was a driving force behind someone like Stalin imposing his will on others and slaughtering millions.” It has been refuted many times, yet you refuse to listen to it.

        I could say this:

        It is common knowledge that religion was the ONLY force behind the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition, and has been used as the justification for the Gaza occupation, the war in Iraq, the witch-hunts, ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, etc etc etc.

        But I won’t because that is common knowledge.

        As for this:

        “but it seems like we would need to keep people from believing in ANYTHING if the justification for doing so is that it’s harmful to others, religion and non-religion alike.”

        you are almost getting my point. Not quite there though. I will decry anything if it is harmful. Ignorance for instance is harmful. Racism is harmful. Mis-information is harmful. distorting the facts is harmful. Religion can create all these situations, and so can things like nationalism and politics. And of course I realise that when a person uses a huge sweeping brush to paint ALL PEOPLE in any given group (or lack of group) in the same colour, inevitably you will be wrong about some. But to use the “No true Scotsman” fallacy will not do either. Neither can we be correct when we say that Stalin represents atheism, or when we say that “every priest is a child rapist.”

        The problem with your argument, which is not really doing my comment justice is this – there is such thing as learning from history. What have we learned from history? Well, we have learned that things such as doomsday prophecies are false. All of them. Not one has come to pass, and I’d hazard a guess that none ever will save from happenstance. We have learned that blind faith in leaders, especially charismatic leaders can lead to mass suicides, group terrorist attacks, even wars. We have leaned that bad ideas such as homeopathy can, when used in lieu of real treatment, be responsible for the death of people rather than giving them a fighting chance.

        These are bad ideas, they are harmful, and if we refuse to acknowledge these facts we will repeat them endlessly. It would be foolish for us to deny what we have learned from history, and the idea that ALL ideas should be scrapped is just nonsense.

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        • aaaaand this is what we call complete and utter pwnage.

          Nice try, dude. Any time you’d like to come back and attempt to refute facts and logic with straw mans, non sequiturs, and mysticism, the door’s always open (in a figurative sense I suppose… more like the browser bar is always open).

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        • Ok fair enough. I’ll drop the Stalin issue because that’s going nowhere on both sides.

          The problem with my argument is history, you say. We learn things from history. If we’re going on that vein, then we must decry all things history has taught us can be harmful. Going with some hot-button issues, we must decry abortion (can potentially cause harm to mothers, irregardless of the children), we must decry gay sex (can cause AIDS), we must decry heterosexual sex (can also cause AIDS), we must decry sports (people have died from competing), and we must decry atheism (can promote tolerance of these issues).

          Do you see the problem here? Anything can be considered harmful or detrimental based on history, so the elimination of things or ideas that are harmful would include everything. This cannot be the standard by which we judge what we should and shouldn’t believe. And that is the biggest issue with your argument. When you take it out as far as it’s supposed to go, you end up with, using your own word, nonsense.

          Therefore, you have no basis on which to judge the issue at hand other than that Camping was incorrect in his prophecy, which I think I have said before that I agree with you on that point. But blanket statements like the one you used are inconsiderate and just look silly when you stand them up to scrutiny.

          That all said, thank you for responding in a mostly respectful manner. It’s the big reason why I continue to peruse your blog among other atheistic blogs, because you are at least somewhat fair in your opinions and criticisms of them. So that is greatly appreciated.

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          • The Stalin issue is going nowhere on both sides? Are you kidding? How about you were just wrong, and don’t want to admit it? You got an education about what Atheism actually is, which was outside of your realm of knowledge. Rather than admitting that you didn’t have the proper definition, you decide to say it’s going nowhere as if you’re doing us a favor. Punk move, and it just shows that you’re afraid to admit when you’re wrong.

            I can think of a lot better lessons to take from your so called “historical references”. AIDS – denying a disease’s existence like Christian Republicans did under Reagan in the 80s were wont to do will lead to the deaths of millions of people. AIDS- telling people not to use condoms like Christian organizations still do in Africa leads to the deaths of millions of people. Both caused by religious doctrine.

            Abortion- historically, every country where it’s outlawed is living in abject poverty, complete and utter desolation… also Christian influence is heavy there. Female empowerment over the reproductive cycle leads to prosperity.

            Sports- Yeah, people have died from competing, but the point of Sports, unlike the point of the major monotheisms, the underlying POINT is not to literally wipe out the other from existence. We learned from history that Gladiator games were inhumane. We did decry it.

            Atheism- again YOU MISS THE POINT. Atheism does not promote tolerance of anything. The only thing Atheism has an interest in is its lack of belief in gods. ATHEISM IS NOT A BELIEF SYSTEM. Or did you not get that when five people pointed that out to you last time?

            You should follow your own advice. You make quite a few blanket statements and pick very poor lessons in history, and give a blind eye to the actual damage religious doctrine, prophecy, and dogma has and continues to cause in the world today. Wake up, be a man, and admit you’re wrong.

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  4. “But it is common knowledge that atheism was a driving force behind someone like Stalin imposing his will on others and slaughtering millions. It was this belief that caused severe detriment to others”

    Atheism is NOT a belief, that is the whole point. You don’t put blind faith in something just because you’re asked to, you look for proof and follow reason when considering your options. Religion has been a major of conflicts the world over for the entirety of human history, whereas an atheist does not fight a war in the name of nothing.

    Phrases such as “But it is common knowledge” are a tool by which you add implied weight to an argument, suggesting the reader is uninformed and ignorant of widely held and proven knowledge, even when no such proof and no such knowledge exists.

    Please get raptured already and leave everybody who can think for themselves alone.

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