Post-Rapture – The Mop-Up Begins
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.