Sunday, May 22, 2011

Pity? Anger? Amusement? I'm just not sure

Well, you didn't really think I was going to let the failed Rapture pass without comment, did you?

Now, I'm honestly not sure exactly what I should be feeling about this whole thing. Should I pity the people who believed Harold Camping and gave up money and more? Should I dismiss them as gullible and stupid? Should I feel they got what they deserved for their lack of critical thinking and arrogance? Should I direct my feelings towards Camping in the form of anger and disgust? Or should I just point and laugh?

Right now, I'm going for a mixture of most of the above. But I think I can rule out pity, except for the innocent victims. Those who have no college fund now because their parents are fucking morons. Those who will suffer because others fell for this fast burning stupidity.

Let's start with the obvious

I read with some amusement this article on the BBC news website this morning: 'Rapture': Believers perplexed after prediction fails. Quoth the article:

Some believers expressed bewilderment or said it was a test from God of their faith, after the day passed without event.

I have a much more simple and obvious explanation for this whole thing. One that is stark in its simplicity and fits the facts with the least amount of assumptions: its not real. There is no Rapture and there never will be. Being bewildered by there being no Biblical Rapture as predicted is as ridiculous and absurd as being bewildered by the fact that Skynet has not destroyed the human race yet. They're both made up, hence won't really happen.

Simple. No need for bewilderment or perplexity.

Robert Fitzpatrick, a retired transportation agency worker in New York, said he had spent more than $140,000 (£86,000) of his savings on advertisements in the run-up to 21 May to publicise the prediction.

After 1800 passed and nothing had happened, he said: "I do not understand why... I do not understand why nothing has happened."

"I can't tell you what I feel right now. Obviously, I haven't understood it correctly because we're still here."

Obviously. Or maybe, just maybe its not real.

But real harm has been and will be done

Let's not pretend though that this was just a few gullible or misguided (or just plain stupid) people doing something harmless - real damage has been, or is being, done. Not to mention creationists just adding to the stupid. MSNBC and the BBC both point out the vast sums spent by people, life savings gone. There were people who harmed themselves and others thinking the end was coming. There is a very real risk of people committing suicide through fear, depression and anxiety caused by this.

This was not harmless. Its easy to laugh until you realise people will suffer for it. At first I hoped people would start taking a pound of flesh from Camping and his organisation. But then I realised they only have themselves to blame. You can't hold Camping responsible for the fact that people gave themselves willingly to his delusion. It wasn't a scam. It was religion.

I don't see a difference between them myself. A scam is someone taking your money for something that isn't real. Sounds like religion to me.

The problem isn't Camping. The problem is that religion enables people like Camping. Religion isn't harmless. This is what happens when you take things on faith.

It's hard to feel sympathy for people this dumb

Then, just as I think I do feel some sympathy for the people who fell for it, you come across people this stupid (and a little scary, to be honest), quoted in both the BBC and MSNBC articles:

"I had some scepticism but I was trying to push the scepticism away because I believe in God," said Keith Bauer, who travelled 4,830km (3,000 miles), from Maryland to California, where Mr Camping's Family Radio is based, for the Rapture.

"I was hoping for it because I think heaven would be a lot better than this Earth," said Mr Bauer, a tractor-trailer driver, who took the week off work for the voyage.

Apparently Keith Bauer and I use different definitions of the term 'scepticism'. I wasn't aware that scepticism of the Rapture meant believing in it and taking your family across the continental USA for a week to get ready for the thing you are sceptical of. That sounds like blind credulous acceptance to me. Perhaps it was a typo. Twice. From different sources. Or, perhaps Bauer is a credulous buffoon who got what he deserved. I feel sorry for his family. I especially feel sorry for his family since he apparently thinks hanging out on Earth with them is a bit shit.

"I had some scepticism that I wouldn't burn myself if I put my hand in the fire, but I tried to push that away because I believe I am fireproof."

That's no different to what Bauer said, but we're supposed to believe one is not stupid and one is.

I also can't help but feel somewhat unnerved by people who believe that what we have right here, right now is not as good as something that we can't even prove exists. It's easy to rationalise killing if you think you're doing the person a favour. That you are sending them to a better place.
Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.
-- Voltaire
So, I find myself with no sympathy for Keith Bauer, and he deserves every problem he suffers through for this. And just to reinforce this, MSNBC adds a further quote from him:
Then he added, "It's God who leads you, not Harold Camping."

Really? Then why were you following Harold Camping, Mr Bauer?

Then, you have people making excuses for the stupid people. Again, from the BBC article:

A group from the Calvary Bible Church in Milpitas, California, organised a Sunday morning service to comfort believers in Mr Camping's preaching, the New York Times reported.

"We are here because we care about these people," the newspaper quoted James Bynum, a church deacon, as saying. "It's easy to mock them. But you can go kick puppies, too. But why?"

Because the puppies didn't get themselves in a position to be kicked. They are innocent. Camping and those who believed him are not - they willingly went along with the whole thing. If you can't understand that distinction, you should keep your mouth shut on the topic. I applaud the effort to provide help to these people, but don't pretend the situation they are in is anything but of their own making. This was not an accident beyond their control - they went in eyes wide open.

I feel no sympathy for people who allow their greed to override their common sense and who lose all their money in a scam, just like I have no sympathy for people whose arrogance led them to believe God was coming to take them away to a better place on the say so of someone just as delusional as them.

Still believe there was no way these people could suspect something might not be quite right (apart from it all being made up anyway, obviously)?

He [Camping] has predicted an apocalypse once before, in 1994, though followers now say that only referred to an intermediary stage.

The people who went willingly and lost deserve no sympathy, its the people they dragged with them that deserve the sympathy.
But don't blame Harold Camping - he didn't force anyone to believe him, and don't pretend that the 'victims' have anyone to blame but themselves.
And if you are a person of faith shaking your head at this whole thing and patting yourself on the back for not believing in this particular predicted Rapture then you're a hypocrite - you have no right to feel smug. The faith that led people to believe Camping is the same faith as yours. After all, you think there will be a Rapture to, you're just not certain of the date. From my point of view, there's no difference between you and the people who followed Camping. Its like saying people who believe in the Jedi are silly when you believe in Elves.
It's all very silly.

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