A Bitter End
What do you get when you cross growing American religious fundamentalism and a burning desire for the End of Days with the get rich quick schemes of a group of Church elders blindly following the prophesies of a single, charismatic man into a state of sour confusion when nothing actually happens? How does the average follower in the street deal with their ongoing existence when the longed for end, as anyone with half a rational brain would expect, comes to nothing and leaves those supposed true believers waiting for answers a day wiser and in certain cases a whole lot poorer after selling up and donating their wallets wholesale to the church?
Intriguingly, the above paragraph would not, as it first appears, have to be written in response to the reclusive and some would argue highly fraudulent preacher Harold Camping – who has come out in the last couple of days to argue that the end is still on its way, on 21 October 2011, and that the failure to occur back on May 21st was due to human error when crunching the numbers for setting the Heavenly bank’s foreclosure date – but could in fact describe the aftermath of the speculations of any one of a number of similar characters throughout the history of Christian religious thought. Indeed, in a true case of history repeating itself, Mr. Camping seems to be following, almost word for word, a script laid down over 150 years ago by a predecessor intimately woven into the fabric of End Times prophesy, one William Miller.
So, considering the obvious problems that Mr. Camping seems to have with understanding the future, perhaps he could do better learning from the past, and it is for his benefit that the following little historical comparison is presented. While there were many failed End Times prophesies throughout history, the most quoted example has to be the Great Disappointment of the unimaginatively entitled Millerites, lead by the aforementioned Biblically talented but prophetically challenged William Miller. Miller, a Pittsfield, Massachusetts born Baptist, Deist and eventual Adventist failed to deliver the Apocalyptic goods not once but twice in quick succession, first incorrectly pointing to a date sometime between March 21 1843, and March 21 1844, before marking the end for the second time on October 22 1844.
Do those dates sound familiar in light of Mr. Camping’s prophesy perhaps? Do I smell a little Biblical plagiarism in them there hills? It’s hard to prove, but interesting to muse over. Returning to Miller, the second and final erroneous prediction effectively brought an end to the Millerites as a viable force in American religious life, with a number of members just giving up and going back to their obviously unhappy lives in the real world after the sun rose on the 23 October and the returning messiah missed his flight, ensuring that Christ’s long-awaited American tour ended up a bust yet again. Intriguingly, Mr. Camping also has other failed attempts at leading his flock over the cliff and onward towards the End of Days under his belt going as far back as 1994, though he obviously got his sums wrong on those ones too or none of us would be here to read this today.
But then, I hear you ask, why is any of this relevant to an organisation such as BARsoc? Why should those of a skeptical mindset bother to get involved in such matters, when there is not even a hint of Popper’s required falsifiability in the God hypothesis that said End Times prophesy hinges on?
Because it is, in this author’s opinion, the role of the rational to protect the innocent from the predation of those who would use the irrational for personal gain, be they a man, a church or even a state. Religion is not the enemy here, believe it or not, but good old-fashioned fast talking and empty promises. If Mr. Camping was the CEO of a company, and failed to deliver his customers the product that they had paid for because he knew that said product, in this case the end of the world as we know it, was unobtainable, he would be held accountable by the laws of the land. Yet as a religious leader he is able to do as he pleases and cause his followers hardship with impunity, a state of affairs that should not be allowed to continue in a post-enlightenment, modern society such as the United States.
Oh, and just so other sects don’t feel left out, I should finish by mentioning that Harold Camping and Family Radio International are just one End Times provider, and other Rapture dates are available. Book yours early to guarantee disappointment, and don’t blame me when you’re still here, but your money is not, the day after!
Posted on May 28, 2011, in article, irrational, media, misattribution, pop culture paranormal, rational and tagged belief, hoax, misinformation, rational, skeptical, thinking. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.