Sunday, May 22, 2011

There's Got to Be a Morning After

The Harold Camping story has already gotten too much play, but I've seen a few things today that I thought were highly revealing about the non-Rapturists.

Someone on Facebook referred to this article on Slate, quoting this excerpt:

For those who draw their inspiration from the Bible, there is some small print in Deuteronomy 18:21-22 which wonderfully illustrates why a failed prophecy may not shake the foundations of a believer's faith, or cause him any uncomfortable cognitive dissonance.

You may say to yourselves, "How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?"

If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed.

Only predictions that come true are from God, you see, while failed prophecies are just down to human slip-ups—a truly divine response to anyone who would condemn either a prophet or a whole belief system on the minor matter of a failed apocalypse.

Now, we all know that only literalist fundamentalists ever quote the Bible out of context, so I'm not going to judge. It must have been mere human error that caused the author of the article to miss the verse just before the one he quotes, Deuteronomy 18:20:
But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death.
Yeah, that's what I'm talkin' about. In context, the reason you need not be alarmed by a prophet whose predictions don't come true is so that you won't be nervous about executing him. This "divine response" sounds like condemnation to me. The Dread Pirate Yahweh takes no prisoners.

Back at Facebook, someone else commented, "When you look at the self-righteous freaks who expected to be taken aloft, I'd be overjoyed to be Left Behind." "Self-righteous," maybe, but "freaks"? Is it just me, or do people who accuse others of self-righteousness often come across as somewhat self-righteous themselves?

Avedon Carol at The Sideshow wrote:
If they all do ever get raptured, a big voice will come out of the sky saying, "Just tidying up the mess - carry on." And then since they're gone we can have a thousand years of peace.
A thousand years of peace? Oh, really? Just a few examples: the Vietnam War wasn't started or waged by Christian fundamentalists (except at the grunt level -- I'm talking about the policymakers and planners). Nice, moderate Christians (high-church Episcopalians, secularized Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, etc.) killed a couple million innocent people with bombs, napalm, chemical weapons, and good old-fashioned guns and stabbing weapons. The Shah of Iran was no Islamofascist; he was a murderous, torturing thug in Western suits and military uniforms. Modern Israel wasn't founded by ultraorthodox Jews but by non-observant, often atheist socialist Jews who wanted to be tough like the goyim. Such people would still be here after the Rapture, if it were to happen -- along with the Dawkinses, the Hitchenses, the Harrises, all of them thirsty for Saracen blood. Would the Rapture make much difference?

I also like the "they" in that first sentence, a lovely example of true Christian inclusiveness. It casts fundamentalists as Other, unlike the true Christians who are full of Love and possess the Truth. They are the source of all Our problems, and if They (the Jews, the Islamofascists, the Albigensians, the Communists, the half-Kenyan anti-colonialist usurper) just went away, everything would be hunky-dory.
Avedon's take is actually not that different from that of believers in the Rapture: they believe that by being taken into Heaven, they will enjoy peace, while the unsaved face natural disasters, plague, and war. It's so comforting when you can blame everything bad on Them: the bad people, who are of course completely, distinctly, essentially different from you. (A rereading of the parable of the Good Samaritan might be in order.)

From what I can tell, though, believers in the Rapture are more likely to be like Keith Bauer than Harold Camping, who himself appears to be harmless compared to the reasonable, rational, scientific people who want to cleanse the world of Them, the wrong people (they've got a little list, they never will be missed). Now that I think of it, I wonder why so many self-proclaimed rationalist people find this silly, irrational, often-disproven belief so threatening. Is it like homophobes who can't quite put The Gey out of their minds because they secretly find it ... attractive?