Aren’t We Tired Of This?

First of all, I want to apologize for writing about this again. This is a tired subject, I know, and I really feel like I’m beating a dead horse here (I thoroughly hate that phrase, by the way). The fact remains that this is still serious shit. People have done some rather extreme things in the name of the rapture prediction, from surrendering all personal possessions to attempting to kill themselves and their family in order to avoid the suffering of the tribulation. Click the link, I am not making this up! Stranger than fiction indeed.

Harold Camping’s predicted rapture didn’t happen like he said it would last Saturday. That’s what we all observed. No earthquakes, no vanishing faithful folk, nothing. Are we surprised? Not really. And now Mr. Camping has recorded an apologetic video on the matter. In it, Camping insists that the rapture actually did happen, but that it was spiritual in nature as opposed to physical. Contrary to some news reports out there, Camping did not apologize for getting the rapture date wrong but rather for assuming it would be a physical event. Harold Camping still insists that doomsday (not the rapture, this is a separate happening) will still occur on October 21 of this year.

Hold on a minute, I need to address something. Camping says that the rapture did in fact happen and that it was spiritual instead of physical… so if that’s true, then what’s the deal with those who were spiritually raptured last Saturday? Why is Camping himself still walking and talking just like before? Why is his ‘spirit’ still doing its thing here on earth rather than floating about the heavens with Jesus?

OK, done with that aside, back to the topic at hand.

In all seriousness, I very much hope that Camping’s credibility has been damaged enough by this weekend’s lack of activity that many of his followers will think better of continuing to follow him. That is my hope, anyway, but of course what will actually happen remains to be seen. The saddest thing that emerged from this whole affair, as I hinted at earlier, is that some people are willing to put so much stock into this nonsense that they open themselves up to making terrible and often irreversible decisions that damage their own lives and those of the people around them. I keep thinking about the mom who attempted to fatally slit her daughters’ throats before turning the knife on herself. The little girls didn’t hurt anyone or commit any terrible offense, they just had a mommy who put her faith in religious bullshit.

Camping’s camp aside (sorry had to say that), it’s my understanding that the majority of Christians in America did not put stock into the May 21 prediction, but rather insist that we can never predict when the rapture will occur… but it will happen. They cite Bible verses such as Matthew 24:36, which quotes Jesus as saying “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my father only.” (KJV) This is of course referring to the rapture. These Christians do indeed believe that the endtimes are coming, but that Harold Camping had no business attempting to predict it in the first place. Several of them have come out and said that the predictions, if anything, hurt the Christian faith in that it portrays all Christians in this particular light of craziness.

Silly Christians.

Someday, perhaps, the people in this nation who acknowledge that there is no rapture or day of judgment looming over us will outnumber those who do buy into such absurdities. Won’t be anytime soon, I know, but I can still hope right?

Honestly, I’m done with all this. I’m tired of Harold Camping and his apocalyptic obsessions rooted in Christian dogma. It’s stupid, it’s pointless, and there are other pressing matters that are far more deserving of our attention.

ADDENDUM: This is wonderful!

Rapture Schmapture

Never mind all this rapture silliness. Here’s some fun footage I took last Friday on campus when we were visited by Brother Jed and his family.

Part 1 features Jed himself and then his daughter:

 

Part 2 features Jed’s wife:

More on the ‘Rapture’

Less than a week to go, kids!

Found this wonderful video from The Thinking Atheist. Enjoy!

Rapture!!!

THE END IS NIGH!

Or at least, that’s what we are told by the more fanatical Christians these days. Street preachers, billboards, and a smattering of messages spewed over the internet are declaring that May 21, 2011 is the day of rapture. This is supposedly the day when Christians who make the ‘saved’ list will be lifted into heaven to start their eternal life at Jesus’ side, while the rest of us unrepentant sinners will be left behind to suffer natural disasters of every variety and await the true end of days, which will supposedly occur this coming October.

May 21, 2011? Shit! That’s a week from tomorrow!

So where did this idea come from? Doesn’t the Bible mention something about how nobody will be able to predict the second coming? Well, the primary proponent of this idea is an evangelical Christian named Harold Camping. Mr. Camping is a co-founder of Family Radio Worldwide, an evangelical media outlet. Camping has held a focus on calculating exactly when the Bible predicts Jesus’ return for quite some time now. He once predicted that the rapture would occur on September 6, 1994, but that date came and went without incident. Camping justified his error by claiming that he neglected to include the Book of Jeremiah in his calculations. Now, he says that May 21 is THE day, and that THE BIBLE GUARANTEES IT.

In fact, FRW made a series of videos on Vimeo in several different languages (English version can be seen on their website) proclaiming this to be true.

How did he come to this conclusion? What ‘calculations’ are behind this idea? Well, I’ll let our friends at FRW explain in their own words:

What proof is there for the date of May 21, 2011?

The date May 21, 2011 was derived solely from evidence found in the Bible. Mr. Camping saw God had placed, in Scripture, many important signs and proofs. These proofs alert believers that May 21st of 2011 is the date Christ will return for His people and begin a period of the final destruction of the world.

What signs precede the Day of Judgment?

Jesus warned of several spiritual signs, such as the complete degradation of the Christian church, the devastating moral breakdown of society, the re-establishment of National Israel in1948, the emergence of the ‘Gay Pride Movement’, and the complete disregard of the Bible in all of society today as direct evidence of His return.

What is the Timeline of History?

The timeline of history is God’s predetermined timetable for the unfolding of God’s Gospel program for this world. In other words the length of time between the day God created this world in 11,013 B.C. and the day he will destroy it in October 21, 2011.

The discovery of this information built the foundation for what God would later reveal from the Bible as the date for the end.

Judgment Day on May 21, 2011 is the culmination of five decades of intensive biblical study by Mr. Camping and other bible teachers who have discovered the same biblical data.

And there we have it. Convinced? Ready to liquidate all your assets and wave this world goodbye? You know, if you’re planning on getting rid of all that extra soon-to-be-useless-anyway cash, you could send it my way. You know, to help make a humble atheist’s life a bit more enjoyable before the worldly torments begin.

But let’s face reality here, folks. This rapture business is bullshit. Always has been. There is no such thing as god and there will be no final judgment. There is no evidence to support this idea. None. Zero. Anything that people have tried to present as evidence for the supernatural has not only been shown to require a certain degree of circular or otherwise twisted logic, but has been thoroughly refuted by ever-growing mountains of stronger evidence. I cannot be more direct on the matter.

That said, we happen to live in a world and a zeitgeist where a vast majority of people do indeed believe in a god or several gods, along with a host of other supernatural entities. Many people really are taking this rapture business seriously, such as the man holding the sign in the photo above. Other examples might be Kevin Brown and Brian Haubert, who have been working to spread the message of the rapture in recent days. To quote a recent article from NPR News, Brown and Haubert explain:

On May 21, “starting in the Pacific Rim at around the 6 p.m. local time hour, in each time zone, there will be a great earthquake, such as has never been in the history of the Earth,” he says. The true Christian believers — he hopes he’s one of them — will be “raptured”: They’ll fly upward to heaven. And for the rest?

“It’s just the horror of horror stories,” he says, “and on top of all that, there’s no more salvation at that point. And then the Bible says it will be 153 days later that the entire universe and planet Earth will be destroyed forever.”

Most Bible scholars note that even Jesus said he had no idea when Judgment Day would come. But May 21 believers like Haubert are unfazed.

“I’ve crunched the numbers, and it’s going to happen,” he says.

Haubert says the Bible contains coded “proofs” that reveal the timing. For example, he says, from the time of Noah’s flood to May 21, 2011, is exactly 7,000 years. Revelations like this have changed his life.

“I no longer think about 401(k)s and retirement,” he says. “I’m not stressed about losing my job, which a lot of other people are in this economy. I’m just a lot less stressed, and in a way I’m more carefree.”

He’s tried to warn his friends and family — they think he’s crazy. And that saddens him.

Those poor men. They have drank the Kool-Aid. I was kinda joking when I said the thing about liquidating assets earlier, but for some people they really are going that far. That’s what makes me sad, that people will be so willing to buy into this kind of absurdity so completely. I feel bad for them. What will happen when May 22 comes around and their rapture has not come to pass? Will they plunge into remorseful embarrassment? Or will they cling to the notion of the rapture and frantically re-calculate their prediction? I suspect that Camping will opt for the latter. As for everyone else, who knows? Time will tell. In any case, it will not be a fun day for these people.

To end on a slightly more lighthearted note, here is the Huffington Post’s top 21 reasons May 21 is not the end.

Can Science And Religion Co-Exist?

For a long while now I have argued that science and religion are bound to inherent conflict simply due to their respective natures. There are, of course, several scientists–many accomplished scientists in fact–who identify themselves with a particular faith. As an example, I recently saw a two hour video recording of Ken Miller lecturing on (the collapse of) intelligent design at Case Western University in northern Ohio. It was a wonderful presentation on what evolution is, the history of the conflict between evolution and creationism, and how it pertains to education in Ohio. However, there was one aspect of Miller’s talk that I found to be more than a little bit disquieting, and that was his proclamation of Roman Catholicism. The lecture event even opened up with a Catholic priest leading a prayer. I can’t help but wonder how such an accomplished biologist and proponent of proper science education can internally reconcile these two things, science and Catholicism, in his own personal life. An audience member asked about this issue during the Q & A session, but Miller offered little to no reasoning to justify his position.

It’s a curious thing, taking such efforts to hold on to religious belief, despite knowing that its teachings and doctrines are false.

But then, I found the following open letter from biologist and author Jerry Coyne posted on his own WordPress site addressing why it is no only acceptable for scientists to criticize religion, but in many ways it is essential to do so:

Dear comrades:

Although we may diverge in our philosophies and actions toward religion, we share a common goal: the promulgation of good science education in Britain and America–indeed, throughout the world. Many of us, like myself and Richard Dawkins, spend a lot of time teaching evolution to the general public. There’s little doubt, in fact, that Dawkins is the preeminent teacher of evolution in the world. He has not only turned many people on to modern evolutionary biology, but has converted many evolution-deniers (most of them religious) to evolution-accepters.

Nevertheless, your employees, present and former, have chosen to spend much of their time battling not creationists, but evolutionists who happen to be atheists. This apparently comes from your idea that if evolutionists also espouse atheism, it will hurt the cause of science education and turn people away from evolution. I think this is misguided for several reasons, including a complete lack of evidence that your idea is true, but also your apparent failure to recognize that creationism is a symptom of religion (and not just fundamentalist religion), and will be with us until faith disappears. That is one reason–and, given the pernicious effect of religion, a minor one–for the fact that we choose to fight on both fronts.

The official policy of your organizations–certainly of the NCSE–is apparently to cozy up to religion. You have “faith projects,” you constantly tell us to shut up about religion, and you even espouse a kind of theology which claims that faith and science are compatible. Clearly you are going to continue with these activities, for you’ve done nothing to change them in the face of criticism. And your employees, past and present, will continue to heap invective on New Atheists and tar people like Richard Dawkins with undeserved opprobrium.

We will continue to answer the misguided attacks by people like Josh Rosenau, Roger Stanyard, and Nick Matzke so long as they keep mounting those attacks. I don’t expect them to abate, but I’d like your organizations to recognize this: you have lost many allies, including some prominent ones, in your attacks on atheism. And I doubt that those attacks have converted many Christians or Muslims to the cause of evolution. This is a shame, because we all recognize that the NCSE has done some great things in the past and, I hope, will–like the new BCSE–continue do great things in the future.

There is a double irony in this situation. First, your repeated and strong accusations that, by criticizing religion, atheists are alienating our pro-evolution allies (liberal Christians), has precisely the same alienating effect on your allies: scientists who are atheists. Second, your assertion that only you have the requisite communication skills to promote evolution is belied by the observation that you have, by your own ham-handed communications, alienated many people who are on the side of good science and evolution. You have lost your natural allies. And this is not just speculation, for those allies were us, and we’re telling you so.

Sincerely,
Jerry Coyne

What a wonderful piece of writing this is! I think that it illustrates the point quite clearly.

What this issue really boils down to is the dichotomy of what religion has to offer in terms of understanding truth as opposed to science. I’ve heard several people make the argument that science and religion are simply two different methods of seeking out truth. If I were a less mature person, I’d be inclined to accept this seemingly peaceful explanation… but I’m not. In light of critical inquiry, I must challenge this idea.

How does science go about seeking truth? Through the scientific method. Hypotheses are formed, ideas are tested, data is collected, results are shared, tests are repeated, and the process repeats. The system that science utilizes is self-correcting in that ideas that don’t fit with data and observations are discarded without hesitation, even if they had previously been accepted. To be a good scientist is to live in strongly disciplined professional humility. Science is continually improving our understanding of reality. The knowledge and insight that science has provided humanity, even in merely the past 150 years or so, is nothing short of staggering.

Now, what does religion offer to the quest for truth? In a word, nothing. Religion offers explanations for why things are the way they are, but then leaves it alone. Another term for this type of rationality is ‘superstition’. Tests and experiments are not performed, and old ideas and practices are only set aside when they become socially unfavorable (i.e. witch burning, to cite one example). Rather than supporting their claims by empirical evidence, measurable observations and experimental data, religions instead focus on either apologetically attempting to justify these claims or simply ignoring the issue altogether under the banner of faith. Moreover, religions will use fear–the fear of an ever-watchful and judgmental god or eternal torment and despair in a mythical land called hell–to keep their followers in line. This should be plainly obvious to anyone who is brave enough to take a step back and see these institutions as they truly are. It is in this way that religion has served as a fantastically effective means of population control throughout the ages. This is in no way a means to discover truth. Religion is many things, but a tool to understand the nature of reality it is not.

‘One is often told that it is a very wrong thing to attack religion because religion makes men virtuous. So I am told; I have not noticed it.’ -Bertrand Russell, from Why I Am Not A Christian