Harold Camping and his Family Radio network claim that the Rapture will happen on May 21, 2011. As the time becomes 6:00 pm around the world on that date, they claim that several hundred million believers will rise up to meet Jesus and that global earthquakes will rock the earth. For those of us left behind, well see five months of Armageddon and then the world will end.
We think this prediction is laughable, and most Christians reject it as well. Instead of dismissing this and moving on, wed like to find the lesson here. Perhaps theres common ground between atheists and thoughtful Christians who want to minimize the harm that religion does.
This group calls themselves Christians, just like you, and theyre preaching nonsense. If you disagree with this, say so! Pointing out the nonsense is much more effective when it comes from other Christians. You help everyone when you dont ignore craziness within Christianity but work to eliminate it.
Many Americans think that way. One third of Americans think that the Bibles book of Revelation contains "true prophecy," and 50 million Americans think that the Apocalypse will happen within their lifetimes. Its easy to imagine that these beliefs are widespread when those Christians surround themselves with like-minded people. But these are minority views even within Protestantism, which is not even 20% of all Christianity.
Demand the same high level of evidence for this claim as you do for any other extraordinary claim--that aliens have abducted humans, that Atlantis existed, or that the other guys religion is true.
May 21, the date of the Rapture, will come and go. Life will proceed pretty much as usual, except that a small group of Christians will wake up the next day and wonder why the prediction that they organized their lives around didnt come true. Maybe theyll say to themselves Wow, that was really stupid! Ive learned a lesson, and I will never be taken in by another religious charlatan. But how likely is that? Will this very public humiliation leave Family Radio in tatters, with no listeners, advertisers, or donors? If reason mattered, then yes. But for some people, reason doesnt much matterand thats the problem. Thats why this isnt a harmless delusion.
A mind opened by faith can take in all sorts of nonsense. Faith is the excuse people give when they dont have a good reason. Believing something because it is reasonable and rational requires no faith at all.
There are lots of problems in the world, but Judgment Day isnt one of them. By approaching the world with reason instead of faith, well make a lot more progress. Opening the mind to magical thinking like this opens it to other nonsense. Does God exist? If so, he gave you that big brain to use !
Seattle Atheists is not primarily a philanthropic organization, but we host blood drives, a year-round Season-less food drive, and charity events to help Childrens Hospital, among other events.
By educating people and making them aware of the problem of irrational thinking, we hope to make them better able to deal with reality--improving the one life we know we have.
It would indeed make sense for them to arrange for the change in ownership now, when society is still functioning. Wouldnt giving away your property to the poor be the Christian thing to do, especially since youll not need it?
Family Radio hasnt responded to our inquiries, and Camping dodges the question when asked it on his program. Camping emphatically claims that the date is certain, but his actions make clear his thinking. That Family Radio is not putting its money where its mouth is makes it obvious that they have a very active "business as usual" Plan B (but probably with a little backpedaling).
(Isnt it maddening that there will be minimal consequences for this--that theyll probably still have followers and that no one would consider filing charges of fraud against them? There should be consequences, even for religion.)
From their web site: " Camp Quest is designed for children from non-religious families: atheists, humanists, agnostics, freethinkers and others with a naturalistic world view. We blend world-class science and critical thinking games with the traditional all-American outdoor camp experience. Think the glories of evolution paired with campfires and canoeing! Along the way, we build community, letting kids know that the skeptical community has something special to offer the world and role models to emulate."
Camp Quest NorthWest is located in Seattle, and planning its first summer camp next year based on your contributions and excitement!
May 21, 2011 is only the most recent prediction. Hundreds of predictions for the end of the world have been made using biblical justification, and obviously none have come true. In fact, the first failed prediction is significant: Jesus said that the end would come within the lifetimes of his followers. Didnt happen.
Of course! If any Armageddon-sized disaster hits the Puget Sound, God or no God, we will be there to help the survivors. We'd be there whether we had a campaign or not. As atheists, we are entirely focused on making life in this world better.
No. We assume that Family Radio and its followers arent trying to deceive, but theyre damaging their lives of those who listen. Their belief is not founded on anything real. Beliefs have consequences.
Were using a nonsensical prediction to make a point: that religion has downsides. And were raising money for a good causeCamp Quest.
Theres no harm at all when Christianity is simply ones beliefs, customs, or holidays. Its when religion gets into schools, the legislature, or the courthouse that it becomes a problem. Or when it causes believers to do irrational thingslike sell all their stuff because the end is near.
Not in the United States. We dont criticize for sport, and wed focus our efforts elsewhere if religion were benign. But when the liberal Christians say that the somewhat-conservative Christians cant be criticized, and the somewhat-conservative Christians say that the completely nutty Christians cant be criticized, weve isolated a social institution from critique. Thats not the way it should work in a country governed by a secular constitution.
Seattle-area atheists will participate in several public events. Theres an end-of-the-world party in Tacoma the evening of May 21. Seattle Atheists will be at the University District StreetFair with their sandwich board sign on May 21 and 22. They will also be at Westlake Park, across from Westlake Center, May 2327 around lunch time. Look for photos at rapture-relief.org.
The number of days from Jesus death (April 1, 33, according to Camping) until May 21, 2011 is 722,500. But 722,500 = 5² × 10² × 17². Jumping into the highly accurate (or completely speculative, depending on your worldview) science of numerology, 5 = atonement, 10 = completion, and 17 = heaven. So May 21 is the day of (Atonement × Completeness × Heaven) squared.
Curious, but hardly reason to give this calculation any weight.
(And anyway, thats not even a factorization into primes. Why is 2² × 5 4 × 17² not correct?)
Its 153 days from May 21 to October 21. Since 153 = 3 2 × 17, we consult Campings numerological handbook to find that 3 = Gods purpose. He says that this means that its doubly sure that those for whom it was Gods purpose to take to heaven will indeed go there.
But 153 means nothing to the good souls whove already been raptured and applies only to the unfortunates left behind. Why not conclude instead that its doubly Gods purpose (3) that those suffering through Armageddon will go to heaven (17)?
And why stop at 153 = 3 2 × 17? The sum of the numbers 117 is 153. And if you cube the digits and add them up, you get the original number: 153 = 1 3 + 5 3 + 3 3 . Its easy to find whatever magical message you want through numerology, though its no better at predicting the future than reading animal entrails.
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