As I sit on my couch on May 22nd, 2011 in anticipation of my favorite soccer team’s final game of the season, I cannot help but reflect on Rapture Day 2011. As Morpheus loudly proclaimed in The Matrix Reloaded, “We are still here!”
I am a little depressed about the whole deal. As our Rapture Day Twitter Feed shows, I was really excited for some post-rapture day looting. Now, as god has passed over ending the world hardly for the first time, we are left with a baffled bunch of the most pesky of believers (the anti-rock music, anti-Harry Potter, anti-fun ones). We can thank Family Radio host Harold Camping for the potent yet unfulfilled date of May 21st for the rapture and for a few other things:
– One man spending 140,000$ — nearly his entire life savings — on Rapture Ads (Source)
– 1 million dollars spent on Ads in total by the Family Radio network (Source)
– Countless families and children duped into belief in the rapture, with consequences of non-rapture ignored and futures squandered. (Source) (NYT: Parents stop funding kids in college and other ramblings)
– One atheist’s sincere dissatisfaction in the lack of looting he will be able to do today. (myself, of course)
I think we should be fair to Camping. He has now predicted the rapture 6 times unsuccessfully. You think he would quit suffering all this trouble, but remember he’s in good company. We had numerous individuals buy in to Y2K, and now we are all eagerly awaiting the end of the Mayan calendar in 2012. As far as the Christian rapture, let us not forget the years after Jesus’ death when everyone thought the Nazarene would be back sooner rather than later. Camping can rest easy knowing he really is not alone in this. (Although he seems to be missing)
Now I know many Christians who read this blog (and beyond) thought Camping’s exact date rapture prediction was nutty. There were many Christian preachers, pastors, and priests denouncing this prediction as nonsense. Still, the rapture (second coming, etc.) is still a major point in Christian teaching and all Christians must surely believe that it will happen eventually. I suppose it will come like a “bump in the night” and we won’t know when but I wonder if anyone will take the hint that a deity-intervention marking the end of the world is not all that likely. We should also point out here that people’s different interpretations of the Bible lead them to believe very different things, or at least in very different ways.
What did atheists do on Rapture Day?
Well, some of us had our fun. My good friend Peggy went around downtown Kansas City and had some fun. Here at the Atheist Youth Movement, we tweeted all day about rapture related material. I personally went down to Off Broadway with my band Faux Pas and played the LouFest Battle of the Bands in hopes of getting a slot at LouFest in Forest Park August 27th and 28th. (Yes, I was expecting an August 27th and 28th). My friends with the Air Capital Skeptics hosted a Rapture Day event which included many fabulous Atheist speakers. One Twitterer tweeted that he would like to loot the Westboro Baptist Church given a post-Rapture scenario. Many of us mused about how we did not understand why war would break out with the religious nuts gone. (Although I guess it would just have been the Christian nuts.) Various atheists profited (much of which was donated) from the Rapture by offering to deliver letters to heathen family members from Christian rapture believers or taking care of their pets after they were taken away. I particularly feel bad for those who bought into Harold Camping’s beliefs and lost most of their money or jobs or whatever else. Maybe we can say they should not have been duped, but you still feel bad for the naive.
As Peggy’s sign says, many will still be waiting for the rapture, if in a different way that Camping and co. Atheists, skeptics, heathens and the rest will be out there poking fun at it all and enjoying ourselves. I just wish Camping wouldn’t have offered me 5 months of free reign on Earth (aside from the torment) after the orthodox of the orthodox had left and I would not have gotten so excited. With all these rapture days, I have to take the position of Robert Fitzpatrick, the man who funded the ad campaign with his life savings. “I just don’t understand.” I understand why it didn’t happen, and I understand why I am utterly confident that it never will. I just don’t understand why we have to do this every couple of years.
Ben Conover is a soon-to-be sophomore philosophy and neuroscience major at Saint Louis University and the head of the Atheist Youth Movement.