Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Further Reflection On A Failed Event

I've read a few reactions to the fizzle of the rapture prediction (already revised). There are some who say mocking those who believed is cruel, and maybe it is; but it's not that simple. The point isn't merely that people were deceived out of their life savings, committed suicide, or attempted to murder their kids. The point, which those calling for charity (and many of those snickering) will neither accept nor, more importantly, admit to themselves, is that it's the perfect metaphor for what they themselves believe. Not metaphor, actually: revelation. To borrow a word.

For a moment there, a crack appeared in the wall so many construct between themselves and reality. It provided a brief peek at themselves, and, therefore, it was quickly plastered over. The saga of Mr Camping and his followers, like the retinal remnant of a flashbulb in the face, was a vision; and, of necessity, it vanished.

What, other than numbers, separates those who believed Mr Camping from those who believe Mr Smith? Or Mr Jones or Koresh? What separates them from those who believe Mr Robertson, or Mr Huckabee? Or anyone who proclaims the literal truth of (their favored translation of) the Bible? Or the Koran? Or the Talmud? The Tao? "When you understand why you reject my beliefs," says a man, "you'll understand why I reject yours." Other than numbers, the only thing that separates the unhappy Campers from the rest is that the disproof of their beliefs happened in real time, during consciousness. What they do have in common is the sincere certainty that they're right, and that everyone else, therefore, is wrong. And now, also like everyone else, they rationalize. Like it never happened.

I'm a charitable guy. I was just in church, believe it or not, as a mitzvah for my aunt, unable to attend the unveiling of her daughter's beautiful mural in the sanctuary. I even flew 2,500 miles (round trip) to be there. The service -- if a little more focused on the devil than I'd expected (in the selected songs, anyway) -- was touching. (When it was mentioned by the pastor that they were still there, the day after May 21, there were a few [self-conscious?] chuckles.) Along with everyone else, I belted out "Amazing Grace," because I love to sing, and I find many religious songs thrilling to sing, to harmonize. So, for the millionth time, it's not belief, per se, that I find disturbing. My aunt and her family are going through very tough times, and not just because she's dying. Their faith undoubtedly is helping them.

But they're not the sort who think their brand of faith is the only way; nor would they ever consider making it the law of our land. They're not offended by the idea of gay marriage; would never vote for laws outlawing it (another just made its way through a state legislature, home of the latest R presidential candidate.)

My hope -- I hope for a lot of things that will never ever happen -- would be that fanatical believers of all sorts, in this land and across the seas, would look at the recent non-apocalypse as a microcosm of themselves. I don't wish -- because most people can't handle it -- for them to lose their faith (although, because I'm a generous person, I'd like to invite them to enjoy the full pleasures of life, the wonders of it all, undulled, the lily ungilded by pyrite). I do wish that in some compartment of their brains -- and they're nothing if unable to compartmentalize -- they'd acknowledge that their latching to their faith is no different from the latchings of those they've chosen to reject; and, therefore, that they might open their minds and hearts to the possibility that they could be wrong: a reverse Pascal's wager. Or, at least, that they have no right to impose their choices from the faith cafeteria on other diners.

Seeing that the Camping ground was build on supersaturated sand, then, at the very least, they should be able gain some perspective, to let god's gay children be gay, and married; to allow those of us who believe in factuality to have it taught in public schools; to stop legislating their version of Sharia. For in what way do those who believed in Camping differ from themselves? In no way.

It couldn't be more obvious. Would that they could see it.


Chuck Sigars said...

I'm starting to think now that the crime rate is down and easy credit is gone, maybe the biggest problem facing Americans is cognitive dissonance. How well people resolve this probably reflects on something, although I'm not sure what.

Forget the unhappy Campers for the moment and look at FOX News. You and I know very intelligent and thoughtful people who watch it routinely (religiously?). You and I could also point out to these people, and probably have, objective evidence of deception, bias, misinformation, etc. It might be entertaining but it's not a good idea if this is your only news source.

And the eyes glaze over. They don't hear it, they can't, because their whole world view crumbles then if you point out that, say, statistically, historically we're always in better financial shape in this country when Democrats have power.

And that's just partisan politics. Climate change, basic economics, race and sexual identity issues, etc: The truth is actually out there, but it can make us crazy. It also makes me wonder where my blinders are, and what I believe that's wrong.

Sid Schwab said...

Well said, Chuck. There's no doubt some (much?) of what you and I believe is wrong; but the difference between us and Foxophiles is that we recognize it and are constantly seeking to keep our minds open, welcoming new information. Sort of like science itself, the method of thought so deeply feared by so many on the right.

Fox is for those who've not only already closed their minds but who actively seek to keep the doors locked.

And for those who've long since thrown away the keys, there's the rest of the RWS™.

Anonymous said...

My evangelical relative called me on the 23rd. I was in the mood, so I said, "You're still here?" She asked, "What do you mean?" “I replied, so you got left behind too!” “ For a while there, I was afraid I would have to call in Raptured to my job!”

She finally got it and said -"You mean what that crazy guy was saying about The Rapture - he doesn't know what he’s talking about."

Me: "He's crazy?" "Why, he simply said exactly what you have been saying for years?" "He thinks he just got the date wrong, you do still believe the Rapture thing, right?"

She: "No, no; I believe, but nobody can say when it's coming; it says so in the Bible,"

Me: "So not October then?" "2012? "A lot of evangelicals are betting on 2012"

She: No!!

Me: I read that about half of the people in America believe that Jesus will be back by 2050; how about 2050, does that seem about right for you?"

She: "No!!!” “Nobody can say, it's in the Bible!!!"

Me: "Oh!" "Well, if it's in the Bible, that settles it."

Me: How about the Mayan thing, anything there?

She: “That’s just a lot of superstitious crap; you should know better than to even ask.”

Me: “Hey, their calendar looks a lot prettier than Mr. Camping’s; but then, they couldn’t even predict their own destruction – so yeah, a lot of crap.” “Lots and lots of superstious crap going around!!”

She thought I was being mean, by twitting her for her beliefs. Yet, for years I have endured being told that I, and just about everyone else, am headed for Hell because I will not say the magic words.

Two thousand years this has been going on – the End Times, Doomsday, Judgment Day, and the Rapture – all feverishly predicted and fervently believed.

The days arrive, nothing happens and believers go on believing, just as though nobody was stupid for believing and amazed that the world is still here.

Believers will believe anything, just as long as their beliefs are not associated with any facts.


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