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Apocalypse How?

May 20, 2011

Well, if the world is going to end tomorrow, I guess I’d better try to squeeze out another blog post or two. As you may have heard, some engineer-turned-theologian named Harold Camping (perhaps having read one too many Dan Brown novels), has supposedly determined that the Bible contains a code that indicates that The Rapture will occur on May 21. However, the range of human responses to this news makes me optimistic that some enlightenment may yet come of it. Or at least some mood-lightening.

The most common response, from my anecdotal and non-scientific sampling, seems to be blatant rejection of the hypothesis without even bothering to examine the “merits” of the argument (followed closely by the suggestion of a party the night before “in case of” the Rapture, and the night after “in celebration of the fact that it didn’t happen”). In any event, given that most of the opinions I’ve sampled were given by ostensibly reasonable people, they must have rejected one or more (or all) of the following premises the Rapture hypothesis depends on (in descending order of likelihood of rejection):

  1. that Camping’s methods of calculation were correct;
  2. that the Biblical text referenced actually contain such a code for predicting the Rapture;
  3. that such Biblical text, assuming it contains such a code, is susceptible to human interpretation and analysis (see also Matthew 24:36 (“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”));
  4. that Camping himself is mentally competent or otherwise sane (in an everyday sense);
  5. that such Biblical text was originally inscribed by someone with access to supernatural knowledge of the date of an apocalypse;
  6. that Camping himself is mentally competent or otherwise sane (in a legal sense);
  7. that a Rapture or other doomsday will occur due to supernatural intervention;
  8. that any such supernatural force capable of intervention exists;

Of course, Camping also determined that it would occur in 1994. And though he may not be available for comment on Sunday, if he was, he’d probably say that a renewed study of the scriptural references in question reveals that his analysis was wrong. But doesn’t it seem like a much more substantial chunk of people are being taken in by this doomsayer than in 1994? Another one of my informal surveys suggests a lot of people heralding the date (at least online). And there are the anecdotal stories of people who are looking for ways to spend their life-savings, including paying for non-suckers to take care of their pets or send their friends condescending emails after they are Rapture’d up. But those may simply be evergreen industries.

I guess the fact that more suckers are buying this story toady than in 1994 would be consistent with my own suspicions that the world is in fact growing more stupid. That might simply be a result of the fact that the proselytizing crazies can all get online and generate a semblance of credibility simply by being polarizing. Google ranks controversy highly because people do so too. But that’s another doomsday prophecy for another time.

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