There have always been a few mentally fragile individuals going about wearing sandwich boards proclaiming the imminence of the end. But they are seldom as specific about it as the latest batch of ditzy doom mongers who say that the rapture will occur at 1800 local time on the 21st May.
Why are they so sure? Well, because it’s exactly 7000 years since the start of the great flood (you know, the one that happened when the only person with a boat was Noah), that’s why. How do they know the exact date of the flood? I don’t know and they aren’t telling, apart from a somewhat cryptic assertion that it is encoded in the Bible. The man who started all this is the well-known crackpot Harold Camping, the founder of a Christian media network called Family Radio. He predicted the day of judgement would come on September the 6th 1994, and when it didn’t his excuse was that he hadn’t actually read the whole thing: “For example, I at that time had not gone through the Book of Jeremiah which is a big book in the Bible that has a whole lot to say about the end of the world.”
This is all very entertaining, but his nonsense has an adverse effect on the lives of those who are too weak or psychotic to think for themselves. For example: Adrienne Martinez and her husband Joel lived and worked in New York. Adrienne had plans to attend medical school, but when they fell under the spell of Camping, their plans changed. “Knowing the date of the end of the world changes all your future plans. My mentality was, why are we going to work for more money? It just seemed kind of greedy to me. And unnecessary.” So they quit their jobs and moved to Florida. “We budgeted everything so that, on May 21, we won’t have anything left.” The really sad part of this is that they have a two-year-old daughter and another child on the way, who will be going hungry come the the 22nd because of their parents’ idiocy.
Their story is not unique; there plenty of people who have given up careers to wait apathetically for “the rapture”. On the 22nd of May they are going to be both disappointed and broke.
It’s said that yelling “fire!” in a crowded theatre when there is no fire is not protected by any constitutional free speech provisions because the potentially disastrous consequences of panic trump the constitutional free speech clause. Is there not a case to made that Camping is doing the same thing? Even if he actually believes his own bullshit, the feeble-minded dupes who follow him risk destitution as a result of it. I’m not looking forward to the sob stories that will abound as the gullible realize that they have been gulled, but there is no going back to repair the damage.
Grumpy Old Man by Mark Widdicombe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License