Sunday, May 22, 2011

God on Railroad Timetable, Camping on His Sword

I mean, even if you believe in god and rapture and stuff, how can you believe that such a jealous, ancient god would schedule his apocalypse according to time zones drawn up by nineteenth-century railroads?

In other words, when we get to May 21 on the calendar in any city or country in the world, and the clock says about — this is based on other verses in the bible — when the clock says about 6 p.m., there's going to be this tremendous earthquake that's going to make the last earthquake in Japan seem like nothing in comparison. And the whole world will be alerted that Judgment Day has begun. And then it will follow the sun around for 24 hours. As each area of the world gets to that point of 6 p.m. on May 21, then it will happen there, and until it happens, the rest of the world will be standing far off and witnessing the horrible thing that is happening.

As I'm writing this, the rapture after party is winding down, and the birds are singing outside. Yet life is not good for the fundies Harold Camping defrauded.

"My mentality was, why are we going to work for more money? It just seemed kind of greedy to me. And unnecessary," she says.

And so, her husband adds, "God just made it possible — he opened doors. He allowed us to quit our jobs, and we just moved, and here we are."

Now they are in Orlando, in a rented house, passing out tracts and reading the bible. Their daughter is 2 years old, and their second child is due in June. Joel says they're spending the last of their savings. They don't see a need for one more dollar.

"You know, you think about retirement and stuff like that," he says. "What's the point of having some money just sitting there?"

"We budgeted everything so that, on May 21, we won't have anything left," Adrienne adds.

Nothing, except for the fervent hope that all of them will be raptured.

The Haddad children of Middletown, Md., have a lot on their minds: school projects, SATs, weekend parties. And parents who believe the earth will begin to self-destruct on Saturday.

The three teenagers have been struggling to make sense of their shifting world, which started changing nearly two years ago when their mother, Abby Haddad Carson, left her job as a nurse to "sound the trumpet" on mission trips with her husband, Robert, handing out tracts. They stopped working on their house and saving for college.

Last weekend, the family traveled to New York, the parents dragging their reluctant children through a Manhattan street fair in a final effort to spread the word.

"My mom has told me directly that I'm not going to get into heaven," Grace Haddad, 16, said. "At first it was really upsetting, but it's what she honestly believes."

Thousands of people around the country have spent the last few days taking to the streets and saying final goodbyes before Saturday, judgment day, when they expect to be absorbed into heaven in a process known as the rapture. Nonbelievers, they hold, will be left behind to perish along with the world over the next five months.

Well, it's the fundies that will perish now, starve to death, as they deserve, one might say. Or one might blame Camping for fueling their delusions.

While Ms. Haddad Carson has quit her job, her husband still works as an engineer for the federal Energy Department. But the children worry that there may not be enough money for college. They also have typical teenage angst — embarrassing parents — only amplified.

"People look at my family and think I'm like that," said Joseph, their 14-year-old, as his parents walked through the street fair on Ninth Avenue, giving out Bibles. "I keep my friends as far away from them as possible."

"I don't really have any motivation to try to figure out what I want to do anymore," he said, "because my main support line, my parents, don't care."

His mother said she accepted that believers "lose friends and you lose family members in the process."

"For those who were invested in this prediction, their world did end Saturday," said Rev. Jeremy Nickel, the minister at Fremont's Mission Peak Unitarian Universalist Congregation. "They thought they were going to heaven, and they didn't. They may have donated all their money. They're going to be in a world of hurt."

Billboards guaranteeing the end of the world Saturday were almost as ubiquitous as Starbucks outlets in the Bay Area and the world and just as galvanizing to followers, who donated more than $100 million over the past seven years and drove RVs all over the United States to alert people of the coming rapture. Oakland-based Family Radio, with 66 radio stations across the globe, was uncharacteristically quiet Saturday, its website down.

"Here's the takeaway," said Richard Hodill of San Mateo, who staffed the registration table at the atheist convention. "Learn to be a discriminating and critical thinker. Base your life on evidence-based reasoning. Religion exploits people to their detriment."

Others had risked a lot more on Camping's prediction, quitting jobs, abandoning relationships, volunteering months of their time to spread the word. Matt Tuter, the longtime producer of Camping's radio and television call-in show, said Saturday that he expected there to be "a lot of angry people" as reality proved Camping wrong.

Tuter said Family Radio's AM station in Sacramento had been "severely vandalized" Friday night or Saturday morning, with air conditioning units yanked out and $25,000 worth of copper stripped from the equipment. He thinks it must have been an angry listener. He was off Saturday but planned to drive past the headquarters "and make sure nothing's burning."

The retired MTA engineer poured his life savings — $140,000 — into an NYC Transit ad campaign. The signs reads: "Global Earthquake: The Greatest Ever! Judgment Day May 21, 2011" and is now plastered on bus kiosks and subway cars all over the city.

Because of those delusions, people quit jobs, wasted their last money, and what is worst, ruined their kids' social lives. It has been asked, "What should Camping do now?" In my opinion, he should do like Varus did and fall on his own sword. Suicide is the best option for him. Well, he's 89 years old and ugly like 110, so he'll probably be dead soon, anyway.

Why is it actually that the government can regulate interior designers, but not false prophets? The Second Amendment has been regulated well nigh out of existence, so the First Amendment could bear some regulating, too. After all, human sacrifice and (falsely) shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater is already banned, in spite of free religion and free speech.

There's all kinds of regulations of Wall Street, presumably to protect investors, but fundies may prey on the gullible at will. And why is it that gambling is banned or regulated, because people cannot make their own decisions about betting all their money on 13 black, but they may spend their life savings on fundie nonsense? Gambling would give them better odds.

At the very least, Camping should be forced to give all his money to indemnifying his credulous, faithful (a tautology, of course) victims. Then again, it's hard to commiserate if (fundie) scum is exploited by worse (fundie) scum. I'm just sorry for the kids.

So beware of false prophets. Hint: They all are.

If those people had donated their money to science instead of religion, maybe a cure for aging would have been found, eliminating people's need for the crutch of religion.

PS: Being left behind rocks!

PPS: Did you know that Camping was originally from England and was born Harold Tenting-Ground?

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