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False May 21, 2011 Doomsday prophet Harold Camping "deserts" devastated followers, church offers solace (PHOTOS)
May 21, 2011 9:46 PM   Subscribe

False May 21, 2011 Doomsday prophet Harold Camping "deserts" devastated followers, church offers solace (PHOTOS) Doomsday prophet Harold Camping, who predicted that the End of the World would come on May 21, 2011, has gone missing ever since it became increasingly clear that his prediction is going to fail, even as local churches willingly stepped in to provide counseling and help to Camping's devastated followers.
posted by Leisure_Muffin (626 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:50 PM on May 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


You say "deserts," I say, "was lifted bodily unto Heaven." Potato, potahto.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:50 PM on May 21, 2011 [15 favorites]


A microcosm of all religion, all spirituality even. It's crap, all the way down.
posted by smcameron at 9:51 PM on May 21, 2011 [26 favorites]


Did he say May 21st? I'm pretty sure he meant May 22nd. Definitely May 22nd.

May 21st. That's obviously just absurd...
posted by chasing at 9:52 PM on May 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


People like Camping are a disgrace to organized religion. I feel bad for the naive followers who put so much stock into what one person says. I hope someone who actually sold all their worldly belongings sues his ass and takes all his stuff, to teach wannabe prophets and doomsayers that its probably not a good idea to build up their wealth duping others with the twisted words of God.
posted by SirOmega at 9:52 PM on May 21, 2011 [10 favorites]


People like Camping are a disgrace to organized religion.

People like Camping are the epitome of organized religion.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 9:57 PM on May 21, 2011 [186 favorites]


Huh. Maybe it's all bunk...
posted by CarlRossi at 9:57 PM on May 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


So let me get this right-- while we're sitting around laughing at a bunch of people who were duped by a con artist, some churches were offering consolation and assistance to victims... and this is an indication of how crappy organized religion is.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:58 PM on May 21, 2011 [178 favorites]


Camping's claims were no different from the claims of any other Christian sect.

His only mistake was to put them in a form that would be empirically tested.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 9:59 PM on May 21, 2011 [141 favorites]


But seriously, there is no evidence at this point that Camping was NOT Raptured, just because nobody else was...
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:00 PM on May 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Nah, they just want to add to their congregations. They still believe the day is coming, they just haven't circled a date on the calendar.
posted by CarlRossi at 10:00 PM on May 21, 2011 [23 favorites]


While I'm sure they truly believe it is consolation and assistance.. and to some of the victims it may even serve that need, at the core it's "hey, you believed one set of scriptural interpretation was the Truth and got fucked over for it. Allow us to comfort you by showing you the REAL Truth: OUR set of scriptural interpretation!"
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 10:00 PM on May 21, 2011 [40 favorites]


Humans are fascinating. I mean it.
posted by davebush at 10:01 PM on May 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


A church on my work route had a sign up this week saying "Jesus is coming back, just not this Saturday!"
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:03 PM on May 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


this is 2011 fuck's sake and a goodly proportion of the educated world believes that they will be bodily removed from the earth - based on one person's prediction. What chance for this world.
posted by the noob at 10:04 PM on May 21, 2011 [12 favorites]


How'd he handle it the last time he pulled this stunt?

When Prophesy Fails
posted by warbaby at 10:04 PM on May 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


New York Daily News liveblogs as they follow around Robert Fitzpatrick as he prepares for the Rapture. Sad.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:05 PM on May 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


NY Post piece with priceless quotes
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/2011/05/21/2011-05-21_as_doomsday_passes_attention_turns_to_harold_camping_religious_leader_who_starte.html
posted by Abinadab at 10:06 PM on May 21, 2011


“It’s still May 21, and God’s going to bring it," said Family Radio’s special projects coordinator Michael Garcia.
posted by mykescipark at 10:07 PM on May 21, 2011


As it turns out, The Rapture's Got No Hold On Me!
posted by Theta States at 10:07 PM on May 21, 2011


The NYT article about Robert Fitzpatrick:
He's prepared some last offerings for his 94-year-old mom, who suffers from dementia: grapes, a granola bar, a Juicy Juice drink, some chocolates and a bottle of water.

He thinks he's going, and he doesn't think his poor, sick mother won't get called? That's ego right there.
posted by CarlRossi at 10:10 PM on May 21, 2011 [10 favorites]


People like Camping are the epitome of organized religion.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 9:57 PM on May 21 [3 favorites +]


Real organized religions are not so dumb as to give an exact date in the near future for the Apocalypse.

A church on my work route had a sign up this week saying "Jesus is coming back, just not this Saturday!"
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:03 PM on May 21


But how could they have known that he wasn't? Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.
posted by knoyers at 10:10 PM on May 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


People like Camping are a disgrace to organized religion.

People like Camping are the epitome of organized religion.


Hey! Leave the Unitarians out of this.
posted by warbaby at 10:12 PM on May 21, 2011 [17 favorites]


On the one hand, I think it's very nice that other churches want to help the doomsday rainbow chasers, but the petty and mean cynic in me thinks that they're just trying to recruit some super-gullible people, since it's pretty obvious after this stunt that they'll fall for just about anything you tell them if you can come up with some half-assed biblical interpretation to back it up.
posted by MegoSteve at 10:14 PM on May 21, 2011 [18 favorites]


The whole thing is stupid, but the counseling being offered is probably saving lives at this point. The Rapture is supposed to happen when things on Earth are horribly, horribly bad, and the chosen, who've been good, will be saved from the torment of the world.

Possible Spoilers for a 50 year old book:

These followers, they're like the priest at the end of Make Room, Make Room by Harry Harrison (the non-canabalistic basis for Soylent Green). The whole novel so horribly bleak, and the priest is claiming the world will end as the clock strikes midnight, ushering in the year 2000. Meanwhile, the other main character, having been shit on throughout the whole book, finally snaps and beats the priest in Times Square, telling him that nothing has changed, that everyone is still there. The priests response, and the last line of the novel, if I recall, is something along the lines of "You mean we have to keep living like this?"

Sunday morning, there were likely a large number of people who are waking up to the fact that, yes, indeed, they have to keep living in this world, with all of it's promises. From believing (however much you might mock their faith) that they would be rescued to realizing that no outside force will make things all better is a harsh, harsh way to wake up.
posted by Ghidorah at 10:16 PM on May 21, 2011 [30 favorites]


In 2009, the nonprofit reported in Internal Revenue Service filings that it received $18.3 million in donations, and had assets of more than $104 million, including $34 million in stocks or other publicly traded securities.

I can't figure out why this Camping guy would go an ruin a good scam by providing an exact date. Better to say that you've figured out, oh, ten or twenty "Signs of the End Times", and make a point of carefully interpreting world events so maybe 15 are going on at once. Then when you need more cash, send out press releases saying that we're up to 18 and that means that God is seriously close to sending out his angels and we really need more donations right now to get the word out. Then let that Rapture Index slowly fall back down to 15. Wait a few years, etc. Play it like the government does with inflating terror threats, only targeted at extracting money from rubes.
posted by cmonkey at 10:16 PM on May 21, 2011 [17 favorites]


John Kenneth Fisher: "at the core it's "hey, you believed one set of scriptural interpretation was the Truth and got fucked over for it. Allow us to comfort you by showing you the REAL Truth: OUR set of scriptural interpretation!""

Still, that's much nicer than the core of the typical militant atheist response - "hey, you believed one set of scriptural interpretation was the Truth and got fucked over for it. Allow us to comfort you by showing you the REAL Truth: OUR set of scriptural interpretation laugh at you!"
posted by Pinback at 10:18 PM on May 21, 2011 [17 favorites]


devastated followers

Devastated!? Gee, you think they'd all feel a little silly, be relieved they are all still alive and the world is still standing, laughs all around, be grateful, and like, get back to business.

I mean, other than super-villains, who else gets depressed when those kind of plans are foiled?
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 10:19 PM on May 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


Here it is, in a nutshell, why some MetaFilter atheists are extraordinarily obnoxious, and are defined by ignorance and contempt, instead of reason, which is an embarrassment to atheism, which is supposed to offer reason as an alternative to unreason:

This bunko artist is held up as being the definition of religion, rather than the fellow from a few days ago, whose Christian faith caused him to join the freedom riders and very nearly get beaten to death fighting for civil rights, and who was only able to stand being beaten into unconsciousness because of his faith, and whose faith supported him even as his family rejected him, is not seen as being worth noting.

Haven't we had enough of this subject? It's been posted before, in threads that are still open, and everybody except a small group of dupes knew it was horseshit. If the only function of this thread is to once again mock the people who were victimized by this, and to gloat because we were not similarly fooled -- well, shame on us. We may have the advantage of not being fools for faith, but, you know, we still end up being gloating assholes whose understanding of the world is limited to who do we feel contempt for, and whether it's based on reason or not, it fucking sucks.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:19 PM on May 21, 2011 [309 favorites]


Show of hands, who raptured? ... Wait, guess that won't work.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:22 PM on May 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


I was half-expecting that the Family Radio org would try to run some kind of War of the Worlds-style radio drama, reading off fictitious reports of the glorious rapturing before the announcers being raptured into silence at 6:59, just in time for the end of the program.
posted by Decimask at 10:23 PM on May 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


I hate religion, as any glance at my past posts can attest, and I certainly do not believe in god. At all.

Having said that, god bless those people doing the counseling tonight.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 10:23 PM on May 21, 2011 [14 favorites]


cmonkey - one man's failed entrepreneurship is another man's golden ticket! I've got the marketing background, let's do this!
posted by june made him a gemini at 10:24 PM on May 21, 2011


Devastated!? Gee, you think they'd all feel a little silly, be relieved they are all still alive and the world is still standing, laughs all around, be grateful, and like, get back to business.

I think that the let-down is that some folks thought they would start hanging out in heaven immediately.
posted by damehex at 10:24 PM on May 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Calvary Chapel is showing up to offer "help"? Yeah, that's pretty gross, by which I mean opportunistic. This is the same group that used to try to preach at my school when I was a kid and threw "rock concerts" and stuff. I went to one and left in a hurry because the youth pastors were so creepy.

Calvary is a pretty cultish group from what I've seen. They're not there to "help". They're very much there to preach their own screwy brand of end times and win converts.
posted by loquacious at 10:25 PM on May 21, 2011 [27 favorites]


> Devastated!? Gee, you think they'd all feel a little silly, be relieved they are all still alive and the world is still standing, laughs all around, be grateful, and like, get back to business.

And financially devastated. Don't forget that.
posted by Decimask at 10:25 PM on May 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


OK maybe not then
posted by Senor Cardgage at 10:25 PM on May 21, 2011


You know, after some consideration, this was the perfect time for this. You have:

1. Fox News trumpeting a 'war on Christians' by those Anti-Christmas and Pro-Choice people.
2. Interviewed Evangelicals touting that they are 100% sure the rapture would happen in their lifetime.
3. Religion has been in the general news in the last 10 years more than the previous years in my lifetime. At least the reporting of Muslims, which, I have no doubt, tightens the violin strings in the devout Christian. Do they feel as though the barbarians are at the gate, as it were?

So when something like this is announced, it feels peaceful, and some react in extremes.

I don't feel that sad about it, though. Maybe as much as when my grandfather gets tricked into donating money for return address labels...
posted by CarlRossi at 10:25 PM on May 21, 2011


the typical militant atheist response...Allow us to laugh at you!

I'm not saying it's the nice reply, but when people go around handing out this pamphlet, forgive me if I'm not too sympathetic to them feeling some pain after all they've caused. Look, I truly do feel bad for them, I absolutely do, but they got themselves here by being bigoted and closedminded, and angry the world wasn't sharing their hate anymore, an then they tacked on an intentional ignorance, where they embraced numerology and magic over any sense of science or critical thinking. Nobody put them in this position but themselves.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 10:26 PM on May 21, 2011 [64 favorites]


I agree with AZ. The constant mocking is distasteful.
posted by desjardins at 10:27 PM on May 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


I can't figure out why this Camping guy would go an ruin a good scam by providing an exact date.

To Camping, this wasn't a scam. That's why he provided an exact date.

Crazy though it might seem to those of us not belonging to his particular Christian denomination (or indeed, any Christian denomination), it seems pretty clear to me that he really believed it and wasn't intentionally scamming anyone. I haven't seen any evidence that he was making money from this in any way. (I could be wrong, but I haven't seen any evidence of that.)

A certain amount of compassion for those taken in, at this point, would be appropriate. Sure, it's all hilarious. Sure, fundamentalist Christianity does itself no favours (and bloody good luck to those brought up in it who get to escape). Even so. Compassion.
posted by motty at 10:28 PM on May 21, 2011 [9 favorites]


Seeing Astro Zombie's post above, that's a straw man. We're not saying he represents all religion. We're saying he represents a particurlarly ignorant and xenophobic branch of religion, and I have very religious friends criticizing him for exactly that.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 10:28 PM on May 21, 2011 [15 favorites]


Hey! Leave the Unitarians out of this.

Have you met Unitarians? Not the most organized bunch (which isn't a bad thing).
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:28 PM on May 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Y'know what? The way the Christian Right has marginalized non-believers in much of the US and Canada, I'm happy to smugly laugh at the misfortune of a few fucking idiots who would joyfully count themselves part of that demographic, and tough shit if you don't like it.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 10:30 PM on May 21, 2011 [59 favorites]


We're not saying he represents all religion. We're saying he represents a particurlarly ignorant and xenophobic branch of religion, and I have very religious friends criticizing him for exactly that.

This is not supported by the comments in this thread, which repeatedly hold this up as being typical, just typical, of all religion everywhere. I would cite them, but you can read.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:30 PM on May 21, 2011 [11 favorites]


We're not saying he represents all religion.

Oh, really? You're sure you're not?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:31 PM on May 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'm just hoping we won't find out about murders and suicides amongst people who were taken in by Camping and, when it didn't happen, decided to 'spare' their loved ones and themselves the terrible Tribulation that is coming.

The problem - and I use the term in its least-advisable manner, but I lack a better one - is that there are a lot of good, honest, sensible Christians in the world who find Camping and his lot idiots, fools and charlatans, and who honestly believe that they shouldn't speak out and let their deeds show the way. It would be good for some of these people to speak out and do their good deeds, but I can understand why not. There's a line in a book I read, that "The only problem with 'Jesus Wept' is that it's in the past tense."
posted by mephron at 10:32 PM on May 21, 2011


Minister scams millions from followers with prediction of end-times, all the fault of atheists. Metafilter in a nutshell.
posted by rodgerd at 10:32 PM on May 21, 2011 [33 favorites]


Agree with Astro Zombie. Whatever lulz (which have been considerable) were afforded during the run up to the so-called Rapture today, it stops being funny considering that there are some people out there who, for whatever reasons-- low intelligence, desperation, genuine delusion-- believed that their lives were going to change for the better today. Some of them have young children, who must be having a wretched time of it right now.

I'm glad that other churches, who can speak to them in their religious language, are trying to pick up the pieces.
posted by jokeefe at 10:34 PM on May 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


Astro Zombie: This bunko artist is held up as being the definition of religion, rather than the fellow from a few days ago, whose Christian faith caused him to join the freedom riders and very nearly get beaten to death fighting for civil rights, and who was only able to stand being beaten into unconsciousness because of his faith, and whose faith supported him even as his family rejected him, is not seen as being worth noting.

I actually thought about this today. What helped me make up my mind was the fact that James Zwerg is no longer involved in ministry. I support the notion that Camping is the epitome of organized religion. The Civil Rights movement was not. It was a movement of deeply impassioned people fighting for a noble, human cause. Their outlet was the church. If another social institution had been available, they would have used it as well. The business of organized religion qua religion is to make proclamations about supernatural phenomena and demand blind faith and obedience to them. Knowingly or unknowingly, it is the same as what Camling did.
posted by Nomyte at 10:34 PM on May 21, 2011 [31 favorites]


People like Camping are the epitome of organized religion.

Not really. An organized religion needs a community of believers who are more or less going about their normal lives in order to sustain itself. Extreme demands (like believing that the world will end on a specific, near-future date) burn through believers and alienate potential converts.

Like, the vast majority of Christians living today don't believe in the total renunciation of sex, even though there have been numerous sects that preached it--especially in early Christianity. Those sects either died out or mellowed out. The history of early Christianity in India is a good example of that.

Camping is the epitome of a whackjob leader of a small charismatic sect.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:34 PM on May 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm having a hard time feeling compassion or feeling like an asshole given the continued lack of compassion we see from Christians in power positions and those who elected them there. I'm having a hard time feeling any sort of sorrow for a group of people who use 'Him' as a means to create or maintain laws that prohibit our people from living life the way they want to and continue to lessen the funding our schools receive, while ramping up spending going towards killing others of opposing mindsets.

I feel endlessly terrible for the children who are victims in this, but I do not feel one ounce of remorse for continuing to shake my head at the blind leading the blind.
posted by june made him a gemini at 10:35 PM on May 21, 2011 [23 favorites]


Only on Metafilter will someone try to make atheists the bad guys out of this rapture scam nonsense, while a religious con artist walks away from the damage. Unbelievable.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:35 PM on May 21, 2011 [126 favorites]


Oh, come off it, rodgerd. There's two different things here.

One is that a scammer minister got a lot of money off of followers by playing to their faith and fears.

The other is that there's entirely too much HURP DERT LOLXITIANS going on.

The first is sad and depressing and shows why blind faith is not a good thing, but should have at least some thinking brought in (or at least knowledge of Matthew 24:36).

The second is just mean.
posted by mephron at 10:35 PM on May 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


The way the Christian Right has marginalized non-believers in much of the US and Canada,

They've also marginalized believers. And we're doing the same, despite the fact that a lot of these people are our allies.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:36 PM on May 21, 2011 [12 favorites]


That said I do not feel above them, I just have no problem smirking.
posted by june made him a gemini at 10:36 PM on May 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


... they got themselves here by being bigoted and closedminded, and angry the world wasn't sharing their hate anymore, an then they tacked on an intentional ignorance, where they embraced numerology and magic over any sense of science or critical thinking. Nobody put them in this position but themselves.

That's pretty much the jist of it for me, too. When I hear someone calling Camping's followers victims, it just really rubs me the wrong way... those people are victimizers, not victims.
posted by MegoSteve at 10:36 PM on May 21, 2011 [10 favorites]


Only on Metafilter will someone try to make atheists the bad guys out of this rapture scam nonsense, while a religious con artist walks away from the damage. Unbelievable.

Only on MetaFilter will somebody rephrase a legitimate critique -- from a fellow fucking atheist -- as support for a con artist.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:37 PM on May 21, 2011 [22 favorites]


I'm just hoping we won't find out about murders and suicides amongst people who were taken in by Camping and, when it didn't happen, decided to 'spare' their loved ones and themselves the terrible Tribulation that is coming.

Like this woman who killed her children and herself to spare them from the coming tribulation?
posted by MrFTBN at 10:38 PM on May 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


The Civil Rights movement was not.

I call this the atheist version of the "no true Scottsman" fallacy.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:39 PM on May 21, 2011 [13 favorites]


*er tried to kill*
posted by MrFTBN at 10:39 PM on May 21, 2011


Ugh.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:39 PM on May 21, 2011


I've had my share of fun laughing at this rapture nonsense. But that last picture, of the two Camping followers, is really sad.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 10:40 PM on May 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, shit.

I wonder if it's too late to ask if I can have my job back.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 10:41 PM on May 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have to admit, I was enjoying the lead-up to this Rapture thing. But that's because I wasn't really paying much attention besides just reading the headlines. I hadn't realized that people really had given away all their money and belongings. Now that I know... it's not funny anymore. It's very sad. I'm glad there are people out there comforting the victims.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 10:42 PM on May 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Astro Zombie: I call this the atheist version of the "no true Scottsman" fallacy.

Thanks, I guess. Let's use the analogy of an exploitative multinational corporation that is involved in some corporate philanthropy. Passionate, caring individuals may be involved in that aspect of the corporation's activities, but one should not fool himself to think that philanthropy is the corporation's main thrust.
posted by Nomyte at 10:43 PM on May 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


Gee I wonder if those girls are going to feel sorry for the Doomsdayers.
posted by june made him a gemini at 10:43 PM on May 21, 2011


Camping says that if you BELIEVE, Jesus will spirit you off to heaven. Every other Christian sect says pretty much the same thing.

Camping put a date on when this would happen. He made an empirical prediction; he put his beliefs in a testable form.

I'm not snarking at him: I have MORE respect for him than I have for plenty of other religious leaders.

What I'm laughing at is the idea that any human can tell us anything useful about the supernatural. And then con people into giving them money for this 'knowledge'.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 10:44 PM on May 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


"The way the Christian Right has marginalized non-believers in much of the US and Canada, I'm happy to smugly laugh at the misfortune of a few fucking idiots who would joyfully count themselves part of that demographic, and tough shit if you don't like it."

And there's the problem: "the Christian Right", loud as it may be in a particular corner of the world, is hardly representative of organised religion in general let alone Christianity. Conflating them with either belies an ignorance which itself should be pitied and responded to with compassion.

Y'know, just like the churches & other organisations who are trying to help out Camping's followers are doing. And nothing at all like many commenters here are doing…
posted by Pinback at 10:44 PM on May 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


The whole thing is just so sad.
posted by Xoebe at 10:45 PM on May 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


And now we're making cases by analogy? The Civil Rights movement was primarily a Christian movement. You diminish the movement, and the people who were in it, by deciding for them what their motivation was, and how significant their faith was, to support your preconceptions about religion.

It's lazy thinking, and this is not what atheism should be defined by.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:45 PM on May 21, 2011 [11 favorites]


Fresh worries for disappointed.
posted by Brian B. at 10:45 PM on May 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


"I agree with AZ. The constant mocking is distasteful."

I don't think so. You have to laugh and mock the truly idiotic ideas. Perhaps if more people laugh and mock, say, intelligent design less people would be inclined to believe it.

Let's face it - you can't argue with folks who believe in rapture.
posted by schwa at 10:45 PM on May 21, 2011 [17 favorites]


But that last picture, of the two Camping followers, is really sad.

It's a lot less sad when you realize that they're mostly bummed, because they aren't going to heaven and they're still stuck here with the atheists, queers and liberal fornicators.
posted by MegoSteve at 10:46 PM on May 21, 2011 [48 favorites]


Like this woman who tried to kill killed her children and herself to spare them from the coming tribulation?
posted by The Hamms Bear at 10:46 PM on May 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Let's face it - you can't argue with folks who believe in rapture.

You cant reason people out of positions and beliefs they didn't reason themselves into. Its why science is science, and faith in a higher power is faith.
posted by SirOmega at 10:48 PM on May 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Let's face it - you can't argue with folks who believe in rapture.

Indeed. But you can have compassion for them. After all, they have compassion for you. You want them to win?
posted by motty at 10:49 PM on May 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


.
posted by ericb at 10:51 PM on May 21, 2011


And now we're making cases by analogy? The Civil Rights movement was primarily a Christian movement. You diminish the movement, and the people who were in it, by deciding for them what their motivation was, and how significant their faith was, to support your preconceptions about religion.

Yes, I am. And I think it's an illuminating analogy. Please don't cast aspersions. If you're not willing to think of the church's philanthropic activities apart from its supernatural credos, then I feel I have to stay out of this conversation.

posted by Nomyte at 10:51 PM on May 21, 2011


tried to kill killed

Yeah, sorry about that. I saw it posted a Pharyngula that the mother slit their throats with a box cutter. I didn't think they would have survived that. It didn't help that the reporter tripped up over that fact too. Really horrible. I made jokes all day today, but there are a lot of sad stories coming to light now.
posted by MrFTBN at 10:51 PM on May 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's lazy thinking, and this is not what atheism should be defined by.

If you want to suffer rapture-eyed fools in gladness, go at it. But you don't speak for all atheists, and, frankly, you don't seem qualified to speak for the rest of us or judge our valuations of this man, his con game, and his all-too-willing followers. If he suckered his people, just be thankful he didn't incite his sheep into violence.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:51 PM on May 21, 2011 [21 favorites]


You cant reason people out of positions and beliefs they didn't reason themselves into.

Of course you can. A lot of atheists are former believers. It is with no small irony that I note that this little homily is endlessly repeated by fellow atheists without being examined or subjected to the sort of demand for proof that we require of others.

. But you don't speak for all atheists, and, frankly, you don't seem qualified to speak for the rest of us or judge our valuations of this man, his con game, and his all-too-willing followers.

Please read what I actually said before you respond. My issue is with those who hold this individual con artists as being a sampling of all religion everywhere. I am not prepared to defend an argument I did not make because you cannot be arsed to read the argument I actually did make.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:53 PM on May 21, 2011 [16 favorites]


You cant reason people out of positions and beliefs they didn't reason themselves into.

None of us is born with the ability to reason, and yet, later in life most of us have at least a few rational positions.
posted by hattifattener at 10:54 PM on May 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Astro Zombie - I respect your view, and I even acknowledge that it's the view I should hold, if I were a better and more forgiving person.

But:
1. if you can't laugh at this stuff, the world is a pretty depressing place,
2. these people were bigots and general douchebags, who felt like they had the right to condemn others whom they disagreed with (see John Kenneth Fisher's link as an example), they brought this situation on themselves through nothing but their own stupidity, and I frankly can't find it in me to feel sorry when bad stuff happens to such people.

I take heart that, despite all that, there are still people (religious and otherwise) willing to help them. That's pretty nice.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:54 PM on May 21, 2011 [21 favorites]


Again, I want to point out and re-emphasize that as far as the context of these pictures outside of the Family Radio building - there probably isn't actually any "help" or "counseling" going on.

Calvary Chapel showing up to this is like Scientology showing up New Orleans after Katrina. It's really kind of creepy.

Doesn't look like it matters much, though, because it looks like the "crowd" outside the Family Radio building consists of two bitter-looking old white dudes and about a dozen people from other churches (or maybe they're all from Calvary) there to recruit or protest.
posted by loquacious at 10:55 PM on May 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


Indeed. But you can have compassion for them. After all, they have compassion for you. You want them to win?

Yes, religious extremists are known for compassion.
posted by schwa at 10:56 PM on May 21, 2011 [13 favorites]


If people do not continue to mock and point out the core fallacies in religion, we will continue to move at a snail's pace and continue to let them have the majority in making our decisions for us.

Compassion!? Compassion like when crazy preachers are going before elected Minnesota officials saying that gays should be imprisoned because they've all molested 177 boys a piece? Compassion like when teachers aren't even allowed to say the word gay? Compassion like they showed at Damon Fowler's high school graduation yesterday? Compassion like threatening to kill and rape a 16 year old girl?

If you continue to call them out on their grandiose scales, you will show them that their core values aren't that much different.
posted by june made him a gemini at 10:57 PM on May 21, 2011 [45 favorites]


1. if you can't laugh at this stuff, the world is a pretty depressing place,

Feel free to mock this guy and his followers. I have. But there is an open thread n this subject, and I fail to see why we need to endlessly rehash the foolishness of one man ad his followes in multiple threads.

My issue is with those who hold this to be an example of all religion. It most certainly is not. Its an especially pathetic example of abusiveness and foolishness, and people are capable of such behavior whether guided by God or not.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:57 PM on May 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh FFS, I keep screwing up. Here is the Pharyngula post.
posted by MrFTBN at 10:58 PM on May 21, 2011


If the only function of this thread is to once again mock the people who were victimized by this, and to gloat because we were not similarly fooled -- well, shame on us.

Dude, with all due respect, fuck off. Your presumptiousness and arrogance are getting pretty damn old. Who elected you to be the perfect atheist and shame others for not being so evolved and inclusive as you? Who the hell do you think you are to tell me what to think of a bunch of assholes that just yesterday were wetting their panties at the thought of people like me or my three year old daughter suffering horribly while they were going to be picked up to go meet their dear moon god in heaven.
posted by c13 at 10:58 PM on May 21, 2011 [66 favorites]


Yes, religious extremists are known for compassion.

Never mind their level of compassion. How about yours?
posted by motty at 10:59 PM on May 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Never mind their level of compassion. How about yours?

Fine thanks. In fact I'm mocking and laughing at these idiots in the hopes that less people will believe this claptrap.

Snarking is making the world a better place little by little.
posted by schwa at 11:01 PM on May 21, 2011 [12 favorites]


When I have friends that are killing themselves because of the pressures they faced being raised a certain way, and being unable to handle it as both 32 and 29 year olds respectively, I don't care anymore. You can preach the "don't stoop down to their level" card all you want, but these people don't get it otherwise.

That's why they believe in these things to begin with.
posted by june made him a gemini at 11:02 PM on May 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


Dude, with all due respect, fuck off.

With all due respect, no, and you're not doing yourself any favors by coming at me with both fucking barrels blazing. I have a point to make and I won't shut up just because it annoys you. If you're really bothered and think I am out of place, go ahead and email a mod, but don't think I am going to respond well to being told to shut up just because you personally don't agree with me.

Presumptuousness and arrogance? Do you even have a counterpoint, or do you feel it is your place to decide who gets to have and express an opinion?

By the way, "with all due respect" doesn't actually mean "I now get to say whatever offensive thing I want to."
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:02 PM on May 21, 2011 [47 favorites]


Not to derail or anything, but what's the big deal about organized religion, as opposed to any other kind? If you believe in a giant space fairy, does it really make it any less stupid if a bunch of other people believe in it to? Delusion is delusion, whether its a delusion found comforting by one person or one billion.
posted by Aversion Therapy at 11:03 PM on May 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


If you believe in a giant space fairy, does it really make it any less stupid if a bunch of other people believe in it to?

No, no less stupid. But more annoying, because you tend to get your own TV channels, AM stations and tax exemption.
posted by schwa at 11:05 PM on May 21, 2011 [12 favorites]


AZ, you came off as entirely preachy and arrogant and if you were unable to see that, and are continuing to fail to see that, you have no right telling anyone else here to fuck off.
posted by june made him a gemini at 11:06 PM on May 21, 2011 [20 favorites]


Wait wait wait, isn't standard operating procedure in these situations to go right back to the pulpit next Sunday like shit ain't happened and start talking about how God was testing his believers by starting this whole rapture hype in the first place, or some line like that? That preacher has got no game whatsoever.

Anyway, I dunno, I forgot all about this bullshit until about 45 minutes ago, when I decided to watch a bunch of Busta Rhymes videos to commemorate the occasion.
posted by furiousthought at 11:07 PM on May 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


In fact I'm mocking and laughing at these idiots in the hopes that less people will believe this claptrap.

That's all very well, but it's also pretty close to saying that you have no compassion for anyone caught up in this clusterfuck.

I have a problem with that.

Have a think about the boundary between the people caught up here for whom you do and do not have compassion. See where that leads.
posted by motty at 11:09 PM on May 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


AZ, you came off as entirely preachy and arrogant and if you were unable to see that, and are continuing to fail to see that, you have no right telling anyone else here to fuck off.

I didn't actually tell anybody to fuck off. Feel free to respond to my actual points, if you like.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:10 PM on May 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


Semi-serious question: Shouldn't folks expecting rapture actually be out there trying to make life better for the folks being left behind?

I haven't heard anything about these folks producing stockpiles of food and supplies to make the end of times less horrible for those of us left behind.
posted by schwa at 11:10 PM on May 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


AZ, you came off as entirely preachy and arrogant and if you were unable to see that, and are continuing to fail to see that, you have no right telling anyone else here to fuck off.

c13 told AZ to fuck off. But that's by the by.

How about nobody tells anybody to fuck off, and we all have a nice civil discussion?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:11 PM on May 21, 2011 [21 favorites]


I agree with AZ. The constant mocking is distasteful.

Maybe. These people believed they were better than us such that they would be bodily carried to heaven by their god, leaving the rest of us to suffer and die in a literal hell on Earth. These are the same type of people who bomb abortion clinics, beat gay people, and lynch black people. I'm not really concerned about distasteful.
posted by dirigibleman at 11:11 PM on May 21, 2011 [33 favorites]


Semi-serious question: Shouldn't folks expecting rapture actually be out there trying to make life better for the folks being left behind?

I haven't heard anything about these folks producing stockpiles of food and supplies to make the end of times less horrible for those of us left behind.


Isn't that because those left behind are sinners, and deserve what we get?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:12 PM on May 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


By stating that we're an embarrassment to atheism and to stop talking and instead feel remorse for these idiots, yes, he's effectively telling us to fuck off.
posted by june made him a gemini at 11:13 PM on May 21, 2011 [9 favorites]


As long as religions exist, there will always be eschatological scenarios. Imagining a social/global mass extinction somehow relieves pressure on pondering personal mortality. As for humanity itself, we love catastrophic fantasies because the mysteries of personal death can be overshadowed by monstrosities visited upon us by external forces, rather than being hastened by our own personal and cultural negligence.

Or suchlike dribble. More beer...
posted by moonbird at 11:14 PM on May 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Most of the people that jumped on this rapture bandwagon didn't seem to be doing it out of faith in the second coming of Christ or a belief that Harold Camping is a prophet, they seemed to be doing it because the lives they have are, for whatever reason, miserable and they wanted an escape.


p.s. Can you all tell each other to fuck off via mefi-mail or something?
posted by The Hamms Bear at 11:15 PM on May 21, 2011 [13 favorites]


> By stating that we're an embarrassment to atheism and to stop talking and instead feel remorse for these idiots,

Huh? All I saw him doing was say how it was tiresome to see all religious people judged by the craziest examples, and then a bunch of atheist froth and disingenuous misreading of him after that.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 11:15 PM on May 21, 2011 [20 favorites]


Ethical atheism is all about not requiring people to believe in the same shit you do in order to feel basic human compassion for them when shit goes wrong. What is the difficult bit here?
posted by motty at 11:16 PM on May 21, 2011 [20 favorites]


By stating that we're an embarrassment to atheism and to stop talking and instead feel remorse for these idiots, yes, he's effectively telling us to fuck off.

Please don't paraphrase me. It's often a route to misunderstanding. I've been guilty of it in the past, and it has always made a discussion worse.

My complaint was very specific, and it was that we should not extrapolate this one fringe group to represent all religion, and then use it as a pretext for mocking all religion. I would ask that if you have an alternate viewpoint, you offer it, instead of misrepresenting my comment and complaining about my tone.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:18 PM on May 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


We really didn't need a new middle of the night thread for this.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:19 PM on May 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Have a think about the boundary between the people caught up here for whom you do and do not have compassion. See where that leads.

You seem to think people can't feel sorry for the folks caught up in this and yet still mock the mindset and belief system that caused it in the first place. Ignoring the fact that they believed in something incredibly stupid helps no one. Not being able to say something is dumb and stupid and downright laughable is nothing but political correctness.
posted by schwa at 11:19 PM on May 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


By stating that we're an embarrassment to atheism and to stop talking and instead feel remorse for these idiots, yes, he's effectively telling us to fuck off.

It kind of pissed me off the first time I read it, but after I reread Astro Zombie's comment, I found myself reluctantly agreeing with it.
posted by MrFTBN at 11:20 PM on May 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


OK, I'm out. Have fun with the rage.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:21 PM on May 21, 2011


It's a pity that the people taken in by Camping weren't cop killers or Somali pirates or similar trendy "victims of capitalism", because the the mefite atheists would be falling over themselves to express their compassion and sympathy. As it is, christians just aren't "in" enough to get anything but derision.
posted by happyroach at 11:27 PM on May 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ethical atheism is all about not requiring people to believe in the same shit you do in order to feel basic human compassion for them when shit goes wrong.

I know you don't mean it that way, but I think it's hilarious that you characterize the world not ending as "shit going wrong."
posted by MegoSteve at 11:28 PM on May 21, 2011 [11 favorites]


a goodly proportion of the educated world believes

Do we know how many hardcore followers Camping actually had? I find it hard to believe there were that many (maybe a few thousand at most?), but if anyone knows it might help put this whole thing in perspective somewhat (i.e. reveal that the publicity they received was out of all proportion to the size of the group).
posted by Papaver somniferum at 11:29 PM on May 21, 2011


Clearly this thread needs moar Philosoraptor.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:30 PM on May 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


Watchin' Maverick on netflix.
Mel Gibson could very well be a horrible monster, but I do (pretty inexplicably) love this flick.

How y'all doin?
posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:31 PM on May 21, 2011


Let me first say that I'm a compassionate guy and this impending "rapture" has had me depressed all week, because I knew today there'd be a lot of sad people. :-(

> it was that we should not extrapolate this one fringe group to represent all religion, and then use it as a pretext for mocking all religion.

The trouble with this pronouncement is that a lot of people here simply don't understand what the difference is between this group and all the others - except that these people made specific promises with specific dates.

Religions generally ask you to believe things that are a priori ridiculous, and make a virtue of that even ("credo qua absurdum").

As far as we're concerned, this is what religious people do - believe ridiculous things that no one would accept without some sort of authority backing it up.

So if there really is some difference between these people's beliefs that Christ was coming today, and the rest of Christianity's belief that he's coming soon, well, you really need to clarify it to the rest of us, because just telling us we're somehow bad for not seeing it isn't at all convincing.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:31 PM on May 21, 2011 [30 favorites]


Do we know how many hardcore followers Camping actually had?

Enough to provide him with $18M in donations in 2009 alone.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 11:31 PM on May 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


My kingdom for an edit button.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 11:31 PM on May 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Plenty of Christians have joined in on the derision. Laughable ideas are laughable. Refutable ideas are refutable. Crazy ideas are crazy.

I think it's possible to laugh at the May 21st Rapture AND to have pity for the people who bought into it.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 11:32 PM on May 21, 2011 [13 favorites]


Do we know how many hardcore followers Camping actually had?

No - but we have their tax info: "In 2009 alone, his organization reported in tax filing receipts of $18.3 million in donations, with assets of more than $104 million, including $34 million in stocks or other publicly traded securities."

I don't know what that equates to in number of followers but I'd consider it a somewhat significant organisation.
posted by schwa at 11:33 PM on May 21, 2011


The most powerful religious movements are born by these failed prophecies. What happens next is that they bond and convince people that it was a test of faith. This is the psychology of cognitive dissonance. These followers will usually join another movement, probably reinforced by mainstream dispensationalism. Such failed prophecies never slowed the Jehovah Witnesses down very much, and although many who have outside support end up leaving, the rest are more committed.
posted by Brian B. at 11:35 PM on May 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I have a point to make

Not really. You aren't saying anything new. In fact, it probably would be easier for you to just link to all the other posts where you posted exactly the same bullshit. I don't keep track, but it seems like you don't miss a single opportunity to jump into a post about some current religious idiocy and explain how and why it is an exception and how we should be understanding and accepting. I personally find it boring. Your presuming to tell me how and what I should think as a "proper" atheist I just find extremely silly.

Now then, to the topic of the post. What exactly is the reason for pity and compassion? They thought they were special and they're not? What harm came to them? Is it the money they donated? But people donate money for pretty much the same reason every Sunday.
posted by c13 at 11:36 PM on May 21, 2011 [20 favorites]


"So if there really is some difference between these people's beliefs that Christ was coming today, and the rest of Christianity's belief that he's coming soon, well, you really need to clarify it to the rest of us, because just telling us we're somehow bad for not seeing it isn't at all convincing."

I find it interesting but not surprising that Christians are so keen to evict this Church and their beliefs. "Nope they don't represent our kind of Christianity at all". Religion is so very us vs them.
posted by schwa at 11:37 PM on May 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I would ask that if you have an alternate viewpoint, you offer it, instead of misrepresenting my comment and complaining about my tone.

I don't think anyone has misrepresented your comment, at least nowhere near as badly as you'd like to think. As some of us noted, you chose to be preachy, to use general anti-atheist sentiment on this site, and claim to act as a moral arbiter for all atheists when presenting your opinion. There is little that is inaccurate about that.

And the sanctimonious tone of your opinion matters on this site, as much as what you say. You've been here long enough to figure that out. If you want to argue for a more humanist stance, there were a thousand better ways to phrase it than your original comment.

Instead, you tried to make a thread about the consequences of a religious con game a referendum on the merits of atheism. That was your choice.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:41 PM on May 21, 2011 [21 favorites]


I personally find it boring.

With all due respect, why should I care whether you find it boring or not?

I also have issue with people repeating themselves, and that issue is people using the misbehavior of a few religious people to make drive-by attacks on all religious people. But apparently you don't find their comments boring.

You may respond to my comments, if you have an alternative, or you may ignore them of you don't like them. Or, you know, MeMail me, since you seem to have a problem with me personally. But please don't accuse me of being presumptuous and arrogant when you seem to be making the case that what I say or don't say is defined by what you find entertaining.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:41 PM on May 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


And the sanctimonious tone of your opinion matters on this site, as much as what you say.

I do not care what your opinion of my tone was. To the best of my knowledge, you might find anything you disagree with, if stated forcefully, sanctimonious.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:44 PM on May 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


"and that issue is people using the misbehavior of a few religious people to make drive-by attacks on all religious people"

How is this "misbehavior"? I'm sure Camping (unless a total Con man) probably believes in all this nonsense.

One person's misbehavior is another person's splinter sect.

Religious people as a whole believe in some pretty wacky stuff. This belief in the wacky is what lumps them together.
posted by schwa at 11:46 PM on May 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


But please don't accuse me of being presumptuous and arrogant

I promise to stop as soon as you cut the "shame on us" crap. Deal?
posted by c13 at 11:46 PM on May 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


No. I believe being opportunistic about somebody's specific lunacy in order to launch a generalized attack on unrelated people who don't share that lunacy to be shameful.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:48 PM on May 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


Here it is, in a nutshell, why some MetaFilter atheists are extraordinarily obnoxious, and are defined by ignorance and contempt, instead of reason, which is an embarrassment to atheism, which is supposed to offer reason as an alternative to unreason:

Atheism is a lack of belief in god(s). That's it, that's all, and I hope it remains that way despite any and all attempts to turn it into yet another moralistic head-trip complete with things it's "supposed" to do. Meanwhile, I'm sure we're all grown-up enough to decide for ourselves whether Rapture types deserve compassion, mocking, or both...
posted by vorfeed at 11:49 PM on May 21, 2011 [28 favorites]


I do not care what your opinion of my tone was.

Clearly you're here to tell us atheists off, and not have an actual conversation about your comment. Fair enough.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:49 PM on May 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


re: the whereabouts of Dr. Doomsday: perhaps Harold is now "Camping" out with an alias on some remote island in the South Pacific, having pocketed part of the $18 million donation pot in case the Rapture failed to occur...and never to re-surface.
posted by Papaver somniferum at 11:49 PM on May 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Religious people as a whole believe in some pretty wacky stuff. This belief in the wacky is what lumps them together.

I would't be surprised if you don't believe some wacky stuff too. Unless you're Spock.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:49 PM on May 21, 2011


The Civil Rights movement was not. It was a movement of deeply impassioned people fighting for a noble, human cause. Their outlet was the church. If another social institution had been available, they would have used it as well. The business of organized religion qua religion is to make proclamations about supernatural phenomena and demand blind faith and obedience to them. Knowingly or unknowingly, it is the same as what Camling did.

Anybody who refers to this cult as the epitome of religion, and then does a little dance, needs to wake the fuck up. Organized religion is here to stay. It's not an "outlet," and it cannot be reduced to a set of proclamations about "supernatural" phenomena. I probably shouldn't even fucking ask this, but how is atheism not based on faith? How is atheism not based on a set of proclamations about supernatural phenomena?
posted by phaedon at 11:50 PM on May 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


share that lunacy

That particular brand of lunacy. They just haven't put up billboards choosing a date.
posted by schwa at 11:50 PM on May 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Clearly you're here to tell us atheists off, and not have an actual conversation about your comment.

You have yet to actually respond to the substance of my comment, which was not directed at atheists as a whole, but those who engage in a very specific behavior.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:51 PM on May 21, 2011


My only vague hope here is that some of those who truly believed in this now reflect on how they came to believe that being lifted into heaven while billions of other fellow humans suffered horrible tribulations was a good thing. And whether or not that's the sort of person Jesus of the Bible would like to hang out with for all eternity.

I do feel sorry for them though. And I would be interested in knowing what many of them individually believe. Were they all hurtful, horrible human beings with no compassion, who hated those they saw as sinners? Or were there some among them who just wanted it all to end somehow, someway?
posted by lesbiassparrow at 11:51 PM on May 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Guys, simmer down. It's not the end of the world or anything.
posted by schwa at 11:51 PM on May 21, 2011 [43 favorites]


That particular brand of lunacy. They just haven't put up billboards choosing a date.

Hilarious. Now prove this assertion. Go ahead. You've made a case. Back it up.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:52 PM on May 21, 2011


I believe being opportunistic about somebody's specific lunacy in order to launch a generalized attack on unrelated people who don't share that lunacy to be shameful.

You have no fucking clue about what I'm attacking. What seems like a specific lunacy to you is just one of the manifestations of a much greater lunacy to me. That's why I find your blather silly. And I'm not the only one.
posted by c13 at 11:55 PM on May 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


And the question still stands, what is the reason for compassion?
posted by c13 at 11:56 PM on May 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I probably shouldn't even fucking ask this, but how is atheism not based on faith? How is atheism not based on a set of proclamations about supernatural phenomena?

See above: atheism is a lack of belief in god(s). As such, it is not "based on faith", any more than vegetarian diets are based on meat.
posted by vorfeed at 11:57 PM on May 21, 2011 [27 favorites]


I probably shouldn't even fucking ask this, but how is atheism not based on faith?

It's mostly based on skepticism.
posted by Brian B. at 11:57 PM on May 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


Hilarious. Now prove this assertion. Go ahead. You've made a case. Back it up.

Sure why not: "Fully 79% of Christians in the U.S. say they believe that Jesus Christ will return to Earth someday."

http://pewresearch.org/databank/dailynumber/?NumberID=774

I don't know if they think this means of the times or not. I'd assume yes. It is doubtful Jesus would come back and just request a daytime TV slot.
posted by schwa at 11:58 PM on May 21, 2011 [19 favorites]


It's mostly based on skepticism.

Oh, well to me being an atheist and being an agnostic are two different things.
posted by phaedon at 12:01 AM on May 22, 2011 [8 favorites]


You have no fucking clue about what I'm attacking.

My comments weren't in response to you, but in response to a succession of "Hey, look, all religious people are idiots"-style LOLReligiouspeople comments that started this thread. And, you know something, you've done nothing but misrepresent me and tell me to shut up. I'm done talking to you.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:02 AM on May 22, 2011


You have yet to actually respond to the substance of my comment

As I had implied in my previous comment, I don't agree that this is the main substance of your original comment. If it is, it seems mostly buried under a pile of atheist shaming. But you don't value other people's opinions on this, so no matter.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:02 AM on May 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Sure why not: "Fully 79% of Christians in the U.S. say they believe that Jesus Christ will return to Earth someday."

I had not realized you were referring to American Christians specifically. A lot of the comments in this thread generalized about religion as a whole.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:03 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


s I had implied in my previous comment, I don't agree that this is the main substance of your original comment.

I am not preparing to respond to the argument you are somehow implying actually mean, but only the one I actually made. You can't think this is the way people actually discuss things, can you?
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:04 AM on May 22, 2011


I probably shouldn't even fucking ask this, but how is atheism not based on faith?

You really shouldn't, ask about non-belief in unicorns instead.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:05 AM on May 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


"I had not realized you were referring to American Christians specifically. A lot of the comments in this thread generalized about religion as a whole."

I wasn't specifically. Those were the only stats I had available (I remembered them from a month or two ago actually). But most large religions seem to have eschatological beliefs at some point or other. Whether or not the modern versions of the religions do is another question.

But really I don't see what's wrong with pointing at May 21st as just another example of the crazy shit religious folks believe in. I'm not saying all religious folks believed in this event, just that - yep the stuff they believe in generally is crazy.
posted by schwa at 12:08 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


You have no fucking clue about what I'm attacking. What seems like a specific lunacy to you is just one of the manifestations of a much greater lunacy to me. That's why I find your blather silly. And I'm not the only one. c13.

Exactly, and this is why the vast majority of people here are reacting angrily to AZ's comments and calling them presumptous.

When I see other churches offering counselling and comfort to Camping's followers it doesn't make me think well of them. It just makes me feel sad that this group of suggestible people is being taken in again for another ride.

Being asked to feel some kind of shame for having the temerity to laugh at this rubbish when it is clearly shown to be rubbish is offensive and censorial.

Camping may not represent all religion. But he represents ideas and methodologies shared by all religions.
posted by aychedee at 12:08 AM on May 22, 2011 [21 favorites]


What seems like a specific lunacy to you is just one of the manifestations of a much greater lunacy to me.

Lunacy is measured by external behavior, not internal belief, and belief or non-belief in God is not a zero-sum game. All irrational beliefs are not equally irrational. There is a whole spectrum of irrationality at work in human belief, and in that spectrum there are both benign and harmful examples.
posted by Papaver somniferum at 12:08 AM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


just that - yep the stuff they believe in generally is crazy

They believe in all sorts of stuff. Reform Judaism believes in social justice and takes all the metaphysical stuff as a metaphor. Buncha weirdoes.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:09 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


"They believe in all sorts of stuff. Reform Judaism believes in social justice and takes all the metaphysical stuff as a metaphor. Buncha weirdoes."

Note the use of the word "generally" and not perhaps "always". I can get behind "love thy neighbour" quite happily.
posted by schwa at 12:13 AM on May 22, 2011


Camping may not represent all religion. But he represents ideas and methodologies shared by all religions.

But we have another poster arguing that atheism is only non-belief in god(s), while you are arguing about "religion." The problem is that "religion" is no more or less obviously irrational than many other human institutions (like the stock market or marriage), and furthermore that many people who practice some form of religion do so with a huge varying degree of interest in the actual question of God per se: viewed more anthropologically and sociologically, and less theologically, it is quite evident that religion does not reduce to belief in God.
posted by Papaver somniferum at 12:13 AM on May 22, 2011 [10 favorites]


Lunacy is measured by external behavior, not internal belief,

I'm not sure what you mean. A delusion is not a delusion unless it manifests externally? (I don't want to put any words in your mouth, it just sounds to me that way..)
posted by c13 at 12:14 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]



Plenty of Christians have joined in on the derision. Laughable ideas are laughable. Refutable ideas are refutable. Crazy ideas are crazy.

I think it's possible to laugh at the May 21st Rapture AND to have pity for the people who bought into it.


These guys have been having a field day.


(Link to the Facebook group The Christian Left. This was a particularly choice post.)

But there are also posts like this:

My heart goes out to and prayers go up for the group of people whose lives have been so hard that they really needed Christ to come 'today,' and now are not only left with the same hard lives, but what must seem like unbearable disappointment. May God--and his people--lift them up and help them maintain their faith when all seems lost.

posted by louche mustachio at 12:14 AM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


That would have been much more effective if I had closed that tag properly.
posted by louche mustachio at 12:15 AM on May 22, 2011


There is a whole spectrum of irrationality at work in human belief, and in that spectrum there are both benign and harmful examples.

OK. Can we at least agree that telling people "On May 21st, if you BELIEVE hard enough, Jesus will take you up to heaven" is probably harmful?

Are we allowed to say that much, that this particular claim was one of the "harmful" examples? Because I'm not getting part of the argument here: if we're not allowed to find THIS claim ridiculous, what in life ARE we allowed to laugh at?
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 12:16 AM on May 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


Reform Judaism believes in social justice and takes all the metaphysical stuff as a metaphor. Buncha weirdoes.

posted by Astro Zombie at 8:09 AM

If they don't believe in God why would I, or any other person, call them an organised religion? If all the metaphysical stuff is just a metaphor then aren't they just a social movement with a membership policy based on genetics?

A really common definition of religion is a group of people with a belief in the same God/gods. I don't think I'm making some sort of weird no true scotsman fallacy argument when I say that a group with no metaphysical beliefs is not an organised religion.
posted by aychedee at 12:17 AM on May 22, 2011 [10 favorites]


A delusion is not a delusion unless it manifests externally?

To a remote Amozonian tribe, belief in the existence of money might appear utterly insane. My point being that there is only a thin line between the illusions of social life and custom as all societies practice them and the delusions of deity worship. Thus to say that all religion is nonsensical because it is based on a delusion (i.e. on belief in God) is wrong on two counts: first, because belief in God is only one part of religion, and two because clearly behavior is also a factor in judging what is a merely benign delusion from one that is quite harmful (think Episcopal service vs. Jonestown).
posted by Papaver somniferum at 12:20 AM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Because religion is more complicated than a reductionist definition.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:20 AM on May 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


OK. Can we at least agree that telling people "On May 21st, if you BELIEVE hard enough, Jesus will take you up to heaven" is probably harmful?

Not only allowed, you SHOULD say it. It is our duty to say it. Which was my whole point. The Camping cult was harmful, but not all religious practice is harmful.
posted by Papaver somniferum at 12:22 AM on May 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


If they don't believe in God why would I, or any other person, call them an organised religion? If all the metaphysical stuff is just a metaphor then aren't they just a social movement with a membership policy based on genetics?

Only the most obtuse and boneheaded atheists think religion is reducible to belief in God. There are a myriad number of cultural factors and individual motivations that make a person participate in a given religious ceremony or organization, and belief in God(s) is but one of them.
posted by Papaver somniferum at 12:25 AM on May 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


A minister of my acquaintance has posted his thoughts on the matter.

This is something people fail to realize so often where ministry is concerned. I have said many times over the years that one reason I don't pursue pastoring anymore is because I realized after doing it for a while that pastors have a LOT of influence over people's lives and choices. Now, I've been scoffed at for saying that to people because I've accused a lot of folks of being blindly led along by their pastors. Well, there you have it, I can't make it any plainer than what we've seen here.

I don't want to have that much control over people's lives, I don't think it's right or healthy when people's loyalty to a pastor prevents them from formulating their own beliefs and their own ideas. Such blind loyalty causes us to ignore our own gut feelings and it makes us listen to our hearts less and less.

posted by louche mustachio at 12:30 AM on May 22, 2011 [23 favorites]


@ Papaver somniferum.
Thus to say that all religion is nonsensical because it is based on a delusion (i.e. on belief in God) is wrong

because clearly behavior is also a factor in judging what is a merely benign delusion from one that is quite harmful

I believed you skipped a few steps here... Behavior is a factor.. Benign vs harmful delusion..
posted by c13 at 12:30 AM on May 22, 2011


Not only allowed, you SHOULD say it. It is our duty to say it. Which was my whole point.

*Shrug*. OK, then, it becomes a question where to draw that line.

But to a lot of people, "Jesus will take you up to heaven" looks to be on the same side of that line as the ridiculous claim that "Jesus will take you up to heaven at 6:00 on May 21st". Even other Christians say that Camping was nuts. But some of us see the differences between those two claims as only a matter of detail.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 12:32 AM on May 22, 2011 [9 favorites]


Rapture cupcakes

via
posted by dirigibleman at 12:33 AM on May 22, 2011 [17 favorites]


Obviously for you it is. Not so obviously for other people. Which is perhaps why this atheist shaming has struck a chord with people.

Religion has been around for a long time. What hasn't been around for a long time is the freedom to publicly laugh at the ridiculous things that religious people do without any fear of repercussion. In fact it still doesn't exist for a lot of people.

Anyway, I am interested in what makes reform Judaism a religion in your eyes? What separates it from a social movement and transforms it into a religion?
posted by aychedee at 12:35 AM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


oblig
posted by obiwanwasabi at 12:36 AM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


A really common definition of religion is a group of people with a belief in the same God/gods.

This definition is just very one-sided, and always has been. It's like defining capitalism by belief in money: it's not irrelevant, but it's besides the point. In the case of animism it is also misleading. A religion is a disposition among a group of people to behave a certain way, such that the worship, practice, and otherwise ritualized attendance to supernatural forces or deities is as important as the belief system that gives rise to that practice.
posted by Papaver somniferum at 12:37 AM on May 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


I feel fine.
posted by NoraReed at 12:38 AM on May 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


OK, come on. We should get to spend at least a day laughing at them before we have to be all compassionate and shit.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:43 AM on May 22, 2011 [17 favorites]


Sure, but there is centrally some kind of believe in the metaphysical? I don't think you can abstract that out and say that all ritualised behaviour can be considered an organised religion?

And yeah, can we have at least one day before we are forced to kow tow and be respectful of each individual brand of metaphysics that gets trotted out and used as an excuse to win social and political power?
posted by aychedee at 12:48 AM on May 22, 2011


the differences between those two claims

I'm an agnostic and I'm not religious (though I do have a strong interest in Buddhism, b/c I think it has psychological and epistemological insights that are true), so I have no dog in this fight, but I think the notion that religion boils down truth-claims about God is really misleading: non-believing historians, anthropologists, and sociologists have all uncovered that religion functions in a number of different ways and contexts. Some of its legacy is harmful, some of it good, but much of it is complex. It's not just "Belief-in-God," not by a long shot.
posted by Papaver somniferum at 12:54 AM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


People like Camping are the epitome of organized religion.

So terrorism is the epitome of Islam?
*gets up, flushes toilet* Thank youuuuuuu I'm here all week!
posted by phaedon at 12:55 AM on May 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't think you can abstract that out and say that all ritualised behaviour can be considered an organised religion?

Yeah because that would miss sports fans.
posted by schwa at 12:55 AM on May 22, 2011


I don't think you can abstract that out and say that all ritualised behaviour can be considered an organised religion?

I never said that. I'm not the one abstracting; I'm fleshing out the reality of religion throughout human history. It is not just a belief in God(s), and to say it is is a misleading abstraction. The very fact that we can separate the two notions--belief in God vs. religious practice--indicates they are not the same.
posted by Papaver somniferum at 12:59 AM on May 22, 2011


I'm not sure that Christianity without a Judgment Day of some sort is still Christianity. Jesus is going to come back, according to the Bible. In a way, Camping is emblematic of Christianity. His only difference is a choice to put a date to Judgment Day and some of the fun bits that come before it.

We put limits on free speech when it comes to yelling "fire" in a crowded theater when there is no fire. This is that scenario. Given how many lives are ruined, I think you should get to register a "I am going to tell everyone that the world is going to end on this date" precisely once. If the date comes and goes without the world ending, well, think of a suitable punishment.
posted by adipocere at 1:02 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Isn't a lot of this argument just semantics anyway? Whether we're talking about religion or belief in god(s), Camping's beliefs were, at their core, not based on logic or evidence (at least not to a rational person), which can be said of religion/belief in god(s) as a whole. The differences lie in specific beliefs and the relative harm that is caused by those beliefs.

Like a few people have said in comments above, being skeptical (and even jokingly critical) and being compassionate aren't mutually exclusive. I don't think being the former merits accusations of inability of being the latter. I personally would like the freedom to make fun of ridiculous religious beliefs without being told my atheism isn't as moral or righteous as your atheism. Because really, isn't that condemning attitude what turns some people off of religion in the first place?
posted by Rickalicioso at 1:15 AM on May 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


You know, we had way more fun in the other thread where we did nothing but mock religion.

As I said there, we should declare that VelociRapture Day, also known as Raptor Jesus Day, shall henceforth be the day & month of the last rapture prediction that obtained significant lulz. In other words, we celebrate Raptor Jesus again next 21 May unless another bigish rapture prediction occurs between then & now.

There is actually a point besides lulz to this proposal : All this "get back to christianity's cultish roots" crap manifests as harassment and ruins people's lives. We're simply reducing the number of victims by turning harmful belief systems into cultural joke.

If you're Christian, we aren't asking that you stop calling yourself Christian over Camping or Dean. We simply expect that you'll do your part helping gullible people by turning dangerous cults into laughing stocks.

We also damn well expect that you'll stop providing cover to the likes of Camping and Dean by whining that our lolz disrespect their beliefs. It's the lolzy Atheists, and Christians, who're being compassionate and constructive. It's the offended Christians who're providing cover for the scumbags.

posted by jeffburdges at 1:39 AM on May 22, 2011 [13 favorites]


Has anybody here actually whined that lulzing over Camping and Dean disrespects their beliefs, or provided cover for them? I missed that.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:41 AM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure that Christianity without a Judgment Day of some sort is still Christianity.

And I'm not sure you understand what Christianity is, even a little bit.

I don't consider myself a Christian (or particularly religious, or even a believer at all) but I know and am close to many Christians, the majority of whom do not believe that there is going to be a "Judgement Day" on earth, let alone one that in any way resembles the pre-Tribulation rapture that Camping and his ilk are on about. And these are not atypical Christians. For fuck's sake, the Catholic church, which makes up more than half of all Christians in the world, does not subscribe to belief in the the fucking Rapture. Nor do most other denominations outside of American fundamentalists.
posted by dersins at 1:47 AM on May 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


I do have a strong interest in Buddhism

Buddha did do a good job of weaseling out of some the big questions. Most religions seem to be good at not making any hard verifiable promises, present event excluded.

It is not just a belief in God(s), and to say it is is a misleading abstraction.
Lack of a belief in God(s) and an afterlife in any particular creed puts you in the realm of philosophy not religion. In a set of beliefs it is the hard requirement, not eating pork for example is a soft requirement. Religion often has practical advice, until recent history the church / mosque / temple / whatever was the state.
posted by dibblda at 1:53 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Fully 79% of Christians in the U.S. say they believe that Jesus Christ will return to Earth someday."

According to an Associated Press-AOL News poll from 2006, 25 percent of Americans anticipated the second coming of Jesus Christ in 2007.
posted by martinrebas at 1:55 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't consider myself a Christian (or particularly religious, or even a believer at all) but I know and am close to many Christians, the majority of whom do not believe that there is going to be a "Judgement Day" on earth, let alone one that in any way resembles the pre-Tribulation rapture that Camping and his ilk are on about.

Did your Christian friends read the bible? Specifically revelations? I think Judgment day is in there. The rapture is pretty iffy though.
posted by dibblda at 1:55 AM on May 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Also, if people are not Judged, what is Jesus saving them from?
posted by dibblda at 1:57 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Did your Christian friends read the bible? Specifically revelations? I think Judgment day is in there.

Thinking that all-- or even most-- Christians are Biblical literalists is a sure sign that you know little about Christianity.
posted by dersins at 2:01 AM on May 22, 2011 [11 favorites]


Yeah, I'm aware that there is a lot of the "It doesn't mean what it says" camp out there (when the verse i embarrassing or inconvenient in the modern world). You don't know what I do or don't know, although metafilter snark is cute when you get to use it I admit.

So what is revelations about? A picnic?
posted by dibblda at 2:12 AM on May 22, 2011 [8 favorites]


Now then, to the topic of the post. What exactly is the reason for pity and compassion?

They're sad fools who fell for a bill of goods and now stand humiliated in front of the world. I can feel a little compassion for that .
posted by philip-random at 2:13 AM on May 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'm not sure that Christianity without a Judgment Day of some sort is still Christianity.


Most (read: almost all) Christians denominations don't believe in the Rapture. These denominations are commonly referred to as "amillenial," and include Catholics, the Orthodox church, Lutherans and Anglicans. The idea of the Rapture is most prevalent amongst the evangelical denominations that have sprung up since the 19th century. Historically, even much of the early Christian church didn't believe in the Rapture.

And those same amillenial Christians (read: most Christians, historically and in the present) also don't believe that Jesus is gonna come down and walk the Earth someday.

Did your Christian friends read the bible? Specifically revelations? I think Judgment day is in there.

So what is revelations about? A picnic?

Revelation (it's not plural), aka The Tacked-On Ending to the New Testament, is largely interpreted by big denominations like the Catholics and the Orthodox as a warning that people should always live morally, as if the world could end at any moment. If it's any indication of how much weight it carries, the Orthodox don't even both to use the book as part of their church services; it's the only part of the Bible they don't use.
posted by alexoscar at 2:14 AM on May 22, 2011 [10 favorites]


This is absurd. Camping's claims deserve the same level of attention as your typical schizophrenic ranting on a street corner. If anything what he's done here is throw that into stark relief. Thanks for that, Camping.
posted by chmmr at 2:14 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


*both should be bother

Also:

A lot of people have cited Camping here as an example of the evil of organized religion, but did you know that Camping is against organized religion?
posted by alexoscar at 2:18 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


So our stance now is that when religious people act stupidly, we atheists have a carte blanche to disregard their pain and suffering, not even attempt to empathize with them, and just mock them gleefully?

Astro Zombie is an "anti-atheist" because he insists that we atheists ought to show compassion for religious people who believed something idiotic and suffered for their belief? He's somehow putting the blame on the atheists because he said that it sucks how mean we allow ourselves to get?

Note that I'm saying "we atheists", because I'd like to point out that Astro Zombie is an atheist (as am I). We are not on the "side" of the theists, so to speak. Recently I've been thinking about whether religion is more valuable and meaningful than I've let myself think it is, but that hasn't started me believing in God.

The funny thing is, just as religion is more complex than "giant space fairy", so too is atheism more complex than "God doesn't exist and therefore religion is uniformly delusional". The one doesn't necessarily precipitate the other.

What I hate is ignorance, closed-mindedness, and cruelty. But what Astro Zombie is saying, which I agree with, is that religion does not have a monopoly on these three things. And MetaFilter, being vastly more atheist than religious, has more ignorant, closed-minded, and cruel atheists than it has religious people of the same variety.

I don't think there's anything wrong or oppressive about asking people to try and show a little empathy, a little openness. I don't think that atheism/theism has anything to do with wanting that. The fact that we have this conversation more with atheists now than we do with Christians is that our one notably hurtful Christian member has gone to a considerable effort to be nice and not hurt anybody's feelings, so that doesn't really come up with her anymore.

(If we were commenting on, say, Free Republic, then we'd be criticizing Christians way more than we'd be criticizing atheists; but we're not on Free Republic, because MetaFilter is on the whole smarter and more interesting and more compassionate. Just because we're better, though, doesn't mean we're a perfect community, and we shouldn't slacken and assume that we're always morally in the right just because we're not a cesspool.)

I hate that religious people are willing to shut their minds to basic logic and reason. But when they get hurt by their choices, I don't feel happy that they've proven, once again, that belief in stupid things will lead to hurt. I feel pretty bad about the fact that they found themselves in a position to believe those things. Most of the people who bought into this armageddon weren't college-educated. They weren't raised by my Mom and Dad, who told me from a young age that I should never be afraid to ask questions, never accept something as truth without thinking about it myself. I'd go so far as to say that a lot of these people probably have never spent much time really examining what they believe; they accept their belief unquestioningly. I think that's a horrible thing, even a stupid thing. But I do not believe that these are horrible, stupid people. I can feel compassion for them, even as I find the idea of a literal armageddon absurd.

Similarly I can feel compassion for the people june made him a gemini is incapable of empathizing with. I hate that there are teachers who are willing to openly insult a student for not wanting a prayer at his graduation ceremony; I went to a fairly conservative high school, and I find it really hard to forgive some of the teachers and students there for what were far lighter offenses than what that Damon is going through. And I've met the sorts of people who think it's okay to tell a 16-year-old girl she ought to be raped, and they are uniformly disgusting and mean and immature. "Immature" is too light a word for what those people are.

When I was a summer camp counselor, I had a 14-year-old camper whose father was recently dead; people on her FormSpring account told her that she was probably a slut because her father had fucked her as a kid. I can't imagine dealing with that kind of cruelty as a 14-year-old, and I can't stop myself from hating, more than a little bit, whichever anonymous person thought it was okay to tell a little girl those things.

But I can feel compassion for them. Because I understand just how little people like that understand the people that they're hurting, or understand just how deeply they're hurting them, or how long scars from things like that will last. And I feel bad that they don't understand. Understanding people is really, really difficult. Empathy is not something we're born with. It's a tool we develop. We develop it for our entire lives. And when we don't develop it, we're willing to intentionally cause a lot of harm for people, because we don't feel ourselves just how harmful we're being.

I've been privileged enough to have a teeny bit of empathy (and quite a lot of what I do have has come from reading comments on MetaFilter from people who were willing to be extraordinarily vulnerable in order to help others empathize with them). Not everybody has my privilege. A lot of people grow up to astonishingly old ages without ever developing a reluctance to hurt anybody.

Worse, a lot of people are taught contempt and hatred and bigotry and ignorance from a young age, and they are trained to be actively hurtful, and they teach others to be hurtful in turn. As much as I think these people are the worst sorts of people in the world, I feel compassion for them as well, because they're virtually trapped in a perpetuating cycle of shit — they were taught shit, and shit is all they know, and they will pass their shit down to others. For 99% of the people in this cycle, it's not their fault. There are some truly evil and psychopathic people who deliberately choose a life of cruelty, but most of the "bad people" in the world were conditioned in their badness.

I don't think that my compassion makes me weak. I can want all of those people out of power, away from my school systems, without hating them for what they are; I can want to see them punished in some way for spreading their hatred and ignorance, and simultaneously regret that something led them to hatred and ignorance. Hell, I'm not entirely a nice person: if I find myself next to those people in real life, I doubt I'd be mature enough not to argue with them and mock their beliefs and make them feel bad. But when they're not shoving themselves physically in my face, I can distance myself enough from my own anger and contempt to feel compassion. (And I know that some of you in this thread probably do have these people shoving themselves in their faces; I can utterly sympathize with your anger, even though I dislike it.)

Here's the thing: If we let ourselves be closed-minded and ignorant and cruel to these people, we are lowering ourselves to their level. We don't reach that level. I don't think anybody on MetaFilter (not even you, Blazecock [<3]) is nearly as bad as even some of the moderately bad people on the other side; I legitimately believe that we are overall nicer and smarter and morally better than the other side. But the only reason that we're nicer/smarter/better is that we, unlike them, are willing to try and understand them, and empathize with them, and forgive them, and see where they're coming from.

If we stop doing that, we don't still get to be automatically better than them. Even if we have the facts on our side (and boy oh boy do we have those), even if all we're doing is calling them delusional while they're actively attempting to deny us our rights, we're not entitled to smugness or petty cruelty. There's a right way to act and a wrong way to act, and the other guys being wrong doesn't stop us from being wrong also.

And we've got a fair deal of asshattery on our side, friends. We're very willing to unfairly generalize our opponents so that we can dismiss them. We give people grossly simplified names and then stereotype them based on what names they've got. We're labeloids. And religious labels are some of the ones we're worst at working with.

I think that our anti-theism crosses over into bigotry, sometimes, though it's such a relatively light form of bigotry compared to the bigotry of the other side that I hesitate to use the word (and when I do use it Blazecock gets mad at me [<3]). But I do think it's (light) bigotry. And I wouldn't care, but I've got friends who've used religion as a tool to gain some insight into themselves — insight which I'm slowly beginning to realize I lack — so the bigotry makes me offended for the sake of my friends/religious MetaFilter muses, and it stops religious discussions on MetaFilter from really committing themselves to the things that I want to talk about w/r/t religion. When our comprehensive view of religion is that it's delusion based on a "giant space fairy", it's impossible to glean anything meaningful from the discussion beyond hatred and over-simplification.

By the way: religion does not require a belief in a "giant space fairy". Wikipedia opens up its article on religion by stating, "Religion is a cultural system that creates powerful and long-lasting meaning by establishing symbols that relate humanity to beliefs and values. They tend to derive morality, ethics, religious laws or a preferred lifestyle from their ideas about the cosmos and human nature." So, the point is to use symbols like God to talk about things like "how should I behave?" and "what am I like?" and "how can I be happy?" in ways that are so general that you can figure it out once and theoretically still have it be valid for thousands of years.

I'm not saying that this has been a complete success, but absolutely there are people who still find happiness from reading a book that was written upwards of two thousand years ago. That's remarkable! As an atheist (and, again, I am an atheist), I think religion would be a fuck of a lot better if it was more honest about the nature of these symbols. Fuck literal belief, fuck thinking the universe is six thousand years old, fuck the dinosaur museum, fuck the apocalypse. But I think that those symbols still hold a lot of value, and I'm finding that a lot of questions I have about myself and the world can be answered through Judaism or Buddhism or Christianity or even Greek and Norse and Egyptian myth (the stories from which are way more fun anyway). I like those symbols. I'd love to geek out about those symbols the way I geek out about movies or literature or computers.

We could turn religion into a nerd thing! Hell, we could mix and match our religions and trade bits of them around and battle them like they're Pokémon. And then we can go after our real target, which is things like ignorance and hatred and being-a-dick, without conflating them with the system of symbols that ignorance and hatred and dick-being are currently wrapping themselves in.

And we can do that without being ignorant or hateful or dickish ourselves. Because it really is frustrating, guys, the way some of these threads go. And it's frustrating how willing we are to reduce a mind-bogglingly huge thing like religion, which consists of some absolute shit, some interesting-but-flawed thinking, and some concepts which are absolute fucking genius, down to "giant space fairy". I think that's unfair to religion. Not unfair to bullshit religion like Camping, who is especially bullshitty. But unfair to the millions of people who understand where religion ends and science begins. I mean, it's possible to be cold stone atheist and still appreciate the values of symbols. Symbols are in art and movies and music and books (books!!!).

I think it was Neil Gaiman in American Gods who said that myths are lies that reveal deeper truths. Religion's like that. As long as you don't make the mistake of thinking the lie part is meant to be taken literally, you can find a hell of a lot of truth there. And lots of people are using religion to find the truth, and it's not fair to call them delusional. I think we can be nice to them and still hate shittiness like Camping's. (But maybe still feel compassionate for Camping and the people unfortunate enough to believe in shit like his? Super maybe?)

I dunno if this thread was totally necessary. I don't know what people are going to do in this other than mock religion, because there's not much else of a response that makes sense. I think that's a shame. Kudos, Astro Zombie, for your insistence that atheism doesn't necessarily have to be obnoxious or contemptful. And guys, I don't think it's being anti-atheism to say that it's annoying when we're obnoxious about our disbelief, or ignorant in our understanding of other people's beliefs.

You're all my friends, seriously. I don't like it when you're obnoxious. The other side is worse than obnoxious, they're hateful and hurtful, but that doesn't mean that we should be dicks about them, especially not if our method of dickishness involves being ignorant about how a lot of people actually use religion.
posted by Rory Marinich at 2:46 AM on May 22, 2011 [122 favorites]


Yeah, I'm aware that there is a lot of the "It doesn't mean what it says" camp out there (when the verse i embarrassing or inconvenient in the modern world). You don't know what I do or don't know, although metafilter snark is cute when you get to use it I admit.

So what is revelations about? A picnic?


As far as I know, in mainstream Christianity (which is not American Evangelism or other fundamentalist interpretations), the bible was written by humans, not God. So the bible is full of contradictions and other human imperfections. Which is the whole point of it. It's a book about humans doing human things and their relation to God.

(I am not religious, but I do spend time with lots of religious people regularly, and I've never met anyone who believes in rapture, or even judgement day).
posted by mumimor at 2:46 AM on May 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think the arguments over whether the majority of Christian denominations subscribe to millennialism are a bit of a red herring. While it is true that the Catholic Church does not sign up to the idea of the rapture, tribulation, thousand year reigns and all that, it still believes in a second coming and a final judgement.

After all the Nicene Creed states:

He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.
...
and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead


This does not of course mean this is what all worshippers believe - after all even on the 'smaller' things such as contraception some Catholics happily disobey. But I do think it's reasonable to make the point that what Camping did was simply put a date to a version of what the majority of Christian churches (as institutions) believe in some form - that this world will come to an end through God's will, related in some way to the return of Christ.

It's also possible to both laugh at silly beliefs and feel sorry for people affected by their consequences.
posted by spectrevsrector at 4:34 AM on May 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


Even if Jesus were to come back, who the fuck would take him seriously? Would you follow a bearded hippie in a white robe who claims he's back from the dead to save your soul!?
posted by Fizz at 4:35 AM on May 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


For people that believed, who sold their homes, quit their jobs, and euthanized their pets, this was the end of the world.

The funny thing is, this "rapture" bit in the bible is a bit more subtle than it seems. It is actually a message that back in time immemorial, before the bible was written, the "saved" were already lifted up into heaven, and basically *everyone* was left behind. So it's really a message, what are you going to do with your life now that you know you failed to attain salvation? It is most definitely NOT a message that you will be taken away to heaven and the sinners will be left behind. YOU were left behind.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:36 AM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


So...Camping has gone missing. Any word on whether the money was mysteriously "raptured"?

Seriously, though, I know just how deep into their own rabbit hole zealots like Camping can go. I sincerely hope he finds the grace and humility inside himself to climb out and carry-on with whatever direction his life will now take him. Right now, I'm sure the whole thing is extremely overwhelming.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:49 AM on May 22, 2011


AZ, you came off as entirely preachy and arrogant and if you were unable to see that, and are continuing to fail to see that, you have no right telling anyone else here to fuck off.

This is so disingenuous. You ignore the one person who actually told someone to fuck off and focus on the person who "effectively" told someone to fuck off with completely different words? Grind that axe a little more, why don't you?

The way I treat this is the same way I would treat a smoker who burnt their house to the ground with a lit cigarette; yes, they were incredibly stupid and deserve what they got, but they also deserve a blanket, hot meal and a whole host of services to help them get back on their feet because they're a human being.

We all make mistakes, some of us epically huge ones, and most people who give their house and possessions away because some nutbar told them to have gotten to that point as a result of some issues in their life made them so vulnerable.

Taking the misery of another to grind your axe about the global scam of religion makes you look incredibly petty. There are plenty of more effective ways to get people to stop buying into it than mockery.
posted by dflemingecon at 5:00 AM on May 22, 2011 [18 favorites]


Wow...this thread is still going on? I thought Astro Zombie pretty much said all that needed to be said about this. Not MeFi's best day.
posted by spicynuts at 5:09 AM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


This discussion of the proper snark/pity proportion will soon be definitively settled by the snark/pity experts at South Park. I hope it's up this week. Does anyone know yet?
posted by hexatron at 5:24 AM on May 22, 2011


I find reading threads like these much more tolerable when I imagine it is taking place in an old European-style town hall, with everyone wearing powdered wigs and taking their turn to stand up at the podium when they want to say their piece.

Oh, and throat-clearing. There must be throat-clearing before each statement.

Alas, other than that, I have nothing to contribute to this particular discussion.
posted by moonbiter at 5:39 AM on May 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


We all know we're sacks of meat headed to being piles of dust.

It's not religion that's pathetic. It's human hubris.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:52 AM on May 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't think any atheists are saying that Camping is perfectly representative of all Christians. What we're saying is that a majority of Christians believe things which are equally ridiculous. An overwhelming majority of Christians believe at least in the (first) resurrection of Jesus Christ, and a majority believe in some sort of Judgment Day even if they don't believe in the rapture in particular.

The only significant difference between Camping and most modern Christian leaders (with regard to dogma) is that the latter have learned to never make falsifiable predictions.

Yes, many civil rights leaders were Christians. That has nothing to do with whether their metaphysical beliefs were true or not. They weren't. They're just as ridiculous as Camping's beliefs, but somehow because they don't name particular dates and carefully avoid being falsifiable, we're supposed to treat those beliefs differently? I don't think so.

Have compassion for them, that's fine. You're a swell person. But let's stop pretending that the rest of Christians have reasonable beliefs. There is a small set of Christians (and Jews) who believe essentially the same things as atheists but like to dress it up in religious words. Their beliefs are largely reasonable. The rest of them, no.
posted by callmejay at 6:01 AM on May 22, 2011 [17 favorites]


The rapture took place on February 8, 2007. Only one was taken.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:03 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Would you follow a bearded hippie in a white robe who claims he's back from the dead to save your soul!?

Only if he did it in a danceable way.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:04 AM on May 22, 2011


We could turn religion into a nerd thing! Hell, we could mix and match our religions and trade bits of them around and battle them like they're Pokémon. And then we can go after our real target, which is things like ignorance and hatred and being-a-dick, without conflating them with the system of symbols that ignorance and hatred and dick-being are currently wrapping themselves in.

Rory, great post, but you are underselling the evils of organized religion. There are people who would want to kill you for treating their religion like a video game. The leaders of these people should be confronted and mocked and shamed directly, as often as is possible, especially when they put their religion to any sort of test. The reason religions eventually give up on trying to be right is because their values are fossilized in the time in which their were cast, and their predictions always end up being wrong. So they discard those values, either by ignoring them or through apologetic tap dancing or by removing them through further revelation, and introducing more and more plausible deniability until they don't say anything concrete.

The three major Abrahamic religions and Hinduism all talk about the end of the world as if it is an event that will happen, so that makes up a majority of the world's population right there. We should reserve special treatment and special criticism of these religions because it is one of the few philosophies that ask its adherents to discard rational thought and perpetrate violence in exchange for rewards in the afterlife. Most can be reasoned with, but those two ideas are the forks in the tongue of a very evil ideology.

Once you believe that some being will provide justice after people are dead, it is an excuse to commit crimes beyond imagining, and unlike normal human injustice which is limited to how much violence you are willing to perpetrate stealing someone else's resources or for simple bloodlust, religious violence knows no end until the end of the world. Right now the world is relatively peaceful, thanks to things that have nothing to do with organized religion, but as soon as another great war or famine occurs, the dormant hatred and commands of genocide and violence against the non-believing and the non-conforming will get hauled out again. And all it will take are a few religious nutcases in leadership roles to decide that now is the time to save the world by destroying it.

Even when those texts are liberalized by newer additions, like the Old Testament being revised by the New Testament, you still have religious figureheads saying things like "Blow them away in the name of the Lord." These people can't be voted out. The most fanatical, the most crazed, and the most devoted lunatics are the ones that end up at the top. Once they have enough followers, the only thing that will strip them of their power is if they lose all of their flock, and if varying degrees of mockery will embarrass them enough to leave that organization, so much for the better.

To put it succinctly, I agree that we need to be compassionate for the victims of these charlatans. However, when it comes to the charlatans themselves, or to their vocal followers who literally want you and me and most of the world to be tortured for all eternity, the criticism directed back should be absolutely merciless, unending, but most of all, entirely earnest. Instead of saying that sky gods are stupid, we should directly ask their followers questions like, "Why do you think it is moral to torture me for all eternity?"

I do it every chance I get. And you know what? Most of them don't have a good answer. Our best asset in this very serious fight is that their position is irrational. Use it to your advantage.
posted by notion at 6:07 AM on May 22, 2011 [31 favorites]


Christ, FelliniBlank, I thought you were going to link to this.
posted by ServSci at 6:08 AM on May 22, 2011


I hoped he was going to link this (somewhat NSFW)
posted by ymgve at 6:14 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


This makes me want to go back and reread Heinlein's Job: A Comedy of Justice
posted by antifuse at 6:18 AM on May 22, 2011


Why is Camping emblematic of all christianity and not, say, Fred Rogers?
Why are the haters of all religious belief so vocal in threads about U.S. fundamentalist whack-job christians and so quiet in threads about Judaism or native spirituality?
posted by rocket88 at 6:22 AM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


i think that if people are going to laugh and mock at organized religion and mistaken prophets they could try being a lot funnier than you people are
posted by pyramid termite at 6:31 AM on May 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't think the atheist reaction matters really, though it's nice that AZ et al. would rather people not be dicks... It's not like any religious people are worried: "maybe the internet Atheists will mock us because of this"... so all the meanness in the world in this quiet blue hole is not going to affect anybody.

The world was not waiting for the compassionate understanding of the Internet Atheists, as delusional as religious people may be, they are not that delusional.
posted by ServSci at 6:39 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


There have been some comments about how the 'freedom riders' were motivated by religion.

And I'll just add that the Arab spring has given me a new appreciation of the value of Islam as a means to fight oppression and organize resistance.

However, on balance, it seems to me that religion doesn't motivate people to do good deeds. It surely motivates some people to do good deeds, but I've seen far too much evil committed in the name of organize religion to say that it motivates more people to do good than to do bad.

The value that organized religion has is that it provides an alternate organizational structure for society when the primary one fails to meet the needs of its people. When government or secular society collapses or fails to meet the needs of its people, religion is there as an outlet to organize people toward a common goal. There was nothing necessarily religious about the demand of southern blacks for their freedom. It was expressed through religion because they had no other choice. There were no other institutions through which they could organize.

I think this was the case with the south, where the evils of segregation was not just apparent to Christians, but let's remember, also, the leftists and socialists who were as atheist as you can imagine, and who also risked their lives and livelihoods to bring about change and were just as big a part of the civil rights movement as the Christians -- perhaps even larger. And the atheists didn't have the consolation prize of being rewarded in the next life to motivate them. The needed to succeed in this life, because it was the only one they had.

And you're seeing it in Arab countries right now, where the corruptness of the system brings together the Muslim Brotherhood with all the secular opposition groups.

Listen to this man in Egypt (at 45 seconds): "We will not be silenced, whether you're a Christian, whether you're a Muslim, whether you're an atheist, you will demand your goddamn rights, and we will have our rights, one way or the other! We will never be silenced!" That is not a religious plea, that's a human one. And atheists and religious people alike can agree about it.
posted by empath at 6:50 AM on May 22, 2011 [12 favorites]


The Rapture Index: "The prophetic speedometer of end-time activity." My favorite part if the documentation in the comments, i.e. "New reports claim there is a surge in the demand for exorcists." What they need is some way of better visualizing the data, maybe that is something for Projects.
posted by cgk at 6:50 AM on May 22, 2011


> it was that we should not extrapolate this one fringe group to represent all religion, and then use it as a pretext for mocking all religion.

The trouble with this pronouncement is that a lot of people here simply don't understand what the difference is between this group and all the others - except that these people made specific promises with specific dates.


A lot of other people here don't understand why "a lot of people here simply don't understand what the difference is", because the difference has been explained a basquillion times in these threads.

But I do understand why others don't understand -- I finally figured out that it's because those people don't want to understand. It's just easier to dismiss all theists with the same crazybrush, for some.

So if that's what they want, fair enough. Just don't pretend that the explanations weren't out there.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:53 AM on May 22, 2011


On the whole rapture thing and whether all christians believe it or not, as far as I know, rapture or not, all major christian denominations believe in the eventual Apocalypse as foretold in Revelation (it's in the bible or not). Whether they think it's tomorrow or 10,000 years from now, on cosmological timescales, they're quibbling about decimal points.

The religion is built on a foundation of absurdities of which Revelation is only one, whether or not one particular manifestation of the religion has a slightly less ridiculous and dangerous interpretation of the same bat-shit crazy 'holy book' seems like grasping at straws.

The difference between Camping and Catholicism (or almost any other major Christian denomination) is one of degree not of kind. They all say that this life doesn't matter, that material things don't matter, because you'll be rewarded when Jesus comes back, and they all use it as a means to extract money from their adherents.
posted by empath at 7:00 AM on May 22, 2011 [11 favorites]


I get that the gleeful amounts of hatred expressed here against what people view as "Christianity" (as if it were some monolith, just as right-wingers view "Islam" as a monolith characterized by the brand practiced by Osama et al) comes from the power some conservative Christians have had to hurt individuals and groups in the US. I've been there, I know friends who have had it much worse. (I fled the Catholic church myself to join a denomination just barely a step up from Unitarianism, and a church where it's been OK to talk about a belief in the narrative of Christ instead of the divinity of Christ.)

But when I hear the complete contempt shown for ANY religious practice/belief, have sat through mocking of Easter as "zombie day", have had it explained to me how dumb Christians are as a whole, etc., I wonder, "What about the Dali Lama, who thinks he's a reincarnation? Are the Buddhist prayer beads so different from that grandmother's "voodoo" rosary practice? How about those Jews who prayed to THEIR 'invisible sky god' to be rescued from or strengthened to endure unspeakable horrors?"
posted by availablelight at 7:00 AM on May 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


dersins, you'll note I specifically mentioned Judgment Day, rather than The Rapture. Judgment Day does not equal The Rapture.

I'm not sure how much of the stuff in the Bible you can disbelieve in and still be a Christian. Is just calling yourself a Christian sufficient? I'm not inclined to buy into that. Calling these questions literalist only dismisses the questions without addressing them. We seem to run into this time and again in religious threads: What is Christianity? Just the Nicene Creed and that's it? (And if so, which?)

I think that the majority of Christians believe in a Judgment Day, a final point. It only has 9,420,000 hits on Google. But don't just take my word for it, let's look at The End of the World As We Know It: Faith, Fatalism, and Apocalypse in America, By Daniel Wójcik:
For instance, a 1983 Gallup poll revealed that 62 percent of the respondents had "no doubts" That Jesus will return again to earth, and a 1994 poll for U.S. News and World Report indicated that 61 percent of Americans believe that Jesus will return (Gallup and Castelli 1989:4; U.S. News and World Report, December 19, 1994, 64). The U.S. News and World Report survey also found that 53 percent of those polled believe that some world events in the twentieth-century fulfill biblical prophecy, and that a significant percentage of Americans believe that the Bible should be taken literally when it speaks of a final Judgment Day (60 percent), a Battle of Armageddon (44 percent), the Antichrist (49 percent), and the Ratpure of the church (44 percent). (U.S. News and World Report, December 19, 1994, 64)
(typed out of Google Books, any misspellings doubtlessly mine)

Given that some of those respondents were Jewish, atheist, and the like, we can say with some confidence that most Christians believe in a Judgment Day. Look at the numbers on The Rapture! 44 percent, and that isn't even just Christians.

With that in mind, no, I think we cannot dismiss belief in Judgment Day as somehow incidental to Christianity or that it is too literalist. I don't think we can count Camping as a fringe element at 44 percent believing in the Rapture.

So, yeah, he's just the latest in a series of people who were foolish enough to put a testable date on these things.
posted by adipocere at 7:03 AM on May 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


What about the Dali Lama, who thinks he's a reincarnation? Are the Buddhist prayer beads so different from that grandmother's "voodoo" rosary practice?

Who says they aren't? I doubt most people with contempt for 'organized religion' make much distinction. The current Dalai Lama seems like a decent enough guy, but historically, they were as bad as any other theocrat.
posted by empath at 7:05 AM on May 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


The trouble with this pronouncement is that a lot of people here simply don't understand what the difference is between this group and all the others - except that these people made specific promises with specific dates.

A lot of Christians don't understand what the difference is between Joseph Stalin and your average PZ Meyers fan. Both points of confusion require an active, deliberate act of ignorance.
posted by verb at 7:09 AM on May 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


Oh, God! Looking at the post for the rapture cupcakes I had a flashback to my youth. I know how the followers feel.

I was in catechism and for Christmas we were told to leave birthday cookies for Jesus near our Christmas tree. In front of me, my mother got in an argument with my teacher. She said she would not assist in a lie by spiriting away my cookies on Christmas night, that if Jesus was going to take my cookies he'd better damned well do it on his own.

Morning after morning I checked under the tree and my cookies were still there. I asked my friends and all of their cookies had disappeared. I was devastated (I really was). Jesus didn't want my cookies.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:10 AM on May 22, 2011 [14 favorites]


I doubt most people with contempt for 'organized religion' make much distinction.

I wish that were the case with the people that I've talked to or been talked at. Lazy, superficial American "buffet-style" Buddhists are some of the smuggest, most contemptuous folks I've heard hold forth on how idiotic Christian belief are.
posted by availablelight at 7:11 AM on May 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


Like a good huckster, Camping and his inner circle have decamped to warmer climes.

While it is unfortunate that many fools and their money have parted ways due to this scam, I take solace in the fact that every dime sent to Camping probably will not wind up in the coffers of the GOP this election season because let's face it, I bet all of the duped are good dependable Republican supporters too.
posted by Renoroc at 7:14 AM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


So, yeah, he's just the latest in a series of people who were foolish enough to put a testable date on these things.

What made it foolish wasn't just the fact that it could be tested -- it was the fact that by announcing a date, Camping was deliberately, explicitly contradicting the words of Jesus in the Bible. Matthew 24:36, man. The majority of Christians are deeply uncomfortable with these kinds of predictions not just because they've seen them before, not just because they're 'falsifiable,' but because the man they believe is the incarnate son of God essentially said, 'Don't do that.'

A large percentage of Christians believe that there will be a 'Judgement Day.' A subset of them believe that 'The Rapture' will occur. And lots of little subsets of that group get their numerology freak on and try to predict the precise day it will happen, despite the fact that the person who said it would happen someday warned them not to try.

It's been years since I was anything but an atheist/agnostic, and I've got a serious axe to grind with Christianity, but Camping was a joke in Christian circles.

The best way to understand how people get swept up in rapture predictions has nothing to do with religion: it's about living in special circumstances. Chris Hedge's book War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning talks about it in the context of nationalism and war, the idea that individuals and nations can become addicted to the energizing sense that "Anything goes! Everything has amplified meaning!" Impending armageddon is fundamentally no different, and you can see it in the handful of people who followed Camping.

They weren't at war with the world, the were at war with the crushing emptiness of their own 'normal' lives. And that's what a rapture watcher looks like, at the end of the day. Some, sure, carry around Tim Lahaye's macabre delight with the suffering of the wicked. But most just can't live with the idea that tomorrow will be just like today, and the next month will be like this one, and that Living in Extraordinary Times will not save them from the now.
posted by verb at 7:27 AM on May 22, 2011 [18 favorites]


What made it foolish wasn't just the fact that it could be tested -- it was the fact that by announcing a date, Camping was deliberately, explicitly contradicting the words of Jesus in the Bible.

Right, because the Bible is internally consistent, and there's a perfectly logical interpretation of everything in it that doesn't ignore or contradict anything Jesus said.
posted by empath at 7:39 AM on May 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


absolutely there are people who still find happiness from reading a book that was written upwards of two thousand years ago. That's remarkable!

Indeed.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 7:43 AM on May 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


Right, because the Bible is internally consistent, and there's a perfectly logical interpretation of everything in it that doesn't ignore or contradict anything Jesus said.

That may be true, but the actual observable state of reality inside the western church is that people who attempt to predict the end of the world with any precision greater than "Kinda soonish" are considered by the majority of Christians to be violating the commands of Christ. Because Jesus said, 'Don't do that.'

The people who make those predictions and the people who follow them certainly find ways to explain away what the Bible says about making such predictions, but for better or worse this is one of the commands that the majority of Christians tend to stick by.

Camping and his followers got ridiculous amounts of media coverage in the months and days leading up to this weekend, because they made good copy. The fact that you dislike organized religion does not, however, mean that all practitioners of organized religion are wrong about the same things in the same ways.
posted by verb at 7:46 AM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


What made it foolish wasn't just the fact that it could be tested -- it was the fact that by announcing a date, Camping was deliberately, explicitly contradicting the words of Jesus in the Bible. Matthew 24:36, man.

Yeah, but you can always work around that. It says But of that day and hour knoweth no [man], no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only (King James, natch).

Okay, no one knows, but does that mean that no one can discover it or otherwise figure it out? What if God chooses to tell someone via revelation? Perhaps the sentence means that nobody knows now (no one knows if there is life on other planets, but we will). Perhaps this hinges on the definition of "knows". I think that there is enough wiggle room so that you can set a date without being in contradiction of this verse.

So, about Camping. I don't think he was a scammer, but it wouldn't surprise me if the personality that leads someone to do something like this is the same one that makes an effective scammer (or CEO). Even if he believes it's possible to work out the date of the end-times, you have to be pretty damned arrogant to believe that you are the right one to do it.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 7:46 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


That may be true, but the actual observable state of reality inside the western church is that people who attempt to predict the end of the world with any precision greater than "Kinda soonish" are considered by the majority of Christians to be violating the commands of Christ. Because Jesus said, 'Don't do that.'

Jesus also said: "Don't cast the first stone", "Don't pray in public" and "Hate your family" among many other things that the majority of Christians routinely ignore.
posted by empath at 7:48 AM on May 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Jesus also said: "Don't cast the first stone", "Don't pray in public" and "Hate your family" among many other things that the majority of Christians routinely ignore.

That is quite true. But, as I said, the actual observable state of reality inside the western church is that people who attempt to predict the end of the world with any precision greater than "Kinda soonish" are considered by the majority of Christians to be violating the commands of Christ. Because Jesus said, 'Don't do that.'

Please read.
posted by verb at 7:49 AM on May 22, 2011


I read it, but I'll quote what you said before that.

"What made it foolish wasn't just the fact that it could be tested -- it was the fact that by announcing a date, Camping was deliberately, explicitly contradicting the words of Jesus in the Bible."

So is deliberately, explicitly contradicting the words of Jesus in the bible foolish or not? Are the vast majority of Christians foolish, since we've already agreed that they routinely ignore Jesus's explicit instructions in the bible?
posted by empath at 7:52 AM on May 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


What a waste of a perfectly good thread.

Where are the reports and videos of mass helium sex-doll releases, the organized atheists planting piles of clothes, the cupcake stores with rapture cupcake displays or the really excellent scams that cashed in on this extreme example of god-bothering?

What to we get instead? A bunch of inept "no true atheist" jokes. Oh wait, those weren't jokes?

And furthermore, what's this slur on the Unitarians not qualifying as an organized religion? If they can get it together to serve coffee at coffee hour, that qualifies as organized in my book. If there are donuts, then extra bonus points for getting that organized.

I'm expecting a little more here than just some risen cupcakes and a lot of inverse god-bothering.
posted by warbaby at 7:53 AM on May 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


(and btw, the ignoring of Jesus's explicit instructions is built into the organizational structure of all organized Christian churches, since if you don't pray in public, what kind of organized religion do you have?)
posted by empath at 7:54 AM on May 22, 2011 [8 favorites]


Question for anyone who watches or follows main-stream media: I noticed a lot of interest in Camping before the date of Rapture, but it seems to be distinctly lacking after the fact.

I'm not looking for laughter at the duped, or the smug remarks of the non-believers or more critical Christians who share some of the core beliefs in the bible, yet didn't think yesterday was The Day. I'm looking for anything to show that the media had any long-term plans for the fucking barrage of pre-rapture news coverage.

There were clips of conversations with believers ("My whole family thinks I'm crazy," says the lady who is handing out pamphlets), and comments from the uncertain ("I don't think it will happen, so I'll keep paying my utility bills, but it would be a nice change of pace"). There were religious people interviewed, ("What is the justification of this in holy texts? And what might happen if the rapture doesn't occur and believers have to figure out what comes next?"). EVERYONE HAD COVERAGE.

And then ... nothing. It's like the people who were writing the Rapture Hype pieces were trying to get in more coverage than the other station or news company, and now they suddenly realize it would be crass to continue their coverage.

So in the end, my anger is at the media coverage - if Harold Camping's message was limited to people handing out pamphlets, listening to his radio show, and seeing BOLD TEXT on the side of pick-up trucks, it might be less of a let-down for a lot of people.

If you won't remind people of the centuries of empty prophesies for the end of the world, don't pretend like this time it might happen.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:56 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


So is deliberately, explicitly contradicting the words of Jesus in the bible foolish or not? Are the vast majority of Christians foolish, since we've already agreed that they routinely ignore Jesus's explicit instructions in the bible?

Don't be obtuse. Different Christians (and groups of Christians) take certain parts of the Bible seriously; for whatever reasons, that verse in Matthew is one of them. That's what I said, it's what I reiterated.
posted by verb at 7:57 AM on May 22, 2011


But why is not taking that part seriously the foolish part? Surely the foolish part starts well before you start picking the date.
posted by empath at 7:58 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Many people went on the Freedom Rides and fight (and suffer) for equality without religion.

I don't think anyone expected to be raptured on May 21 without it.
posted by Legomancer at 8:00 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Rory's epically good comment is right on the mark, especially here:
And I wouldn't care, but I've got friends who've used religion as a tool to gain some insight into themselves — insight which I'm slowly beginning to realize I lack — so the bigotry makes me offended for the sake of my friends/religious MetaFilter muses, and it stops religious discussions on MetaFilter from really committing themselves to the things that I want to talk about w/r/t religion. When our comprehensive view of religion is that it's delusion based on a "giant space fairy", it's impossible to glean anything meaningful from the discussion beyond hatred and over-simplification.
Based on my experience being an atheist, I've noticed a few changes in my outlook on the religion issue. In fact, I might even go so far as to say it's been a spiritual development that is not uncommon for maturing atheists, especially of the raised-with-reason-not-religion variety.

It began with a sense of strange alienation at being different than most people, and knowing that my atheism was socially unacceptable. Then, after finding people like me, a sense of smug superiority in knowing that our rational system of belief-building was infinitely better. Around college, it suddenly became okay to talk about atheism more publicly, with various student organizations and campus pulpits allowing the discussion. Hateful atheists became more up-front, and I felt more comfortable openly deriding theists. I would fume at the number of Christian organizations around me and their absurd delusions. Then comes a certain "Evangelical Atheism," where it became a conviction that the world would be better off without religion at all.

But I feel fortunate to have met several religious folks who truly do seem to have become better people than I am. And on top of that, regardless of the space-fairy beliefs that many religious people hold, I've found that religion serves as an important link to one's history and heritage. If the question is "Why am I here?", then the proximal answer is that your parents procreated (and theirs before them). It seems to be a natural urge that I would want to continue to stand for the same principles of my ancestors, in the same way that a part of my ego hopes that all the things I learn in this life will be the torch carried by my own children after I am gone.

What religion provides people, in addition to dogma and mythology, is a connectedness with their biological past and a sense of purpose united quite prosaically by parentage. Can you imagine the experience of holding the same beliefs as your great-great-grandmother, or worshipping in exactly the same way as your grandfather? With the rise of hipsterdom's flailing attempts at recreating the fashions of the past, you would think that this sort of nostalgia wouldn't be a terribly foreign idea.

I suppose that fear of death provides good reason for new recruits to buy into the snake oil. But those with ancestral histories of a faith have a proven track record of providing their family members with at least some form of de facto immortality.

Anyway, these are the issues about religion and atheism that are particularly interesting to me. If anybody else has thoughts, I'd love to hear them. Hopefully the noise of "nyah nyah rationalism" posts will clear.
posted by phenylphenol at 8:09 AM on May 22, 2011 [17 favorites]


The only people who ever wrote any documentation that Jesus ever existed claim he also said: "Don't cast the first stone", "Don't pray in public" and "Hate your family" among many other things that the majority of Christians routinely ignore.

Yeah, FTFY, I went there. Based on a reasonable study of existing evidence, I believe Jesus never existed, but I may be proven wrong if presented enough additional contradicting proof. That's a rational belief NOT FAITH.

My definition of Faith always includes the word Unproven, often Unprovable, and much of the Faith expressed by religious people is clearly DISPROVEN. They believe things that are just not true. And that's MY idea of the Essence of Religion.

And Unitarians and Reform Jews definitely qualify as Organized, but fail miserably at being Religions for their lack of irrational Faith, the same way there are actual Organized Atheist groups. Heck, a relative of my ex-wife organized a group called The Society for Evangelical Agnostics. It didn't last, but was hilarious.

And there were, by quantity, more "devout Christians" beating up the Freedom Riders than participating in them. Proven historical fact.

The Rapture Farce didn't do anything to discredit Religion As A Whole for me, because it was already discredited. And it most certainly will not do anything to discredit it for anyone else, because it's not THEIR Religion. Has anybody linked to Stephen Fry's QI segment on The Great Disappointment, yet? (And how it led to the founding of more sects than it destroyed?)
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:09 AM on May 22, 2011 [8 favorites]


But why is not taking that part seriously the foolish part? Surely the foolish part starts well before you start picking the date.

I was responding to adipocere, who said that "he's just the latest in a series of people who were foolish enough to put a testable date on these things." Do you think adipocere felt that date precision was Camping's only error?
posted by verb at 8:09 AM on May 22, 2011


HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA....Ha!
posted by mike3k at 8:12 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


filthy - One reasonable explanation for the media not having any plans for post-non-rapture coverage is that they all expected to fly away. Or they are just a bunch of incompetent infotainers. Take your pick.

Meta is much better than this thread.
posted by warbaby at 8:15 AM on May 22, 2011


> A lot of other people here don't understand why "a lot of people here simply don't understand what the difference is", because the difference has been explained a basquillion times in these threads.

[...]

> So if that's what they want, fair enough. Just don't pretend that the explanations weren't out there.

Then it should be really easy to link to the explanation, yes, instead of simply informing me how wrong I am without telling me why? So, why didn't you?

Here's my argument again, more rigorously:

1. Almost all religions require you to believe in some form of miracle - usually including both miraculous stories about the past as well as miraculous predictions.
2. "Miracle" means something that could never happen without supernatural influence - something you'd never believe if some random person on the street just told you.
3. As far as I know, none of these religions "officially" let you show up and participate if you don't accept these miracles.

These "miracles" are what all religions have in common for us non-believers - that we are required to believe in things that are admittedly, even proudly, unbelievable.

Let me address a few subpoints.

There are a few religions like Therevada Buddhism in its purest form that don't have miracles or consider them unimportant. These religions are exempt from my "lumping together" because they don't require me to believe in miracles. I'd add that quite a lot of scholars don't consider Therevada a "religion" per se because it has no God and no supernatural beliefs, though I'm not sure I'd make such a claim.

I'm seeing people here claiming you can believe in Christianity without believing in the return of Jesus and the resurrection of the dead.

Now, I don't buy this - I've been to Christian church services of many denominations and in each and every service I've been to you are required to affirm, publicly, in a group, that you believe these exact things (heck, the exact wording of this affirmation is now running through my head!)

But let's suppose you don't believe in that "literally". (I'm not sure what you DO believe then but we'll let that pass...) Well, you STILL believe in miracles. You believe that Christ rose from the dead, rose others from the dead, healed the sick and blind, walked on water, etc.

Or, if you don't believe in ANY of the miracles from the Bible, Old or New Testament - well, I personally don't think you're right to call yourself a Christian, really, but if you are this way (like Thomas Jefferson apparently was, he edited the Bible to remove all that stuff) then also, I have no beefs with you and neither would any other non-believer.

With those clear exceptions, all miracle-based religions, which form the great majority of religions, are profoundly similar to non-believers as they require us to believe in miracles, intrinsically unbelievable claims that are only backed up by authority.

Got it? Now, please point me to all those "basquillion" explanations, please, I'm really interested to see them.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:19 AM on May 22, 2011 [13 favorites]


Camping had a massive PR operation that included strategic ad buys, people on the streets, etc designed to provoke and drive stories to the media. It is a shame that no one is able to drive the backlash stories.
posted by humanfont at 8:21 AM on May 22, 2011


I'll tell you what's REALLY funny though.. Astro commenting almost every minute and then every five minutes for about 2 or 3 hours. That is dedication! Dedication to being a party pooper. It's human nature to laugh at other peoples stupidity. We do it all the time. It's who we are. I mean, we can either laugh at each other, or kill each other (usually the killing wins out, such as when abortion clinics get shot up or when Presidents send troops into war for no reason.) One time I was at the movies and there was an up/down pair of escalators. As I approached the 'up' escalator, I noticed an old man shuffling towards the bottom of the 'down' escalator, not realizing which way the steps were moving. I nudged my friend quietly and told him, 'Watch watch! Look what's about to happen! Heehee' I've never seen an old man's legs move so fast!! It would've been wrong to interfere with nature in this instance, sort of how it's illegal for scientists to interrupt migrating penguins in the South Pole.

Well, I think of that as very similar to laughing at all the different beautiful folks who believe that any old day is the day the world ends. We're all watching with glee as they steadily approach the wrong answer, and then backpedal a split second after realizing they were duped. A person is smart. People are stupid!
posted by ReeMonster at 8:22 AM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


If Camping had put up billboards across the nation stating "RAGNAROK IS COMING - MAY 21ST," not only would he have gotten a tiny sliver of the nation's attention that he did, but most of us would've written it off as clever advertising for the Thor movie.

Sometimes it's amazing how one particular variation on All Of Our Lives Are Governed By Powers Beyond The Comprehension Of Mortal Man And Yet It Is Mortal Men Who Will Tell You Exactly How To Live Your Live To Make Those Powers Happy And Keep Them From Subjecting You To Eternal Torment has widespread credibility and acceptance, to the point where people who DON'T believe in at least the underlying faith behind Camping's beliefs are treated as the unusual ones, and yet Odin, Jupiter, Ra, Zeus, Coyote, Quetzalcoatl, and such are classified on a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT LEVEL from this particular set of thousands-of-years-old beliefs.
posted by delfin at 8:23 AM on May 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


Then it should be really easy to link to the explanation, yes, instead of simply informing me how wrong I am without telling me why? So, why didn't you?

It should be really easy to link to the explanation of why Stalin wasn't an atheist, shouldn't it?
posted by verb at 8:26 AM on May 22, 2011


Has anybody linked to Stephen Fry's QI segment on The Great Disappointment yt , yet? (And how it led to the founding of more sects than it destroyed?)

Glad you mentioned this about the Millerites and the uncanny ability for a doomsday agenda to seed new movements upon prophetic failure, because faith and disappointment is the currency of religion. Christianity was such a sect once. Jesus was a no-show, late in coming as the messiah, so some clever people were prompted to look backwards around the time he was expected and they cobbled together enough fable and doctrine to flesh out a composite candidate. Their only problem is he still needs to make his destructive arrival, although they're calling it the second coming this time.
posted by Brian B. at 8:26 AM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


> What religion provides people, in addition to dogma and mythology, is a connectedness with their biological past and a sense of purpose united quite prosaically by parentage.

There are a gazillion other things that also provide these services and aren't religions. In my unbelieving family, it's been music, science and art for three generations now.

I don't deny that religion can provide benefits for its adherents. But all religions share the same central pillar in common - the necessity of believing in things that would be on their face completely unbelievable without a gross appeal to authority (subject to my very limited caveats above).
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:27 AM on May 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't deny that religion can provide benefits for its adherents. But all religions share the same central pillar in common - the necessity of believing in things that would be on their face completely unbelievable without a gross appeal to authority (subject to my very limited caveats above).

Alternately, the idea that country music is listenable.

Thus, I condemn music.
posted by verb at 8:28 AM on May 22, 2011


Disclaimer: I wouldn't call myself an atheist, but I pretty strictly prefer my religion disorganized.

However, on balance, it seems to me that religion doesn't motivate people to do good deeds. It surely motivates some people to do good deeds, but I've seen far too much evil committed in the name of organize religion to say that it motivates more people to do good than to do bad.

I see this line of reasoning a lot, and it never fails to annoy me. Look, in my lifetime I've seen democratically-elected officials do far more evil than good, let's do away with those, too.

There are a huge number of people in the world who need to believe in something. Maybe you're not one of them, but to assume that they could just "stop believing" and behave perfectly rationally is...well, completely irrational. Sure, some of them might - the easygoing, generally non-evil Christians who bake cupcakes and watch each others' kids and what-have-you will probably still do all those things - but the really devout, fanatical, zealous ones, the ones you think are "evil" - you present a false choice where they could stop believing in religion and *poof* they'd be sane. Is that realistic? If, instead, you replace their religious zeal with a hard-line nihilism, a complete absence of belief in anything, you really think the world would be better?

When you declare religion does more evil than good, it's because you're conflating the idea of a world where no one is religious with the idea of a world where everyone is as rational as you think they ought to be. One does not in any way correlate to the other.

No human being is perfectly rational. Ever. It's a spectrum, like so many things; a lot of people who are just irrational enough to believe in a religion, or ghosts, or JFK assassination theories, are rational enough that in your day-to-day life you get along with them fine. They're near enough to you on the spectrum that you're okay with it; but the people on the far other end of the spectrum, you draw a line, you declare them "other". That line isn't real; they're on the far end of a spectrum that you are also on.

As for Harold Camping - I don't know if he's still alive. But if he is, he will almost certainly spend the entire rest of his life in hiding, in shame. (If he took off with other peoples' money, the authorities should and hopefully will track that money, find his ass and throw him in jail like any other con artist.) I don't know if spending the rest of your life hiding in shame is "punishment enough" but it's certainly a pretty miserable way to spend the rest of your life, alone and trapped in your own head with the memories of your massive failure.

As for the people that bought into his scam, they believed. Was it rational? No. Was it foolish? I don't think you really know enough about them to declare that it was something that made no sense for them, in their circumstances. Casting blame on them for believing something that was pretty clearly unbelievable to you is only separated by degrees from blaming Bernie Madoff's victims for believing in unbelievable rates of return. And no, it doesn't get "more okay" to blame them if some of them tried to convert others any more than it does to blame whichever of Madoff's victims sold him up to their friends. I am just really glad that this cult's total breakdown ended with a whimper, and not with Kool-Aid.

(And on a completely differente note: thread this long, full of snark, and no one made the "The only reason they can't find him is because he's gone....camping" joke? Metafilter, I am disappoint!)
posted by mstokes650 at 8:30 AM on May 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


> > Then it should be really easy to link to the explanation, yes, instead of simply informing me how wrong I am without telling me why? So, why didn't you?

> It should be really easy to link to the explanation of why Stalin wasn't an atheist, shouldn't it?

Searching through the internet, I can't find even one posting by me, either as "lupus_yonderboy" or not, talking about Stalin's atheism.

I conclude you aren't making a serious attempt at a respectful discussion, so I'm going to ignore that comment (particularly since I have no idea really what you mean).
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:31 AM on May 22, 2011


availablelight: But when I hear the complete contempt shown for ANY religious practice/belief, have sat through mocking of Easter as "zombie day", have had it explained to me how dumb Christians are as a whole, etc., I wonder, "What about the Dali Lama, who thinks he's a reincarnation?

Carl Sagan once had an interview with the Dalai Lama. This is what he said about it:
…in theological discussions with religious leaders, I often ask what their response would be if a central tenet of their faith were disproved by science. When I put this question to the Dalai Lama, he unhesitatingly replied as no conservative or fundamentalist religious leaders do: In such a case, he said, Tibetan Buddhism would have to change. Even, I asked, if it’s a really central tenet, like reincarnation? Even then, he answered. However, he added with a twinkle – it’s going to be hard to disprove reincarnation.
That's the difference.
posted by Malor at 8:33 AM on May 22, 2011 [24 favorites]


davebush: "Humans are fascinating. I mean it."

anybody want a peanut?
posted by symbioid at 8:34 AM on May 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Searching through the internet, I can't find even one posting by me, either as "lupus_yonderboy" or not, talking about Stalin's atheism.

I conclude you aren't making a serious attempt at a respectful discussion, so I'm going to ignore that comment (particularly since I have no idea really what you mean).


Empress' comment was quite straightforward: she expressed frustration with the sweeping generalization of Christians and the grouping of them with Camping. Someone else claimed ignorance, saying simply that most mefites just don't understand how Camping is different from the average Christian.

She explained that it's frustrating, because the difference gets explained every time subjects like these come up. It is subsequently dismissed, because that's easier.

All I'm saying here is that 'Rapture predictions! Lolz!' is not the hill to make your stand against organized religion on, any more than Stalin's purges should be the hill that religious apologists should make their stand on.

It makes the people who do it look ignorant, because it demonstrates that they are ignorant.
posted by verb at 8:36 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


cmonkey: " Better to say that you've figured out, oh, ten or twenty "Signs of the End Times", and make a point of carefully interpreting world events so maybe 15 are going on at once. Then when you need more cash, send out press releases saying that we're up to 18 and that means that God is seriously close to sending out his angels and we really need more donations right now to get the word out. Then let that Rapture Index slowly fall back down to 15. Wait a few years, etc. Play it like the government does with inflating terror threats, only targeted at extracting money from rubes."

And now, the clock on the Bulletin of Rapture Scientists has jumped ahead by 2 minutes!
posted by symbioid at 8:39 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


The difference between Camping and Catholicism (or almost any other major Christian denomination) is one of degree not of kind. They all say that this life doesn't matter, that material things don't matter, because you'll be rewarded when Jesus comes back, and they all use it as a means to extract money from their adherents.

In that case, all human experience is placed on that spectrum of the logical to the ridiculous. Whether you believe your team will win the Super Bowl or think your child is the best child in the world or try not to jinx yourself or don't wear socks on test days or that justice is something real or perhaps just think that the person in front of you is the only one that could make you happy, most human beings have some sort of irrational behavior that can't be explained by empirical thought processes. As someone said, maybe Spock is the exception (though he still embraced Vulcan mysticism). That doesn't mean everyone is the same and that all irrational behaviors and beliefs are equal. The degree and grade of irrationality actually matter, and few people escape that scale. For me, justice and mercy are very really things worth fighting for, that have substance and that I judge people on. I know that's irrational and I'm on that scale too. But there's a big difference from a doomsday cult and the Anglican Church even if it's only on a scale of irrationality.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 8:40 AM on May 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


Where are the reports and videos of mass helium sex-doll releases, the organized atheists planting piles of clothes, the cupcake stores with rapture cupcake displays or the really excellent scams that cashed in on this extreme example of god-bothering?

I still think this is genius.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 8:41 AM on May 22, 2011


Now we're talking.
posted by warbaby at 8:43 AM on May 22, 2011


I've been trying to write a long, boring comment for a while now, but I realised all I had to say was this. As straightforwardly as possible:

I find all of this "they know not what they do" stuff very hard to distinguish from contempt when it's directed at adults who do evil or incredibly stupid things, in the name of religion or anything else.

I think it's a ludicrously flawed model of humanity that treats a tendency to ignorance and sadism as some kind of aberration a select group of people are cursed with and for which they should be pitied, rather than a natural inclination all people have a real responsibility to be vigilant about.

I really, really, really don't think the work of policing other atheist's thoughts and words about religion is as important as some atheists seem to think it is. It is not actually necessary for people's comments to serve mostly as lengthy evaluations of other people's reactions to the subject of the post rather than as accounts of their own reactions.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 8:44 AM on May 22, 2011 [11 favorites]


mstokes650: I agree with your point in general!

> If, instead, you replace their religious zeal with a hard-line nihilism, a complete absence of belief in anything, you really think the world would be better?

Absolutely. I've met a huge number of people all over the world - and my experience is that of them simply want to be left alone to raise their families and do their work, and there are a small numbers of psychopaths and of actively virtuous people.

I think things would be much the same if we shut off religions (and since we're performing miracles anyway, why not shut off nationalism at the same time?) I think most people would soon adjust and go back to their day-to-day lives with little if any difference, perhaps even continuing their same religious traditions as cultural traditions (like Easter and Christmas, which are both pre-Christian holidays that have lingered...) but I think that it would seriously hamper the ability of the small number of psychopaths to get the vast mass to rise up and kill their neighbors.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:45 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


There are a gazillion other things that also provide these services and aren't religions. In my unbelieving family, it's been music, science and art for three generations now.

I don't disagree, and I strive to find these things myself. But you do have to admit that there's something added in the specificity of the shared links that religious families have. Music, science and art are certainly good as a proud tradition for a lineage. I think I'm getting more at the particular phenomenological experience of picking up and reading your great-grandfather's favorite book.

Music, science and art have a funny way of changing dramatically over time. Perhaps there could be a family tradition of learning a particular set of songs and performing them yearly, such as Schubert's Die schöne Müllerin. But even this cycle, beautiful as it may be, is virtually unknown today, a mere two centuries after they were written.

Music, science and art are general subjects. I think what I'm getting at is the more specific and more immediate experience of being able to imagine your distant ancestor doing exactly the thing you are now doing in the moment. Pausing at this particular paragraph to contemplate. Or making a pilgrimage to a particular exotic location---holy or not---and reciting a poem or even a psalm.

That is, not something analogous, but effectively identical. It seems to me that so long as atheism (rightfully) compels people not to instantly defer to authority figures, we atheists will continue to have less access to these particular strong experiences.
posted by phenylphenol at 8:45 AM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've got friends who've used religion as a tool to gain some insight into themselves
So do I, and all of them have LESS insight for doing it, although most of them are better people for their fear of Holy Judgment. (Two different things)

After nearly dying twice early in the last decade, I realized that it really is nice to be alive, but it ain't gonna last. By medical terms, I have already outlived 51% of those with my medical conditions, but while it is no particular success of Modern Medicine (the cause of my CHF has never been identified), neither is it a Miracle. I could drop dead tomorrow or enter a period of slow, painful deterioration, but as long as I do neither, I'm being lucky. Not blessed, just lucky, and proud that Faith has nothing to do with it.

And after my father's death last month at the age of 90 (he was a casual non-believer), leaving me no inheritance but the job of tying up his affairs, I am relieved that I have no heirs and no reason to plan for anything after I die. And no record of my existence more lasting than the comments on this website. I have realized that a "legacy" is a burden (as are physical possessions he left behind). In order to qualify for Permanent Disability, I had to lose 90% of what assets I had previously possessed. And it has turned out to be liberating. So consider me an outlier and a strange case. I'll just sit here for what time I have left and laugh at the rest of you.

My opinion, based on my experience, is that planning for your afterlife is a TOTAL WASTE OF THE LIFE YOU HAVE, and that's what made Camping's group so ridiculous and so revealing of the ridiculousness of Religion in general.

Alternately, the idea that country music is listenable. Thus, I condemn music.
There are things that all music have in common, just as all religions have in common, but "listenability" is not one of them.

it’s going to be hard to disprove reincarnation.
When we begin life with no memory of past lives, reincarnation is irrelevant .

Stalin's purges should be the hill that religious apologists should make their stand on.
Atheists are capable of doing things just as terrible as religious people (but the claim that Hitler was an Atheist is maliciously untrue). Religious people just are easier at making excuses. Bin Laden didn't organize Terrorism because of his belief in his God, he did because he believed his knowledge of God to be perfect, a totally egotistical stand.
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:45 AM on May 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Believers or snarkers, in 100 years, we shall all be equal.
posted by Trurl at 8:47 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think things would be much the same if we shut off religions (and since we're performing miracles anyway, why not shut off nationalism at the same time?)
lupus_wonderboy, you're sounding like John Lennon in his song "Imagine". I remain amazed that there were a few moments in our society's history that that message was not booed off the stage.
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:48 AM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


verb:

Please explain to me what Stalin has to do with one thing I said? Please explain how you expected me to respond to this complete non-sequitur.

> She explained that it's frustrating, because the difference gets explained every time subjects like these come up. It is subsequently dismissed, because that's easier.

I note that you, also, seem incapable of pointing me to a link.

Just point me to the argument, please, that explains why. e.g., the Anglican Church (as someone mentioned as an example), which I grew up in, which claims that Jesus will come to judge the living and the dead, that he rose from the dead, etc, and takes these things seriously enough that everyone has to reaffirm these beliefs once a week in front of all their contemporaries - why this church is fundamentally different from Camping's church, which believes almost word for word the same thing except that they believed that they had a date?

The differences seem to me to be tiny, on the order of the difference between homoiousios and homoousios (a theological dispute that resulted in quite a few deaths about a millennium ago). It seems to me that I could ask, "Do you believe X?" where X is some question relating to Christianity, and get the same answer almost every time from a Camping Christian and an Anglican.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:58 AM on May 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


The thing about the rapture is, it's kind of hard to exclude the possibility that some folks, somewhere, were lifted. After all, it might be that the cutoff was just a lot higher than Camping's followers wanted to believe.

It's also hard to exclude the possibility that what we see today is the bad part, and that we were left behind in it. Maybe it looks pretty much the same to us, or even better in some respects, but perhaps we're like boiling frogs (supposedly) not noticing the temperature creeping up.

I view these possibilities with great skepticism, but this thread is making me lose confidence, and if a Mod comes in here and shuts it down I'm going to freak out.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 9:01 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Absolutely. I've met a huge number of people all over the world - and my experience is that of them simply want to be left alone to raise their families and do their work, and there are a small numbers of psychopaths and of actively virtuous people.

Yep, I completely agree.

I think things would be much the same if we shut off religions (and since we're performing miracles anyway, why not shut off nationalism at the same time?) I think most people would soon adjust and go back to their day-to-day lives with little if any difference...but I think that it would seriously hamper the ability of the small number of psychopaths to get the vast mass to rise up and kill their neighbors.


This is where we disagree; I think all people, without exception, would soon adjust and go back to their day-to-day lives with little if any difference, including the ones who spend their day-to-day lives preying on other peoples' irrationality for a quick buck or the psychopaths who play on peoples' irrational fears to get them to rise up and kill their neighbors. Magically shut off religion and nationality? It'll be skin color or sports team or clothing style or something else irrational instead. There is no magically shutting off the irrationality, the tribal instincts, the fear, the need to believe one is more special than those other people.

My experience, by the way, has been that many atheists extend this willingness to view religion as an expression rather than a cause to a lot of positive things. If you point out that without religion there'd be no DaVinci's Last Supper, no Sistine Chapel, that a huge bulk of all the art produced in human history would just disappear, they'll quickly assert that oh no, those artists, they would still have created, they would have just created different stuff. But that never seems to extend to the bad guys - the idea that the warmongers would also still have created, and would have just created different stuff, somehow that's different.
posted by mstokes650 at 9:05 AM on May 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Many people went on the Freedom Rides and fight (and suffer) for equality without religion.

And many people ascribe to religions without accepting the eschatological bits, because they know they're rubbish. So?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:05 AM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


oneswellfoop: wow, I hadn't thought of that, and I'm flattered very much. Did you know that there's a Christianized version of that song with a few of the lyrics changed? I used to hate it but now I think it's like a secret fifth column - because anyone who learns to love it will soon find the real lyrics.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:06 AM on May 22, 2011


> There is no magically shutting off the irrationality, the tribal instincts, the fear, the need to believe one is more special than those other people.

And yet in the real world, the countries that don't have religion also have less of all of those things. I mean, hang out with Scandinavians some time - they have great health care, education, and super hot girls and guys who will sleep with you just for the fun of it - they'd have every reason to think of themselves as the kings of creation and yet they are constantly reminding you and themselves that they are tiny countries without great significance in world affairs.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:10 AM on May 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


I think this thread is a pretty good example that people can be assholes with no supernatural backing.
posted by codacorolla at 9:10 AM on May 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


I think what I'm getting at is the more specific and more immediate experience of being able to imagine your distant ancestor doing exactly the thing you are now doing in the moment. Pausing at this particular paragraph to contemplate. Or making a pilgrimage to a particular exotic location---holy or not---and reciting a poem or even a psalm.

That is, not something analogous, but effectively identical. It seems to me that so long as atheism (rightfully) compels people not to instantly defer to authority figures, we atheists will continue to have less access to these particular strong experiences.


Anybody interested in academic religious study should look for a copy of Mircea Eliade's The Sacred and the Profane. In it he argues that the primary distinction of a sacred space is a feeling of repetition.

Just as time is subjective, and sometimes speeds along and sometimes stands absolutely still, so too, he argued, is space subjective: the more time you spend in a space, the more familiar it seems, and it becomes simultaneously larger and smaller — smaller because it is more known, and then larger because you become so familiar with even the littlest details of the space that you see much more in that place than you'd see the first time that you see it.

He then suggests that while in the "profane" world (as I think he calls it — this may be a misquote) we as individuals have these sacred spaces, when we collectively sanctify a space, we also gain a connection to other people that relies on that sacred space. Or maybe it's not a space, it's a prayer, or a litany, or what-have-you; repetition sanctifies, and imbues a thing with power that lets it bring people together.

Now, the curious thing about Eliade (which my freshman-year professor gleefully pointed out to the class after we'd discussed it for a day or two) is that in this book, he never once mentions God. He might not even mention a particular religion; I forget. He discusses this idea of the sacred in such general symbolic terms that we all read it and understood what he was talking about, but all the while he never made the direct connection to any deity or mode of belief.

The interesting implication then becomes that anything can be sacred. Homer's The Odyssey. Spongebob Squarepants. Super Mario 64. Sometimes when I'm in a crowd of people I've never met before, I'll slip a subtle Arrested Development line into what I'm saying, and when eyes light up, I know I've got a connection with those people. I've also got connections to some things which are very uncommon (the game Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon; Diana Wynne Jones's novel Fire and Hemlock), and when I meet somebody who knows these things there's a more intimate connection. It's less communal and more personal.

Because I'm a maker-of-things myself, however, I've been asking myself recently what the meaning behind some of these connections is. Not that everything we attach ourselves to has got to be straight-faced and solemn, but is it possible that by connecting ourselves too much to something like entertainment media, we preclude the possibility of connecting in a deeper, more helpful way? And I think of Bobby McFerrin, he of Don't Worry Be Happy fame, who's committed himself to relentless positivity and unhurtfulness in his music, and whose music has recently become almost sacred and divine itself. Is it irresponsible to make things or say things without wondering what what the connections those things will form between people?

I'm not that deeply connected with any religion except perhaps Judaism, but it strikes me that at least the psalms and prayers of the religions that I know tend to be focused on establishing connections that heal us, or provide us with guidance. Not always. Sometimes I'd get uncomfortable reading about the coming of the Lord and how all the unrighteous are supposed to quake in their boots. But even as a young nonbeliever I found some solace in the things I read. I don't find it hard to imagine that solace being stronger because of how many people I shared those things with.

(Then on the deeply profane side of things, there's this Pokemon incest fanfiction that brought me and some of my friends closer together in high school, that this week we rediscovered when one of us was having a rough day. The sacred can be a mysterious thing. And I may or may not have written this whole comment as an excuse to link to Pokemon incest fanfiction on MeFi with a straight face.)
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:11 AM on May 22, 2011 [13 favorites]


If you point out that without religion there'd be no DaVinci's Last Supper, no Sistine Chapel, that a huge bulk of all the art produced in human history would just disappear, they'll quickly assert that oh no, those artists, they would still have created, they would have just created different stuff. But that never seems to extend to the bad guys - the idea that the warmongers would also still have created, and would have just created different stuff, somehow that's different.

This is an observation I have never before thought about. Brilliant!
Then again, it's not the most cheery perspective either.

There's a possible alternative solution, though. Without religion, warmongers would still attempt to destroy, loot, and pillage. However, it's possible that their capacity to do so would be greatly diminished if they couldn't find a cohort of like-minded magical thinkers. In fact, there's evidence of exactly this in the realm of artistic achievement: there were still great artistic serfs in the Medieval period, but without sufficient economic resources or social standing, their influence was squelched and their art wasn't durable.

So while the drive to create war OR art might be something we would expect with a certain fixed prevalence in a given population, the social/political/spiritual culture in which people live might be more or less suited to nourishing these natural aptitudes. Therefore, perhaps the abolishment of certain institutions could indeed make a difference in shaping our cultural future. This seems a bit more optimistic AND more realistic.
posted by phenylphenol at 9:17 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


People like Camping are the epitome of organized religion

So if there really is some difference between these people's beliefs that Christ was coming today, and the rest of Christianity's belief that he's coming soon, well, you really need to clarify it to the rest of us, because just telling us we're somehow bad for not seeing it isn't at all convincing.

Clarify it your damn self. Read some books. Go to some churches in your town. Talk to some real live Christians–protestants, protestant evangelicals, catholics, unitarians, greek orthodox. If you want to talk shit about a set of beliefs that have been central to western civilization for thousands of years, learn something about it beyond the cartoon presented by the most vocal christians and atheists alike.

I don't really care if atheists in general show compassion for the poor fools misled by Camping. Or whether they adopt a "civil tone." I do care that many atheists on metafilter persist in making pronouncements about christians and christian belief that evince near total ignorance of contemporary belief and believers. For instance, guess what? Evangelical Christianity is a subset of Protestant Christianity and within evangelicalism, which has a particular set of beliefs different from other protestant forms, there are numerous denominations which all believe different things and act in different ways. Referring to "Evangelical Christians" in general is almost always meaningless. That's just one example; I won't even get started on the idiotic formulations of theology frequently proffered here by earnest unbelievers.

I know it's maddening that atheists be asked to learn about something they consider to be irrational and childish, that the basic premise of belief renders all that follows essentially gibberish. Unfortunately, millions and millions of people start from that premise, and have done so for a very long time, and have developed an extremely sophisticated and varied set of beliefs and even more varied cultures surrounding those beliefs. To argue with them one should at least know at a basic level what they actually believe.
posted by generalist at 9:20 AM on May 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


If you point out that without religion there'd be no DaVinci's Last Supper, no Sistine Chapel, that a huge bulk of all the art produced in human history would just disappear, they'll quickly assert that oh no, those artists, they would still have created, they would have just created different stuff.

Christians systematically destroyed ancient art, and probably congratulated themselves doing it.
posted by Brian B. at 9:25 AM on May 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


And yet in the real world, the countries that don't have religion also have less of all of those things.

I think it's the other way round. I think stable, wealthy, peaceful countries that at least pay lip service to concepts such as equality breed secularism.
posted by Summer at 9:27 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's a possible alternative solution, though. Without religion, warmongers would still attempt to destroy, loot, and pillage. However, it's possible that their capacity to do so would be greatly diminished if they couldn't find a cohort of like-minded magical thinkers.

I feel, phenylphenol, like "magical thinkers" isn't what matters so much as "like-minded". People can be without religion and still be suckered into having angry, ignorant thoughts, or being incited to action. People can get that wrapped up in a philosophy, or a political stance, or whatever.

The alternative solution, I think, is to teach contemplation and empathy and meditation and curiosity. Get people asking questions and thinking about things and not feeling like they've got to act or react just this second and make their voice heard. We had the excellent thread on the movie Network yesterday; people quote that line "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!", but I don't know how many of them realize that the people in the movie say that line, and then go on taking this. Their quick outbursts of rage ultimately benefit the people who make them angry, because it satisfies them and stops them from doing anything else.

I have faith that we can achieve this as individuals, and as small societies; in the last year or two most of my friends have stopped with the hotheaded bickering, and I'm almost in awe of how it's changed my friendships with these people; they've grown stronger and deeper, in ways that I thought I might only ever have with one or two people in my whole life. I feel like larger and larger societies will start to move in this direction, not steadily, but still gradually. It'll be hard, though. There is no magic bullet that will get people to stop yelling and start thinking. It takes an effort from everybody every time anybody says anything. It's a commitment. But it's one that's in our power to make.
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:28 AM on May 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Since people like Camping are so fond of laws that impinge on other people's lives in the name of "I'm right", -- and fond of bringing in the financial sheaves -- there should be a law that requires all Doom Prophets to reimburse all the financial errors their flock made.
posted by Twang at 9:28 AM on May 22, 2011


Please explain to me what Stalin has to do with one thing I said? Please explain how you expected me to respond to this complete non-sequitur.

Sometimes, when speaking to each other, people use analogies to reveal similarities between two ideas or statements. You expected Empress to produce a canonical URL explaining why Christians disagree with Harold Camping. I expect you to produce a canonical URL explaining why atheists aren't like Stalin. I was suggesting that the two are analogous.


> She explained that it's frustrating, because the difference gets explained every time subjects like these come up. It is subsequently dismissed, because that's easier.

I note that you, also, seem incapable of pointing me to a link.


The problem is deciding which link to use.

Feel free to say that those links don't count, because they're not official Christian Links Of Authority, but neither was Camping. He just got lots of coverage because the story was compelling.

generalist is correct: the real problem here has nothing to do with civility, or open-mindedness, or empathy. It's just garden variety ignorance about the actual beliefs of the people being mocked. That's what Empress was frustrated by: this shit comes up every time there's a thread about a particular oddball fringe element of the Christian church. There's a strong case to be made that the underlying threads of belief Camping based his work on are present throughout the church, but you have to make a case for that, and you have to explain why the vast majority of Christians don't jump for folks like Camping, but instead consider them an embarrassment even before they're proven wrong.

But that takes effort, and snarking doesn't.
posted by verb at 9:31 AM on May 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


> Clarify it your damn self. Read some books. Go to some churches in your town. [etc.]

At the risk of incorrectly summarizing your post, you're saying you're not going to refute my argument, nor direct me to someone else's refutation of my argument, but if I spent a great deal of time studying religion, the answer would become clear to me.

I was a Christian myself for a long time and studied reasonably heavily at the time. I later spent quite a lot of time reading on Buddhism and to a lesser extent Hinduism and still have a lot of interest there - for example, my wife and I spent a month on our recent honeymoon visiting Buddhist and Hindu temples in South-East Asia.

So I have done my homework, and yet I still don't see the answer to my question.


> I know it's maddening that atheists be asked to learn about something they consider to be irrational and childish,

Aside from being not entirely polite, this is a strange argument, because almost every atheist or unbeliever I know knows a lot more about religion than most (but not all) of my theist friends.

This is at least the third post here claiming that there is an obvious refutation to my claims, but that they aren't going to tell me what it is or even point me to a link. I think this "argument" speaks for itself.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:32 AM on May 22, 2011 [8 favorites]


I answered your question, Lupus. And yet, you can't point to a single source explaining why atheists aren't like Stalin.
posted by verb at 9:33 AM on May 22, 2011


The reason it is good to mock religious ideas is because they are false, and false ideas should be treated with a lack of respect. As should the religious leaders who knowingly propagate the false ideas for money and power.

However, the people who sincerely believe those ideas should be treated as the victims they are, with respect and compassion. I feel bad about the suffering of those victims, and I hope they are able to obtain the help they need to recover. But I will continue to mock the false belief systems that lead to problems like this, because we should have a culture that discourages those beliefs, undermines their constant promotion by organized religion, and encourages reason. Religious tolerance should involve treating people as equal, not necessarily treating ideas as equal. You don't need false beliefs to be good and you don't need false beliefs to have a community. You certainly don't need false beliefs to have good mental health.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 9:38 AM on May 22, 2011 [10 favorites]


I answered your question, Lupus. And yet, you can't point to a single source explaining why atheists aren't like Stalin.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Authoritarianism
posted by interrobang at 9:39 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is at least the third post here claiming that there is an obvious refutation to my claims, but that they aren't going to tell me what it is or even point me to a link. I think this "argument" speaks for itself.

Don't shift the goalposts. Numerous people in the thread have claimed that Camping is representative of all Christians, and that his flavor of Rapture-Watching is universal. Empress said that it wasn't, and that hearing those kinds of sweeping statements on a regular basis is frustrating.

Then someone popped in and said, "Well, we don't understand! It's not obvious from the outside! How are we to know?" At that point, Empress said that it's frustrating because the same discussion is had every time a thread like this occurs, with Christians from other sub-cultures offering different perspectives, and so on.

This same pattern comes up in other areas on mefi; the infamous dickwolves thread was practically a treatise on the subject, with one side saying that feminists should preface every discussion with a primer on the meaning of words like 'rape culture'. It comes up in climate science threads, it comes up in religion threads, it comes up in atheism threads. When one group of people demonstrates ignorance of a topic, whose burden is it to bring them up to speed? And should the process of bringing them up to speed be part of every discussion?

You are essentially complaining that Empress can't complain about how frustrating that is unless she also brings everyone up to speed.

That's the discussion that's going on, and I'm sorry if it's confusing.
posted by verb at 9:44 AM on May 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


So while the drive to create war OR art might be something we would expect with a certain fixed prevalence in a given population, the social/political/spiritual culture in which people live might be more or less suited to nourishing these natural aptitudes. Therefore, perhaps the abolishment of certain institutions could indeed make a difference in shaping our cultural future. This seems a bit more optimistic AND more realistic.

Absolutely! But like many debates in our society (environmentalism, economic policy, to name but a couple), the debate between atheism and religion gets tangled up in impossible, black-or-white beliefs on how it is and how it ought to be. If you move the sides from "religion is EVIL" and "religion is GOOD" to "Religion nourishes X tendencies of the population, and squelches Y tendencies, and I care more about [X or Y] than I do about [Y or X]" then you can [hopefully] have a real, thoughtful discussion about how you want to shape the future of society, what effects you want to keep or be rid of, and what trade-offs are necessary to make that happen. Maybe even *compromise* instead of just fighting it out until only one side is left (bloodied but) standing. Nobody likes abandoning their moral high ground, though.
posted by mstokes650 at 9:45 AM on May 22, 2011


What exactly is the reason for pity and compassion?

My 95 year old mother-in-law has wished for rapture to come and take her away for the last five years. She has become truly tired of living, from the moment she noticed her mind and memory slipping, her ability to read slowly eroding, her capability to adapt to a changing world disappearing. I feel a lot of pity and compassion for her, without any need to discuss or dismiss her beliefs.

As for what is actually going on in organized religions, I have known and respected three pastors well enough to have serious discussions on Bible interpretation. The first one, a UCC (same denomination as Obama) minister who has a free pulpit from which he is able to speak without fear of retaliation, is openly liberal, a Jesus Scholar, and considers himself lucky in his church.

The second one, who switched denominations at retirement calling himself a "recovering Baptist", was very honest on the fact that economics (in his case a desire to support his family very modestly) had a lot to do with what he preached from his pulpit. He openly admitted that he came to a more intellectually honest interpretation of the Bible late in life, after a lot of intense study, prayer and self-examination. His aim, after his "conversion", was to slowly change not so much the beliefs, but the orthopraxy of his congregation, to bring it closer to the way of Jesus.

The third minister I know is a Southern Nazarene, very young, very into living a life of service to the poor. Both he and his wife have jobs because his congregation, in a dismal part of Oklahoma City, is way too poor to pay him, even in part. His beliefs? He thinks beliefs are between each person and his or her God, or whatever substitute of God that person has, but still welcome to the open table of his church, to find a community and a family.

There is an enormous variety of beliefs and attitudes in the US.
posted by francesca too at 9:49 AM on May 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: Please explain to me what Stalin has to do with one thing I said?
posted by vibrotronica at 9:51 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


you have to make a case for that, and you have to explain why the vast majority of Christians don't jump for folks like Camping, but instead consider them an embarrassment even before they're proven wrong.

Most organized religions think people which believe slightly different things about their fable of choice are an embarrassment. I don't think that means very much.
posted by empath at 9:52 AM on May 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh, jocularity.

I have no sympathy whatsoever with the numbskulls who fell for this charlatan's delusional garbage. Hopefully some of them will wise the hell up and bit and finally and realise that setting any store whatsoever in the silly, primitive drivellings contained in ancient scripture is a mug's game. I wouldn't bet on it, though.
posted by Decani at 9:54 AM on May 22, 2011


Numerous people in the thread have claimed that Camping is representative of all Christians, and that his flavor of Rapture-Watching is universal.

I don't think anyone said that. You're just drawing distinctions between various eschatological beliefs that the rest of us just aren't that interested in. He found out he was wrong yesterday. The rest of you will find out when you're dead.
posted by empath at 9:56 AM on May 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: gloating assholes whose understanding of the world is limited to who we feel contempt for.
posted by Demogorgon at 10:00 AM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


So I have done my homework, and yet I still don't see the answer to my question.


Jesus fucking christ, if you were not being willfully obtuse the answer would be clear. But since you persist: the difference is that most churches do not act this way. They do not tell their followers when the end is going to be and advise that they act accordingly. Big difference!

Most churches of my experience spend very very little time talking about the end times. Most churches are focused on how one lives now, on earth, how one can live a better life and help others to live better lives. Most christians believe the biblical descriptions of the end times are metaphorical, or allegorical, or what have you. Most christians (again, in my experience) do not profess to know what will happen when christ returns, do not live their lives just waiting for heaven, do not believe heaven and hell are actual places, and do not believe in an anthropomorphic god and devil. And lots and lots of christians believe all sorts of crazy, sometimes evil shit.

No one sect or set of beliefs could be said epitomize Christianity, except perhaps the nicene creed.

almost every atheist or unbeliever I know knows a lot more about religion than most (but not all) of my theist friends.
creed.


I have met atheist priests, and there are some atheist mefites who have great knowledge of religion. They are often drowned out by the chorus of those whose idea of christianity has been shaped by prominent unlearned atheists on the one hand and the Phelps' and Campings' of the world on the other.
posted by generalist at 10:04 AM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't think anyone said that. You're just drawing distinctions between various eschatological beliefs that the rest of us just aren't that interested in.

That lack of interest in distinctions is the deliberate, willful ignorance Empress was discussing. When you dismiss them, in order to conveniently group several billion people into the same crowd as a crackpot, you demonstrate the same deliberate, cultivated ignorance as Christians who group you with Stalin because you don't believe in their deity of choice.

And they're correct -- neither you nor he believed in God. The issue is that to the people who make that argument, the rest is just a matter of irrelevant distinctions.


He found out he was wrong yesterday. The rest of you will find out when you're dead.

Do you mean me? I'm an atheist.
posted by verb at 10:08 AM on May 22, 2011


I think it is despicable that other churches are now preying on Camping's victims by the same manner he used to seduce defraud them in the first place. This is a gory feeding frenzy of shark on shark cannibalism. It is like dope peddlers telling junkies that the cure to their addiction and all its destruction is more of the very same dope.

Camping should have been behind bars long ago. Most preachers in this country are no better.

Worse yet, not one cop in this whole nation has ever even thought of arresting Camping or anyone like him for these crimes and swindles.
posted by WagonTyre at 10:15 AM on May 22, 2011


@francesca too. My question was specificly about the people that are a subject of this post. Unless your grandmother is one of these people, there's absolutely no need to drag her in here.
posted by c13 at 10:18 AM on May 22, 2011


verb: I clicked on two links of yours, this one and this one and spent some time reading them.

How do either of these address my point in the slightest? How does it speak to even one claim I made? If I might summarize these links, I'd say that they say, "There are doctrinal differences between Camping and other Christian churches." Do you think I didn't believe that? Or that anyone didn't believe that?

No one ever claimed that all religions believe exactly the same thing, or even that all Christian sects believe exactly the same thing. But the fact is that Christian denominations do all share major parts in common - these would be belief in the divinity of Christ, of the resurrection and the judging of the dead, in the Communion for the remission of sins, the Trinity, and a few other parts.

If you believe in these things, you're a Christian - if you don't, you aren't.

I'll bet that if I walked into a Camping church service, I'll bet I'd be able to do the whole thing without the book, and it would be functionally indistinguishable from many other Christian church services I've been to (and yes, I've been to Charismatic Christian services and the like...)

No one ever claimed that all Christians believe exactly every detail that Camping believes... and the fact is that the vast majority of Christians agree on these central beliefs that I listed above, and those beliefs include explicitly and specifically a belief in the day of judgement and the resurrection of the dead.

I mean, look at this list of "difference" from verb's first link - I'm presenting it in its entirety:
Harold Camping proclaimed the Lord's return would be in 1994!
Harold Camping now proclaims the Lord's return will be on May 21, 2011!
Harold Camping teaches that the world will end in fiery destruction on October 21, 2011!
Harold Camping (Family Radio) has aired Mormon advertisements!
Harold Camping taught that NO ONE was saved between 1988 through 1994!
Harold Camping teaches that the church age ended in 1994!
Harold Camping teaches that the Holy Spirit is NO LONGER working in the church!
Harold Camping teaches that EVERY church in the world is apostate!
I'd say that these are tiny, tiny differences compared to the belief in Christ's divinity, belief in Judgement, the resurrection of the dead, the communion, the Trinity, the Ten Commandments, the gospels, Christ's miracles, the crucifixion, the remission of sins... and I'm inescapably drawn to that great scene in Life of Brian where he's explained the difference between the Judean People's Front and the People's Front of Judea (search for it in that link - it's hysterically funny...)

In fact, that list rather bolsters the argument of the unbelievers in this debate (including myself) that the only significant difference between Camping's church and any other church is that Camping's church has had specific dates set for the Second Coming, and most other churches don't.


> But that takes effort, and snarking doesn't.

Well, it seems to me that I put a great deal of effort into clearly explaining my logical arguments, and into being polite. I've certainly outwritten nearly everyone else on this thread in quantity anyway :-D and that took quite a bit of effort, and I did quite a lot of research too in the background.

I do understand that you might consider my conclusions offensive but the fact is that to the entire non-Christian world, the differences between Camping's beliefs and standard Christian beliefs are tiny, basically as I said simply a date.

And while clearly different religions differ dramatically in what they believe, they all share one great basic thing in common, a belief in miracles, and it's that exact common center of miracles that we unbelievers reject, not the community, the tradition, the art and music, the good works. None of us have any issue with any of those good things - we simply reject a belief in miracles, and that is precisely the one thing that all religions require of us.

Now, I'm sure I believe all sorts of things that aren't true, and I'll probably die believing some of them, but all my beliefs are amenable to change based on experience and experiment, I don't really have "faith" in the religious sense - because I don't believe in miracles.

tl; dr: listing the tiny differences between Camping's church and standard Christianity simply emphasizes how similar they are; and, all religions share a belief in miracles, and it's precisely this that unbelievers object to.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:19 AM on May 22, 2011 [8 favorites]


That lack of interest in distinctions is the deliberate, willful ignorance Empress was discussing.

I'm not ignorant of the distinctions. I just don't find them meaningful.

Most christians believe the biblical descriptions of the end times are metaphorical, or allegorical, or what have you. Most christians (again, in my experience) do not profess to know what will happen when christ returns, do not live their lives just waiting for heaven, do not believe heaven and hell are actual places, and do not believe in an anthropomorphic god and devil

I assume you have some evidence to back up these assertions? Because every study I've seen suggests quite the opposite.
posted by empath at 10:19 AM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Think Calvary Church members are being compassionate with their signs of support? Would you feel any different if you knew that the founder, Chuck Smith, used to preach that Jesus is coming soon, most probably before 1981?

One of the most stressful aspects of my stint as a member of Calvary in the early 70's was Chuck Smith warning us that all of our friends and loved ones were going to suffer the tortures of the damned if they didn't believe what Chuck Smith believed (You must be born again to enter the kingdom of heaven, The Bible is the unerring word of God, sexual contact before marriage was a sin, homosexuality was a sin...etc.) If we wanted to save them from this torture, we better hurry up and convert them because time was short. As a shy, bookish 15-year-old girl preaching to my mother and my friends was torture on earth for me, so it was quite the dilemma. One way I solved that dilemma was to drop all of my non-Calvary-Church-member friends thus making more free time that could be spent ...going to church.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 10:20 AM on May 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


I missed this comment from earlier:

And yet in the real world, the countries that don't have religion also have less of all of those things.

I thought this was like a Metafilter anthem, which all good true Mefites were required to know, but: Correlation does not equal causation!

Many, many atheists see the correlation between human traits they don't like and religion, and assume that religion is the cause, and that if you just poofed away religion you'd poof away the stuff they don't like.

If I lived in a country with great healthcare, great education, and super hot girls that would sleep with me just for the fun of it, might it not logically follow as a result of those things that I'd be less interested in an afterlife, in a belief in some cosmic justice that will right all the wrongs I've endured, etc., etc.?

Christianity, and religion in general, is way more prevalent in third-world countries; in those countries, is the amount of religion primarily a cause of the living conditions, or primarily a result?

Brian B.: Christians systematically destroyed ancient art, and probably congratulated themselves doing it.

Ignoring how much of that ancient art had to do with ancient religions: Again, the guys who make art, they would've done it just fine without religion, but the guys who destroyed art totally wouldn't have if they hadn't been Christian, amirite?

If you declare that everything bad that has ever been connected to religion was a result, caused by religion, and everything good that has ever been connected to religion was just connected to religion by accident, then yeah, it's easy to "prove" that religion is evil. But doing so also proves that you're not the objective, unbiased, evidence-based rationalist you probably like to think you are.
posted by mstokes650 at 10:22 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd say that these are tiny, tiny differences compared to the belief in Christ's divinity, belief in Judgement, the resurrection of the dead, the communion, the Trinity, the Ten Commandments, the gospels, Christ's miracles, the crucifixion, the remission of sins...

Once, after being taught about Mormons in Catholic School, I was talking to my lapsed Mormon grandfather about how silly all the stuff Mormons believed was, and he went down basically this entire list of absurdities, one at a time, which at the time, I, as a good Catholic, believed in whole-heartedly. It shook me down to the core.

Every time I hear a believing Christian dismiss the beliefs of other Christians as 'wacky' based on some minor doctrinal matter (such as the specific date of Christ's return, or the idea of the Rapture), I return to that moment.
posted by empath at 10:24 AM on May 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


No one ever claimed that all Christians believe exactly every detail that Camping believes...

No, they just sated that the differences were inconsequential. For example, the post following yours:


I'm not ignorant of the distinctions. I just don't find them meaningful.

Nor do Christian apologists find the distinctions between you, me, and Stalin particularly meaningful. What a conundrum we find ourselves in!


I assume you have some evidence to back up these assertions? Because every study I've seen suggests quite the opposite.

I'm staggered by the irony of citing unlinked studies while demanding that someone else produce evidence that not all Christians believe the same thing.
posted by verb at 10:24 AM on May 22, 2011


You said the majority.

But it only takes 2 seconds of googling.
posted by empath at 10:32 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


> When you dismiss them, in order to conveniently group several billion people into the same crowd as a crackpot, you demonstrate the same deliberate, cultivated ignorance as Christians who group you with Stalin because you don't believe in their deity of choice.

Thank you for FINALLY explaining what you meant.

As I listed above, there are dozens of extremely strong statements that all Christians must affirm to be Christian, and some of them are listed here. If you for example do not believe in the Crucifixion then the vast majority of Christians would not consider you one of them.

Now, I can't even think of one statement that Stalin and I would both affirm. I certainly would never be so stupid as to claim that "God doesn't exist" -- FFS, I'm not even sure what I'd be saying!

I know this metaphor has been used before, but please think about it for a moment... saying I share beliefs with Stalin because neither of us believe or believed in God is like saying we share a hobby because neither of us collects stamps.

So there's a serious list of extremely specific, predictive statements, statements that purport to be factual statements about the world, statement that you have to believe in order to call yourself Christian. It is these statements that we are discussing. These beliefs are what Camping's church shares with almost all other Christians, and no other humans on Earth.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:35 AM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


The people who believed Camping's garbage were people who gleefully awaited the moment when me and mine would be horrifically murdered by their deity while they got to go have a party. And they got played like people get played in Vegas every day. I don't have a hell of a lot of sympathy for them.

To the extent that they believed that supernatural things are possible made them easy marks, I only point out that this is one of the disadvantages of believing in supernatural things.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 10:35 AM on May 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


9 in 10 Americans 'believe in a personal god'
posted by empath at 10:35 AM on May 22, 2011


Nor do Christian apologists find the distinctions between you, me, and Stalin particularly meaningful.

I think you need to drop this one. These things are not the same. Christians use Stalin and Hitler to attack atheists because they (wrongly) contend that they committed atrocities in the name of atheism, not that all atheists share a belief system with them (although I'm sure they contend that as well).

And that's because atheism is not a belief system, it's a simple lack of belief. There is no reason an atheist and Stalin should agree on any single thing. There is no set of beliefs connecting all atheists, wheveras brands of christianity - they DO share a history and a set of beliefs.
posted by Summer at 10:35 AM on May 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


I assume you have some evidence to back up these assertions? Because every study I've seen suggests quite the opposite.

Of course I have no evidence. As a christian, I scoff at the very idea of evidence. I'm pretty sure it was invented by Jews, and is now mainly used by the heretics in the churches of Gallup and Pew.

My statement was anecdotal, which is why I said "in my experience" twice. I have fairly broad experience in all sorts of churches and with all sorts of christians ranging from charismatic speakers-in-tongues to stolid near-atheist catholic intellectuals. I've spent even more time among heathens of all persuasions, artists and musicians and radicals and so forth, so take my observations as you will.


the tiny differences between Camping's church and standard Christianity


Um, your argument so far is pretty much like saying that the difference between NAMBLA and most homosexuals is tiny since NAMBLA members fuck males and so do most other homosexuals.
posted by generalist at 10:36 AM on May 22, 2011


You're all welcome.
posted by Flunkie at 10:37 AM on May 22, 2011


There is no set of beliefs connecting all atheists, wheveras brands of christianity - they DO share a history and a set of beliefs.

It's right here, for reference.

If you all are saying that most christians don't believe these things, then you have a very funny definition of 'christian'.
posted by empath at 10:39 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you declare that everything bad that has ever been connected to religion was a result, caused by religion, and everything good that has ever been connected to religion was just connected to religion by accident, then yeah, it's easy to "prove" that religion is evil.

Let's be realistic. The secular humanist idea of humans providing for ourselves is not the enemy of religion, and never was. Other religions are the enemy of religion. Those that despise humanism are those that would outlaw other religions. We can't pretend otherwise in these discussions on religion.
posted by Brian B. at 10:43 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Um, your argument so far is pretty much like saying that the difference between NAMBLA and most homosexuals is tiny since NAMBLA members fuck males and so do most other homosexuals.
Really?

The difference between, say, "Jesus is God and he is coming back soon but we don't know when" and "Jesus is God and he is coming back on May 21, 2011" is akin in magnitude between "I should have the right to have sex with consenting adults regardless of their sex" and "I should have the right to have sex with children"?
posted by Flunkie at 10:45 AM on May 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


If you declare that everything bad that has ever been connected to religion was a result, caused by religion, and everything good that has ever been connected to religion was just connected to religion by accident, then yeah, it's easy to "prove" that religion is evil.

For the record, I don't think that religion is either good or evil, only that it's wrong.

Whether convincing people to believe things which are either demonstrably untrue or meaningless in any practical sense is 'evil', I don't know.

The point that the atheists are making in this thread isn't that Camping's cult and the Lutherans are equally 'bad', only that they are equally 'wrong'.
posted by empath at 10:49 AM on May 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


I do understand that you might consider my conclusions offensive but the fact is that to the entire non-Christian world, the differences between Camping's beliefs and standard Christian beliefs are tiny, basically as I said simply a date.

I'm not a Christian and don't share this viewpoint. Please don't speak for the "entire non-Christian world" when referring to your own narrow prejudices.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:50 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


The secular humanist idea of humans providing for ourselves is not the enemy of religion, and never was. Other religions are the enemy of religion.

Tell me about how the People's Republic of China fits in here.
posted by mstokes650 at 10:50 AM on May 22, 2011


Please don't speak for the "entire non-Christian world" when referring to your own narrow prejudices.

I'm sorry, but our prejudice is quite broad. A narrow prejuduce would be just pointing and laughing at the one Christian group that went actually had the guts to go out on a limb with their nonsense.
posted by empath at 10:52 AM on May 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


Touche.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:54 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm an agnostic, dyslexic insomniac so I stay up all night wondering if there really is a dog.
posted by Talez at 10:56 AM on May 22, 2011


Really?

The difference between, say, "Jesus is God and he is coming back soon but we don't know when" and "Jesus is God and he is coming back on May 21, 2011" is akin in magnitude between "I should have the right to have sex with consenting adults regardless of their sex" and "I should have the right to have sex with children"?


Ok, I admit I chose poor example. The point had nothing to do with rights or even magnitude of difference; it was meant to show that saying, "because this small group shares a basic characteristic of a larger group, and is marginally a member of that larger group, the small group typifies (or epitomizes or whatever) the large group," is wrong.

Also, the belief that JC is coming back "soon" is not anywhere near universal among christians.
posted by generalist at 10:57 AM on May 22, 2011


Tell me about how the People's Republic of China fits in here.

Communism is a Christian concept and social ideal, notably from the Essenes. Most social reformers in 19th century Europe were strongly influenced by this vision. The rest is Marxism.
posted by Brian B. at 11:01 AM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ok, I admit I chose poor example. The point had nothing to do with rights or even magnitude of difference
But that's what the whole argument in this thread seems, to me, to be about: the magnitude of difference. There are people saying it is tiny, and people saying it is not.
posted by Flunkie at 11:02 AM on May 22, 2011


[[ the tiny differences between Camping's church and standard Christianity ]]

Um, your argument so far is pretty much like saying that the difference between NAMBLA and most homosexuals is tiny since NAMBLA members fuck males and so do most other homosexuals.


C.S. Lewis:

... the view that, if we omit the disputed points [between Christian denominations], we shall have left only a vague and bloodless [Highest Common Factor]. The H.C.F. turns out to be something not only positive but pungent; divided from all non-Christian beliefs by a chasm to which the worst divisions inside Christendom are not really comparable at all.

However embarrassing Camping may be to mainstream Christians, he and they both believe that there was a man Jesus who miraculously rose from the dead and that he will return at the end of time to judge the living.

To anyone who not unreasonably disbelieves both of those things, insisting on a distinction betwwen the two parties is like pleading for a recognition of one school of Time Cube-ists over another.
posted by Trurl at 11:04 AM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, the belief that JC is coming back "soon" is not anywhere near universal among christians.

Define "soon". Before the heat death of the universe 10^100 years from now?

A million years from now? A thousand?

Has anyone ever polled this? I'd bet most Christians would say 'within 1000 years' if it was asked. (but I could be wrong)
posted by empath at 11:05 AM on May 22, 2011


"Most Christians" ≠ "Most US Christians"
Ten years ago, I heard a Christian radio show on the subject of heaven and hell. The host began by interviewing people coming out of a church on a Sunday about their views. Every single person described heaven and hell as elements of earthly life, here and now. Their reasoning was: "if I sin, I will experience hellish conditions - of blame and guilt and remorse. If I do good deeds, I will be rewarded in life by the heavenly goodness that is people loving me." Obviously, this is anecdotal. But the theologicans in the show weren't surprised or worried. All except one endorsed this understanding.

Again, I am an atheist. I do not feel the need for this structure in my life. But as long as the Christians don't bother me, I won't bother them.
posted by mumimor at 11:05 AM on May 22, 2011


Wiki - religion in Europe
posted by mumimor at 11:07 AM on May 22, 2011


You know why I don't have any sympathy for these people? Because they all couldn't wait to see the Takeis burn in hell.
posted by Brocktoon at 11:08 AM on May 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


To anyone who not unreasonably disbelieves both of those things, insisting on a distinction betwwen the two parties is like pleading for a recognition of one school of Time Cube-ists over another.

If you're going to talk about something, it's sensible (not to mention polite) to know something about it. Refusing to acknowledge or understand the differences between Camping and mainstream Christianity is like talking about Islam without understanding the differences between Shia and Sunni Muslims, which is to say that makes you a jerk.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:08 AM on May 22, 2011


The point that the atheists are making in this thread isn't that Camping's cult and the Lutherans are equally 'bad', only that they are equally 'wrong'.

Where "wrong" is defined as just "factually incorrect" (or at least not based on evidence)? Well, then, why do you care? People who believe 13 is unlucky, people who don't step on cracks in the sidewalk, people who believe in the Singularity and people who believe they've been adbucted are "equally wrong". What's the use of that observation, really?

Look, for the sake of argument, let's claim that 100% of people self-identifying as Christian believe that the Rapture will happen, with exactly the same process that Harold Camping described, earthquakes at 6pm, etc. - and they all differ only on the date. It's a ridiculous assertion, but for the sake of argument, we'll say it's true.

Now, we can say they're all "equally wrong", in that case, but isn't it obvious that Christians who believe the date of the Rapture is due on May 23, 2011 AD will behave in very different ways than Christians who believe the Rapture is scheduled for October 11, 3842 AD, who will behave still differently from the ones who believe it already happened, April 3rd, 1889 BC? If you're in the business of telling people how they should live their lives, I'm not sure I understand how you can dismiss "how they are already living their lives" as meaningless and trivial distinctions.
posted by mstokes650 at 11:09 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Refusing to acknowledge or understand the differences between Camping and mainstream Christianity is like talking about Islam without understanding the differences between Shia and Sunni Muslims,

So which are the deluded madmen and which have perfectly respectable beliefs?
posted by empath at 11:12 AM on May 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


empath, Pew did a poll in 2006 that found that 20% of Americans believe the Second Coming will occur within their lifetimes. I swear I read about more recent polling somewhere, but a few minutes of searching didn't turn it up.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:16 AM on May 22, 2011


So which are the deluded madmen and which have perfectly respectable beliefs?

"Deluded madmen." Interesting. Your contempt has made you the equal in rhetoric of people who bomb mosques.

It's interesting how hateful language all starts to sound alike after a while.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:18 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


When we begin life with no memory of past lives, reincarnation is irrelevant .

This is where "heroic doses of psychedelics" enters the discussion again. If you have that in your background, you may also have the experience (hardly unique) of experiencing in a visceral way, your own genetic memory. This is not to say that once you were once a slug, then a beetle, then a rat, then a water buffalo, then Attila The Hun, then Margaret Thatcher etc ... but there is a state of consciousness (again, experienced by many) wherein you do connect with the fact that the cells that comprise you do go all the way back to beginning of creation. And this is not just stoned idea that occurs to you. It's a genuine connection with that undying energy that's in you -- the stuff of life itself.

Hence a song like Moby's We Are All Made Of Stars

Hence, for me at least, a sense of awe and apprehension, not from Moby (though I have enjoyed dancing to some of his stuff) but from the complexity and magnitude of all creation. Always higher, always deeper than one could possibly IMAGINE.

Speaking of which, that song's always bugged me. I remember rather acutely being a rather cosmic 13 year old, hearing the line about "Imagine No Religion - Above us only sky", and thinking, no way, I can't imagine it. I mean, maybe no religion ... but there's gotta be more than just sky.
posted by philip-random at 11:21 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


You misunderstand. It's the christians here trying to set apart the fundamentalist rapture-watchers as crazy people, not me. I'm just pointing out that mainstream Christianity is just as full of "crazy" beliefs.

The analogy to Sunni and Shia Islam is probably a good one. Many sects of Shia believe in the return of the 12th imam.

To a Christian, who dismisses the entire faith of Islam, trying to figure out which version of Islam is "more wrong" is a ridiculous exercise. I'm in the same position, re: Camping.
posted by empath at 11:23 AM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


[take trolling talk to MetaTalk, it's inapropriate here, thanks]
posted by jessamyn at 11:25 AM on May 22, 2011


"Deluded madmen." Interesting. Your contempt has made you the equal in rhetoric of people who bomb mosques.

Low.
posted by Summer at 11:26 AM on May 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


So which are the deluded madmen and which have perfectly respectable beliefs?

Camping was clearly deluded. Osama bin Laden was a madman. Belief in god does not preclude the use of reason to identify charlatans and psychopaths. I know the point you are trying to make is that if all these beliefs share fundamental irrationality, how can one determine which is a valid faith, to be respected even by those who do not believe, and which is just a scam to bilk the gullible, or a justification for murder or worse? And the answer is: we look at the belief and the believers and collectively decide, using our faculties for reason and ethical judgment (the latter of which have largely been shaped by religious belief), and we also acknowledge the cogency of tradition.

For instance, Scientology is judged by many, and I believe correctly, to be a cult, because e.g. you must pay at every stage of teaching, it has used coercive means to retain members, etc. etc. Heh heh, you snicker, all religions have done that. And they have, and much other wicked shit besides, but they have also done and continue to do much good, and generation after generation has decided to, say, continue revering the pope, or pray to allah five times a day. There is no single authority which pronounces who is a charlatan and who speaks truth; the collective authorities of tradition and current society decide, and do a fairly good job of it. If American christians actually believed, by and large, what many claim they believe, we would live in an actual theocracy governed by wild-eyed fascistic lunatics who took breaks from killing gays only to speak in tongues and beat their wives. We (americans) don't live in that country, and we never will, and unlike many here I think americans do pretty well at figuring out the seemingly intractable problem of maintaining a true plurality, despite being mostly christian and sometimes pretty dumb. So which are the deluded madmen and which have perfectly respectable beliefs? You shall know them by their fruits.
posted by generalist at 11:33 AM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Why is Camping emblematic of all christianity and not, say, Fred Rogers?

Because he's louder and really obnoxious, which makes it easier for people to lump all christians into the "delusional nutjob" category.

Which is not to say that Camping IS emblematic of all of christianity. But I don't think it's a stretch to say that he's emblematic of what's wrong with blind faith.
posted by MissySedai at 11:38 AM on May 22, 2011


"Deluded madmen." Interesting. Your contempt has made you the equal in rhetoric of people who bomb mosques.

Mosques, abortion centers, not much difference huh?
posted by Max Power at 11:41 AM on May 22, 2011


The difference between, say, "Jesus is God and he is coming back soon but we don't know when" and "Jesus is God and he is coming back on May 21, 2011" is akin in magnitude between "I should have the right to have sex with consenting adults regardless of their sex" and "I should have the right to have sex with children"?

If you're looking at it in terms of how it affects the lives of the people who believe it? Absolutely. "Jesus is God and he is coming back soon but we don't know when, so do as he said and be nice to people" is immensely different from "Jesus is God and he is coming back on May 21, 2011, so live like there's literally no tomorrow."
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:44 AM on May 22, 2011


As I have come to see it over time ...

The extreme theistic belief seems to be that it's all planned, it's all fate. We're all just little figures on the gods' chessboard getting moved around at their whim, and that any sense we may have of self-determination (free will) is pure delusion caused by some demon or satan whispering in our inner ear.

The flip of this is the extreme non-theistic belief where everything is just random. Something random happened many billions of years ago that set the universe into motion and everything since has been equally random, and that any sense we have of self-determination (free will) is pure delusion caused by some failure of ego.

As I said, these are extremes. But they both revolve around the notion that free will is bunk. Myself, I call bullshit to this and think of what empath quoted many comments ago when mentioning Egypt and fundamental insurrection that recently went down there (and continues to):

"We will not be silenced, whether you're a Christian, whether you're a Muslim, whether you're an atheist, you will demand your goddamn rights, and we will have our rights, one way or the other! We will never be silenced!" That is not a religious plea, that's a human one. And atheists and religious people alike can agree about it.

Hallelujah!
posted by philip-random at 11:45 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


> Why is Camping emblematic of all christianity and not, say, Fred Rogers?

Because Fred Rogers never publicly said much about Christianity at all? Because Camping exemplifies to many people the intrinsic problem with Christianity and other miracle schools - that they make you believe irrational things that make you do irrational and therefore often destructive things?

> Which is not to say that Camping IS emblematic of all of christianity.

No one has said that. What we have said is that nearly all of his core religious beliefs are shared by nearly all Christians and are mostly summed up by the Nicene Creed - the big difference is only that he set a specific date as to when "the Lord will come with glory to judge the quick and the dead".
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:53 AM on May 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Osama bin Laden was a madman.

Because he countenanced the deaths of thousands of innocent people to achieve his geopolitical goals?

"Despicable" is not synonymous with "insane".
posted by Trurl at 11:57 AM on May 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Why is Camping emblematic of all christianity and not, say, Fred Rogers?

Mr. Rogers could have done everything He did without being a Christian or referencing Christianity at all.

Camping's beliefs and doings require Christianity.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 12:01 PM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Despicable" is not synonymous with "insane".

I admit I was using "madman" in the looser sense of the word, like, "deranged psychopathic killer". Not insane.
posted by generalist at 12:02 PM on May 22, 2011


You shall know them by their fruits.

Okay, so let's imagine a preacher who convinced his followers that based on his study of the bible, the world was going to end in 12 months.

He urges his followers to give all their worldly possessions to the poor and spend the rest of their days on earth tending to the sick and infirm as Christ commanded, and they do so, greatly improving the lives of their fellow men.

Would he still have been worthy of scorn and ridicule from 'mainstream' Christians? Or should he and his followers merely be the subjects of pity?

---

the collective authorities of tradition and current society decide

There have, of course, been other millenial 'cults', including Christianity itself (early Christians surely believed that the arrival of the Kingdom of God was near), which survived the passing of the foretold date of departure..

So I guess we've established, finally, that his mere belief in a specific date for the rapture isn't enough to separate them from mainstream Christianity and religious practice, right? That it really is a minor doctrinal difference, and that what matters is the community and what it does next?
posted by empath at 12:02 PM on May 22, 2011


Oh wait, not "deranged", or "psychopathic" either. Just "evil", how bout that?
posted by generalist at 12:03 PM on May 22, 2011


I wonder if it's too late to ask if I can have my job back.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 12:41 AM on May 22


Man, I hope not. I love your work!
posted by MrBadExample at 12:07 PM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.

The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.

Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.
Do those sound like the words of people who thought that Jesus might be coming back like, maybe in another 10,000 years or so, whenever he gets around to it?
posted by empath at 12:08 PM on May 22, 2011


empath, you seem to be really intent on this strawman where it's the mainstream Christians doing the attacking and mocking of Camping's cult. That sure doesn't seem to be the case in this thread.

Would he still have been worthy of scorn and ridicule from 'mainstream' Christians atheists? Or should he and his followers merely be the subjects of pity?


FTFY

So I guess we've established, finally, that his mere belief in a specific date for the rapture isn't enough to separate them from mainstream Christianity and religious practice, right? That it really is a minor doctrinal difference, and that what matters is the community and what it does next?

Uh, no. You continue to keep declaring as irrelevant, differences in beliefs that obviously have huge impacts on how people live out their lives. If I believe in the flying spaghetti monster, and therefore don't eat spaghetti ever, and you believe in the flying spaghetti monster, and therefore eat nothing but spaghetti, is there no difference between my mainstream spaghetti-worshippers and your fringe spaghetti-eating cult? After all, we both believe in the flying spaghetti monster!
posted by mstokes650 at 12:15 PM on May 22, 2011


empath, you seem to be really intent on this strawman where it's the mainstream Christians doing the attacking and mocking of Camping's cult. That sure doesn't seem to be the case in this thread.

I encourage you to re-read the beginning of this thread.

People like Camping are a disgrace to organized religion. I feel bad for the naive followers who put so much stock into what one person says. I hope someone who actually sold all their worldly belongings sues his ass and takes all his stuff, to teach wannabe prophets and doomsayers that its probably not a good idea to build up their wealth duping others with the twisted words of God.

So let me get this right-- while we're sitting around laughing at a bunch of people who were duped by a con artist, some churches were offering consolation and assistance to victims... and this is an indication of how crappy organized religion is.

The problem - and I use the term in its least-advisable manner, but I lack a better one - is that there are a lot of good, honest, sensible Christians in the world who find Camping and his lot idiots, fools and charlatans

I believe being opportunistic about somebody's specific lunacy in order to launch a generalized attack on unrelated people who don't share that lunacy to be shameful.

etc, and so on.. There are a lot of people saying that 'regular' 'good' Christians are somehow better than these poor deluded crazy people... I can find another dozen examples, but you can read as well as I can.
posted by empath at 12:25 PM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


He discusses this idea of the sacred in such general symbolic terms that we all read it and understood what he was talking about, but all the while he never made the direct connection to any deity or mode of belief. The interesting implication then becomes that anything can be sacred.

Sure, but the problem with that is that it applies equally well to things you don't like. Like anti-theism, for example. If there's an entire spectrum of human value out there -- as you pointed out, an entire spectrum of sacredness and meaning -- then we close many of those doors when we insist that atheism must reflect one particular brand of moralism ("there's a right way to act and a wrong way to act").

In a world where religious people spend billions of dollars and millions of lives in a cultural battle against broad, nebulous concepts like "sin" and "attachment", I think we can live with people who are eager to speak against "religion". If not, then we're not really interested in many people's honest answers to questions like "how should I behave?", "what am I like?", and "how can I be happy?"... and hey, maybe it's no surprise that people who are deliberately and systematically marginalized respond in "obnoxious" ways, especially if they gain nothing from being polite since their answers are already labeled "dickish".
posted by vorfeed at 12:25 PM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


You continue to keep declaring as irrelevant, differences in beliefs that obviously have huge impacts on how people live out their lives. If I believe in the flying spaghetti monster, and therefore don't eat spaghetti ever, and you believe in the flying spaghetti monster, and therefore eat nothing but spaghetti, is there no difference between my mainstream spaghetti-worshippers and your fringe spaghetti-eating cult? After all, we both believe in the flying spaghetti monster!

I'm not sure what point you are trying to make here, but you may want to try again with a less silly one. I said exactly that their beliefs only matter in as much as they have practical consequences, and that choosing a specific date for the rapture was merely a minor difference from 'mainstream' christian belief.
posted by empath at 12:28 PM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


~I'm an agnostic, dyslexic insomniac so I stay up all night wondering if there really is a dog.~

No you're not, you're a *plagiarist*.
posted by chronkite at 12:31 PM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


God, it's late in the thread and perhaps these points have been made, but after reading the first 50 or so comments where we were evidently trying to sort out who gets to be the real atheist and what is an acceptable level of mockery, I can't bear to sift through the other 300+ comments to see if these points have already been made. But some notes, if I may:

I spent the weekend at a big camping retreat for LGBT folks here in the Phoenix area. I'm not a big fan of the whole "gay scene", generally, but I can tell you, there is something very comforting in being able to hang out in a supportive, like-minded group of folks just having fun together. Especially when so much of life is trying to figure out who to tell and how and how they'll react and how you'll deal with their reactions and how the politicians and demagogues and church leaders and scolds are trying to make life, literally, hell for you. At one point, I was sitting at our camp, LGBT of all sorts strewn about in their campers, RVs, tents and one funky green bus, and looked up at the flagpole, with the Stars and Stripes fluttering boldly over the Rainbow Flag and tears came to my eyes.

There was much mockery of the Rapture up there. A lot of it. At times, it became unseemly to my ears. But then, I'd also been in senior management of evangelical missions work for a decade, so I have a lot of ingrained reluctance to badmouth religious types. Even when they deserve it. During one particularly raucous bout of snark, it occurred to me, though, that this is less about one crazy con-man's predictions and more about a deeply felt wounding that many (most) of us up there have been dealt by the religious (and especially the conservative religious) community and leadership over many decades of our lives. And in that sense, some excessive venting is, in my mind, tolerable.

I'm an atheist now. I sometimes have sparks of inspiration where I would like to believe in God, or when I think it's possible, yet unknowable. But for the most part, I see my former faith as something cultural, almost viral, I've weaned myself off of for the better. I don't consider myself a "good" atheist, or even representative. So I don't know that I could presume to suggest how good atheists should be responding to Camping's con and the inevitable fallout of broken lives. I can only describe how I view it and am responding.

I think my first response, if I'm honest, is anger. I'm angry at Camping, obviously, for running this scam, even if he believed it to be true. I'm angry at his followers for not only enabling him, but buying into it so much that they sacrificed their livelihoods on it. I'm angry at the elements of organized religion that, yes, are epitomized by Camping's folly: the way so many religions and sects teach a magisterial approach to revealed truth, so that one charismatic leader can cloak himself in the mantle of divine revelation and lead people astray like this. And I'm angry at the rank and file of so many (not all!) believers who continue to prop up such scions and hierophants and prophets and divinely appointed intercessors, whether they be the Pope or Protestant megachurch leaders, and accord them the respect and pulpit to be able to control their minds.

I'm angry at myself, for being a willing dupe and even a senior-level participant in this scheme - a scheme that is so useful and helpful and supportive for so many needy people in so many ways, yet is so prone to this kind of abuse. I'm angry at the more "mainstream" sects who tut-tut over Camping's extremism, yet continue to till and fertilize the soil in which it grew, and do not see or admit that they have anything to do with the way excesses can so easily grow out of a field that has been planted with seeds of faith in revealed knowledge by their preferred deity and then watered with the blood, sweat and tears of the righteous.

I'm angry at how religion is so culturally ingrained that it is an easy touchstone to be (ab)used by politicians who seek to gain and hold power over others. I'm angry at atheists who undercut their message of rationalism by being intemperate in the way they respond or interact with people of faith - even when that intemperance is entirely understandable and appropriate. I am so angry, and frustrated at it all. Mockery - some - helps vent this, I guess. But after engaging in a little bit of it, I'm left with the feeling that the mockery and scorn can't dilute the ugly currents flowing deeply through my heart when I think of all this. And then more mockery is simply an orchestration of tensions, rather than achieving any true catharsis.

I feel sad, too, for the folks who, for whatever reason, are caught up in this and are hurt by it. Yes, even though they probably don't give two shits about me and were hoping - nay, expecting - in their heart of hearts that they would be spared of having to live with twisted scum like me as I got mine from their angry God while they got to go live on a cloud during the suffering below. I'd help them, if I could. But I don't think there's anything, seriously, I can do to help them. Maybe, though, for the next folks that might be tempted to sail their ships off of the flat earth of a similar superstition, I can at least take a pen in hand and write, in small and unassuming, yet hopefully legible script, "Here, there be dragons."
posted by darkstar at 12:32 PM on May 22, 2011 [15 favorites]


"I said exactly that their beliefs only matter in as much as they have practical consequences, and that choosing a specific date for the rapture was merely a minor difference from 'mainstream' christian belief."

Yes, because there's no practical consequence to behaving as if the world's going to end at a specifically defined date in the near future, as opposed to some undefined point in the future, possibly long after your death. No difference in how people would act between those two scenarios. That's logical.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:35 PM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know, Camping aside, there's one thing I'm really sure of in all this.

Those people standing around with signs, offering to help? Those are better people than I am.
posted by Malor at 12:36 PM on May 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


I said exactly that their beliefs only matter in as much as they have practical consequences, and that choosing a specific date for the rapture was merely a minor difference from 'mainstream' christian belief.

empath, I'm trying to understand, I really am, but you're not making the least bit of sense to me.

We seem to agree that the only thing really matters about peoples' beliefs is the practical consequences of those beliefs. So far, so good.

Yet, when faced with two groups of people (mainstream Christians and Camping's followers) whose beliefs have very, very different practical consequences, you declare that the differences in beliefs are "minor" (meaning what, exactly? It doesn't seem to be related to the amount of difference between the practical consequences...) and that it's absurd to think that "regular" Christians are better than Camping's people. If the practical effects of being a "regular" Christian are better than the practical effects of being one of Campings people (and there are a bunch of financially-ruined followers of Camping to demonstrate that for you), and the practical effects are the only significant thing, how is it ridiculous to say one version is better than the other?

Or to go back to my Flying Spaghetti Monster example, if Spaghetti turns out to be poisonous in large doses (or at least incredibly unhealthy), are we still the same? Is one brand of belief in the FSM still no worse than the other?
posted by mstokes650 at 12:40 PM on May 22, 2011


It is interesting how often I see the argument that "[negative action x] is perfectly acceptable when I do it because [negative action y]".
posted by Mooski at 12:40 PM on May 22, 2011


If the practical effects of being a "regular" Christian are better than the practical effects of being one of Campings people

I'm not willing to concede that the practical consequences for society as a whole of the beliefs of mainstream Christians are better.
posted by empath at 12:44 PM on May 22, 2011


Those people standing around with signs, offering to help? Those are better people than I am.
I don't really see how the same logic can't be applied to Camping himself. But in any case, part of what they mean by "help" is "make people stop being gay". This is "helping" because gay people are going to burn in hell, as an affront to their god.
posted by Flunkie at 12:46 PM on May 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


~I'm an agnostic, dyslexic insomniac so I stay up all night wondering if there really is a dog.~

No you're not, you're a *plagiarist*.


If quoting Groucho makes one a plagiarist, I'm in deep shit.
posted by steambadger at 12:47 PM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is "helping" because gay people are going to burn in hell, as an affront to their god.
And just to be clear, they seem to mean this quite literally:
We believe that the union of same sex marriages is contrary to the Scriptures, to nature, and is in no way acceptable before the Lord. (Gen 1:26-28 w/ 2: 18-25; Mal. 2:15; Matt. 19:4-6; Lev. 18:22; 20:13a; Rom. 1:26-27)

As with all sins of the flesh, we believe that by confession, repentance and affirmation of God's holy standard, homosexual men and women find forgiveness, acceptance, restoration and blessing according to the will of God and according to His prescribed divine order for marriage.

(...)

We teach that this resurrection of the unsaved dead to judgment will be a physical resurrection, whereupon receiving their judgment (Romans 14:10 13), they will be committed to an eternal conscious punishment in the lake of fire (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 20:11 15).
posted by Flunkie at 12:53 PM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


If quoting Groucho makes one a plagiarist, I'm in deep shit.

that's what happens when you shoot an elephant in your pajamas in the bathroom
posted by pyramid termite at 12:54 PM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not willing to concede that the practical consequences for society as a whole of the beliefs of mainstream Christians are better.

Can you prove that, or is just (dare I say) an article of faith for you? Camping's followers are emotionally devastated, financially ruined, and basically just as responsible for historical "Christian" doings as any other mainstream Christian sect today is...if you think you can prove that's no worse, consequences-wise, than being in some New England Congregational Church with its baked goods sales, prayer circles, Sunday schools, and general inoffensiveness, get to it; otherwise you're basing your argument on a massive, unproven assumption.

(My earlier posts in this thread dealt with the common "Christianity is *evil*, the world would be better off without it" trope and I'm not really interested in running through it all again.)
posted by mstokes650 at 12:57 PM on May 22, 2011


The consequences of Christian belief don't fall only on those who follow it.
posted by empath at 1:06 PM on May 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Go Estonia & the Czech Republic!
posted by jeffburdges at 1:18 PM on May 22, 2011


This all comes down to which ideas are beyond the pale, and who gets to decide. Lots of Christians mock Camping. But for those of us on the outside, the distinctions they draw are impossible to see.

Tim LaHay is the co-author of the immensely successful “Left Behind” series of books. He's sold 65 million copies of his books about the events of the imminent Rapture and the following End Times.

And Tim LaHay is trying to distance his own subtle, nuanced view of the End Times from Camping's hilariously wacky view of the same: “Not only wrong but dangerous,” he calls the "May 21st Rapture" prediction. And the Oct. 21 prediction of the End Times? LeHaye calls it “Not only bizarre but 100 percent wrong.”

Tim LaHay - who's made a good living telling America that the End Times are coming Real Soon Now - says Camping is wrong. Even Tim LaHay snarks at a fellow Christian.

And yet it's supposed to be the Militant Atheists who are somehow WRONG if we have trouble seeing the vast chasm that separates this wacky cultist from mainstream American Christianity? Why is Camping wrong, and yet LaHaye's opinion is somehow held up as completely different and reasonable?
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 1:43 PM on May 22, 2011 [8 favorites]


ReeMonster:

One time I was at the movies and there was an up/down pair of escalators. As I approached the 'up' escalator, I noticed an old man shuffling towards the bottom of the 'down' escalator, not realizing which way the steps were moving. I nudged my friend quietly and told him, 'Watch watch! Look what's about to happen! Heehee' I've never seen an old man's legs move so fast!! It would've been wrong to interfere with nature in this instance, sort of how it's illegal for scientists to interrupt migrating penguins in the South Pole....

A person is smart. People are stupid!

Wow. Just wow. So you were with your friend, right? Therefore your little group qualified as "people", correct? Yup, according to you you are stupid. WTF. How is that even funny? It is cruel beyond belief. I won't even address any other part of your comment.
posted by futz at 1:43 PM on May 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


ReeMontster, the psychopath thread his here.
posted by futz at 1:50 PM on May 22, 2011


Numerous people in the thread have claimed that Camping is representative of all Christians, and that his flavor of Rapture-Watching is universal. Empress said that it wasn't, and that hearing those kinds of sweeping statements on a regular basis is frustrating.

Then someone popped in and said, "Well, we don't understand! It's not obvious from the outside! How are we to know?" At that point, Empress said that it's frustrating because the same discussion is had every time a thread like this occurs, with Christians from other sub-cultures offering different perspectives, and so on.


However, if anyone is still really, really insisting upon a Metafilter link, take a look at this MeTa thread, in which a number of the people I spoke with insist "oh, no, really we understand that not all Christians are like that".

However, you will also note that I got raked over the coals to a great extent. What you don't see, though, is that a number of theists were sending me emails thanking me for speaking -- but VANISHINGLY few of them spoke up in the thread as well, leaving me to get pilloried.

And yet here we are again with the same old "yes, all Christians really are like that" twaddle. all I can conclude is, people really just want to think that that's so.

So I've learned my lesson - that some people just really want to dislike others, and other people don't care enough to speak up. I leave both sides to it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:54 PM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry, but our prejudice is quite broad.

Thank you for having the balls to admit to that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:00 PM on May 22, 2011


And yet here we are again with the same old "yes, all Christians really are like that" twaddle.
Maybe part of the issue is that what people (who, by the way?) who say that "all Christians are like that" mean something different, by "like that", than you are imagining that they mean by "like that". So what is it, exactly, that you think they mean when they say "like that"?
posted by Flunkie at 2:15 PM on May 22, 2011


I think that we can all agree that mockery and ridicule of another's belief system and making out-groups of those disagreed with is intolerable behavior. But only when organized religion is doing it.
posted by klarck at 2:16 PM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Actually I think a lot of people, including me, would say that all belief systems are fair game when it comes to mockery and ridicule.
posted by Summer at 2:20 PM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maybe part of the issue is that what people (who, by the way?) who say that "all Christians are like that" mean something different, by "like that", than you are imagining that they mean by "like that". So what is it, exactly, that you think they mean when they say "like that"?

Mother of Pearl -- are you going to say it depends on what the definition of "is" is next?

The THIRD COMMENT in this thread was someone saying that Camping's rapture furor was "A microcosm of all religion, all spirituality even. It's crap, all the way down."

THAT'S the kind of crap I'm talking about.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:24 PM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


> Numerous people in the thread have claimed that Camping is representative of all Christians, and that his flavor of Rapture-Watching is universal.

We have claimed that he shares a great deal of his belief system with nearly all other Christians. That's a very different statement.


> So I've learned my lesson - that some people just really want to dislike others, and other people don't care enough to speak up. I leave both sides to it.

Seems to me that the people who spoke up trying to warn the victims before the day itself were disproportionately the unbelievers - we cared enough to speak up. Feels to me like "professional courtesy" prevented other churches from speaking out on this after it had obviously failed...

No one wants to dislike anyone but I personally believe that having beliefs contrary to the fact results in bad decision making. For Christians to say "Oh, these people are nothing like us" is to ignore the fact that their religious belief systems overlap almost completely in this small but very clear and important area.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:25 PM on May 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


We have claimed that he shares a great deal of his belief system with nearly all other Christians. That's a very different statement.

I direct you once more to the third comment in the thread, that states that Camping is "a microcosm of all religion and all spiritualty -- crap all the way down." That doesn't sound different from "Camping is representative of all Christians" to me.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:30 PM on May 22, 2011


This all comes down to which ideas are beyond the pale, and who gets to decide. Lots of Christians mock Camping. But for those of us on the outside, the distinctions they draw are impossible to see.

For the umpteenth unprintable everloving time, it's easy to see. All you have to look at is: HOW DO THEY LIVE THEIR LIVES? Is the distinction between what Camping's people actually, physically did yesterday, and are doing today, from what those other Christians physically did yesterday and are doing today, really, genuinely invisible to "those of you on the outside"? If it is, maybe you're not actually looking too hard?

Which ideas are outside the pale? Well, what defines a cult? Oh wait, there's an awful lot of literature on that subject; and most of it, you'll notice, provides guidelines like "Cult members do X" and not "Cult members believe X". Scientologists, f'r instance, are also "outside the pale" for most people (Christian or not!), and it doesn't have anything to do with their beliefs, it has to do with the effect of their beliefs on their lives. How is that so difficult to comprehend?

Your logic supports the nutjobs who favor carpet-bombing all Islamic countries; after all, how are those of us "on the outside" supposed to tell the difference between Muslim suicide bombers and the rest of them?

I personally believe that having beliefs contrary to the fact results in bad decision making.

There is a distinction to be drawn between having beliefs contrary to the facts and having beliefs in the absence of facts or that are merely unsupported by evidence. The former, I agree, is bad; the latter, on the other hand, is basically necessary for human existence, and all human beings do it to a greater or lesser extent. See also, this comment.
posted by mstokes650 at 2:38 PM on May 22, 2011


RIP Nuance.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 2:39 PM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


This seems like one of those cases where it's better just to state one's own beliefs, rather than try to articulate exactly how one disagrees with all the other formulations out there/up thread.

Abbreviations:
A: believing the world will end on X
L: of limited judgment capacity (children, mentally challenged adults)
J: judgment capacity of educated adult
S: beliefs only impacting yourself
O: beliefs affecting others who depend on and/or may be harmed by believer
H: believe that most people, including me, deserve to be tortured excruciatingly and for eternity
P: take political action to further beliefs in H

AS: sad, perhaps laughable, deserves help
ALS: sad, not laughable, definitely deserving help
AJS: sad, plausibly laughable, perhaps deserving help

ALO: sad and scary, definitely needs intervention/help
AJO: scary, not so sad, perhaps anger-producing to degree you are sure they are J and not L, needs intervention

ALH: sad, scary, hard to feel sympathy with even though I know it's not their fault, should probably help
AJSH: scary, little to no sympathy, but okay to let them stew if indeed not harming others
AJOH: scary, very little sympathy, should definitely intervene to help others

AJOHP: no sympathy, scary, intervention is less to help than to prevent

Preacher who spreads AOHP to others and is J himself: pretty despicable
Preacher who spreads AOHP to others and is L himself: yuck, but I'll try not to hate

Of course, most of the urgency is in the O, J, H, and P parts; A in and of itself is mostly just sad, except inasmuch as the believer is J and is hurting O, in which case it is mixture of sad, mockable, and needing intervention. It's the fact that H is in the mix -- as it is with Camping -- that adds fire to the P & O urgency.

As for the necessary overlap between religions more generally and tendencies towards A, H, P -- safest not to generalize, I guess.
posted by chortly at 2:44 PM on May 22, 2011


Mother of Pearl? I didn't mean to get you all riled up.

In any case, when I ask you "what do you think they mean by X", because I suspect that it's at least possible that what you interpreted them to mean was not what they meant, responding "they said X" doesn't really help.
posted by Flunkie at 2:46 PM on May 22, 2011


We have claimed that he shares a great deal of his belief system with nearly all other Christians. That's a very different statement.

And I've claimed that you (and I!) share a great deal of our beliefs with Stalin. Yet, here we are at the end of the day and you haven't been able to explain how you're different than Stalin. I mean, sure, there are some minor issues -- but they're inconsequential. I'm an atheist, you're an atheist, Stalin was an atheist. One belief system. The differences are just details.

Don't you get the problem with grouping literally 30% of the planet's population that way?

If your problem is with the things that all Christians believe, you should actually talk about the things all Christians believe or clarify your statements.


Seems to me that the people who spoke up trying to warn the victims before the day itself were disproportionately the unbelievers - we cared enough to speak up.

Thousands of atheists twittering jokes about the Rapture is not "warning the victims." And in less than ten seconds of googling, I found dozens of examples of Christians telling people -- warning them, in no uncertain terms! -- that Camping was a fraud, or at the very least deluded. You dismissed those people out of hand because you felt they disagreed with Camping for the wrong reasons.
posted by verb at 3:02 PM on May 22, 2011


There seems to be something deep in the human psyche that draws a certain percentage of people not just to a belief in doomsday but to that specific date, and it's plain that religion is neither necessary nor sufficient to cover the whole spectrum of this sort of behavior, from quasi-religious UFO cults like Heaven's Gate or the Nibiru flyby "pole shift" people (still at it, though totally marginalized and uninteresting to all, 8 years after their failed May 03 prediction) to the the technobabble math and science hoodoo of McKenna's "ultranovel event."

Maybe Ghidorah is on to something, the eschaton appeal as the ultimate quick fix. But mainly I think it is a particular variety of mental illness, somewhere in the same general territory of the guy who is certain the neighbors are piping poison gas under the door: doomsday is the ultimate conspiracy, and I can only feel sympathy for those who get caught up in wanting to believe that they are on the winning side of the conspiracy for once.

So I've learned my lesson - that some people just really want to dislike others, and other people don't care enough to speak up. I leave both sides to it.

I've been reading here over ten years, and it isn't about not caring, it's about not head-butting brick walls. If you read these threads carefully it becomes clear that those who hold that all religion is fundamentally the same and universally bad are in fact a minority, and one with whom argument is pointless. When you establish your definitions in a manner like this -

The business of organized religion qua religion is to make proclamations about supernatural phenomena and demand blind faith and obedience to them.

What is there to argue with? Did you do something good? Well, it's irrelevant because that is not the actual business of religion fucking "qua" religion. Engaging this sort of viewpoint is a waste of time.

Seems to me that the people who spoke up trying to warn the victims before the day itself were disproportionately the unbelievers - we cared enough to speak up. Feels to me like "professional courtesy" prevented other churches from speaking out on this after it had obviously failed...

You are seriously just making stuff up. Every mainstream religious leader quoted in articles about Camping's predictions repudiates his prediction without reservation or concern for your imaginary "professional courtesy.
posted by nanojath at 3:13 PM on May 22, 2011


Christian sect today is...if you think you can prove that's no worse, consequences-wise, than being in some New England Congregational Church with its baked goods sales, prayer circles, Sunday schools, and general inoffensiveness, get to it;

In other words - just because you can not prove there is not a god (or religion is evil, etc) then it must be true.

The zeal and fervor with with which many self-proclaimed religious skeptics approach their arguments often seems to me to be closely related to similar arguments form religious believers. So much so that I have begin to think that the practice of non-belief can be a religion unto itself.

Me, I lost my faith some years back and I am deeply troubled by that loss. I want their to be something greater and better than just mankind. I'd like someone to be watching over everyone though I can find no evidence that such is the case. Still though, I wish ...

I doubt, strongly doubt these days, the existence of a higher being but I can say with no clear certainty that such a thing is impossible. You see, I lack the faith with which I see so many religious skeptics approach the problem. I envy their faith as I do that of their opponents. I look at the universe and I see beauty and I wonder why? Why is there beauty? Why should we be things to see something like galaxies and nebulae and awesome black holes as beautiful things instead of the deadly terrifying sights that they should appear to us? Why should we perceive so much of the universe as beautiful?

So many questions. Why do we even aspire to be good things instead of the purely self centered Aynryandian constructs that would have no doubt a better survival value in the real world? Why are parts of our brains apparently programmed to believe? I have no idea what the answers are. Perhaps everything can be explained and will be by Science, The Other White God™. But I don't know there are unresolved questions and I wonder. And I wish.

One thing I am pretty sure of , if we could step outside our tiny brainboxes for just a bit and see how closely what we do resembles most of the others little brainboxes we make so much fun of, we would be properly amused and chagrined.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 3:18 PM on May 22, 2011


I'm angry at atheists who undercut their message of rationalism by being intemperate in the way they respond or interact with people of faith - even when that intemperance is entirely understandable and appropriate.

Whoa, dude, hang on a minute. Making jokes on the internet about yet another failed second coming is not exactly being intemperate. Religion is not some sort of a sacred cow for a lot of us that we can't even laugh about it (well, AZ excluded, obviously). But you don't see a lot of atheists putting up billboards, holding demonstrations around creationist museums, hackling people going to church and dictating social norms to others.
posted by c13 at 3:19 PM on May 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


There is actually a very simple reason why Atheists like myself1 enjoy tarring Christianity with the beliefs and actions of dangerous religious fundamentalists, like Bradlee Dean, Tim LaHay, Camping, bit Laden, etc., namely :

There are vast numbers of christians who identify Christianity with morality and presume non-Christians are inherently immoral.

Our subconscious goal is simply to weaken this identification between christianity and morality by saying "You see the shit we put up with from school kids, teachers, parents, grandparents, etc." 2

In particular, you'll notice that the most vehement anti-Christians usually came from fairly Christian backgrounds. Richard Dawkins parents were Christian and sent him to a Christian school, for example. You'll also notice that all politicians with serious political ambitions mysteriously "convert".

We also don't like how this common Christian assumption provides cover, recruits, and financing for asshats like Dean, LaHay, Camping, etc.

1 I'm very much aware that real christian beliefs span an enormous range, hell even Atheist Anglican Priests exist. I've friends who actually believe in Jesus but happily trade lolxian photos, presumably they're just completely comfortable with how ridiculous faith is, likely that's the whole point for them.

2 We're reasonably respectful of people's beliefs once we've learned they aren't contributing to the problem by making unwarranted assumptions about morality, but, although no correlation exists between christianity and morality, there is considerable correlation between christianity and the assumption of a correlation between christianity and morality.

posted by jeffburdges at 3:20 PM on May 22, 2011


Whoa, dude, hang on a minute.

Pausing a moment to note that I did not equate making jokes on the internet with being intemperate. I fear that's something you read into my message that wasn't there. There is quite a bit of room for joke-making, and even downright mockery, as I thought I conveyed (or intended to).

I will, however, amplify my earlier comment to express my opinion that the third comment in this thread was, however, intemperate and, flatly, wrong. It provides an extreme case of atheist criticism that is all too easy to be used as the strawman representative for many other atheists' views. As has been done in this thread, where the more reasoned, less extreme, less provocative, but no less true and illuminating (in my opinion) atheistic comments have been drowned in the wake left by the understandably impassioned response to that one comment.
posted by darkstar at 3:28 PM on May 22, 2011


Well, in that case I apologise.
posted by c13 at 3:33 PM on May 22, 2011


This is so late in the thread as to be pointless, but I think history gives us pretty good proof that people can be conquering warmongers who crush others without ever needing religion as a crutch. The Romans, who had a belief system which was not tied into moral beliefs (on the whole), which was non revaltory and largely based on correct ritual without a need for belief, and who conquered without needing the patina of religion managed to be giant arseholes without ever needing to say "Jupiter tells us to smite you!" In fact, they were remarkably tolerant and unconcerned about religion on the whole (there were exceptions, of course). Didn't stop Julius C. killing a million Gauls for Rome's and his glory, though.

I really wish I could believe that the world would be a better place without religion, but I find that belief irrational and tragically not able to be backed up by history.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 3:34 PM on May 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


There are vast numbers of christians who identify Christianity with morality and presume non-Christians are inherently immoral.

There are lots of atheists who identify atheism with intelligence and believe that Christians are inherently stupid. This has to do with the issue of assigning Camping's beliefs to all Christians how?
posted by verb at 3:38 PM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Actually I think a lot of people, including me, would say that all belief systems are fair game when it comes to mockery and ridicule.

Does that include the belief that ridding the world of religion would lead to vast improvements to the human condition? That has to be taken on faith as well.
posted by Existential Dread at 3:49 PM on May 22, 2011


My question was specificly about the people that are a subject of this post. Unless your grandmother is one of these people, there's absolutely no need to drag her in here

Does donating thirty dollars to the cause qualifies as supporter?
posted by francesca too at 3:54 PM on May 22, 2011


I avoided these Rapture threads because I'm sick of the smug atheist circle jerks, so I'm glad Astro Zombie called them out.
I'm a non-believer, but I respect those who believe. It's partly born out of envy. The world is a depressing place. Life is short and pointless. To try and move beyond that by putting your faith in something bigger actually makes a sort of sense.
This incident is silly, and I know there are no gods. But you should be humble in the face of nonexistence and human frailty.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:59 PM on May 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


In fact, they were remarkably tolerant and unconcerned about religion on the whole (there were exceptions, of course). Didn't stop Julius C. killing a million Gauls for Rome's and his glory, though.

The Roman religion was family/tribe based, centered around the head of the household, and intimately related to all aspects of Roman life. When Caesar "killed a million Gauls for Rome's and his glory" he did so with the sanction of his religion; we are talking about someone who was, at the end of his life, actually hailed as a living God. Largely due to his actions, much of Roman religion actually became about glorifying Rome through conquest and just rule. He's not a real good example of how people can be warmongers "without ever needing religion as a crutch"...
posted by vorfeed at 4:00 PM on May 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


No worries, c13. I may have been a bit obscure about where I was aiming that particular bolt in my earlier comment, too.

I also want to emphasize that it's not just response to "that one comment" (my words). That could be misinterpreted as a criticism of theists that they're focusing on only one comment in the thread and thereby suggesting they don't have a legitimate grief.

As to what degree LeHaye's and Graham's and Rick Warren's end times theology: I'd like to consider how they are different from Camping's and how does that make a difference to those of us who are on the outside of their particular groups? They are all highly, highly offensive to me, personally, but I agree that there are differences in the way they manifest their theology.

Camping's views simply led him to fleece his small flock after a career of teaching hate. But the views of LeHaye and Graham and their ilk - while not leading to a particularly spectacular moment of fail like Camping - have led them to have a much graver and far-reaching influence, in my opinion. That is, by not putting a date on their armageddon, LeHaye, Graham, etc. allow their theology to continue to flourish in the hearts and minds of their flocks as they await that future, unknown day of promised armageddon. Meanwhile, continue to hate, continue to send money, continue to lionize your leaders for their divine anointing, continue to influence politics, etc.

No, the little Lutheran church in New England with its bake sale isn't a conservative, right-wing religious organization spouting hate against gays and a repeal of evolutionary biology. And to the degree that little Lutheran churches in New England speak out forcefully against Graham, LeHaye and others for their intolerance, etc., they surely deserve not to be tarred with the same paintbrush. Saying that all religion, even all spirituality, is crap, is wildly off the mark, in my view.

And yet, the view that a book that was written thousands of years ago was dictated/inspired by the Creator of the Universe and has the moral and theological code by which the rest of us should live our lives, and that some men (and women) are gifted with a special, divine anointing to interpret and apply those codes to other people over whom they have spiritual authority, is a fairly common trait, even in some little Lutheran churches in New England. My objection, critically, isn't with the fact that one church happens to interpret that code to justify their hate in gays (bad church!) while another church doesn't (ahh, good church!). It's that both churches are (again, in my opinion) flawed in thinking that they have a "divine anointing" by the Creator pf Space-Time to their moral views, whatever they may be.

But as has been mentioned many, many times on the blue, this is not a conversation we are particularly good at.
posted by darkstar at 4:01 PM on May 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


Does the loss of 30 dollars qualify as a significant loss or suffering? Did your grandmother sincerely wish for 6-some billion people to die a horrible death so long as her suffering would be over?
posted by c13 at 4:02 PM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Vorfeed, I am not sure if imperial cult (itself borrowed from Near Eastern ideas of kings) is all that good as a way for understanding Caesar. Certainly he wanted to take advantage of ruler cult, but a brief look at the Philippics will show you how problematic that was in Rome. Cicero had a field day with it using Roman religion.

By saying Julius C. (as not to mix him up with the other JC) didn't have a crutch of religion to conquer, I am not saying he did not bring along all the paraphanalia of Roman religion with him - he had sacred chickens, etc. I'm saying it wasn't used to justify his conquest. No one said 'let's kill the Gauls/Celts/whoever else' because they don't believe as we do.' It never entered into it; as far as I recall JC had to invent attacks on Roman allies so he could get at the Gauls - and despite the fact that the resulting profit was stored at the Temple of Ops it wasn't religious money. It was Caesar's (Rome didn't see a penny). The Romans didn't conquer because Rome's beliefs were not practised somewhere or in the name of their gods or even in the name of the Lares and Penates, but, well, because they could. Their just war theories don't (as far I remember from Cicero) have a lot to do with religion but more to do with 'protecting' allies. And themselves.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 4:11 PM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


most of y'all are pretty funny! redundant, predictable and boring. but still funny.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 4:13 PM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Did your grandmother sincerely wish for 6-some billion people to die a horrible death so long as her suffering would be over?

She is my MIL, not grandmother. In a few words for her the rapture is just the first step, but the left behind ones are not necessarily destined for hell. In her own interpretation of the Scriptures, God gives the left behind a lot more chances to redeem themselves, and the tribulations are the garden variety tribulations such as wars, famines, pestilences, without the need of fire and burnings until the very end and only for the ones who still do not believe in Jesus return. What can I say? She is a Lutheran, raised to read and interpret the Bible on her own.
posted by francesca too at 4:17 PM on May 22, 2011


We could turn religion into a nerd thing! Hell, we could mix and match our religions and trade bits of them around and battle them like they're Pokémon. And then we can go after our real target, which is things like ignorance and hatred and being-a-dick, without conflating them with the system of symbols that ignorance and hatred and dick-being are currently wrapping themselves in.

This is part of what Chaos/Post-Modern Magic is about
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:29 PM on May 22, 2011


Dude, you seriously losing me here. How is anything you said about her ideas of rapture late to the topic of the post, the discussion or my question that you quoted? I'm relieved to know that your MIL does not wish anything worse for my 3 year old than wars, famines and pestilences. However, my question still stands: should we feel sorry and compassionate about her donation of 30 bucks or the fact that her wishes has not come true?
posted by c13 at 4:31 PM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


relate...
posted by c13 at 4:33 PM on May 22, 2011


should we feel sorry and compassionate about her donation of 30 bucks or the fact that her wishes has not come true?

No, you do not have to feel anything at all for her. You might want to understand that she is, in the same way that we all are, the product of her upbringing, her culture, her schooling, and the era in which she lived. I feel compassion for her because, in spite of her odd beliefs, she has never been mean to anybody, she has consistently tithed to her church and given an equal amount to charity (and quite a lot to TBN, I'm sorry to say.)

I'm sorry that my comment irritated you: it just was my poor attempt to show what a variety of beliefs are out there.
posted by francesca too at 5:02 PM on May 22, 2011


There are plenty of not-exactly-traditionally-christian churches who don't view themselves as possessing any particular hotline to god beyond "Be nice to people, duh!", darkstar. In fact, such places have been traditionally the only ones accepting gay people, although that's changing now perhaps.

In my experience, there are actually not that many christians or atheists who identify the other as "stupid" per se, verb. I've also feel that both camps are equally guilty of believing the other is simply foolish. There are imho no real world discrimination patterns that arise from either believing the other foolish.

There are otoh most definitely real world problems for atheists, wiccans, etc. that arise when christians baselessly stereotype non-christians as immoral. Conversely, there are not any real world consequences for christians when blogs, books, etc. ignore the distinction between flavors of christian rapture theory.

Incidentally, I enjoyed the original "A microcosm of all religion, all spirituality even. It's crap, all the way down." comment. It's precisely accusing religious people of foolishness, but not outright stupidity.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:18 PM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, that's the reason I said you probably shouldn't bring her into this discussion. It's just kinda neither here, nor there. I absolutely agree with you in that there's a great many different beliefs, and we are all in part a product of our environment. I don't think anyone else here disagrees either.
posted by c13 at 5:21 PM on May 22, 2011


most of y'all are pretty funny! redundant, predictable and boring. but still funny.

You'd fit right in if you could manage the funny part.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 5:32 PM on May 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


It's interesting how hateful language all starts to sound alike after a while.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:18 PM on May 22


It's interesting how often the "argument from tone" gets trotted out when someone has run out of actual arguments.

Man, Astro Zombie, your fallacy count on this thread has been something to behold. I was reading this stuff earlier today while waiting to catch a plane and I counted instances of Tu Quoque, Red Herring, Goalpost-Shifting, Definitional Retreat and Straw Man before I'd taken my first sip of wine. Quite awesome, in its way.

All in all I'm pretty glad I didn't participate myself (I know, I know, you're heartbroken) but lupus_yonderboy, Blazecock and others have made most of the points well. I think the only thing that got missed is the way the sneaky apologists keep translating "judgement" into "The Rapture" or "Judgement Day", conveniently forgetting that most Christians believe that we are all judged after we die. Someone did say something like "If we are not judged, then what is Christ supposed to be saving us from?" but that, mysteriously, seemed to fall by the wayside in the rush to insist that the less accommodationist atheists here were only talking about The Rapture. You can often tell more about where the opposition's Achilles' heel is by noting what they ignore rather than what they respond to.

The other irritating thing here, for me, was the endless apophatic bleatings of "That's not what I/most Christians/my Christian mommy and her pals believe", coupled with the enraged insistence that what these types do believe has been clearly spelled out before. If it has, I have certainly missed it, and I tend to pay fairly close attention to religion/atheism threads. My experience - at MeFi and elsewhere - is that when I try to get those who take this line to clearly state what they actually believe, they refuse, or change the subject, or start talking about Stalin or religious art. And I will draw the obvious conclusion from that.

I, like many other atheists, was raised as a Christian, and in that bastion of liberal, moderate Christianity, the Church of England. So I get pretty sceptical and not a little snarky when someone tries to tell me that I don't understand what modern, liberal Christians believe. I do. I lived it. I was that modern, liberal Christian. And the modern, liberal Christian beliefs I espoused were still bullshit. And no, this has nothing to do with being a good person, or helping the needy, or fostering community. Christians, and atheists, may well do those things, but those are not the things that make you a Christian. There are certain things you have to believe to be a Christian - even a modern, liberal, tolerant, cherry-picking one - and those things are nuts. They are as nuts as believing that Jesus is going to come back and float a bunch of people up to heaven. And it is those things that we atheists have a problem with. So, to those people getting annoyed at our assumptions that most Christians, you know, more-or-less believe that stuff that's in the Christian creed? Sorry, you do have to tell us exactly what you do and don't believe if that perfectly reasonable assumption is wrong in your case. Or at least you do if you want us to stop assuming that you're a regular Christian: the kind that believes in Christ's reality, divinity, sacrifice, resurrection and purpose. Sorry if that sucks, but that's how it is.
posted by Decani at 5:42 PM on May 22, 2011 [24 favorites]


Can we get a list from the believers, btw, of which groups are the 'good christians' who have reasonable mainstream beliefs and which aren't? Just for reference?

I gather that Camping's group is on the outs. How about Southern Baptists? Mormons? Catholics? Jehovah's Witness? I'm pretty sure the Church of Christ and Unitarians pass muster, here, but I don't know about the Anglicans.

Just so I know who it's cool to mock and make fun of for their 'wacky' beliefs and which ones are off limits and deserve respect.
posted by empath at 5:59 PM on May 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


It's interesting how often the "argument from tone" gets trotted out when someone has run out of actual arguments.

You know, the "argument from tone" -- especially in this thread-- is basically "hey, believe whatever you want but you don't need to be a dick about it." It's a pretty valid thing to say, despite your objections.
posted by dersins at 6:12 PM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


The world is a depressing place. Life is short and pointless.

The sound of the radio depends on the transmitter and the receiver.
posted by jtron at 6:17 PM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can we get a list from the believers, btw, of which groups are the 'good christians muslims' who have reasonable mainstream beliefs and which aren't? Just for reference?

If I change that key word right there, do you still feel as clever asking the question? Because to my ear, that little change makes it sound exactly like the kind of priding-myself-on-my-ignorance-and-xenophobia bullshit I expect from the Tea Party.

Just so I know who it's cool to mock and make fun of for their 'wacky' beliefs and which ones are off limits and deserve respect.

Hey, I have a craaaaaazy idea: what if you didn't mock anybody for their 'wacky' beliefs (or even their non-wacky ones) and instead, got to know individual people before you passed judgement on them? Maybe assume everyone's worthy of respect, until they, as individuals, prove otherwise by their actions?

Yeah, I know, how are you supposed to feel smugly superior to anyone that way? No fun, no fun at all.
posted by mstokes650 at 6:27 PM on May 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


If I change that key word right there, do you still feel as clever asking the question? Because to my ear, that little change makes it sound exactly like the kind of priding-myself-on-my-ignorance-and-xenophobia bullshit I expect from the Tea Party.

I know you guys would like to think we're coming from ignorance or xenophobia, but having been raised Christian, and having been a devout believer, and having agonized over leaving the faith, I can assure that that I'm coming from neither.

You already said you believe that Camping was running a cult or a scam. Which other Christian groups do you think are running a cult or a scam?
posted by empath at 6:32 PM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Muslims? Has anyone said that muslims are any more rational than christians?
posted by c13 at 6:37 PM on May 22, 2011


HOW DO THEY LIVE THEIR LIVES?
posted by Brocktoon at 6:48 PM on May 22, 2011


I'm actually a little disappointed that the countdown on Family Radio's website still says "00 DAYS LEFT" instead of "-01 DAYS LEFT".
posted by Flunkie at 7:05 PM on May 22, 2011


You already said you believe that Camping was running a cult or a scam. Which other Christian groups do you think are running a cult or a scam?

Way to skip my second paragraph there (my crazy idea was too crazy, eh?) But hey, I'll try and answer anyways. Let me just check my up-to-the-minute global database of the activities of every Christian sect ever...

*ding* *bzzzzt* *kfpfpfpfpfp* *SHHKZZZH*

Aaww hell, it crashed again. Hate it when it does that. Probably shouldn't try to run the damn thing off the power of prayer, but hey, can't beat the price.

But I bet you could reconstruct it for me! That'd be great! Would you mind? Just look at the behaviors of each Christian sect, and cross-reference it with this simple guide:
1.) Are they giving money to someone who doesn't believe the same things they do and is deceitfully taking that money from them by gaining their confidence? If yes, SCAM. If no, proceed.
2.) Are the members exhibiting many of the behaviors typical of members of a cult? (Here's a handy checklist!) If yes, CULT. If not, proceed.
3.) Are they behaving like assholes? If yes, they're just ASSHOLES. (Note that being an asshole does not require a religious affiliation, though it is helpful for being a member of some groups.)

So the bad news is, for maximum accuracy you need to run through the list in as small groups as feasible - individual congregations is preferable, individual people is even better! The good news, though, is you aren't required to have any knowledge of what beliefs are in their head - just what they outwardly do!

So there, that's all you gotta do, to find my opinions on every Christian - nay, every religious! - group ever! Amazing!
posted by mstokes650 at 7:10 PM on May 22, 2011


mstokes650, empath's question didn't seem to me to be based upon a desire to mock people for wacky beliefs. Rather, it was based upon his contention (which he explicitly pointed out) that some Christians are mocking these people for their supposedly wacky beliefs. He asked, tongue-in-cheek, for a list of which other Christian sects it's OK to mock for their wacky beliefs, and which Christian sects it's not OK to mock for their presumably non-wacky beliefs.

Your counter about xenophobia and Muslims and that empath shouldn't mock anybody seems to me to be, at best, based on an extremely ungenerous, overly literal, and cherry-picked out-of-context interpretation of what he said.
posted by Flunkie at 7:15 PM on May 22, 2011


If it has, I have certainly missed it, and I tend to pay fairly close attention to religion/atheism threads.

I'm an atheist, formerly a Charismatic/Evangelical/Nondenominational Mutt Christian. That strange theological mix is probably responsible for more of the MeFi LOLXIANZ threads than any other group. I spend a nontrivial amount of time in threads like this trying to explain as clearly as possible what my former fellow-travelers actually believe when deliberately clueless people whinge about how haaaaard it is to actually knooooooow anything about the beliefs they insult. I'm not defending those beliefs or suggesting that they don't have profoundly negative repercussions. Hell, jump over to mefi's most recent rape thread if you want to see me argue that the average suburban abstinence-focused Christian youth group is a factory for rapists. I'm just trying to explain the differences between random caricatures people get from scary Alternet articles and reality.

It's understandable that a lot of people jump in and start commenting without any kind of knowledge about the details of those beliefs, but when they're informed that their sweeping and inaccurate statements are incorrect, the participants in this thread have not qualified their statements with "in my experience," or "From what I see." They've doubled down, and called anyone who disagreed "apologists."


I, like many other atheists, was raised as a Christian, and in that bastion of liberal, moderate Christianity, the Church of England. So I get pretty sceptical and not a little snarky when someone tries to tell me that I don't understand what modern, liberal Christians believe.

I'm not even suggesting that the people in this thread don't understand what moderate, liberal Christians believe. I'm saying that most of the atheists in this thread don't even understand what actual rapture-watching charismatic fundamentalists believe. I stand by the "atheists are Stalin" analogy; making sweeping statements about one third of the planet's population, then dismissing objections because "the details are irrelevant," is stupid.

It's no different than sweeping but inaccurate statements about Islam based on Osama Bin Ladin's writings, or sweeping statements about atheists based on Stalin's actions, or sweeping statements about science fiction based on a random excerpt from an Anne Mcafferty novel.

Your parents were Church of England members? Well, I think it was totally fucked up that they were snake handlers. That's child abuse. (What? They didn't? Irrelevant detail.)
posted by verb at 7:16 PM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


for maximum accuracy you need to run through the list in as small groups as feasible - individual congregations is preferable, individual people is even better!

Heh.. would you like fries with that?
posted by c13 at 7:19 PM on May 22, 2011


I will, however, amplify my earlier comment to express my opinion that the third comment in this thread was, however, intemperate and, flatly, wrong. It provides an extreme case of atheist criticism that is all too easy to be used as the strawman representative for many other atheists' views.

For my part -- for the record -- this was all it's taken for me to be at peace about the course of this conversation. Thank you.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:21 PM on May 22, 2011


I'm actually a little disappointed that the countdown on Family Radio's website still says "00 DAYS LEFT" instead of "-01 DAYS LEFT".

Somewhat hilariously, it now appears that they have just wiped their page and replaced it with what seems like an archived version of their webpage (holy old-skool web design, dig the awesome animated scroll menu items on the sidebar!) which is dated 5/22/11 and contains absolutely no mention whatsoever of the rapture date prediction (on the front page; you start to find it if you drill in a bit). It's a damn shame some people spent their life savings on billboards or dragged their kids across country but business is business.
posted by nanojath at 7:28 PM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I had had the old page bookmarked months before the big day. It's still there. I can't figure out how to get to it from their new (errr... old) home page, though.
posted by Flunkie at 7:38 PM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


The best part about the new-old front page is that clicking on the "What's New" angels takes you to a page dated 4/22. What's new? Jesus sent us a month back in time and we're never gonna talk about it again! Let's listen to some radio!
posted by nanojath at 7:44 PM on May 22, 2011


Ooooooh, Camping has poked his head out.
"It has been a really tough weekend" (...)

But today, almost 18 hours after he thought he'd be in Heaven, there was Camping, "flabbergasted" (...)

"I'm looking for answers" (...)

"But now I have nothing else to say," he said, closing the door to his home. "I'll be back to work Monday and will say more then."
posted by Flunkie at 7:47 PM on May 22, 2011


I'm saying that most of the atheists in this thread don't even understand what actual rapture-watching charismatic fundamentalists believe.

Oh come off it. Not only do I know what they believe from personal experience (I had an ex who was personally traumatized by having been raised by Jehovah's witnesses -- she grew up expecting Jesus was going to come back any day now), but I'm capable of getting into detailed theological arguments on minute points of Catholic doctrine, and consider myself fairly well versed in the major points of contention between most of the major protestant divisions. If also know quite a bit about the major officially repressed Catholic heresies from the time of Christ until the reformation. I actually can tell you the difference between several sects of Shi'a islams, what Sikhs believe, and can tell you the major differences between the schools of buddhism, etc, and so on. I've read a lot of books about religion, from varying perspectives, and I know a lot of people who are members of lots of different faiths. I don't think I'm special or unique in this. I think most people who were raised to be believers do a lot of reading when they start to confront personal doubts.

Knowing more about more religion doesn't wake you up to the oh so very important distinctions between dispensationalists and millenialists, or calvinists and lutherans, it only makes you aware of how very similar they all are in terms of the things that really matter, which is that they all have a completely nutty and factually incorrect view of the world and man's place in it.

As I've said multiple times, I recognize that you all see an important distinction between believing that the end of the world is coming on a specific date as prophecied by the bible, and believing that it's coming 'some day', but I just don't see it as an important difference, in terms of whether it reflects an accurate picture of the world as it is.

To me, it's like arguing with a guy on a street corner about whether the people who are reading his thoughts are Aliens or CIA. You're just arguing about in what way you're going to be completely wrong.
posted by empath at 7:50 PM on May 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


Wow. "But now I have nothing else to say," he said, closing the door to his home. "I'll be back to work Monday and will say more then."

Back to business as usual, Harold.
posted by warbaby at 7:54 PM on May 22, 2011


To me, it's like arguing with a guy on a street corner about whether the people who are reading his thoughts are Aliens or CIA. You're just arguing about in what way you're going to be completely wrong.

But the thing is, you're not arguing with the guy on the streetcorner. You're arguing with a guy who happened to be walking by the guy on the streetcorner, and you're assuming that since he also happened to be on the streetcorner at the moment, he must also believe that people are reading his thoughts.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:59 PM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


But the thing is, you're not arguing with the guy on the streetcorner. You're arguing with a guy who happened to be walking by the guy on the streetcorner, and you're assuming that since he also happened to be on the streetcorner at the moment, he must also believe that people are reading his thoughts.

Look, people on streetcorners are crazy. The details are irrelevant.
posted by verb at 8:03 PM on May 22, 2011


I'm saying that most of the atheists in this thread don't even understand what actual rapture-watching charismatic fundamentalists believe.

"Another argument[23] that Camping used in favor of the May 21 date is as follows:
The number five equals "atonement", the number ten equals "completeness", and the number seventeen equals "heaven".
Christ is said to have hung on the cross on April 1, 33 AD. The time between April 1, 33 AD and April 1, 2011 is 1,978 years.
If 1,978 is multiplied by 365.2422 days (the number of days in a solar, as distinct from lunar, year), the result is 722,449.
The time between April 1 and May 21 is 51 days.
51 added to 722,449 is 722,500.
(5 × 10 × 17)2 or (atonement × completeness × heaven)2 also equals 722,500.
Camping said that 5 × 10 × 17 is telling us a "story from the time Christ made payment for our sins until we're completely saved."

Gee, you're right. If only I took time to listen to what Camping was saying, I would've seen how much sense he makes! More, more details, please.
posted by c13 at 8:05 PM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's interesting how often the "argument from tone" gets trotted out when someone has run out of actual arguments.

I presume this was also an issue for you when people complained about the tone of my first comment. Do you mind if I ask why you declined to address it then?
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:05 PM on May 22, 2011


"I'll be back to work Monday and will say more then."

1 - i messed up the math and the real date is xx-xx-xxxx

2 - just as abraham pleaded with god to save sodom and gomorrah for the sake of 10 righteous men, we pleaded and god came up with enough righteous people in the world to hold off

3 - god was/is testing our faith

4 - god changed his mind and it's not for us to question him

5 - we were all taken up in our sleep and we returned to witness to you until god decides to take us back

6 - the media made way too big a deal of this and god let them so unbelievers could scoff at us and be further tempted into sin

7 - i misunderstood what god was saying to me

8 - ok, the cleveland indians being the best team in baseball wasn't the sign of the end times like i thought it was

9 - but if the cubs get that good, watch out!

10 - my doctor says it's all the medication i'm taking
posted by pyramid termite at 8:05 PM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I imagine he'll just take a page from the millerites. It's not as if this hasn't happened before.
posted by empath at 8:14 PM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


And, btw, 'the 'good christians' of the day tormented and mocked the Millerites, burned their churches and sent them death threats. They're still around, though.
posted by empath at 8:18 PM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Flunkie, you hear "tongue-in-cheek" where I hear "dripping with smugness". I'll allow as the internets don't convey tone very well; I suspect you're taking my "is it still funny if you say muslims instead?" comment more seriously than I did, writing it. Meh, so it goes.

To me, it's like arguing with a guy on a street corner about whether the people who are reading his thoughts are Aliens or CIA. You're just arguing about in what way you're going to be completely wrong.

The question is, if he's just chillin' on the street corner, why do you care who he thinks is reading his thoughts, be it CIA, aliens, or Roseanne Barr? Why would you bother arguing with him at all? He's wrong, you're sure, but unless he's harming someone, why do you care? Why would you argue with him, point and laugh at him, or pay him any mind at all?

And if he's harming someone, isn't the problem his harmful actions, not his 'wacky' beliefs? Police the actions, not the thoughts.

They're still around, though.

Really? The same "good Christians" from 1844 are still around? Hot damn, sign me up with that sect, that's a 'belief in eternal life' I can totally get behind.
posted by mstokes650 at 8:30 PM on May 22, 2011


8 - ok, the cleveland indians being the best team in baseball wasn't the sign of the end times like i thought it was

Totally understandable mistake, really.
posted by mstokes650 at 8:33 PM on May 22, 2011


What a train-wreck thread! I'll put in a few cents on the side of Astro Zombie. I'm a fellow atheist as well, but I'm annoyed by the categorical denunciations of religion that ignore all nuance. I'm surprised someone here even wrote that Reform Judaism is not a religion; that's the religion I was raised in and so it's formed my template of the idea of what a religion is. That God is not the old man in the clouds, but to various people some essence or first principle of the world, or some intangible source of inspiration or comfort, etc.

And as written in the famous letter to the newspaper that responded "Yes, Virginia, there IS a Santa Claus", which goes on to make the case to a credulous little girl for a metaphorical Santa, I get no joy from disabusing those who believe from that which gives them comfort. To me there's a BIG difference between a religion that says, "there's a rapture some day" and one that says "there's a rapture May 22", as the latter will in the end not give people comfort. (And there's time for people to grow out of the former!)

Sure some religions may say they are about truth, and we rational modern scientific people call them on that, but I think it's a mistake to think that the content of religion is its truth-content. They even asked Jesus, "What is Truth?" and he stood there silent. (Maybe he was a postmodern relativist? Maybe like a Zen Master he meant to call into question the assumed nature of Truth? Maybe like John Cage he wanted the background sounds to stand in for an answer?)
posted by Schmucko at 8:38 PM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ooooooh, Camping has poked his head out.

I know I'm likely to be pilloried for even entertaining the sentiment but I can't help but feel sorry for Camping for all the harm he did. This compulsion to extract the secret doomsday code out of the Bible (which as I alluded to above strikes me as straightforwardly pathological in a way that most ordinary religious expression isn't- even if you hold it to be a pack of hokum cooked out of a bunch of outrageous supernatural yarns) is not uncommon - shit, Isaac Newton, surely possessed of one of the most astonishing intellects in recorded history, was afflicted by it (though he ultimately settled wisely on a non-specific "no earlier than-" date well past any possibility of his own lifetime).

I don't think Camping was trying to dupe people or hustle cash. I think he believed he was saving immortal souls from perdition. Maybe that is an argument that the world would indeed be better off without religion: but I feel like it points to some frailty in the human makeup that goes a lot deeper than any particular creed, and is not likely to be expunged from the human character any time soon.
posted by nanojath at 8:40 PM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Maybe like John Cage he wanted the background sounds to stand in for an answer?)

OMG John Cage is the Second Coming. Okay, bye, off to start a cult.
posted by nanojath at 8:41 PM on May 22, 2011


Well, yes, you're correct: I did take your "do you still feel as clever" comment as if you meant it seriously. Given that it was laced throughout with implications of empath priding himself on "ignorance-and-xenophobia bullshit", preachy entreatments not to mock anyone, to get to know them personally before passing judgment upon them, and to assume that everyone is worthy of respect, plus an implication that empath's goal is to have fun by feeling smugly superior to people, I'm not really sure why you would have thought that I wouldn't have. Especially given that, as I've pointed out, the comment seems to have completely missed the gist of what empath was saying.

In any case, though, if you're genuinely interested in how people perceive your tone, then your description "dripping with smugness" is pretty much spot-on for how I personally perceived this.
posted by Flunkie at 8:43 PM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I eagerly await Decani addressing Flunkie for his complaint about tone.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:46 PM on May 22, 2011


I don't think Camping was trying to dupe people or hustle cash. I think he believed he was saving immortal souls from perdition.
Yes, this is my opinion too, especially after having read this article by a former family member of Camping. He comes across as a true believer.

For example, the article claims that he periodically gets desperately maudlin in private with his family, begging them, apparently with genuine fear, not to cremate them after he dies, because his research has lead him to the conclusion that people who are cremated are not resurrected.
posted by Flunkie at 8:48 PM on May 22, 2011


And as written in the famous letter to the newspaper that responded "Yes, Virginia, there IS a Santa Claus", which goes on to make the case to a credulous little girl for a metaphorical Santa, I get no joy from disabusing those who believe from that which gives them comfort. To me there's a BIG difference between a religion that says, "there's a rapture some day" and one that says "there's a rapture May 22", as the latter will in the end not give people comfort. (And there's time for people to grow out of the former!)

This is an imaginary story. Aren't they all?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 8:58 PM on May 22, 2011


I know I'm likely to be pilloried for even entertaining the sentiment but I can't help but feel sorry for Camping for all the harm he did. This compulsion to extract the secret doomsday code out of the Bible (which as I alluded to above strikes me as straightforwardly pathological in a way that most ordinary religious expression isn't- even if you hold it to be a pack of hokum cooked out of a bunch of outrageous supernatural yarns) is not uncommon - shit, Isaac Newton, surely possessed of one of the most astonishing intellects in recorded history, was afflicted by it (though he ultimately settled wisely on a non-specific "no earlier than-" date well past any possibility of his own lifetime).


For the very same reason, I think that the Goldman Sachs guys should be totally forgiven for taking us all to financial ruin. They were only trying to show us the wisdom of their saviour Ayn Rand. Similar schemes have existed throughout history, can these latest bubble blowers really be to blame? I feel sorry for them for all the harm they did.
posted by telstar at 9:01 PM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow Flunkie, that article is a fascinating look at another side of Camping. Thanks for finding that.

This is an imaginary story. Aren't they all?

Wow that really gets to the heart of all this shit doesn't it.

Are. All. Stories.

Imaginary?

Lovecraft in Brooklyn, you just blew the holy fuck out of my mind.
posted by nanojath at 9:03 PM on May 22, 2011


For the very same reason, I think that the Goldman Sachs guys should be totally forgiven for taking us all to financial ruin.

You don't have to believe someone should get away from the consequences or responsibility of their actions scott free to be able to feel sympathy for them. Though I admit I find it impossible to feel sympathy for the "Goldman Sachs guys" and yes, that possibly makes me a hypocrite.
posted by nanojath at 9:05 PM on May 22, 2011


We've all got our own personal apocalypse. For the hippies/environmental types its when global warming finally catches up to us and Gaia has her final vengeance. For the transhumanists and futurists its the Singularity, when we will depart from our bodies and live forever as pure information (this is the one I sometimes subscribe to). For the practical supervillians/nuts its making sure that when they die they take others with them. Even people who don't believe in them love reading about them. What's your favorite comic book story arc? Crisis on Infinite Earths. What's your favorite Stephen King novel? The Stand.

This guy was aligned with mainstream though, sorta, and he was dumb enough to set a prediction. But when Ray Kurzweil does the same thing he's treated with a bit more respect.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:05 PM on May 22, 2011


Astro Zombie, when his grandstanding fell flat.
posted by fleetmouse at 9:06 PM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow that really gets to the heart of all this shit doesn't it.

Are. All. Stories.

Imaginary?

Lovecraft in Brooklyn, you just blew the holy fuck out of my mind.


The line comes from somebody who may or may not worship an ancient snake god, so every single thing he says must be mocked repeatedly.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:06 PM on May 22, 2011


He probably was completely sincere. What scares the hell out of me though, is the fact that thousands of people took this lunatic seriously enough to completely rearrange their lives. That they looked at the "calculations" I posted above, AND THEY ACTUALLY MADE SENSE TO THEM!
What else can they be made to believe? How many of these people do I depend on to get things done, how many of them are in position of control? Mind boggles...
posted by c13 at 9:09 PM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Kind of a derail, but if I really believed the Goldman Sachs guys were true believers, it's possible I might feel sympathy for them, I guess. But somehow, I don't think they were true believers at all.

Flunkie, I'm not really interested in your assumptions of bad faith about my tone; feel free to Memail me if you really want to continue that.

What else can they be made to believe? How many of these people do I depend on to get things done, how many of them are in position of control? Mind boggles...

Now you're starting to think like a GOP strategist!
posted by mstokes650 at 9:12 PM on May 22, 2011


Assumptions of bad faith about your tone? My assumption was, as I said, that you were serious.
posted by Flunkie at 9:15 PM on May 22, 2011


Mwahahahahah....

Seriously though, scary....
posted by c13 at 9:15 PM on May 22, 2011


I've often thought about starting a cult. Seems like you just need to find the right psychological triggers and the right people to use them on.

A Scientology recruiter approached me once and figured out that I was a depressed, lonely sci-fi fan just by looking at me. I escaped, but what if I was less on my guard?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:19 PM on May 22, 2011


Kind of a derail, but if I really believed the Goldman Sachs guys were true believers, it's possible I might feel sympathy for them, I guess. But somehow, I don't think they were true believers at all.

So if I really believed that the way to the world's salvation were a burnt offering involving you personally, would you have sympathy for me?
posted by telstar at 9:24 PM on May 22, 2011


So if I really believed that the way to the world's salvation were a burnt offering involving you personally, would you have sympathy for me?

Yeah. Sacrifice is a connection to the Old Religion, to blood and guts and toil, to something physical reifying the mystical.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:26 PM on May 22, 2011


This guy was aligned with mainstream though, sorta, and he was dumb enough to set a prediction

Dumb? Guy makes the same exact prediction 3 times in a row (1988, 1994 & 2011) & gets large numbers of people to fall for it each time. Lucy Van Pelt would be proud of that record with Charlie Brown's football.
posted by scalefree at 9:28 PM on May 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


When I saw The Hives, the frontman asked if we wanted to 'Die, be frozen, and be reborn as vampires'. The collective 'yes' from the crowd felt real, born out of a shared experience and the power of thousands of people in one place.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:30 PM on May 22, 2011


Astro Zombie, when his grandstanding fell flat.

I am not certain what this is in regard to, but as much of this discussion has been about tone, I was curious as to why I was being single out -- particularly as I have raised no complaints about tone. My complaint was that to refer to Muslims, en masse, as "deluded madmen," as seemed to happen, is to engage in rhetoric that I usually hear from Islamophobes. If there is a distinction between when an atheist calls all Muslims dangerous and mad and when an Islamophobe does so, I would be curious to know what that distinction is.

If there was no intention to impugn all Muslims, I am open to clarification, but that seems like the self-evident interpretation of asking to know whether it is Sunnis or Shiites who are deluded madmen.

But perhaps you do not wish to actually discuss this, but prefer instead to resort to the delightful trick of drive-by dismissal.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:30 PM on May 22, 2011


Guy makes the same exact prediction 3 times in a row (1988, 1994 & 2011)
Well, 1994 wasn't the same exact prediction - it was "it might happen in 1994, but it might not happen until 2011". But in any case, could you please tell me about 1988? Perhaps a link to information on it? I had only previously heard of 1994 and 2011. Thanks.
posted by Flunkie at 9:35 PM on May 22, 2011


I am not saying he did not bring along all the paraphanalia of Roman religion with him - he had sacred chickens, etc. I'm saying it wasn't used to justify his conquest. No one said 'let's kill the Gauls/Celts/whoever else' because they don't believe as we do.'

They didn't have to say it; that's why I mentioned that "the Roman religion was family/tribe based, centered around the head of the household, and intimately related to all aspects of Roman life". For better or worse, the Romans did not make the same bright distinction we make between "religious" and "not religious" things. When conquest is itself sanctioned by your religion-culture, you don't really need to justify it.

At any rate, I don't doubt there are warlords who conquered for non-religious reasons (Genghis Khan seems an obvious choice), I just don't think Caesar is a great example. Nor do I think it matters much. Personally, when I say "the world would be a better place without religion", I'm generally thinking of social values and/or reclaiming the amount of time, treasure, and energy we spend in pursuit of religious goals... but those who are thinking of conquest would most likely suggest that it would be better if we could prevent at least some of the religious conquests, or remove a primary motivation or excuse for conquest. Sure, there are non-religious conquerors, but that doesn't mean conquest would necessarily be as common in a non-religious world -- the organizing force that religion provides might make a difference.
posted by vorfeed at 9:38 PM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Civil Rights movement was primarily a Christian movement.

No, that's not really correct. The Civil Rights Movement often found a home in the black churches, but a lot of its organizational acumen came from Communists and Jews via the labor movement.

Naturally, the Communist angle gets played down, the Christian angle gets emphasized, because that's a lot more acceptable to Christian whites (and blacks), and because "exposing" Communists and Jews in the Civil Rights Movement has become a favorite activity of racists like David Duke. And while the public schools find it fashionable to turn Dr. King into a plaster saint, personifying and thus diminishing the Movement, no school board wants to say good things about Commies.

But decades before the bus boycott or the founding of the SCLC, the CPUSA -- though a dupe of Comintern -- was pioneering fights for racial equality.

To divorce the Movement from its precursors is to make it ahistorical and incomprehensible, a sui generis movement just plopped on stage by a bad playwright to fill a plot hole.

Sure, much of Dr. King's rhetoric, in sound and in substance, echoes the Old Testament and to some extent the New Testament too, and that gives it a real power. But it's the same Bible that Southern polemicists used to justify slavery as ordained by God.

Christianity, which got it toe-hold in Rome by converting slaves who it told to sit tight and wait for their reward in Heaven or in the Rapture, has never been well-suited to social movements concerned with the conditions on this Earth.

That's why waiting for the Rapture, and predicting its time, is so popular in Christian sects. And it's a self-reinforcing prophecy: the world's going to end, sooner or later, probably sooner, so no need to free the salves or feed the starving or protect the environment that we live in, because God's going to wipe the slate clean (by wiping everything out) and Jesus'll reward us for our suffering any time now.

Calling the Civil Rights Movement "primarily... Christian" misses the point of the Movement and misconstrues Christianity.
posted by orthogonality at 9:39 PM on May 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


Well, orthogonality, will you do me the favor of citing some statistics as to how many of the leaders of the Civil Rights movements were pastors or came out of explicitly Christian ecumenical organizations, and how many active members of the Civil Rights movement were self-identified Christians, and how much of the organizing took place in churches or under the aegis of churches or similar Christian organizations?

Primarily means primarily. It doesn't mean elusively.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:44 PM on May 22, 2011


Er, exclusively.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:47 PM on May 22, 2011


Well, 1994 wasn't the same exact prediction - it was "it might happen in 1994, but it might not happen until 2011". But in any case, could you please tell me about 1988? Perhaps a link to information on it? I had only previously heard of 1994 and 2011. Thanks.

Yeah, my bad. 1988 was another guy, Edgar Whisenant & his book 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Happen in 1988. I saw it referenced on a Latter Rain forum & thought it was Camper's work. However it does look like Camper's going for a threefer another way & announcing Oct 21 as the new date. More on that tomorrow, I bet.
posted by scalefree at 10:02 PM on May 22, 2011


What are you basing that October 21 on? Because he's always (well, for a really long time) said that October 21, 2011 would be the end of the world. May 21 was just supposed to be the rapture, not the end of the world.

Are you saying that he's now saying October 21 will be the rapture? Rather than the end of the world?
posted by Flunkie at 10:04 PM on May 22, 2011


Flunkie: My assumption was, as I said, that you were serious.

Which post(s) was this? Was it the one where I described a prayer-powered database breaking down with cartoony noises, or the one with the homeless guy worried about Roseanne Barr reading his mind?

But really, like I said, Memail if you really want to continue this.

telstar: So if I really believed that the way to the world's salvation were a burnt offering involving you personally, would you have sympathy for me?

Sure. It doesn't mean I'm gonna let you burn me alive, but if I really thought you believed in what you were doing, I'd probably shake my head in sadness and dismay and yes, sympathy and pity, as I watched you hauled off to jail for assault and attempted murder.

Edgar C. Whisenant

Hunh. Former NASA engineer, says Wikipedia. This guy's way more regular than Camping, apparently:

When the predicted Rapture failed to occur, Whisenant followed up with later books with predictions for various dates in 1989, 1993, and 1994. These books did not sell in quantity. Whisenant continued to issue various Rapture predictions through 1997, but gathered little attention.


I suspect that may be kind of a snapshot of Camping's future (since Camping decided not to go into hiding). Especially if he follows right up with an October 21st prediction...
posted by mstokes650 at 10:12 PM on May 22, 2011


Are you saying that he's now saying October 21 will be the rapture? Rather than the end of the world?

That's the scuttlebutt from those closest to him. I think this time he's putting Rapture & Armageddon on the same date, with a "secret Tribulation" between now & then. We'll have to wait at least until tomorrow for him to make it official however.
posted by scalefree at 10:14 PM on May 22, 2011


Which post(s) was this?
It was, as I said, the one that was laced throughout with implications of empath priding himself on "ignorance-and-xenophobia bullshit", preachy entreatments not to mock anyone, to get to know them personally before passing judgment upon them, and to assume that everyone is worthy of respect, plus an implication that empath's goal is to have fun by feeling smugly superior to people
But really, like I said, Memail if you really want to continue this.
You seem to want to either continue this in Memail or else not continue it at all. Assuming that I am correct about that, then perhaps you should take it to Memail or stop talking about it, based upon which of the two is what you actually want.
posted by Flunkie at 10:16 PM on May 22, 2011


The Civil Rights movement was primarily a Christian movement.

Jews:
From the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement, Blacks and Jews marched arm-in-arm. In 1909, W.E.B. Dubois, Julius Rosenthal, Lillian Wald, Rabbi Emil G. Hirsch, Stephen Wise and Henry Malkewitz formed the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). One year later other prominent Jewish and Black leaders created the Urban League. Julius Rosenwald and Booker T. Washington worked together in 1912 to improve the educational system for Blacks in the South.

Thus, in the 1930s and '40s when Jewish refugee professors arrived at Southern Black Colleges, there was a history of overt empathy between Blacks and Jews, and the possibility of truly effective collaboration. Professor Ernst Borinski organized dinners at which Blacks and Whites would have to sit next to each other - a simple yet revolutionary act. Black students empathized with the cruelty these scholars had endured in Europe and trusted them more than other Whites. In fact, often Black students - as well as members of the Southern White community - saw these refugees as "some kind of colored folk."

The unique relationship that developed between these teachers and their students was in some ways a microcosm of what was beginning to happen in other parts of the United States. The American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress, and the Anti-Defamation League were central to the campaign against racial prejudice. Jews made substantial financial contributions to many civil rights organizations, including the NAACP, the Urban League, the Congress of Racial Equality, and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. About 50 percent of the civil rights attorneys in the South during the 1960s were Jews, as were over 50 percent of the Whites who went to Mississippi in 1964 to challenge Jim Crow Laws.
Communists:
“I Never Met a Black Person Who Was in the Communist Party Because of the Soviet Union:” Jack O’Dell on Fighting Racism in the 1940s

Jack O’Dell was a union organizer, a civil rights leader, and a member of the Communist Party. His political consciousness formed in the 1940’s, when the African-American community became more assertive in their efforts to improve conditions and expand civil rights. Like many blacks, including one of his role models, Paul Robeson, O’Dell was drawn to the Communist Party because of their staunch stand against racism and segregation. During the 1940’s, O’Dell found a welcoming environment in the National Maritime Union. Later, he worked for the director of the Southern Christian Leadership Counsel (SCLC) office in New York, before becoming SCLC’s voter registration director in seven southern states.
O’DELL: We may have been out from under McCarthyism by the ’60s but we were not out from under the official ideology of anti-Communism. President Kennedy on June the 23rd of 1963, had a meeting at the White House with the civil rights leadership because he had introduced the civil rights bill. He took Martin out on the White House lawn and told him that his relations with Jack O’Dell was jeopardizing the passage of the civil rights bill. He told Martin that I was the number four Communist in the United States. Martin said, “Well, I want to see the documentation of that?” He said, “Okay. We’ll set up for you to see it.” This is what Martin reported to us. Kennedy’s rationale was that Strom Thurman and some of the southern Democrats were getting ready to make an issue of who Martin’s connections were that they considered communists, Jack O’Dell being on the staff and Stanley Levinson as a confidant. Kennedy, said to Martin, according to Martin, that if they made that a public issue he, Kennedy, would not support the civil rights bill. So Martin has a choice, in effect, coming out of that conversation, to sever these ties and salvage Kennedy’s support for the civil rights bill or stay with his friends and have an attack come from Strom Thurman. Unless you sacrificed your principles you couldn’t escape the anti- Communism. They had no reason to Red bait him but it went on anyway. I’m just saying that the anti-Communism had become institutionalized as an effective weapon in intimidating and preventing the movement from developing. And of course, it had succeeded in some instances and failed also because movement was developing anyway.
O'Dell had replaced Bayard Rustin, an advisor to King who had planned the March On Washington. Rustin was forced out of a public role in the SCLC after being attacked by Strom Thurmond as a "Communist, draft-dodger, and homosexual." A Quaker, he had been member of both American Friends Service Committee and the Young Communist League. He left the CPUSA after Stalin ordered it to abandon its work for racial equality during World War II.)

Rustin introduced King to Stanely Levison, a leader and financier of the CPUSA in the 1950s, later provided funds to the SCLC, revamped its fundraising activities, and became King's close adviser and literary agent.

This is all still very hard to untangle, in large part because the stigma of "Communist association" became a club used to beat the Civil Right Movement, and is still used by racists and conservatives to discredit it. And some iof teh information comes via Hoover's FBI, hardly a impartial source.

And because the CPUSA was thoroughly under the thumb of Comintern and Stalin, it could turn on a dime, as in its abandonment of civil rights when it commanded that its highest priority to get the US into WW2.

But so many of the most effective organizers of the Movement learned organizing from the Labor Movement and the Communists, it's silly to call the Movement "primarily Christian".
posted by orthogonality at 10:28 PM on May 22, 2011 [12 favorites]


tl;dr version of this thread: "Stop acting like assholes" "No, YOU stop acting like an asshole"
posted by KingEdRa at 12:56 AM on May 23, 2011


Did my side win?
posted by Summer at 1:37 AM on May 23, 2011


"the fact that thousands of people took this lunatic seriously enough..."

Is this really true? It seems more like thousands of media outlets were the ones taking him seriously.
posted by klarck at 4:29 AM on May 23, 2011


They should have used wolfram alpha.
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:38 AM on May 23, 2011


tl;dr version of this thread: "Stop acting like assholes" "No, YOU stop acting like an asshole"
posted by KingEdRa at 12:56 AM


Did my side win?
posted by Summer at 1:37 AM


The only way to win is not to play.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:45 AM on May 23, 2011


If there was no intention to impugn all Muslims, I am open to clarification, but that seems like the self-evident interpretation of asking to know whether it is Sunnis or Shiites who are deluded madmen.

I'm finding it hard to believe that you could possibly be as dense as you're coming across in this thread, to be honest. I'm not even going to bother responding to this ridiculous misinterpretation of what I said.
posted by empath at 4:57 AM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I feel certain it would have taken just as many words to clarify what you meant as you just took to insult me. As you seem to prefer insults over clarificatoon, I think I will duck out. I have been insukted enough in this thread for a single weekend.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:33 AM on May 23, 2011


I want to say something else about the claim that 'atheists' are ignorant of religion, and why almost none of us are.

Because we couldn't be ignorant of religion even if we wanted to. I was raised in Catholic school. From the age of 6 until the age of 13, i was thoroughly indoctrinated into the beliefs of the church and I believed with my heart and soul.

I believed that God loved me and answered my prayers. I believed that Jesus died for our sins. I believed that heaven waited for me if I had faith in God and was a good person. I believed that an eternal torment in hell waited for sinners and unbelievers.

At times of stress, I said the 'prayer of contrition' to myself, so if I died before I woke up, I'd go to heaven:

"O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended You and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell, but most of all because they offend you, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of your grace, to confess my sins, to do penance and to amend my life"

I still catch myself doing this from time to time, and I don't believe a word of it.

When I started having doubts about Christianity, I felt utterly, utterly alone. I literally didn't know that there was anybody in the world who didn't believe in God.

I don't think a lot of you can appreciate how absolutely terrifying that is. That I was betting the fate of my eternal soul against the entire world as I knew it and had known it my entire life. To lay awake at night feeling the utter despair of giving up any hope of heaven -- any hope of life after death, to give up the belief that when you prayed, that someone was listening, and that someone cared.

One doesn't go through that on a whim. Or because they don't give a fuck about what other people believe.

When I was 13, I had to do confession before I went through confirmation to affirm my faith in God before my family and the entire congregation, and I told him that I didn't want to do it, because I didn't believe. He told me that everyone had doubts in God, and that it was okay, and that moment was the first time that I had any idea that I wasn't alone. I cried. And I went through with confirmation.

And of course, that's not the end of the story, because you can't tell people that you're an atheist without starting a debate about religion. Everyone takes it as a direct personal insult, a challenge to everything they hold dear. I've been told countless times, more times than I can count, that if I don't believe in anything, I might as well kill myself right now. Even today, I can't talk to my family about religion without making my mom cry, (just telling her I was an atheist was enough to do that).

I've been lectured to by Wiccans, by Fundamentalists, by Catholics, by Sikhs, by 'liberal protestants', by pretty much every person I've ever talked to about religion, telling me why I'm wrong or arrogant or doomed to suffer in the fires of hell. Pretty much the only religion that's never told me I'm wrong has been my Jewish friends.

If one is an 'out' atheist, one doesn't have the option of being ignorant of other religions. You either learn to enjoy debate and inform yourself of the doctrines of every person you've ever talked to about religion, or you just stay silent when the topic of religion comes up for the rest of your life.

So I really, really, wish that some of you would take a moment to not dismiss atheism as 'not giving a fuck' or 'willfull ignorance'. It's simply not.
posted by empath at 5:40 AM on May 23, 2011 [17 favorites]


I think I will duck out. I have been insukted enough in this thread for a single weekend.

While you're not posting, re-read the stream of vile and insulting invective you unleashed in this thread with the bare minimum of provocation in your direction. You really should be embarrassed.
posted by empath at 5:41 AM on May 23, 2011


The same "good Christians" from 1844 are still around?

No, the millerites.

These 'cults' don't just fold up when their doomsday passes.
posted by empath at 5:49 AM on May 23, 2011


Heh. Camping declares himself "flabbergasted."
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:07 AM on May 23, 2011


While you're not posting, re-read the stream of vile and insulting invective you unleashed in this thread with the bare minimum of provocation in your direction. You really should be embarrassed.

Astro Zombie began the thread with an passionate request not to do this gloat-ridden, anti-religious bashing again. He was then told to fuck off, was accused erroneously of telling other users to fuck off and, to save face, was told he was effectively telling people to fuck off.

If you think that's the "bare minimum of provocation", you're out of your god damned mind. The fact that one user telling another to fuck off has been allowed here set this up to be a bare-knuckled brawl where nobody looks good, but AZ's not to be singled out for having an opinion that some Mefites are gloat-happy over this, because you know what? Some people in this thread are gloating openly and happily.
posted by dflemingecon at 6:18 AM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Christ, what a no-show.
posted by delfin at 6:19 AM on May 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Astro Zombie began the thread with an passionate request not to do this gloat-ridden, anti-religious bashing again.

In his very first post he called people 'gloating assholes', while he himself in the very same post called Camping a 'bunko artist' and his followers 'dupes'.
posted by empath at 6:24 AM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


In his very first post he called people 'gloating assholes', while he himself in the very same post called Camping a 'bunko artist' and his followers 'dupes'.

Right -- he called Camping a "bunko artist" and his followers "dupes." He did not call all theists dupes. That is the distinction people are making.

I acknowledge, however, that you do not make this distinction, because -- as you yourself said -- your "prejudice is broad". Understanding that others do not share such a broad prejudice will help you understand the course of AZ's argument.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:32 AM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Right, I understand that you feel that it's okay to insult and mock people who have a different faith than you, but anyone else that does it is a gloating asshole.
posted by empath at 6:34 AM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


his very first post he called people 'gloating assholes', while he himself in the very same post called Camping a 'bunko artist' and his followers 'dupes'.

Go back here and read this, this and this in the first 1/4 of the thread, which happened four days ago, and tell me with a straight face that we don't have some gloating assholes around here.

AZ's point is that these threads are dominated by a few people. By saying "gloating assholes", he's referring to the ones that are not that all Mefites are gloating assholes. That is perfectly evident in the semantic way he built the argument as "some MetaFilter atheists are extraordinarily obnoxious. This isn't an argument that means a lot of people, just a small group that are terribly vocal.
posted by dflemingecon at 6:36 AM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


And btw, I don't think that he was a bunko artist and I don't think his followers are any more dupes than the billion other Christians. They just have the good luck of having their faith disproved before they die having wasted their whole lives believing a falsehood.
posted by empath at 6:37 AM on May 23, 2011


That is perfectly evident in the semantic way he built the argument as "some MetaFilter atheists are extraordinarily obnoxious. This isn't an argument that means a lot of people, just a small group that are terribly vocal.

And some people might call those 'weasel words'. If he had a specific objection to something someone said, he should say so.
posted by empath at 6:38 AM on May 23, 2011


Again, I'm not really sure why Camping is a "bunko artist", or whatever you want to call it. I've seen a lot of people say that he is, but I haven't seen anybody put forth any evidence that he didn't believe what he was saying, and I have seen evidence that, to me, seems contrary to that.
posted by Flunkie at 6:40 AM on May 23, 2011


Astro Zombie, when his grandstanding fell flat.

This will be my future response to Chaka, when the walls came down.
posted by the bricabrac man at 6:50 AM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Right, I understand that you feel that it's okay to insult and mock people who have a different faith than you, but anyone else that does it is a gloating asshole.

They're not casting dispersion on his faith, though. They are mocking his extreme zeal. If his "proof" for the end of the world was based on something based on a formula he'd devised from a calculation based on the periodic table, the same mockery would ensue.

I don't think that he was a bunko artist and I don't think his followers are any more dupes than the billion other Christians. They just have the good luck of having their faith disproved before they die having wasted their whole lives believing a falsehood.

To my mind, it's more insulting to claim that a person who recognized Camping's bunk for the bunk that it was is just as deluded as Camping himself. If Camping had claimed that he drew his theory based on a calculation of the atomic weights on a specific set of elements, would you then say that any chemist is also a "dupe" simply because they deal with the same materials as Camping?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:56 AM on May 23, 2011


For that to be equivalent, every chemist who dealt with the same materials as Camping would need to be proclaiming something ridiculous, but just not verifiable.
posted by Summer at 7:03 AM on May 23, 2011


To my mind, it's more insulting to claim that a person who recognized Camping's bunk for the bunk that it was is just as deluded as Camping himself.

I know we're going in circles here, but do you think that a belief in the eventual second coming of christ as foretold in the New Testament is bunk, or not? Do you think that congregations that believe that are dupes or not? What if they believe it's coming in the next 1000 years? How about the next 100 years? How about the next decade? How about next week? At what point does a mainstream Christian belief become a fitting subject of scorn and mockery, to your mind? Is it only when they predict that something is going to happen in a time frame where it could actually be disproved?
posted by empath at 7:08 AM on May 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


An Associated Press survey in 1997 revealed that 24% of American adults expected to be still alive when Jesus returns. Many of these probably believe that they would be raptured (elevated from the earth to be with Jesus) and thus will never experience death.
A poll conducted for Newsweek magazine in 1999-JUN asked American adults whether they believed that Jesus would return during the next millennium -- i.e. between years 2001 and 3000 CE. Results were:
All persons surveyed : 52%
Evangelical Protestants: 71%
Non-Evangelical Protestants: 48%
Roman Catholics: 47%
Non-Christians: 20%
posted by empath at 7:11 AM on May 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


They're not casting dispersion on his faith, though. They are mocking his extreme zeal.

I've re-read this a couple of times, and it seems to me like you're saying that it's ok to believe, as long as you don't believe too enthusiastically or try to actually change things on the basis of that belief. It's ok to be religious, as long as you've got ironic detachment about it? I'm fairly certain from your previous posts that it's probably not what you meant, but I'd appreciate a clarification about why zeal is a bad thing in this case, because on the face of it, it seems like an odd thing to mock. (btw: aspersions, not dispersion).

I'll give Camping this small amount of respect: many doomsday cults hole themselves up together to await the cataclysmic event, while Camping at least did try very hard to get more people to believe and so to be saved. It seems more compassionate to me, if not any less deluded on the bible-code aspect.
posted by harriet vane at 7:13 AM on May 23, 2011


I know we're going in circles here, but do you think that a belief in the eventual second coming of christ as foretold in the New Testament is bunk, or not?

I don't have enough information to know whether it is true in the literal sense. I believe if you take this metaphorically, it is an idea which carries value in motivating some people towards self-improvement.

Do you think that congregations that believe that are dupes or not? What if they believe it's coming in the next 1000 years? How about the next 100 years? How about the next decade? How about next week?

It depends on whether they believe literally or figuratively. I am fairly certain, however, that the majority of congregations take this figuratively, as the New Testament also said -- and St. Alia quoted this, but it got lost in the shuffle -- people aren't supposed to literally know the calendar date. This kind of predictative behavior actually runs counter to Scripture.

At what point does a mainstream Christian belief become a fitting subject of scorn and mockery, to your mind?

Never. But not because "Christianity is speshul", but because it is never okay to mock a religious belief.

Is it only when they predict that something is going to happen in a time frame where it could actually be disproved?

As I have stated, the literal predicting of a date is not part of Christian Scripture; it in fact runs counter to that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:33 AM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Harriet: "Zeal" was a bad choice of words on my part, upon reflection. I'm not sure there is a proper word, however, for the kind of "if you look at X in this very, very specific way and do Y calculations with the source material, you get Z result" behavior I'm talking about.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:36 AM on May 23, 2011


t depends on whether they believe literally or figuratively. I am fairly certain, however, that the majority of congregations take this figuratively,

Polling suggests that a great deal of them take it literally. In fact, I think the majority of Christians -- but in any case, you think that all of the millions of people who believe that it's going to literally happen are dupes, then?


But not because "Christianity is speshul", but because it is never okay to mock a religious belief.

So it's not okay to call Camping and his followers dupes, then? I just want to be clear on that.
posted by empath at 7:38 AM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


A group of Michigan teens celebrating that Harold Camping’s “Rapture” prediction was wrong jumped off a bridge late Saturday afternoon; 17-year-old Anthony Thompson was caught in the current, is missing, and is presumed to have drowned.
Harold Camping's 'Rapture' prediction ends in tragedy; teen believed dead
 
posted by querty at 7:40 AM on May 23, 2011


And further to empath -- when I say it is "never" okay to mock a religious belief is also not quite what I mean either, although I do believe that that's the case. What I object to is not the "Mocking of a belief" -- what I object to is the great lumping-in that you have been advocating, where there is no discernable difference, in your mind, between Camping -- who exhibits the kind of "read the bible in this exact specific way and you unlock the mysteries of armageddon" behavior I'm talking about, and my Catholic friends, who eyerolled over Camping so hard that their eyes nearly fell out of their skulls, and who currently believe that the world will not end for several billion years and that it will end when the sun goes Red Giant.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:40 AM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


So it's not okay to call Camping and his followers dupes, then? I just want to be clear on that.

Depends. Why are you calling them "dupes" -- because of his attempts at clairvoyance, or because of their religion?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:41 AM on May 23, 2011


Oh I see. I tend to go with the theory aired much earlier in this thread - all humans are wired to detect patterns, some people more than others so that they find them where they aren't any. Like numerology or people seeing the face of Jesus in a piece of toast. I've heard people suffering from a clinical paranoia are commonly found to have over-active pattern detection. I think of it as being on the spectrum of mental illness rather than a particular personality trait like zeal, depending on how much it gets in the way of you living a happy life.
posted by harriet vane at 7:41 AM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


it is never okay to mock a religious belief.
In this thread, you have called Camping and his followers "deluded", and their beliefs "bunk". More broadly, you have referred to eschatological religious beliefs -- not just Camping's -- as "rubbish". You've also at the very least left open the question of the appropriateness of calling people who believe that Christ will literally return within 1000 years as "dupes".

Are you not mocking them when you say these things, or are these things that you are mocking not religious beliefs? Or both?
posted by Flunkie at 7:42 AM on May 23, 2011


In this thread, you have called Camping and his followers "deluded", and their beliefs "bunk".

Correction -- I have quoted others who said that. But moving on.

You've also at the very least left open the question of the appropriateness of calling people who believe that Christ will literally return within 1000 years as "dupes". Are you not mocking them when you say these things, or are these things that you are mocking not religious beliefs?

I'm not actually personally mocking anyone. But those who are doing the mocking are doing so because the things they're poking fun at are not religious beliefs (and to predict your next statement -- I know that mainstream Christians to believe in some kind of "Second Coming," and that's not what I"m referring to; I'm referring to the literally being able to predict when that event is going to happen).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:46 AM on May 23, 2011


If I were Camping, I'd say the Rapture actually happened, but nobody made the final cut.
posted by lordrunningclam at 7:48 AM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Correction -- I have quoted others who said that. But moving on.
You said this, and if you were quoting someone while doing so, that wasn't clear to me:

"To my mind, it's more insulting to claim that a person who recognized Camping's bunk for the bunk that it was is just as deluded as Camping himself."

I realize that you didn't respond to my claim that you referred to eschatological religious beliefs -- not just Camping's -- as "rubbish", but just for the sake of completeness, here's what you said:

"And many people ascribe to religions without accepting the eschatological bits, because they know they're rubbish. So?"

Perhaps you merely meant to say that they believe that eschatological religious beliefs are rubbish, but if so, that is not clear to me.
posted by Flunkie at 7:50 AM on May 23, 2011


I'm not actually personally mocking anyone. But those who are doing the mocking are doing so because the things they're poking fun at are not religious beliefs

How do you define a 'religious belief'? You seem to be engaging in a lot of 'no true scotsman' here.
posted by empath at 7:59 AM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


You said this, and if you were quoting someone while doing so, that wasn't clear to me: "To my mind, it's more insulting to claim that a person who recognized Camping's bunk for the bunk that it was is just as deluded as Camping himself."

I'm not certain why it's not clear to you, because I don't see where in that quote any claim that I personally ascribe to either belief.

I realize that you didn't respond to my claim that you referred to eschatological religious beliefs -- not just Camping's -- as "rubbish", but just for the sake of completeness, here's what you said: "And many people ascribe to religions without accepting the eschatological bits, because they know they're rubbish. So?" Perhaps you merely meant to say that they believe that eschatological religious beliefs are rubbish, but if so, that is not clear to me.

I did mean "believe". I only said "know" because I didn't anticipate my word choice would be scruitinized to a greater extent than the United States Supreme Court analyzes the Constitution.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:00 AM on May 23, 2011


I learned one important life lesson from this weekend, namely that Raptor Jesus is actually funny. VelociRapture Day next 31 May!
Errm, assuming the October rapture idea yields no significant lulz.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:05 AM on May 23, 2011


I'm not certain why it's not clear to you, because I don't see where in that quote any claim that I personally ascribe to either belief.
You referred to people who "recognized bunk as the bunk that it was". That seemed like a personally invested statement to me. I'm willing to believe you when you claim that it was not. But please, in the future, if you're going to say things like this and then dispute that you meant them, please refrain from asking me again whether I'm going to ask for what the definition of "is" is. Thank you.
posted by Flunkie at 8:05 AM on May 23, 2011


How do you define a 'religious belief'? You seem to be engaging in a lot of 'no true scotsman' here.

I define it as something independent of an action.

Camping's belief is that Jesus will return. But his action was to attempt to predit the specific date in which that belief would be made manifest. I have no problem with belief -- it is the action you take based on that belief that is the telling detail.

Because there are those who ascribe to the same belief (the Second Coming) and take a different action -- say, they use this belief to motivate them to live a pious life, or to donate to charity, or what have you. There are also those who take that belief and use it to motivate uncharitable action, such as prohibiting gay marriage or preaching a dominionist government. However, these are all very different actions which spring from a belief.

Because the belief motivates such a broad range of actions, I confine myself to forming opinions on people's actions alone. The belief is independent of all of these -- I may not ascribe to it, but I respect that others do, and for many, that belief spurs them to positive action, and thus for them it has value. It is only the actions alone that I form opinions about.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:06 AM on May 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Oops, I meant : VelociRapture Day next 21 May!
posted by jeffburdges at 8:15 AM on May 23, 2011


Camping, who told The Huffington Post last week that May 21 was "no laughing matter," had refused to discuss what he would do with donations if the day passed without event. In recent months, followers have given generously to his company, which runs 66 radio stations in the U.S. and is worth at least $120 million.

On Sunday, [Family Radio spokesman Tom Evans] Evans said Family Radio's assets "far outweigh its liabilities," and that it will "certainly do everything it can to take care of people." But he said that there has been no decision on giving money back to donors.*
posted by ericb at 9:00 AM on May 23, 2011


On Sunday, [Family Radio spokesman Tom Evans] Evans said Family Radio's assets "far outweigh its liabilities," and that it will "certainly do everything it can to take care of people." But he said that there has been no decision on giving money back to donors.

Now, not giving people some of their savings back would be an action I find unconscionable. Refunding people some of their money, however, would go a long way towards redemming Camping in my eyes; he may have done something very foolish, but if he accepts that his folly mislead others and harmed them, and he attempts to really seriously pay them back, to my mind that's a very good-faith gesture.

But if he keeps the money, then I have to question what his real motives were. And in that case, then I'm not so sure we can say this was a religious action after all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:10 AM on May 23, 2011


But if he keeps the money, then I have to question what his real motives were.

Probably the same as every other denomination that asks their adherents for money? Does the Catholic Church refund all the donations they got from their followers when they find out there's no heaven after they die to reward them for their lifetime of tithing to the church?
posted by empath at 9:19 AM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Of course, even if Camping himself turns out to be purely a con man, with absolutely no belief in what he was saying, this would still be a religious matter on the part of his followers.
posted by sculpin at 9:23 AM on May 23, 2011


Because the belief motivates such a broad range of actions, I confine myself to forming opinions on people's actions alone.

Call me when you apply the same standard to anti-theists and "militant" atheists on mefi, none of whom have done anything worse than express opinions you don't like.

Oh, no, someone called religion "crap" on the internet -- what a terrible action! We should have a 500+ comment thread that's largely about how terrible this is!
posted by vorfeed at 9:31 AM on May 23, 2011 [7 favorites]


Why did he need any money?
posted by Summer at 9:31 AM on May 23, 2011


Probably the same as every other denomination that asks their adherents for money?

Oh bullshit. Yes, there are a hucksters out there in shiny suits and bad pompadours and gold bracelets who are in it to sucker retirees out of their savings in the name of Jesus.

But there are also benign organizations out there that need to pay rent/mortgage for the space that their congregants use to, um, congregate. They need to pay maintenance and upkeep on the same. They need to pay salaries for the minister/leader/what-have-you so he or she can attend to the needs of the congregants, and those needs are rarely, if ever, confined to a just-on-Sundays thing. They also need to pay the salaries for the secretaries and janitors and music leaders. Sure, there are volunteers to help with this stuff, but the time and talents of volunteers is not something that can ever be relied upon. They need to pay for classroom materials and toys and stuff to keep the kids entertained.

Again: there are plenty of scam artists out there. But the basic functioning of a church or synagogue or mosque or whatever cannot just operate on faith alone. It requires money, and most people who count themselves as part of the congregation, and who take advantage of the many benefits that come with being part of a congregation, are happy to help keep the place running.
posted by shiu mai baby at 9:35 AM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Call me when you apply the same standard to anti-theists and "militant" atheists on mefi, none of whom have done anything worse than express opinions you don't like.

I do.

Because it's not the lack of belief I criticize about the anti-theists you're referring to -- it is the action of prejudging another person based on their belief that I criticize.

Honestly, vorfeed, if all you were saying was "I believe religion is bunk", that'd be one thing -- but what I object to is "I believe that theists are deluded", because then you've crossed from critiquing a belief to critiquing a believer.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:36 AM on May 23, 2011


Oh, right -- I forgot to add the Flunkie disclaimer.

Rather than "If all you were saying", I should say "if all a given person is saying". If a given person in here has never personally said "I believe theists are deluded/fooling themselves/etc.", then I am not referring to that given person. (Contents may settle on shipping. Offer may not apply in parts of New Hampshire.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:40 AM on May 23, 2011


> Because the belief motivates such a broad range of actions, I confine myself to forming opinions on people's actions alone.

> > Call me when you apply the same standard to anti-theists and "militant" atheists on mefi, none of whom have done anything worse than express opinions you don't like.


Is there any evidence that EmpressCallipygos hasn't done that?
posted by shiu mai baby at 9:40 AM on May 23, 2011


Oh bullshit. Yes, there are a hucksters out there in shiny suits and bad pompadours and gold bracelets who are in it to sucker retirees out of their savings in the name of Jesus.

But there are also benign organizations out there that need to pay rent/mortgage for the space that their congregants use to, um, congregate. They need to pay maintenance and upkeep on the same. They need to pay salaries for the minister/leader/what-have-you so he or she can attend to the needs of the congregants, and those needs are rarely, if ever, confined to a just-on-Sundays thing. They also need to pay the salaries for the secretaries and janitors and music leaders. Sure, there are volunteers to help with this stuff, but the time and talents of volunteers is not something that can ever be relied upon. They need to pay for classroom materials and toys and stuff to keep the kids entertained.


I'm sorry, I fail to see how this is a distinction from what Camping did with the money. Have you been over the books to see if he's blown it all on hookers and blow instead of supporting the ministry?
posted by empath at 9:42 AM on May 23, 2011


what I object to is "I believe that theists are deluded", because then you've crossed from critiquing a belief to critiquing a believer.

While you yourself have repeatedly said that other believers are deluded.
posted by empath at 9:43 AM on May 23, 2011


I'm sorry, I fail to see how this is a distinction from what Camping did with the money. Have you been over the books to see if he's blown it all on hookers and blow instead of supporting the ministry?

Have you?

It's my understanding from the article that he hasn't done anything with it yet. His actions within the next few days will affect my opinions of the man. I'm reserving judgement until he acts.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:43 AM on May 23, 2011


While you yourself have repeatedly said that other believers are deluded.

No, I have repeatedly explained that I was quoting others in saying that. You have been repeatedly overlooking that point.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:44 AM on May 23, 2011


Wait, I see the disconnect you're making, emapth. I believe when you are saying that I "have repeatedly said that other believers are deluded," you are in fact referring to this comment of mine, am I correct?

If that is the case -- forgive me, I did not understand you were parsing things as finely as Flunkie was (an ironic thing, that, for somene who professes to "broad prejudices" -- I would think that broad language would also go with that). If that is the case, I wish to amend my comment to read as follows:

"To my mind, it's more insulting for a given person (who is not me) to claim that a person who recognized Camping's bunk for the bunk that it was is just as deluded as Camping himself. (I personally do not consider Camping's beliefs as bunk, only his actions. I do not consider mainstream Christian belief to be bunk. Contents may settle on shipping.)"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:50 AM on May 23, 2011


Ugly all around.
posted by Sailormom at 10:03 AM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


for somene who professes to "broad prejudices"

You realize that that was a joke, yeah?
posted by empath at 10:11 AM on May 23, 2011


Amen to that, Sailormom. This thread is damn near unreadable.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 10:14 AM on May 23, 2011


But the basic functioning of a church or synagogue or mosque or whatever cannot just operate on faith alone.

For clarification for those who might not know, Camping operates a 'radio ministry' which he has run since 1958. It "relies solely on listener-supported funding and donations, and is unaffiliated with any religious denomination." He does not have a physical 'church' or congregation. "Camping teaches that the 'Church age' is over, that Satan now rules in all churches, and that no person remaining in a church at the time of the Rapture can be saved. He distinguishes his ministry from a 'church', saying that Family Radio does not have a 'membership' or hold 'authority'".*

The funds they raise are used to operate the radio station ... and, as stated above by their spokesperson Tom Evans, Family Radio's assets "far outweigh its liabilities." So, they seem to be doing fine financially.
posted by ericb at 10:18 AM on May 23, 2011


You know, the "argument from tone" -- especially in this thread-- is basically "hey, believe whatever you want but you don't need to be a dick about it." It's a pretty valid thing to say, despite your objections.
posted by dersins at 2:12 AM on May 23


It is sometimes a valid thing to say, but it is not an argument, that is the point. And my point was to highlight the fact that people resort to non-arguments when they run out of actual arguments.

I stand by the "atheists are Stalin" analogy; making sweeping statements about one third of the planet's population, then dismissing objections because "the details are irrelevant," is stupid.
posted by verb at 3:16 AM on May 2



It's hard to understand what you are trying to achieve with a statement like "atheists are Stalin". If you are trying to illustrate the point that sweeping statements are always bad then it seems a very wild and bizarre way to do it, not least because I have never seen anyone claim that atheists are like Stalin. Generally the (non) argument takes the form that because Stalin was an atheist, atheism is bad. This is so obviously not analogous to a claim such as "irrational beliefs that are based on miracles/faith are pretty wacky" that I don't really see much point in wasting time trying to grapple with it. Besides, your premise is flawed. Sometimes, sweeping statements are justified. How about "All rape is bad"? Pretty sweeping claim, that, yet most people wouldn't have a problem with it. And I see absolutely no problem at all with saying that it's pretty generally nuts to believe in things that are both extraordinary and unsupported by evidence or reason.

To repeat what I said in my previous post: I challenge the Christians who are annoyed about being compared to Camping to state clearly and unambiguously what rational beliefs they have that are a necessary part of their decision to call themselves Christian. The unwillingness to do so is, I'm afraid, all-too revealing. And if they want to claim that their beliefs don't have to be rational then they need to see that they do not have strong grounds for complaint when we call them out for irrationality, even if we use other words for that. To clarify: when I see Christians grousing that they have a reasonable, moderate belief set I want to know things like the following:

Do they believe that Jesus existed? This is not in itself a nutty belief, but it is a highly dubious one.

Do they believe Jesus was divine?

Do they believe Jesus performed miracles?

Do they believe the truth of the gospels, i.e., do they believe in (at least) second-hand reports of miraculous events, the earliest of which was written some 2,000 years ago and around thirty years after the supposed death of Jesus?

Do they believe that Jesus died and came back to life?

Do they believe that the reason Jesus came to earth was to "save sinners"?

Do they believe that the above idea makes sense?

Now, no matter how much the apologists here try to duck these questions they need to realise that until atheists like me see a "moderate" Christian state their position on such things we are going to assume that they believe at least some of them because, like it or not, those are key beliefs in the standard Christian creed. It is therefore entirely reasonable that we critics of Christianity assume such beliefs are held by any Christian unless and until we see them explicitly denied. And people like me think every one of those beliefs - apart from the first - is nuts. Every bit as nuts as believing that Jesus will return and spirit his chosen ones away to paradise.

Your parents were Church of England members? Well, I think it was totally fucked up that they were snake handlers. That's child abuse. (What? They didn't? Irrelevant detail.)
posted by verb at 3:16 AM on May 2


I'm afraid I'm too busy to waste time kicking the stuffing out of straw-men right now. Real life is doing that annoying "being eventful" thing.

I presume this was also an issue for you when people complained about the tone of my first comment. Do you mind if I ask why you declined to address it then?
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:05 AM on May 23


I wasn't around when the thread started kicking off, okay? If you'd actually bothered to read my comment fully you'd have noticed I mentioned I was posting from an airport and late to the thread. Also, what difference does it make whether or not I addressed the point early, after fifty posts, after one hundred posts or right at the end? None whatsoever. Trying to suggest it does is just more fallacious point-avoidance on your part.

I eagerly await Decani addressing Flunkie for his complaint about tone.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:46 AM on May 23


Oh, give it a rest. As I said, I came to this thread late after a weekend away doing far more pleasant things than tirelessly addressing every repetitive, point-missing religious apologist post in an already massive thread. And - as I also mentioned - there are others here doing a pretty good job of cutting through the worst of the apologist stuff in the early part of the thread. I addressed my tone criticism to you specifically as you seemed to be by far the worst offender. Please feel free to extrapolate it to everyone else you consider it ought to apply to.
posted by Decani at 10:25 AM on May 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


Just because one man put a date on some prediction (or whatever can be thought of as a prediction) in the bible, doesn't make the rest of the religion less full of lunacy. I was part of that lunacy, once, when I was a pre-teen.

I got out of it myself by asking questions no one had answers for, which always defaulted to "God works in mysterious ways" or "We are not meant to know His plan".

Oh, except scientists. They had answers for a lot of those questions, answers that made sense.

So yes, I am going to laugh. It's not genuine hilarity that I'm getting out of it. It's more of a laugh-shake-head-religious-sheep. They made this choice themselves, no one had them at gunpoint. Your belief system may seem like a gunpoint to others from the outside, but it all boils down YOUR CHOICE to believe this crap, even if you were raised in it. There comes a point, at least in this part of the world, where you actually have to put your own blinders on to continue to believe in fairy tales.

I feel sorry for those men and women in that they have their own demons to slay, but this is a religion, for the most part and most certainly with Camping's followers (I've seen video of him responding to questions) that thought gays were one of the reasons the world was coming to an end.

So fuck 'em. Maybe they need to suffer a little bit, maybe they need that shame. Maybe we'll get a few good atheists out of this.. maybe.

Also, don't start using hippy emo branding with Atheism... "Ethical Atheism"... is that where we set all the Christians free in a field because we believe hatred is just part of their nature and no one should eat them?

Atheism just means you don't believe in a deity. That's it. So stop making it more than it is. Fucking "Ethical Atheism"... gag.

/rant
posted by Malice at 10:26 AM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


The funds they were most recently asking for were used to purchase a fleet of RVs to travel the country (aka Project Caravan) , as well as buy billboards in addition to the ones they asked their adherents to purchase.
"As Saturday drew nearer, followers reported that donations grew, allowing Family Radio to spend millions on more than 5,000 billboards and 20 RVs plastered with the doomsday message.

... Marie Exley, who helped put up apocalypse-themed billboards in Israel, Jordan and Lebanon, said the money allowed the nonprofit to reach as many souls as possible."*
posted by ericb at 10:26 AM on May 23, 2011


So over the weekend the wife and I made salsa (just dice tomatoes, onions, cilantro (I KNOW, CALM DOWN), and jalepenos) and then realized that we had way too much salsa. So then we made pizza crust and created salsa pizza. It worked surprisingly well! Who would have thought.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:33 AM on May 23, 2011


I don't know. Much of these believer/belief/action distinctions strike me as lines arbitrarily drawn in the sand for the purpose of pedantic tone arguments about which terms are acceptable to criticize Christianity. In my mind, Camping and much of Christianity are wrong for the same reason: g*d doesn't exist, and if she did, there's be no need for a messiah. Disagreement does not necessarily equate to disrespect.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:38 AM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry, I fail to see how this is a distinction from what Camping did with the money. Have you been over the books to see if he's blown it all on hookers and blow instead of supporting the ministry?

Well, they did buy all those billboards.
posted by philip-random at 10:46 AM on May 23, 2011


So over the weekend the wife and I made salsa

Shakespherian, I'm pretty sure it's site policy that we don't do the recipe thing in the blue, but save it for MetaTalk.
posted by philip-random at 10:52 AM on May 23, 2011


I was just trying to explain what I did over the weekend. I apologize that it involved food.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:53 AM on May 23, 2011


Ugly all around.

Too true. The problem, I guess, is that the atheism thing is rather like the revenge of the nerds. Kicked around their whole lives out there in "the real world" -- beware when they kick back. Except the problem here at MeFi is that the majority are "the nerds" (ie: if not atheist, certainly agnostic), so this kicking back ends up coming across bullying -- the piling on of a far weaker opponent. Definitely ugly.

There's a few folk in this thread who I've often found good company here at MeFi, but in this thread, in the shadow cast by their triumphalism, let's just say their shit is smelling rather toxic.

We can do better.
posted by philip-random at 11:05 AM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Empath's story is thought-provoking and at least for me, it brings a different perspective to the discussion. I can understand this point of departure - not least because mine is almost opposite. When I grew up, a little more than half of everyone I knew were belligerent atheists, people who had struggled with upbringings similar to Empath's. At every single family dinner, at school and in other social settings, the atheists would tease or even ridicule the religious people of different denominations in our circles. For me, it was tiresome and worrying. I felt it was impossible to make a decision on my own. And it seemed to me that the nice, tolerant and forgiving people were the religious ones. Some of the smartest people I knew, who supported me in getting an education, were religious.
They were and are nowhere near the rapture people, and I just cannot recognize this image of hating Christians from my personal life, though I know they exist.
In the end, I realized I could never seriously believe in supernatural stuff. And I am intellectually offended by the stuff they say in church, so I try to avoid going there. But I love and respect my religious friends, and I do not spend time trying to convert them or ridicule their beliefs.
I guess we all come to this discussion from some life experience. I respect that Empath and others here have struggled with the church and with religious family-members, and I can't say have any argument against that. But I do think the shorter way to reason is that of tolerance and empathy.
posted by mumimor at 11:09 AM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Who said we don't have tolerance and empathy?

The point here is that people are saying that criticism of religious belief simply isn't acceptable Or at least in only acceptable in the case of fringe groups like Camping, in which case it must clearly be stated that we're excepting the beliefs of all other religious beliefs from our criticism. It's absurd.

I personally don't like singling out individual religious groups (like Mormons, or Catholics, or Campings group) for criticism over some minor technical detail, while giving all other religious belief a pass. Camping's group is merely one manifestation of a broader class of religious belief based on a fundamentally incorrect view of reality, and I think that people should be allowed to say so, as we have.
posted by empath at 11:15 AM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


The point here is that people are saying that criticism of religious belief simply isn't acceptable Or at least in only acceptable in the case of fringe groups like Camping, in which case it must clearly be stated that we're excepting the beliefs of all other religious beliefs from our criticism. It's absurd.

Criticism of religious belief clearly is accepted at MetaFilter, and it's about as predictable as rain in November in Vancouver. What is being requested is that those who do it habitually maybe stop for half a second and imagine that perhaps they're tossing out a few babies with the bathwater.

To suggest, as I believe you have throughout this thread, that regardless of extremes like Camping + co, all religious belief is fundamentally absurd, is at the very least provocative, and possibly quite wrong. That is, in the broad scheme of things, there may just be something "supernatural" going on out there (in there?). I certainly haven't found undeniable proof that there isn't ... and, conversely, via a few psychedelic excursions, grounds to suspect that there might just be.

So yeah, as they taught me once in a conflict resolution course, unless you're just looking for more conflict, when you're convinced you're right about something, the correct strategy is not to keep driving your point home, but to get curious about the other's point of view. You might just learn something -- not that you're wrong about what you think or believe, but maybe that your "foe" has more dimension to him/her than you're giving him credit for ... which starts to allow for reconciliation.

But maybe you don't want reconciliation. Maybe you just want to win here. Which makes this not a discussion, but some kind of competition, at which point, I bow out. I've already got my money on the Canucks taking The Sharks in 5 and then blowing out whoever survives between the Bruins and Tampa Bay in 4 straight.
posted by philip-random at 11:34 AM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Camping's radio show, Open Forum, will be done live tonight. Not sure of the time. It's an awful site layout, apparently they reverted to the 2008 version.
posted by scalefree at 11:35 AM on May 23, 2011


Oh, right -- I forgot to add the Flunkie disclaimer.
?

You seem to be all angry at me, or upset with me, or something. Right from the getgo, the first thing you said to me was "Mother of Pearl!", as if what I had just said to you was some totally absurd attack.

Meanwhile, what was it that I said to you, that elicited that?

I said that it was possible that you were misinterpreting what the person you were all worked up about meant, and so maybe you should say exactly what it is that you think they meant.

Is that really so horrible? I thought perhaps some sort of misunderstanding was going on, and so was trying to suggest that maybe we should figure out if one was or not. But MOTHER OF PEARL, FLUNKIE IS TRYING TO DEFINE WHAT THE MEANING OF IS IS!

And then when you said that it's never OK to mock a religious belief, I remembered you having, seemingly, done so several times in this very thread. So I pointed those things out, and asked if you weren't mocking or if those things weren't religious beliefs. I didn't say you were a hypocrite or any such thing. I asked for explanation of what seemed to me to be a contradiction. I said things like "seems to me", so as to not imply that I know for sure what you meant. I even suggested a possible alternative interpretation that you might have meant, which would have made your statements seem more reasonable to me. MOTHER OF PEARL, FLUNKIE IS INTERPRETING MY WORDS MORE STRICTLY THAN A UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT JUSTICE!

Then you gave an explanation, claiming you didn't mean "know" when you said "know", and that you didn't mean "was" when you said "was". I said OK, I'm willing to accept your claim. And then, completely unprompted, without me being involved at all, MOTHER OF PEARL, I NEED TO ADD A FLUNKIE DISCLAIMER!

I don't know what the hell your problem is. I do know that I was not trying to be offensive or to get you all riled up. Perhaps you should take a step back and calm yourself down a little, but if you're not going to do that, please leave me the fuck out of it. Thank you.
posted by Flunkie at 11:36 AM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


>for somene who professes to "broad prejudices"

You realize that that was a joke, yeah?


I did not. Others have said very similar things and meant them seriously.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:42 AM on May 23, 2011


Because it's not the lack of belief I criticize about the anti-theists you're referring to -- it is the action of prejudging another person based on their belief that I criticize.

How are beliefs not a valid metric to judge someone by? Actions may speak louder, but what someone values says a lot about them too.
posted by spaltavian at 11:43 AM on May 23, 2011


philip-random: So yeah, as they taught me once in a conflict resolution course, unless you're just looking for more conflict, when you're convinced you're right about something, the correct strategy is not to keep driving your point home, but to get curious about the other's point of view.

It would be nice, but I'm not holding my breath for anyone to contribute a serious comment about interpretation of Revelation or eschatology from the perspective of their particular religious community, and those few brave souls that do get drowned out by the usual tone axe grinding.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:44 AM on May 23, 2011


How are beliefs not a valid metric to judge someone by? Actions may speak louder, but what someone values says a lot about them too.

....What someone values does tell you about them, but if all they do is have an idea, what impact does that have on you? They're not going to have any affect on you if all they do is have that idea in their head, right? It's not like you'll be personally affected if they sit in their house and think real hard.

And to head a common argument I've heard off at the pass -- yes, beliefs can influence how they vote and how they raise their kids. But voting and raising kids are still actions. Plenty of others who have those same beliefs vote and raise their kids in different ways. So we're back to the actions stemming from beliefs that's a metric. ...A belief, just sitting in someone's head, does nothing to affect me.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:54 AM on May 23, 2011


KirkJob: one liberal Christian interpretation of Revelations I've heard is that it's about something that already happened -- the fall of Rome. In other words, Revelation wasn't about the end of the world, but rather about the end of that era of the world.

The notes on the Ontario Consultants for Religious Tolerance page seem to bear that out --

"Most skeptics and liberal Christian theologians largely interpret the contents of the books of Daniel and Revelation as having no prophetic information for our future. Many regard Revelation as being composed of visions, hallucinations or nightmares of the author, of little meaning for Christians today. Some believe that the purpose of the book of Revelation was to stiffen resolve in the early Christian movement to withstand persecution by the Roman Empire. Thus, its purpose was to predict persecutions and other events that were to happened to the early Christian church. They also reject the apparent prophecies in the Book of Daniel. They believe that Daniel was written early in the 2nd century BCE, long after most of the events had actually happened. It was history recorded, not their future prophesized."

(emphasis mine.)

Also, coincidentally, I recently spoke with a friend who was once in a seminary, and we were talking about the Rapture and similar eschatology -- he said that at some point, he had to write a term paper on some theological point of his choosing, and chose something to do with eschatology, mainly for his own amusement. (He didn't believe it as such, but wanted to delve into the origin of "the Rapture" to satisfy his own "how the hey did people come up with that and what's it all about" curiosity.) The problem he ran into, he said, was that the doctrine of the Rapture, as it is being preached today was born in the 19th Century and was born in fundamentalist Protestant sects -- and that meant he couldn't write about it. (He said he ended up reading Revelations about five times in a row looking for something he could point to that influenced Catholic doctrine, found very little, and then just kind of pulled something out of his ass.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:05 PM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's the reason why, on a very different subject, we reject the whole notion of "hate the sin but not the sinner" as facile when applied to sexual orientation. The relationships between internal sexual orientation, sexual orientation, and political identity are too complex to fully pull apart.

Thank you EC.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:28 PM on May 23, 2011


Harold Camping speaks the day after 'the Rapture.'
posted by ericb at 12:35 PM on May 23, 2011


well I enjoyed this thread, and if anyone mocks me for it I'll call them a smug, intolerant bigot.
posted by Summer at 12:40 PM on May 23, 2011


That video is pretty sad, ericb. I mean, I'm glad you posted it, but jeez, Camping just looks completely beaten down and, by his own admission, utterly bewildered. I'm glad the guy talking to him didn't behave like an asshole, because it very easily could've gone down that road.

I think Camping's a nut, and I'm so sorry that so many people were taken in by all this stuff -- and it seems pretty clear that Camping himself truly believed what he was saying. Still, it's impossible for me not to have sympathy for him, especially after seeing that sad, broken man on the video. He's somebody's crazy grandpa, and in this instance, anyway, my instinct to pity him is far stronger than my outrage over him being a charlatan and a person whose beliefs I find pretty despicable.
posted by shiu mai baby at 12:54 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's the reason why, on a very different subject, we reject the whole notion of "hate the sin but not the sinner" as facile when applied to sexual orientation. The relationships between internal sexual orientation, sexual orientation, and political identity are too complex to fully pull apart.

That is true, but my hunch is that the people who say they "hate the sin but not the sinner" actually behave a lot more like they hate the sinner a little bit too, as a result, which is the real problem.

My hunch is that if you found someone who truly and sincerely was of the opinion that homosexuality was sinful, but also genuinely decided to cope with that by just keeping it to themselves and praying every night, and treating anyone who was gay with genuine tolerance and respect in the meantime, then that would be a different situation from people who claim to "hate the sin but love the sinner" but still actively oppose gay marriage or actively avoid their gay neighbors. I do realize that sounds like a hell of a dichotomy -- but I've met people who've been similarly tolerant towards me because of something I believed. It's rare, but it's do-able.

And it brings us back to actions vs. beliefs. Often hard to detangle, but they're there.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:57 PM on May 23, 2011


And the justifications begin:
Gunther Von Harringa, who heads a religious organization that produces content for Camping's media enterprise, said he was "very surprised" the Rapture did not happen as predicted, but he and other believers were in good spirits.

"It hasn't shaken my faith, and we're still searching the Scriptures to understand why it did not happen," said Von Harringa, president of EBible Fellowship, which he operates from his home in Delaware, Ohio. "It's just a matter of OK, Lord, where do we go from here?"

Family Radio's special projects coordinator, Michael Garcia, said he believed the delay was God's way of separating true believers from those willing to doubt what he said were clear biblical warnings.

"Maybe this had to happen for there to be a separation between those who have faith and those who don't," he said. "It's highly possible that our Lord is delaying his coming."
posted by ericb at 1:58 PM on May 23, 2011


Practices like "hate the sin but not the sinner" still lead to social pressure and thus to self-selection and self-censorship, though. The idea that we can widely consider something to be bad without any actual consequences whatsoever is ridiculous; even if individuals don't "actively oppose gay marriage or actively avoid their gay neighbors", a society which strongly believes that gayness is wrong will look like... well, it might look a lot like our society did during the first half of the last century, when people didn't have to avoid gay neighbors or oppose gay marriage because they weren't even willing to publicly admit that gay people existed.
posted by vorfeed at 2:10 PM on May 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


these days i'm a united methodist. where's the casserole?
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 3:25 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Haven't we had enough of this subject? It's been posted before, in threads that are still open, and everybody except a small group of dupes knew it was horseshit. If the only function of this thread is to once again mock the people who were victimized by this, and to gloat because we were not similarly fooled -- well, shame on us. We may have the advantage of not being fools for faith, but, you know, we still end up being gloating assholes whose understanding of the world is limited to who do we feel contempt for, and whether it's based on reason or not, it fucking sucks.

I simply disagree with this. Nothing about it sucks. Christians are loony; people who fall for things like Harold Camping's date-specific take on this Rapture madness are SuperSteroidLoony. Imagine a world without that grade of repulsive mental sewage for ten seconds. Realsies, now: take a deep breath and think on it. I will too, just so you know I'm not just being an ass.

***in... ***out...

Aye: I'm going to have to go the heartless, "Darwin"-evoking, shrugging with a snark on top route without apology. I do not believe that people that stupid are in need of compassion. A good public verbal flogging, in forever open threads, is the least that we fellow humans can do.

"the kid that swallows too many marbles doesn't get the chance to have marble-swallowing kids of his own" --George Carlin (paraphrased)

open letter to the dead horse I just finished beating: I'll do it again, I will!!!1! Regards, hP
posted by herbplarfegan at 4:44 PM on May 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


RE: "hate the sin but not the sinner"

Yeah, in my experience, human beings don't really work that way, in general. From what I've seen, it's a platitude used to provide cover for people who really just seem to need a rationale for their hate.

I'm sorry, but when you choose to hate an innate, defining aspect of someone's identity, it's not very loving of that person, no matter how many semantic contortions you engage in to rationalize it.
posted by darkstar at 4:49 PM on May 23, 2011


I do not believe that people that stupid are in need of compassion. A good public verbal flogging, in forever open threads, is the least that we fellow humans can do.

It's kind of refreshing when someone is completely unashamed about being a bad human being.

Only kind of.
posted by dersins at 4:58 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think it's possible to say, "I think you are wrong about ___" and not say, "and that makes you a horrible person."
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:09 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, no kidding. Turns out it's not kicking puppies, beating people up, or raping/killing that makes one a bad human being -- to say nothing of taking 18 million dollars from desperate people and then convincing them that they're about to get a nonexistent special reward for being better than 99.9998% of humanity, as that is an act worthy only of compassion -- no, what makes you a bad human being is calling Christians "loony" on a messageboard, and promising to do so again.

Oh, the humanity! I wish I had never been witness to a human being as bad as herbplarfegan! Would that I could pluck out my traitorous eyes!
posted by vorfeed at 6:31 PM on May 23, 2011 [7 favorites]


Does the Catholic Church refund all the donations they got from their followers when they find out there's no heaven after they die to reward them for their lifetime of tithing to the church?

Well, in fairness, the Catholic Church has to spend most of its money on big fancy hats and hiding pedo priests.
posted by orthogonality at 6:41 PM on May 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Remember how I and probably others made jokes about dance-punks The Rapture returning? They just announced a new album.

I love the timing.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:20 PM on May 23, 2011


The goal posts have been moved.
Radio host now says Judgment Day coming in October
posted by ericb at 7:25 PM on May 23, 2011


Wow. Such temerity.

"Family Radio's special projects coordinator, Michael Garcia has said he believed the delay was God's way of separating true believers from those willing to doubt what he said were clear biblical warnings.

"Maybe this had to happen for there to be a separation between those who have faith and those who don't," he said. "It's highly possible that our Lord is delaying his coming."


I, too, hope there will shortly be a "separation" between those who have faith in your ridiculous bullshit (i.e. you and your bank account) and everyone, everyone else.
posted by vorfeed at 7:32 PM on May 23, 2011


Also, looks like everyone who had "it's a test of faith!" on their ticket gets to split the pool...
posted by vorfeed at 7:39 PM on May 23, 2011


ericb: "The goal posts have been moved.
Radio host now says Judgment Day coming in October"
FU-uck you, old man.
posted by notsnot at 7:55 PM on May 23, 2011


"Radio host now says Judgment Day coming in October"

So five more months to separate his audience from any remaining money they might have.

Right? He still have millions of dollars. More than enough to live on and run he radio program for five months. If he doesn't refuse to take one more penny he is overtly being a thief rather than a believer.

But he said he wouldn't give away all his possessions ahead of Oct 21. "I still have to live in a house, I still have to drive a car," he said. "What would be the value of that? If it is Judgment Day why would I give it away?"

Jesus didn't have a car and a mansion asshole. Give your stuff away and spend your last five months on Earth in the streets preaching to the poor and homeless.

This man is a thief. A rich, pampered, thief.
posted by y6y6y6 at 8:20 PM on May 23, 2011


You can't knock a sucker or smarten up a chump.
posted by warbaby at 8:28 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I challenge the Christians who are annoyed about being compared to Camping to state clearly and unambiguously what rational beliefs they have that are a necessary part of their decision to call themselves Christian.

what is a rational belief?

it's a meaningless, self-contradictory phrase - and using it reveals you as being somewhat irrational
posted by pyramid termite at 8:59 PM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


I see the "I'm right and that tears it" crowd just arrived.

I'm out.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:02 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Clearly, the Metafilter Atheist Brigade and their dark master Richard Dawkins are responsible for this poor man's calculations being off by five months.

Clearly we should just stop talking about this at all!
Haven't we had enough of this subject? It's been posted before, in threads that are still open, and everybody except a small group of dupes knew it was horseshit. If the only function of this thread is to once again mock the people who were victimized by this, and to gloat because we were not similarly fooled -- well, shame on us. We may have the advantage of not being fools for faith, but, you know, we still end up being gloating assholes whose understanding of the world is limited to who do we feel contempt for, and whether it's based on reason or not, it fucking sucks.
Clearly we at Metafilter, not Harold Camping, are the ones who are really hurting Harold Camping's duped (1994), doubly-duped (May 21 2001), now triply duped (October 21 2011) followers. We should just shut up about it, because it's our fault for noticing the Emperor has no clothes. If we'd just kept our smug gloating atheist mouths shut, Jesus would have come back on schedule Saturday at 6pm local time in each different time zone. Shame on us, Metafilter!
posted by orthogonality at 9:02 PM on May 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: Because the belief motivates such a broad range of actions, I confine myself to forming opinions on people's actions alone. The belief is independent of all of these -- I may not ascribe to it, but I respect that others do, and for many, that belief spurs them to positive action, and thus for them it has value. It is only the actions alone that I form opinions about.

I want to reiterate a point because I think it probably one of the most significant obstacles humanity faces for the short term future, and that is the ability to agree on what reality is. The special pass religions get for denying the existence all of observable science is unacceptable and extremely dangerous.

Let's get down to some brass tacks:
Shimkus, an Illinois Republican, who won his seventh term [in November], earned a dubious bit of YouTube notoriety in March 2009 when he told a subcommittee hearing on energy and the environment that we needn't worry about global warming because of Genesis 8:21-22...

Shimkus notes that he believes the climate is changing, and toward the warmer side. But he questions whether spending money to mitigate its effects is wise, especially given God's guarantee that floods would not destroy the earth before Jesus returns. ( source )
Now, why is this so scary? Because regardless of what reality is, this guy is going to turn to the same passage and deny it. So if science says that kids are healthier if they get sex education in 6th grade, this guy will also probably deny it from some random scripture. And if another study says that putting people through rehab for drug offenses will be less expensive and more effective and better for society, this is the type of guy who will ignore that and say that drugs are "wrong" and users should still be thrown in jail, even if there is no biblical scripture to support that. He will deny the internal logic of the book, even after he uses it to deny the logic of the rest of the universe.

And all we have to do to get every single rational person, including most Christians, on board with mocking this guy into early retirement is say that these are his ideas instead of stuff he thinks are in the Bible. If there's a guy on the street corner carrying a sign that said, "A voice told me that the world will end tomorrow" he is immediately written off as insane. If a guy in a suit says "The Bible told me that the world will end tomorrow" he gets a shitload of press coverage, even though there is no logical difference in their statement, other than one is attached to a popular religion.

This is the dangerous germination of irrational behavior not being met with consequences, even as insignificant as a joke or as significant as earnest criticism. The person will continue to construct their own reality and reject any evidence to the contrary, regardless of how overwhelming it is. The worst thing a society could possibly do in this situation is shield him from criticism because of the popularity of his particular source material.

This exception for a minimum standard of rationality is an extraordinary burden on our society. Religions should rightfully be placed next to hand reading and seances and everything else that depends on supernatural events without even a lame attempt at peer-reviewed observable repetition. Sure, religions are always going to be around, just as many other societal ills are, but that doesn't mean that they can't be kept to an acceptable minimum through democratic action. (I support free practice of religion, just not criticism-free practice.)

This doesn't mean that I believe in discarding the valuable art and philosophy and science that religious culture has created, anymore than I would throw out the theories of Newton because he also happened to be a religious crank. You take the good stuff, and throw out the bad. What you don't do is justify the bad stuff through empty platitudes about religious tolerance.

Even though misogyny is condoned in the Bible, it is evil and irrational. Even though slavery is condoned in the Bible, it is evil and irrational. Even though genocide is condoned in the Bible, it is evil and irrational. Even though the end of the world is in the Bible, it is evil and irrational and extraordinarily dangerous. The bad stuff is bad, and should be treated no differently than any other similar nonsense even if it is associated with a popular religion.

Ignoring someone's beliefs until they turn into actions is like ignoring the wolf in your pasture until they start eating sheep.
posted by notion at 9:17 PM on May 23, 2011 [10 favorites]


Probably worth emphasizing that one incredibly useful way of attacking a dangerous and evil action is to attack the mistaken beliefs that are driving it, but if you allow irrationality to go uncriticized when it's relatively benign, you also make it harder to attack irrationality when it's NOT benign.
posted by empath at 9:29 PM on May 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


You know, notion, I agree with almost everything you're saying. Irrationality can be extremely dangerous, you won't get any argument from me.

If there's a guy on the street corner carrying a sign that said, "A voice told me that the world will end tomorrow" he is immediately written off as insane. If a guy in a suit says "The Bible told me that the world will end tomorrow" he gets a shitload of press coverage, even though there is no logical difference in their statement, other than one is attached to a popular religion.


No; there are other differences. If the guy on the street corner is carrying a sign that has a bible verse supporting his crazy rant scrawled on it in black magic marker, he still doesn't get press coverage. Most guys in suits don't get that press coverage, either. To declare the difference between a harmless irrational person and a dangerous irrational person is simply "Religion" is a massive oversimplification, and leads you to attacking correlations rather than actual causes.

And this is where we part company completely:
Ignoring someone's beliefs until they turn into actions is like ignoring the wolf in your pasture until they start eating sheep.

If only there were some way to police people's thoughts before they become too dangerous, amirite?

one incredibly useful way of attacking a dangerous and evil action is to attack the mistaken beliefs that are driving it

This is only true if the reasons people do things are generally the same reasons they tell themselves that they're doing things. If, instead, most people's conscious reasons aren't causes but more often, post-hoc rationalizations, then it doesn't make a damn bit of difference and may even reinforce their stubbornness. Ask yourself, honestly, how effective has attacking peoples' beliefs been in changing their course of action, in your own experiences? How many people have you convinced to give up their religion by mocking them relentlessly?

In the real world, you don't actually make progress persuading people unless you start by respecting them.
posted by mstokes650 at 10:21 PM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


If only there were some way to police people's thoughts before they become too dangerous, amirite?

Really??

In the real world, you don't actually make progress persuading people unless you start by respecting them.

There's actually a neat trick you can use to get around this. Instead of engaging all the people you disagree with individually, be very rude to just a small group of them. You might start by calling them "extraordinarily obnoxious", "defined by ignorance and contempt," "an embarrassment", etc. Rejoice as onlookers fall all over themselves to demonstrate how worthy they are in comparison.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 11:13 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Radio host now says Judgment Day coming in October

Called it.
posted by scalefree at 11:21 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


We're all on double secret probation now.
posted by telstar at 3:02 AM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


notion - amen, and then some. Great post.
posted by Decani at 5:44 AM on May 24, 2011


Really??

Bolding the words "thought police" in the sentence and ending it with "amirite" wasn't clear enough, you needed a [/hamburger] tag, too?
posted by mstokes650 at 6:05 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


PZ Myers puts it in his own characteristically gentle way. I suspect the estimable Peeze would get quite a few timeouts over here, but he's still right.
posted by Decani at 6:22 AM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Okay, this is going to sound weird, but:

You know how when we talk about homophobes, someone brings up the idea that maybe some of them have latent homosexual urges, and so think that everyone does, and that's why it's important to have all these laws against homosexuality, to prevent these urges that "everyone" feels?

I wonder if the people who are adamant against religion are people whose only exposure has been strongly negative, and therefore all religion is similarly close-minded and horrible, and so they think that the only reason someone would be involved in a religion is bigotry or self-delusion.

That's the only explanation I can come up with, really, because if you're raised in a religious environment that is healthy, I don't see how you could perceive it as anything other than a positive experience.* I was raised in a "spiritual but not religious" household until around 8 or so. I knew that I was Jewish but we were never really observant. So I started asking my parents about it, and saying I wanted to be more involved. We started going to synagogue. And I loved it. I don't go to services as often as I used to, but I still experience it as a very positive practice in my life. Sometimes just being around other people singing prayers that are hundreds or thousands of years old gives me a kind of electric charge.

And although the Unitarians are often jokingly referred to as "Atheists with children", there's no denying that for all intents and purposes the gathering there each Sunday is also a religious service. You'd be hard pressed to call the people gathering there bigots or fools.

I'm a big believer that intolerance within religion was developed to justify intolerance in people and groups. There's nothing inherently intolerant in religion so long a you are flexible enough to be willing to change and grow over time. Tibet Buddhism does not have a monopoly on religious evolution. Every religion will have its followers that adapt to their world. And every religion will have people who resist change kicking and screaming. That reflects more on the nature of people than the nature of religion, I think. Don't forget that for a long time vernacular vs. Latin mass was a controversial issue for the Catholic Church, and keep in mind that this in itself changed little of the Church's key precepts.

I'm just saying for every Fred Phelps or Jim Bakker there are hundreds of people who have a positive effect on the world through work guided by religion.

* I'm not disputing there are many who use religion for horrible things, or that many who are religious are also close-minded. I just disagree that all religious experience is negative, foolish, and indistinguishable from religious extremism. Think of it this way: just by being involved in politics doesn't make you a Tea Partier
posted by Deathalicious at 6:47 AM on May 24, 2011


Decani,
Reading the terrific Myers piece you just linked induced...rapture.
Thanks so much.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 6:48 AM on May 24, 2011


I wonder if the people who are adamant against religion are people whose only exposure has been strongly negative, and therefore all religion is similarly close-minded and horrible, and so they think that the only reason someone would be involved in a religion is bigotry or self-delusion.

I actually don't have particularly bad feelings about Catholicism or the Catholic Church, so no. My bad experiences with Christians and believers all came after deciding I was an atheist, not before. I'm against it for the same reason that I'm against, I dunno, the Norse Pantheon or the Hollow Earth theory or the idea of phlogiston or the luminiferous aether or homeopathy. Because it's not true, and because believing in things which aren't true is harmful to those that believe it.

And although the Unitarians are often jokingly referred to as "Atheists with children", there's no denying that for all intents and purposes the gathering there each Sunday is also a religious service.

Yeah, I mean if you strip away all of the concrete beliefs from a religion and leaving only a nebulous 'spirituality', I don't have any problem with it, whatsoever, and I'm not going to waste any time arguing against it. I don't have a problem with atheistic (or barely theistic) buddhism, and I found it really useful for me to recenter myself when I was in my 20s. I don't really even have a problem with the belief that hardly anything in the bible is true, but that it's a useful storehouse of ancient wisdom, combined with some interesting stories. If you strip away everything about religion and you're just left with some belief in a 'higher power' that doesn't interfere with the world in any way, that's fine, but I'd suggest that you can just leave out the belief in a 'higher power' and nothing changes.

I don't have a problem with religious 'people'. I have a problem with religious 'belief', and I have a problem with people who spread it. And people who spread any other kind of ignorance instead of truth, such as conspiracy theories, or quack science.
posted by empath at 7:01 AM on May 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


I probably should have said "a problem with organizations that spread it". Individuals in the churches aren't the problem as much as the organization that thrives economically on the spread of ignorance.
posted by empath at 7:04 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think religious moderates and liberals have their own problems without accusing them of being only a few steps removed from Camping.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:19 AM on May 24, 2011


Let the dog poop dry on the lawn, already.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 7:28 AM on May 24, 2011


If only there were some way to police people's thoughts before they become too dangerous, amirite?

Religion is a self-identification. If you tell me you're a libertarian, or a Republican, or a Lutheran, I'm going to know certain things about your belief system without any need for thought police.

Ask yourself, honestly, how effective has attacking peoples' beliefs been in changing their course of action, in your own experiences? How many people have you convinced to give up their religion by mocking them relentlessly?

I don't mock them relentlessly. I criticize them relentlessly. They consider it mockery when I ask if they actually believe that a burning bush spoke to Moses because that idea is so ridiculous that it's an insult to bring it up. You're forcing them to say, "Yes, I believe that a bush literally spoke to Moses."

In the real world, you don't actually make progress persuading people unless you start by respecting them.

In the real world, some religious people believe that you deserve to burn in eternity for not loving their personal God, or that they are commanded by their God to murder anyone who doesn't share their beliefs. While I will be polite to them and respect the individual to a point, I have nothing but passionate contempt for their hatred, however well it is dressed up. Whenever this sort of hate is disguised as racism, or sexism, or nationalism, I receive no objections for calling them out. Does religious bigotry get a pass for the same hatred? Fuck no it doesn't get a pass. Because it's far more dangerous. If you're a nationalist you still fear death. If you're a religious nutcase, death is the beginning of paradise.

They're passing laws to punish women who want to get an abortion. They're funding the hate against same-partner marriages. They're denying science and potentially putting the ecosystem of the planet at risk. They lobby for wars and violence and misogyny and hate. Why the fuck should I be nice about my criticism?

They're not being checked by anyone meaningful in the Christian community. No one said a fucking word about non-violence when we invaded Afghanistan or Iraq. They instead ignored the words of their supposed savior and went straight to Old Testament vitriol.

Let me give you an anecdotal example from yesterday. A deliverywoman was complaining about an alternative school for troubled teen, and how badly they behaved around her. I was understanding -- they are little shits, some of them -- but I said it's important to try and rehabilitate them while they are young. She said they can't be rehabilitated. They should just be thrown in jail, and if they don't straighten out after that, they should be executed so they don't waste "our" money. She called it Old Testament justice.

While maintaining my composure as much as I could, I decided to call her out. I asked her if she really believed that. She said yes. I asked, "When did you stop being a Christian?" She asked what I meant. I said, "I don't think Christ ever called for people in need to be jailed and executed," and repeated the question again, adding that I think that idea of jailing and executing teenagers was hateful and wrong. Does she think Jesus would push the button on the electric chair? She started saying "How dare you!" and all of that other bullshit, how dare I judge her and her religion, I didn't know what she had been through, etc etc.

If you're telling me that I was in the wrong for not respecting her incredibly repulsive worldview, then we'll just have to agree to disagree. There are some people who hope that they are on God's side, and do their best to do what they consider is good. I don't necessarily have a problem with that. I was raised as a Jehovah's Witness for part of my life, and while I disagree with their worldview, their churches and leaders are mostly modest, and they never advocate legislation to impose their values on others. If all religions took this path, I wouldn't care. I'm not here to tell other people how to live.

But as soon as that starts turning into passing legislation and perpetrating prejudice, I will raise some issues. When it starts turning into calling for inhumane punishment for "terrorists" (which is just code for Muslims, they're not thinking about the IRA), or for special laws against any of my fellow citizens, I'm going to start getting loud. When they're swindling the elderly and the desperate out of their hard earned livelihood through fear and talk of the end of the world, I will rightfully disrespect their values publicly and with great zeal. If more moderate Christians feel bad to be associated with them, then fucking say something. Disassociate yourself, and let everyone know that you don't share the same insane values. Marginalize them, and then you don't have to feel offended when I criticize them.

When it comes to Christians, and their demand to be free of criticism, you really have to sit in awe of how ironic their position is. As if Christ sat by and kept his mouth shut while the Pharisees continued to abuse their position within their society and their religion.
posted by notion at 8:34 AM on May 24, 2011 [11 favorites]


FROM Decani's linked article:

It's the very same rot, the poison of religion that twists minds away from reality and fastens them on hellish bogeymen. They're demented fuckwits, every one, and the big lie rests right on the fundamental beliefs of supernaturalism and deities, not on the ephemera of one crank's bizarre interpretations.

Wow, some people are just so angry they'll never listen to reason.
posted by philip-random at 8:49 AM on May 24, 2011


(Same sex marriages, not same partner. I'm not even sure what that would mean.)
posted by notion at 9:05 AM on May 24, 2011


the bricabrac man: Astro Zombie, when his grandstanding fell flat.
This will be my future response to Chaka, when the walls came down.


I am both surprised and ashamed to admit that I actually got this instantly.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 9:15 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bolding the words "thought police" in the sentence and ending it with "amirite" wasn't clear enough, you needed a [/hamburger] tag, too?

No, it was perfectly clear that your attempt to identify your opponents' position with that of Orwell's authoritarian tyrants was masquerading as some sort of joke. What's not clear to me is how that makes any difference.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 10:03 AM on May 24, 2011


What's not clear to me is how that makes any difference.

As I understood it, mstoke's point was that to act against someone's beliefs is to act against their thoughts, hence thought-police. This is a damned good point. Frustrating as it is to listen to the likes of Camping and his crowd blather on, as soon as we try to shut them down, we're opening the door on criminalizing thought as opposed to action. This is a huge issue when it comes to rights, one that gets civil liberties types into all kinds of murky water as they find themselves supporting some really doubtful positions ... because it's more important to err on the side of allowing free speech/thought than it is to go the other way and start shutting down that speech/thought, which would be the totalitarian/fascist route.

So we're left with fighting their free speech/thought with our own, in Thunderdome if need be.

keep on rockin' in the free world
posted by philip-random at 10:20 AM on May 24, 2011


notion: "Religion is a self-identification. If you tell me you're a libertarian, or a Republican, or a Lutheran, I'm going to know certain things about your belief system without any need for thought police."

If they tell you they are Christian all you will really know is that they probably follow the Nicine Creed. And if they tell you they're Catholic, there's a 50% chance they won't believe in evolution even though Vatican teaching is in favor of it. If you actually know what their beliefs are supposed to be, fine, but too often lazy generalization makes things ugly.

"If more moderate Christians feel bad to be associated with them, then fucking say something. Disassociate yourself, and let everyone know that you don't share the same insane values. Marginalize them, and then you don't have to feel offended when I criticize them."

In these threads, people speak out all the time. Moderate pastors speak to their congregations all the time about it. And for this:

"They're not being checked by anyone meaningful in the Christian community. No one said a fucking word about non-violence when we invaded Afghanistan or Iraq."

Pax Christi had marches and protests. We talked to congresscritters. We did as much, if not more, as any other liberal group that opposed the war. We were ignored like all the rest. This is the same bullshit that moderate Muslims get from U.S. conservatives - "Why don't you do something about your extremist brethren?" The answer is that they don't listen to us either - they don't consider us to be true X and visa versa. We've been here before, so let me try something different:

Consider trying to argue with a self-identified group that says this:
smcameron: "A microcosm of all religion, all spirituality even. It's crap, all the way down"

and this:
notion: "There are some people who hope that they are on God's side, and do their best to do what they consider is good. I don't necessarily have a problem with that."

What does that say about that group and their beliefs? Do I judge notion because of what smcameron said? Lots of people have in this thread and in threads past, and it hasn't been helpful. Map this over religious people and the shitfest that always ensues and you get the picture.
posted by charred husk at 10:26 AM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


philip-random, what do you mean by "act against" people's thoughts or beliefs? Does that include talking? Writing? Putting up signs or websites? Holding protests? Are the atheists in this thread somehow going beyond those things? Is there any reason to believe we aim to?

I don't understand how anybody can be part of the "thought police" while having no authority whatsoever over the people whose ideas they oppose. Criticising bad ideas is simply very, very, very different from criminalising them. Indeed, it's necessary.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 10:55 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't understand how anybody can be part of the "thought police" while having no authority whatsoever over the people whose ideas they oppose. Criticising bad ideas is simply very, very, very different from criminalising them. Indeed, it's necessary.

You're right. A back-check of previous stuff reveals that notion was talking about taking extreme (albeit non-violent) action against those whose warped ideas freak us out to the degree that we can imagine these ideas leading eventually to actions. mstroke then countered with the idea that this was getting scarily close to stuff like "thought-crime" ... but nowhere did notion actually suggest getting the authorities involved.

Which gets us back to the real question (for me anyway), which is how do we effectively dissuade the willfully ignorant from their willful, ignorant courses without resorting to baseball bats and tasers?
posted by philip-random at 11:20 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


that's actually kinda hard to say.. the problem (for me anyway) is I really want to stave a situation where my M.O. is suddenly to keep my skull-- and the skulls of my loved ones-- intact when the willfully ignorant decide that it's appropriate to take the bats and tasers to us.

If the loons just wanted to dance and chant and.. heh-- follow the Surmon on the Mount, let's say-- I probably wouldn't bother to criticize them, certainly not as extensively, as there wouldn't be much reason to put my time and headspace into it.

But that isn't the case. There's the traditional and legistrated evils, etc. that have already been brought up in this thread, not to mention the young minds who are being taught to believe the next generation of Phelps' and the Campings' of the world tomorrow.
But still.. even with that all cleared away..

Lastly, when it comes to moderate believers: there's nothing good that they are doing that cannot be done without the benefit of the bearded man above and the boogeyman below. There is, however, harm that they can do if they decide again, as they have before, that it's time to take their holy book literally and commit the most horrible evils thinkable.
posted by herbplarfegan at 3:52 PM on May 24, 2011


I can't take the Rapture seriously. The World has always been Ending, according to somebody or other. I envy people with faith. I haven't had faith since about 5th grade, and it's colder without it, and I just can't bring myself to join a church without faith. The rapture cupcakes made me laugh.

But. 1 person I'm facebook-friends with posted a wistful remark about still being here, and it was poignant. So I don't want to publicly mock people. I feel sad for those who were deluded enough to believe this, and who gave away everything they own. This Camping guy is clearly a charlatan, an attention-whore who harms people.

Conan O'Brien had some comments about cynicism, and I recommend them.
posted by theora55 at 3:57 PM on May 24, 2011


I <3 Conan, but I don't see what that has to do with this.

Perhaps Camping's dupees would be a little better off now if they'd had some healthy cynicsim, I might wonder.
posted by herbplarfegan at 4:34 PM on May 24, 2011


If they tell you they are Christian all you will really know is that they probably follow the Nicine Creed.

No, if they are a Christian, 99.5% believe that Jesus was born of a virgin and the son of a supernatural being as recorded in the Bible which is the word of God. Most Bibles have about 1200 pages of information, which those Christians think are the word of God. The vast majority of Christians (95%?) are derivations of Catholicism or Protestantism, which differ in just a few books.

What does that say about that group and their beliefs? Do I judge notion because of what smcameron said? Lots of people have in this thread and in threads past, and it hasn't been helpful. Map this over religious people and the shitfest that always ensues and you get the picture.

An atheist does not have a declarative belief system, other than the singular idea that God does not exist. I think it's disingenuous to compare the two.
posted by notion at 5:03 PM on May 24, 2011


Religion is a self-identification. If you tell me you're a libertarian, or a Republican, or a Lutheran, I'm going to know certain things about your belief system without any need for thought police.

Considering this thread is about degrees of extremism, I'm not sure how you're fitting self-identification in there. I've heard lots of people tell me they were Republicans, but hey, I live in New England, our reddest self-identifying Republicans are still embarrassed about how right-wing Mitt Romney pretends to be. I've never, ever heard a single person self-identify as "an extremist right-winger", or as "a religious zealot". Yet you said yourself, we should be concerned about ideas before they turn into actions. If they haven't turned into any actions at all yet, how are we supposed to even know they exist? Even self-identifying is an action (sometimes one that is considered quite significant, see also: evangelism).

Whenever this sort of hate is disguised as racism, or sexism, or nationalism, I receive no objections for calling them out. Does religious bigotry get a pass for the same hatred?


Religion and bigotry are two separate things. "Religious bigotry" is no different than "military bigotry" or "corporate bigotry". The US military clearly has some deep-seated issues with homophobia and sexism; and yet despite the fact that the US military is far closer to being a single monolithic entity than "religion" is, I suspect you do not assume all soldiers are sexist and homophobic. I suspect you also don't think the solution to the military's problems is to drown them all in snark.

I don't mock them relentlessly. I criticize them relentlessly.

Okay then, how many people have you convinced to give up their religion by criticizing them relentlessly? Any? Was it more or less than the number of people that simply stopped being willing to listen to anything you said? Wait, you just gave us a nice anecdote about your encounter with just one of those people that you criticize relentlessly. How did that turn out for you?

She started saying "How dare you!" and all of that other bullshit, how dare I judge her and her religion, I didn't know what she had been through, etc etc.

So uhh...you really think you got through to her, then? Look, you want to relentlessly criticize the religious to make yourself feel better, go right ahead. All I'm telling you is, it's not effective. You're not actually going to convince them to see your side that way.

I'm not telling you you have to respect her or her beliefs - in my ideal world people are free to think whatever they want about whoever they want and are only responsible for their actions - I'm just telling you that disrespecting her doesn't work the way you seem to think it does. Odds are that she left that conversation almost certainly more convinced than ever that she was 100% right and you were a godless heathen. By tiny degrees, encounters with hostile people "outside her tribe" like you actually make her more extreme - you're actually isolating her, encouraging her to spend more time with the people in her church as opposed to you and reinforcing the idea that she has nothing in common with nonbelievers.

Those moderate Christians that you so look down on for not doing "enough" to hold back their crazy brethren have done a lot more to tone down their crazy brethren than any amount of angry atheist bile ever has or ever will. It's only possible because the crazy Christians, to at least some extent, still actually care what their fellow Christians think. Your opinion matters to them not at all.

But that's all on the individual scale. As I've repeatedly suggested in this thread to no avail, if you really want to combat the growth of religious extremism on a broader scale, you really need to stop treating it as a cause of [stuff you don't like] and start viewing it as a symptom of deeper problems.

Naturally, all this only applies to people who actually want to move the debate forward; those more interested in reminding themselves how right they are and how wrong and dangerous the other side is need not apply.
posted by mstokes650 at 6:21 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


[few comments removed - THAT's IT. Take your name-calling out of this thread and preferably off this site. If you want to have this fight in MetaTalk, then that is your option. We don't call people retards here. Knock it off.]
posted by jessamyn at 8:15 AM on May 25, 2011


Look, you want to relentlessly criticize the religious to make yourself feel better, go right ahead. All I'm telling you is, it's not effective. You're not actually going to convince them to see your side that way.

I quite frankly don't care. You can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into. The next generation is what matters, and having atheists being open and public about being atheists is the most important thing. I'll worry about going out of my way to respecdt the poor, put upon community of believers in this country when an open atheist can get elected dog catcher, let alone to major public office.
posted by empath at 8:30 AM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


You can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into.

It does strike me as odd that this assertion is so frequently raised by atheists who grew up as theists.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:38 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


It does strike me as odd that this assertion is so frequently raised by atheists who grew up as theists.

It seems to me that by and large the anti-conversion stories atheists raised as theists give is not that they were reasoned out of their religion by others, but that they had questions/doubts that they found religion didn't satisfy. There's a difference between that and trying to argue someone else into a different position
posted by logicpunk at 9:14 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's true, but it still seems like the sort of implicit hopelessness/resignation of the assertion isn't entirely true.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:18 AM on May 25, 2011


Certainly not entirely true, but it's a generalization that has good empirical backing. People tend to discount information that doesn't jibe with what they believe and overweight information that corresponds with their beliefs. Not ALL people and not ALL the time, obviously, but often enough that it makes a good - if gloomy - heuristic.
posted by logicpunk at 9:41 AM on May 25, 2011


It's certainly true in my case that my atheism didn't come overnight on the basis of a single argument, which is why I think the best way to communicate our point of view is to live openly and live well.

But... Using Camping to attack Christians who reject Camping isn't going to work. And I'm struggling to see how arguments about atheist tone are relevant here either.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:48 AM on May 25, 2011


You can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into.

It does strike me as odd that this assertion is so frequently raised by atheists who grew up as theists.


Interesting. A. I agree. B. I don't.

I certainly reasoned myself into atheism as a young teen (with a little help from my friends, and Jethro Tull). But then, maybe seven years later, it was them "heroic doses of psychedelics" and the great "halls of karma" they seemed to reveal that sent me stumbling maybe not back to religion but certainly to the middle ground of "I Am Profoundly Uncertain About All Of This" where, some decades later, I still find myself.

So yeah, sometimes reason, sometimes the cool white light of revelation. As always with deep/high issues of existence/meaning/unmeaning, paradox finds its way into the situation. One of God's favorite tricks, I suspect, for those getting too close to The [so-called] Truth.
posted by philip-random at 10:04 AM on May 25, 2011


That's true, but it still seems like the sort of implicit hopelessness/resignation of the assertion isn't entirely true.

I wasn't convinced by anyone else's compelling argument against god to be an atheist. As I said in another thread (or was it this one?), I had no idea there were any atheists when I started going down that path. It was just a gradual accumulation of 'points against' that eventually tipped the scale for me -- ultimately, it was the combination of reading Hofstadter's Godel, Escher and Bach and Richard Dawkins's Selfish Gene when I was 18 or 19 or so that pushed me over the edge from 'having a lot of doubts' to being a full-fledged atheist. It wasn't because either one of them made an explicit argument against god in those books (they didn't), but that they gave me the scientific explanations I needed to replace the need for a soul and a creator in my model of the world.
posted by empath at 10:17 AM on May 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


I disagree -- I think you can argue people out of religion. It just tends to take a while.

In my experience: yes, people tend to get defensive and retreat when faced with public disapproval. Yes, they tend to discount information that doesn't jibe with what they believe, and they tend to leave the conversation more convinced than ever that they were 100% right. But the words hit home, anyway, and they sit in the heart and mind like shrapnel and wait for another time. I've had more than one person come up to me years later and say "you tried to tell me and I wouldn't listen, but you were right." One of my old friends from college insisted on shaking my hand over this issue a few years after graduation -- I hadn't even seen him since the ceremony. The fact that I was openly against religion made a difference to him, and to others; the idea that it "doesn't work" doesn't fit my experience.

In short: throwing thought-grenades can be an effective strategy, and a mixed strategy works better than restricting ourselves to "respecting the beliefs" of people who are already certain that their beliefs are correct. Like I said before, all that does is play into the same cultural norms which allow the religious to take their own correctness as a given. The simple act of rejecting those norms changes the game... and that's what people remember when doubt comes calling, not the 3000th conversation in which everyone gently tiptoed around their precious beliefs.

I think there's a place for both the kind hand of welcome and the upraised fist. Without "angry" atheists there'd be little or no discussion of atheism in the public sphere; we pretty much have Dawkins and (to a lesser extent) Hitchens to thank for this, like them or not. Likewise, without moderates there'd be no one for the religious to run to when they do start to doubt. As I said earlier, I think each of us is responsible enough to decide for ourselves which approach to take. Atheism does not have to be nice (or frothing) to "work", and it does not have to be anti-theist, either (though it certainly can be). It does not have to see religion as generally Positive, Neutral, Negative, or Too Complicated To Answer, and it does not have to include any particular moralism regarding thought or behavior. It's just a lack of belief... and if we weren't constantly tearing into each other over What Other Atheists Are Supposed To Do, I personally think we'd be making a lot more progress toward our own goals, mutually-exclusive as they may be.
posted by vorfeed at 10:33 AM on May 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


What Other Atheists Are Supposed To Do

Yeah, I don't really know what atheists are supposed to do. To me, atheism is just one part of a larger secular, liberal, scientific, rational, humanist view of the world, and almost a side-effect of it, not the essential thing.
posted by empath at 10:46 AM on May 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


I wasn't convinced by anyone else's compelling argument against god to be an atheist. As I said in another thread (or was it this one?), I had no idea there were any atheists when I started going down that path.

That makes sense, and I guess the statement in question is more meant to apply to direct conversation, in which case it's probably more valid. It may have been my own fault that I inferred the idea that reason itself is incapable of persuading someone from a position reached unreasonably.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:50 AM on May 25, 2011


It may have been my own fault that I inferred the idea that reason itself is incapable of persuading someone from a position reached unreasonably.

It can, but a prerequisite is dealing with someone who accepts reason and evidence, rather than explicitly rejecting it, as a means of getting to the truth.
posted by empath at 11:00 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I became an atheist after lurking in some messy and far-ranging religion threads on other forums. No really, sometimes internet fighting changes someone's mind! Or perhaps I just enjoy internet fights enough to not be put off by them.
posted by harriet vane at 12:04 AM on May 26, 2011


vorfeed: " In short: throwing thought-grenades can be an effective strategy, and a mixed strategy works better than restricting ourselves to "respecting the beliefs" of people who are already certain that their beliefs are correct. Like I said before, all that does is play into the same cultural norms which allow the religious to take their own correctness as a given. The simple act of rejecting those norms changes the game... and that's what people remember when doubt comes calling, not the 3000th conversation in which everyone gently tiptoed around their precious beliefs."

vorfeed, I mentioned this here, and I guess I should really ask you for clarification -- and alert you that I referenced your comment in MeTa.

Because it seems to me that you're advocating something that is anathema to many non-Christians: aggressively proselytizing at theists and attempting to turn them into either agnostics or atheists. I'm having a great deal of difficulty reconciling the idea that such a tactic could be considered acceptable by anyone who has had it used against them.

Doesn't that rather invalidate one's ability to object? "It's good enough for them, but not for me" as it were?
posted by zarq at 7:14 AM on May 26, 2011


Notion, thank you for doing that. I'm sick of people calling themselves Christians while advocating death and hatred.
posted by agregoli at 1:55 PM on May 26, 2011


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