By Steve Higgnett
Steve is a member of the Skeptic's Society, a group that promotes science, literacy and critical thinking. He is also a member of the James Randi Educational Foundation, an educational resource on the paranormal, pseudoscience and the supernatural. He unapologetically questions everything.
I'll get this out of the way right off the bat, I am a 100%, dyed in the wool atheist. The concept of a god or gods plays no part in my life at all, to the point that I'm almost beyond mere atheism. Yet as I have stated many times in past blog articles, I try to live my life in quiet acceptance and tolerance of the beliefs of others. I don't proselytize and I don't preach, and in return I am generally afforded the same courtesy. With that in mind I still feel compelled to address the spurious and harmful statements made by Reverend Harold Camping and his ministry two weeks ago to the world.
By now everybody knows the story, the world didn't end May 21 2011. Jesus Christ did not make his scheduled appearance from the heavens, the righteous were not raptured and the wicked not forsaken. It would be too easy at this point for an atheist to walk around smugly telling everybody "I told you so" and questioning both Camping's numerology skills and the intelligence his believers. This is by no means my intent here. If you believed that the end times were at hand May 21st, it was your perfect right to do so. What I find objectionable was the "oops, sorry" attitude that the Reverend seemed to exude when the sun rose dutifully as usual in the morning hours of May 22nd with no trace of an apocalypse in sight. (read here).
All authority carries with it certain responsibilities. When that authority is that of a church official or spiritual guide, those responsibilities become very intimate indeed. And when that authority figure with intimate relationships predicts to it's followers that the rapture will come this Saturday at 6PM, they had better, for the sake of their believers, be correct. I am positive that to those people who followed the words and teachings of Harold Camping, May 21st must have been the most emotional, frightening and confusing day of their lives. I cannot imagine the terror in their hearts and minds thinking as the predicted hour approached that they would never again see the light of dawn, smell another rose, or feel the love of their families and friends. I must wonder if Rev. Camping was experiencing the same emotional nightmare himself that afternoon and early evening. Personally, I find it doubtful.
I maintain, and have maintained for years, that skepiticism is a good and healthy way in which to view the world. There is a brilliant and quite famous quote attributed to Ben Franklin which states "believe half of what you see and none of what you hear". Though I understand that this quotation and way of life may fly directly in the face of the general ethos of a religious community, I feel the events (or lack thereof) of May 21 2011 should serve as a wake up call to those individuals for whom one man's interpretation of the bible became absolute fact. Of course, as with every other doomsday prediction since the dawn of time this one didn't occur, yet that doesn't seem to upset Rev. Camping, it seems he doesn't stop for as second in fact, as now he predicts the world will really end on October 21 and May 21 was in actuality an "invisible judgement day" Oh boy.
If there can be one lesson to be learned from this latest failed doomsday prophecy, it must be to enjoy your life, really live it, none of us ever know when our time will run out. Experience spiritual and religious fulfilment if you feel it's necessary to you, pray or meditate if you find it helpful, look at the beauty of the world, smell a flower, try a new exotic food, but most importantly give and feel the love in your life. It could be from your family, your friends or even your god, but I hope you really feel and experience it. One day the world actually will end, but as for the odds of it being October 21....personally I'm still planning on hosting a Halloween party, it's one of my life's great little experiences. ;)