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Lessons from the (non) rapture

In reality, nobody expected the rapture.  At least, almost nobody.  Impending doomsday theories are good lead stories, and they’re fun to… well… make fun of.  And that’s what everybody did.  The atheist blogosphere was full of scathing editorials.  Rapture parties were scheduled all over the country.  The Black Nonbelievers of Atlanta furnished refreshments for what turned out to be a huge event sponsored by the Central North Carolina Atheists and Humanists.  Scores of Christians — many who believe the rapture will happen one day — made fun of Harold Camping and his “gullible” followers.

That’s a bit of a puzzle.  A little calm reflection raises a sobering question:  What about the addition of a specific date moves the rapture myth from believable to comic?

The story itself is pretty far-fetched.  Jesus — the miracle working man who died two thousand years ago — will return briefly to wave his hands or speak magic words… or something.  When he does that, the billion or so people who chose the right magic words to say in church will disappear to a mystical spiritual Disneyland to live happily ever after, except with no sex, booze, or… well… anything fun.

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8 thoughts on “Lessons from the (non) rapture

  1. Christians found the whole thing because he used a convoluted number code to determine the date. He used the same book that said it’s impossible for anyone to know when what he says he knew. What if I told you six months from now an Earthquake was going to occur that would cause a tsunami which would cause hundreds of deaths? I say that I know this because I put my ear to the ground and heard the earthquake brewing down there. Would you find it absurd because the concept of Earthquakes or tsunamis is ridiculous?

    Posted by Gordon | May 23, 2011, 4:58 pm
  2. Your Argumentum ad absurdum, or from cariacuture, is not convincing! Not to mention that it is an argument from ignorance!

    Nothing fun to do but share in the glory and inheritance of God for eternity…

    Yeah, that’s no fun! WOW!

    Posted by Darwin Joseph | May 23, 2011, 5:06 pm
  3. Darwin, an argumentum ad absurdum is an argument in which a proposition is followed to a logical conclusion which is absurd. So that’s not what this is. In the future, you should look for phrases such as, “If this is true, then if follows that THIS is also true, and since that’s true, then this is also true… Therefore… {Something absurd.}”

    If you read my article carefully, you’ll see that I followed no such train of thought.

    I’m pretty sure argumentum ad caricaturum is not a recognized term, but I think you’re saying that I was constructing a strawman. To that accusation, I can only ask you to please explain the rapture in your own terms, and let the readers decide if your version is any less absurd than mine.

    Thanks for the comment!

    Posted by Living Life Without a Net | May 23, 2011, 5:30 pm
  4. Gordon, I’m not sure what you’re getting at. If you predicted an earthquake and tsunami six months from now, I would expect a couple of things: A fault line to keep an eye on would be a start… Scientists predict earthquakes based on the amount of tension in areas of plate interaction, such as subduction zones.

    From that point, I would would wait six months and evaluate your claim based on its accuracy. Earthquakes are pretty common things, and it’s not that outlandish to suggest that one will cause a tsunami. There’s plenty of precedent.

    It seems that you are suggesting that the Bible gives us signs to look for to know that the rapture is near. I suppose that’s possible, but earthquakes, wars, rumors of wars, and such don’t count as very good evidence. The thing is, they’ve been happening in great quantity for centuries… for all of human history, as a matter of fact. And there’s nothing concrete like: “There will be three earthquakes in North America within two weeks, all of magnitude 9.” THAT would be something to look for. But just.. earthquakes? And war? There’s nothing to look for. How much war? How many earthquakes? Where? How big?

    So… like I said… not sure what your point is supposed to be.

    Thanks for the comment!

    Posted by Living Life Without a Net | May 23, 2011, 5:45 pm
  5. Besides, we know earthquakes actually happen. Raptures seem to never actually materialize when predicted…

    Posted by Alex Hardman | May 23, 2011, 7:53 pm
  6. I think we need a new holiday. How about “Rapture Fool’s Day”. A day where everyone gets drunk and releases people-shaped helium balloons into the sky every year on May 21st.

    Posted by J. Quinton | May 24, 2011, 12:35 am
  7. I remember back in my theist days, I would run around in circles trying to justify the beliefs without making actual falsifiable predictions.

    I rejected the “god told us this”, but still held that god existed outside of science and hence couldn’t be tested.

    I think what religion needs to do, is bring god and his claims into the natural realm and be able to let go of them if they don’t hold up to scientific scrutiny.

    Posted by cptpineapple | May 24, 2011, 3:04 pm
  8. I think what religion needs to do, is bring god and his claims into the natural realm and be able to let go of them if they don’t hold up to scientific scrutiny.

    I agree completely. The question you and I are both concerned with, I think, is how to incentivize them to do it. To some extent, the progress of science does the work for us. At some point, it becomes undeniable that the earth orbits the sun. That evolution exists. That lightning is electromagnetism, not a magical hammer…

    The issue is the “eternal” beliefs. No matter how much science advances, theists will still be able to remove god from science the same way they do today. It is a different kind of claim. And that would be fine if it stayed there. If God’s existence was all we were questioning, I wouldn’t take issue. Believe or not, so long as any interaction with the universe by God is susceptible to empirical testing.

    Posted by Living Life Without a Net | May 24, 2011, 3:10 pm

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