After the failed prophecy, Harold Camping aims for the bleachers once again. This should be his third strike:
“We had all of our dates correct,” Camping insisted, clarifying that he now understands that Christ’s May 21 arrival was “a spiritual coming” ushering in the last five months before the final judgment and destruction.
In an hour and a half broadcast, Camping walked listeners through his numerological timeline, insisting that his teaching has not changed and that the world will still end on October 21, 2011.
“It wont be spiritual on October 21st,” Camping said, adding, “the world is going to be destroyed all together, but it will be very quick.”
Camping had previously pointed to October 21 as the last day on earth for all humanity.
His former assertion was that a faithful three percent would be physically pulled into heaven by God through the Rapture on May 21, to be followed by a five month period of great suffering known as the Tribulation, ending, finally, on October 21. On Monday’s broadcast, Camping speculated that perhaps a merciful God decided to spare humanity five months of “hell on earth.”
“Hell on Earth” if you’re not used to everyone laughing at you, certainly. But in certain people, there are inexhaustible supplies of delusional thinking ready to block out reality – just look at Usenet or James Hansen.
Richard Dawkins certainly cuts to the chase:
Q. Family Radio evangelist Harold Camping believes that he has calculated the exact date of the rapture: May 21, 2011. While many are laughing at the suggestion, Camping’s followers are taking him seriously, bringing his message of impending doom to billboards and public spaces around the country. What does your tradition teach about the end of the world? How does end time theology impact real world behavior?
A. Why is a serious newspaper like the Washington Post giving space to a raving loon? I suppose the answer must be that, unlike the average loon, this one has managed to raise enough money to launch a radio station and pay for billboards. I don’t know where he gets the money, but it would be no surprise to discover that it is contributed by gullible followers – gullible enough, we may guess, to go along with him when he will inevitably explain, on May 22nd, that there must have been some error in the calculation, the rapture is postponed to . . . and please send more money to pay for updated billboards.
So, the question becomes, why are there so many well-heeled, gullible idiots out there? Why is it that an idea can be as nuts as you like and still con enough backers to finance its advertising to acquire yet more backers . . . until eventually a national newspaper notices and makes it into a silly season filler?
I suppose the best antidote to all of this, is that Reality causes the rest of us to reexamine our basic assumptions about the world around us – and to make adjustments where necessary.
Unless you’re Harold Camping, of course.