Number Six: Sorry I Missed Your Call
I was going to take a break from writing for a minute, but recent events pulled me back in the fold. Since my last posting, my world got shook up a little. The first event was FINALLY having a name for my beliefs. I had many, many issues with the Bible’s depiction of Jesus among other things, so I knew I wasn’t a Christian. I knew I believed in God, so I wasn’t an Atheist or Buddhist. I didn’t abstain from pork or believe in Saturday worship, so I wasn’t a Jew. Then I read a Deist website. It didn’t match my beliefs 100%, but 95% beats 50%. In a nutshell, a Deist is one who believes in God, but sees His handiwork in his surroundings and not through the precepts of men. There’s no doubt about God’s hand in creation. No, you don’t go around worshipping trees, but trees, the oceans, and life itself are clearly the work of an omnipotent God. As a result, Deism all but annihilates the bulk of organized religion’s ills. The ways Deism goes about doing that may be deemed heretical, but they ARE the most effective. I’ll get to them later on.
What really drew me out of my cocoon was the recent fervor over the so-called “Second Coming” that was to occur on May 21, 2011. Harold Camping, an 89-year-old evangelist based in California, came up with some sort of “Biblical Mathematics” to predict the day the “end time” would begin.
The events of the “Second Coming” are just as convoluted as Camping’s math formula, so I’ll try to explain it as best I can. The “Second Coming” of Jesus Christ is supposedly “Christians”‘ payoff for services rendered to Christ, and a time of torment for those who were not Christians. The Second Coming is actually a series of events under that one banner. First, Christians get mysteriously snatched off the earth to meet Jesus in the clouds. While airborne, they basically cool out with Christ while Earth’s final moments are played out. And the total of people who get to go up is apparently not even one ten-thousandth of the world’s current population. This process is called the“Rapture”.
On the other hand, those who did not follow Jesus Christ get to watch the world come crashing down around their ears through wars, famine, and the tyranny of a cruel yet fascinating “Anti-Christ” figure (who’s either the Devil in disguise or one of his superpowered servants). These events will occur over three and one-half years. However, if the former unbelievers can survive the Antichrist’s smooth talking and somehow survive without taking on his branding them with a mark that makes them his official property (AKA the “Mark of the Beast”), they’ll be spared Hell, too. And since Jesus will have already taken his followers with him, those who would have any chance at Heaven will have to revert to Judaism. This time frame is known as the “Tribulation”.
To climax the Tribulation, the proselyte Jews (also known as “Tribulation Saints”) and the still-unrepentant people get a ringside Wrestlemania Moment, as Jesus absolutely punishes the Devil in one last battle known as “Armageddon”, named after a valley in the Middle East, where Christianity began. And yes, just like wrestling, the outcome of the match is predetermined long ahead of time.
As confusing as all that hubbub is, that isn’t even the end of it. After the Devil gets his comeuppance, he gets a thousand-year banishment to a bottomless pit. During that time, Jesus begins to rule in modern Jerusalem over all the proselytized Jews/Tribulation Saints on Earth, who also end up serving the Raptured Christians in some capacity, depending on which church you attend. Meanwhile, to symbolize their loyalty to Christ without having to go through the Tribulation, the Raptured get a golden crown with literal stars in it. This is known as the “Millennial Reign of Christ” or the “millennium“.
Now, when the millennium ends, Jesus takes all the Tribulation Saints to Heaven. Then God Himself decides the fate of all the people who ever lived. Those that refused to worship either God or Jesus, even during the Tribulation, and the Devil himself, get sentenced to Hell. That number seems to include pretty much EVERYBODY. Those it doesn’t, the loyal folks, consisting of the Raptured, the Tribulation Saints, and those who worshipped God or Jesus before the rapture, get to attend the eternal worship service in Heaven. This is known as “The Judgement”.
A few weeks prior to this posting, all these people started popping up on street corners, Bibles in hand, warning us of Harold Camping’s “calculations”. Robert Fitzpatrick, a retired MIT engineer in Ellis Island, spent his entire life savings ($140,000!) advertising his book, which was based primarily on Camping’s math, and the end of time itself. But Bobby is only the most prominent guy to do that, not the only one. In fact, Harold Camping’s radio network, Family Radio, encouraged others to give up all their earthly possessions to prepare for Christ to call them up in the sky, and not a few gave Family Radio all they had. Never mind the fact that Camping said, in 1992, that 1994 was the last year this planet had. His explanation for the missed ’94 rapture? Bad math. Yes, he said that.
Almost as soon as the doomsayers showed up, the Seattle Atheists countered, and they did so brilliantly. They announced the commencement of “Rapture Parties” to welcome Camping’s alleged end time prophecy. If the prophecy was true, they promised to take the donations they received from the parties and distribute them among the people who didn’t get airborne. If it turned out to be a hoax, they pledged to send the money to a local youth camp…
Alas, I’m posting this on Sunday, May 22, 2011, a full day after the world was scheduled to end. I have not heard of a single person being reported missing. The Emergency Broadcast System has yet to come on TV or the radio. All the buildings around me are the same place they were when I went to bed. I can’t say I’m shocked.
After all, this latest hustle from Harold Camping is hardly the first, or last, “Judgement Day” rouse. The first recorded big one happened in 1843, when a Baptist preacher named William Miller began telling people he had used the Bible to determine when the last day on earth would be. If he would have said he used just a plain old calculator, oh no he’d be deemed a lunatic. But because he used the BIBLE, oh, that made him a sure thing. A good number of people gave up all their worldly possessions to loved ones, and waited fervently for Jesus. The date came and went. Then Miller announced he had been off by one year, so the folks waited. And once again the proposed date came and went. But that didn’t stop the end-time prophecies. Since then, people like Hal Lindsey(who predicted 1984), longtime asylum resident Edgar C. Whisenant (1988), and South Carolina’s “Overcomer Ministry” preacher R.G. Stair (1988) have predicted the end, and every one of them, including Harold Camping himself (1994), have been proven wrong. (Note:In time some of Miller’s former followers took many of his misproven teachings and formed what today is called the Seventh-Day Adventist Church.)
This latest nonsense from Camping has a bigger impact than many want to admit. It gave an atheist group, Christianity’s greatest mortal adversary, the chance to show they can perform honest charity, in contrast to the “Christian” Camping’s dishonest scamming. And it cost misguided, overeducated idiots like Robert Fitzpatrick everything they had to do what they just knew was the right thing. But the worst ripple effect is that people have a clear obligation to explain their religion to unbelieving people. And they’ll have a hell of a time doing it. Critics of Camping’s bizarre math formulas are right to do so. However, they have to be aware that they will ALSO be scrutinized for their own beliefs. After all, since Camping claims to be a Christian, then by extrapolation, his critics, also claiming themselves to be Christians, are prone to the same treatment. It’s really only fair.
And so as difficult a time as Harold Camping will have explaining his daffy numeric definitions, the Presbyterian will have to explain why they should do right when they’ve already been predestined to Heaven or Hell…and don’t even know which one it’ll be. As hard as it’ll be for Robert Fitzpatrick to explain why he gave away everything, the Baptist will have to explain their fascination with “blessing” modern-day Israel and its Christ-denying inhabitants, primarily to gain for themselves. And even though the Bible thumpers look like idiots since another supposed end time has come and went, they don’t look any worse than the church (take your pick of denominations) that condemns homosexuality, yet allows an obviously gay man to lead their worship service or choir, primarily because he keeps the offerings/ticket sales up and the congregation/paying audience satisfied. And the “Second Coming” storyline is always apt to be tweaked in some form or another.
This is the beauty of Deism. Much to the fundamentalists’ chagrin, it sees books like the Qur’an and Bible as human, philosophical, and social commentaries over the centuries. It doesn’t allow for people to use a constantly reinterpreted book as a weapon against others and their followers, which is the ultimate goal of the “Big Three” and its seemingly limitless denominations. As a result, it also avoids the constant contradictions in the previous paragraph. Deism lets people acknowledge and appreciate God, not worship Him as a matter of fear or being subject to rejection for not doing it just right. A Deist won’t threaten you with eternal punishment because you don’t comply with his beliefs. And Deism doesn’t allow people to use the name of God to further enrich or empower themselves the way guys like Harold Camping do. And Deism has one final benefit: people are accountable and must directly face the consequences for their actions. Rather than go through the “sin, repent, repeat” cycle, hoping you’ll be forgiven(and not knowing until you die if you were), and knowing you’ll “sin” again sooner or later, the responsibilities of one’s actions are to be attended to here and now, eliminating the drudgery of that basically pointless process.
I’ll gladly let the denominations, the “Big Three”, Harold Camping and all the other cults duke it out all they want. Me, I’m taking this one life I have and making the most I can of it. And I don’t need threats or scare tactics to do it anymore. After all, I’m ultimately the last word in my actions anyhow.