Number Six: Sorry, I Got the Wrong Number!
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. 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. As a result, Deism all but annihilates the bulk of organized religion’s ills. The ways Diesm 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. This process is called the“Rapture”.
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 avoid being branded Anti-Christ property (AKA the “Mark of the Beast”)and revert to Jews, they’ll be spared Hell, too. This time frame is known as the “Tribulation”.
To climax the Tribulation, Jesus absolutely punishes the Devil in one last battle known as “Armageddon”, named after a valley in the Middle East. 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”.
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. 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…
Robert Fitzpatrick, a retired MTA engineer, decided to give up all he had, and stand in the middle of Times Square waiting for the end to come. All he’s got to show for it is a picture with a fat guy laughing at him and a big-ass baby bottle behind him.
This latest hustle from Harold Camping is hardly the first “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 teachings and formed what today is called the Seventh-Day Adventist Church.)
But 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 the Bible thumpers look no better when they condemn homosexuality, yet allow an obviously gay man to lead their worship service or choir.
Deism recognizes 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. 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. 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 the repercussions of one’s actions are to be attended to here and now.