The Washington Post On Faith moderators sent this question to all the panelists this week:
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?
The question itself lends a bit of credibility to what Camping is doing and, because of that, Richard Dawkins ripped the blog and the whole premise a new one. It is *fun* to read:
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?
And we haven’t even gotten to what Dawkins says about “tradition” yet…
Of course, you’re only going to hear more about the “Rapture” for another couple weeks. Every news organization will talk about it — but so few will give it the lack of respect it deserves. And while some may laugh after the Rapture doesn’t happen, they’ll point the finger at Camping and Company. They won’t mention that millions of Americans really believe Jesus is coming back in their lifetime and they’re just as nutty as Camping. The only difference is that Camping is foolishly throwing out a specific date.
If only he spoke for the masses and we could just laugh all of them into oblivion after the 21st.