If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Sunday, 22 May 2011

So there was a Plan B after all ...

Harold Camping, not seen recently

According to the BBC:
Followers of an evangelical broadcaster who declared that Saturday would be Judgement Day are trying to make sense of the failed prediction.

Some believers expressed bewilderment or said it was a test from God of their faith, after the day passed without event.
That's the problem with religious faith. When the evidence stacks up that your beliefs are wrong, always blame your understanding of the beliefs, not the beliefs themselves. I am reminded of those socialists who, when reminded of all the states where socialism has been tried and failed (and brought untold misery and deprivation to millions), argue that "this is because those states weren't socialist enough", rather than admit that the fault might be with socialism itself.

Here's a radical idea. Believe what you know to be true, or what the evidence of your own eyes tells you is likely to be true. I know that I exist (Descartes got the cogito bit right, at least), and I am certain that the sun will rise tomorrow because my experience of the past 21,000 days is that it always does, and I have no reason to believe that the 21,001st will be any different.

Everything else, treat with caution. Especially stuff told to you by people who claim to know more than you do. (Those 21,000 days have taught me that my instinct is as good as anyone else's, and that the more certain a person sounds the less likely they are to be right.)

And these beliefs aren't without real-world consequences:
"It was probably one of the saddest things that I'd ever read, the idea that there's kids out there whose parents spent their college savings funds, who sold their homes," one woman told the BBC.
Believe what you know to be right in your own heart. And if you find yourself sharing those beliefs with a number of other people, be suspicious.

Especially where there is money involved.


  1. Because that was in America, surely someone will find someone else to sue?

    I bet the no-win-no-fee lawyers had contingency plans drawn-up about 1 minute after Judgement Day was announced.

  2. Didn't I read somewhere that it was arrived at by adding 7000 years to the supposed date of the original Flood? It should only have been a week, but one of the apostles mumbled something about a day being like a thousand years once...

    That's not so much a prediction as, well, arbitrarily making shit up. From a man who has already got it wrong and had to apologise for the world not ending in 1994.

    There's nothing wrong with religious belief, if that's your thing. It's just important to listen to what God actually said rather than what wealthy but clearly deranged loons tell you he really meant to say. If in any doubt, best check exactly how much of their wealth came from fleecing the gullible.

    PS: That sun rising stuff. The only person who can really be certain about that is the Pharaoh, as it's his job to make sure it does. Is there something you're not telling us...?!

  3. "From a man who has already got it wrong and had to apologise for the world not ending in 1994."

    Third time lucky? ;)

  4. Dear Richard

    Treating things with caution should be a default for everybody but in this case what was fundamentally wrong was a tendency, in all walks of life, to follow the crowd. People seek to conform to a seemingly concrete idea because the are afraid, because they are ignorant and because they have not been taught to think for themselves.

    As for Faith, it is knowledge within the heart, which is unassailable by "proof". All faith, however, should be tested by the intellect. (Sometimes it is tested by the very giving of one's life) Even a Christian should know this. Had any of this nutter's followers chosen to read the Bible they would have come to the conclusion that "The End" is not something you can predict.

    Instead they preferred to be fed an idea and decided along the way to avoid visiting Mr Brain on the way.

    Yours is very good summing up of the issue.

    All I can say is that, as a Christian, I have never felt that my belief has been compromised by doubts about God. My belief (in the past) has regularly been compromised by certain adherents to the Christian faith who feel they have a monopoly on truth.

    It is not the business of a Christian to tell others what to do. It is the business of a Christian to repent, or more precisely, metanoia.

    We will all see the end of the world one day. I expect all of us can agree that, on the day we die, we can take stock, and be at peace.

  5. WW: Thank you for a very thoughtful comment.

    "As for Faith, it is knowledge within the heart, which is unassailable by "proof"."

    If by 'proof' we mean a process of analysing something using reason and logic, then at this point you step outside of reason and into the realms of metaphysics. That's a very personal area in this context and one in which doesn't allow much argument or debate. If that way of thinking makes sense to you (in your heart, as it were), then I wouldn't wish to disagree. Personally, I am less comfortable with it, but that is my problem, and no-one else's. The only objection I would have is if your thinking led you to assume the right to make other people agree by force, or kill them for non-compliance, which I know is not the case. Yours is, genuinely I believe, a religion of peace.

    I think the idea of metanoia has validity even outside a theological context. Every thoughtful person should be thinking through their experience and be prepared to re-evaluate and transform their outlook, even without the specifically religious notion of 'sin' and 'repentance'. I would agree that it is not the business of the Christian - or indeed anyone - to tell others what to do. Getting your own life and conscience 'right' (i.e. balanced and integrated) would be a life's work for most people, before we even start to think of criticising others.

    Your last sentence resonates with me too. Not so far apart, eh? Back to the original point: following the crowd is rarely a great idea, and when it is mixed with the fervour and self-assumed certainties of 'religious' thinking, it can be catastrophic.

  6. You talk about faith, and then use socialism as an example...

    There are numbnuts in every walk of life, the "rapturers" at least did not thing that they should also sacrifice a few non believers, unlike some people from another faith who believe that it will give them access to 72 virgins!

  7. Socialism is a quasi-religion. It has its credo, its scriptures, its priesthood, its tribalism, its persecution of non-believers ... all it lacks is a supernatural element. The effect it has on its followers is exactly like that of a religion.

    Aside from the 'God Hates Gays' element, I am happy to accept that Christianity is indeed a peaceful religion. In that it will always have my support, in preference to those who believe that 'peace' is achieved by murdering everyone who disagrees.

  8. This nutter? That's a bit uncharitable. He just takes religion more seriously than average. It's a pity that Mr Camping has chosen to stake his reputation on something for which he has no ability, despite his erudition and longstanding interest. He was just very unlucky on this occasion. I hope he tries again with his predictions and puts this one down to experience.

  9. As Julia says, maybe third time lucky.


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