This is a revision of yet another blog post that I drafted but never completed. Basically, the original post was something of a thought piece on the place of faith in modern society. It turned on the story of Harold Camping, the leader of a religious group called Family Radio, and his followers, who all believed that the end of the world was going to come on May 21st, 2011. This belief came about from Camping's study of the scripture and various numerological "principles," which convinced him that our day of judgement or some such was at hand. Mr. Camping is a civil engineer and self-taught "biblical scholar."
I first read about it in an article in the NYT, which discussed how families were handling their business in light of the coming "END OF THE WORLD," i.e. earthquakes, floods, etc. All the stuff that you would associate with the 7,000th anniversary of Noah's flood. Sadly, many of them were actively planning for a world that ended on that date, by quitting their jobs, spending their life AND their children's college savings, and actively campaigning for others to believe as well. According to the Washington Post, one of them gave up medical school and spent her family's life savings to spread the word.
Unfortunately, these people were all totally, totally wrong. I would go on about how wrong they are, but as one deacon put it, "It's easy to mock them. But you can go kick puppies too. But why?"
A couple of thoughts:
* I do not understand faith. Or rather, as some have put it, the one square in your mental space that is totally impervious to evidence or reason. And I fail to see how Christians (mostly literalists/fundamentalists) that roundly look at these Family Radio followers, Scientologists, and Mormons as essentially being off their nut are behaving any differently. Maybe it's just me, having failed to see the light shining from Damascus, but the tragedy inherent in blowing your children's college savings for a belief is not so far off from the tragedy in halting stem cell research or standing against gay marriage for another. This isn't me hating; I know that faith provides hope and meaning for millions of people, and that's probably a good thing. This is just me saying I don't get it.
* Some people have no f***ing shame. Shortly after admitting to the SF Chronicle that he was, "flabbergasted" by the lack of massive, world-ending earthquakes, Camping's Family Radio web site essentially tried to retcon events by saying that this is exactly what they said was supposed to happen. How, might you ask? By pulling this out of their, er, hat:
And Jehovah God formed man of the dust of the ground…” Thus the word “earthquake” can also be understood to teach that mankind shakes.That is, judgement day wasn't about the physical world being torn apart by earthquakes (which is what he pretty much told everyone was going to happen), it was more about scaring the crap out of everyone (gotcha!). The actual physical annihilation of the world is actually going to happen on October 21, 2011! Seriously, wtf. Would it kill you to just apologize to the dozens of people that believed what you said and totally f'ed their lives over because of it?
It's been a while since I wrote anything. Sorry, I suck at this. Discipline is hard to muster for a blog that probably has about four or five readers total.
Today (actually, about two weeks ago when I first started drafting this post), I dropped by Kepler's, a bookstore near my hometown. Interestingly enough, Kepler's actually went bankrupt sometime around 2005 and briefly shut its doors. The surrounding community responded with protests on Kepler's plaza (really helpful), and ended up putting up money so that Kepler's could keep its doors open, a la It's a Wonderful Life (actually helpful).
One of the things that I remember about Kepler's is that it's basically where every kid in the surrounding five cities goes to buy their summer reading books. It's pretty cool, because you can see what the kids are reading these days, even if you're way out of that age bracket. When I checked it out today, there were a bunch of familiar titles lining the shelves. The Giver. A Separate Peace. The Catcher in the Rye.
BUT. Now they have all sorts of cool new contemporary books! Apparently, America's teachers have been browsing my Goodreads list, because there's a striking number of common titles. The Magicians. The Life of Pi. World War Z. Like, real books! That aren't all about kids in high school! Or... it could be that I think those books are way cooler because I read them on my own, rather than having them pre-selected for me by my teachers. Either way though, I'm not sure if I should feel jealous for today's kids, or if I should start checking to see if I've become a super lame adult that gets excited about lame things.