Being in the wrong Camp

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?

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