If I had to be honest I should probably say that I wasn’t the least bit disappointed when I woke up last Sunday morning to find that the rapture Harold Camping had promised, nay guaranteed, hadn’t actually materialised, and it’s not because I felt a sense of relief that his prediction of impending armageddon turned out to be total bollocks. I know that I probably should have been annoyed at the failure of the world’s supply of gullible nitwits to mysteriously disappear while I slept (in much the same way their critical thinking skills had vanished the moment each of them they joined that ridiculous club), but the truth, however, is that I wasn’t disappointed because I was too busy trying to decide whether to laugh or cry.
Prophecies foretelling the end of the world have always struck me as being both funny and tragic in equal measure. For a start, none of them ever really address the issue of what, specifically, they mean by “world”; it’s such a broad term that it’s virtually meaningless when you use it in this way – I mean, what is actually coming to an end here? They never say, and when you’re dealing with something as important sounding as “the end of the world” you’d think these prognosticating dickheads would bother to at least get the details right.
Is it that the planet is going to be hit by an earth-smashing, extinction-flavoured comet, or will it simply explode when it can no longer deal with the shame of being the primary residence of the jaunty-haired, talent-dodging, song-murdering, oxygen thieves known only as Jedward? (their secondary residence, by the way, is the alternate dimension in which, according to rumour, they actually matter to someone). Or is it that society, or civilisation, is about to be ruthlessly terminated by some unspecified means? And, if so, whose society or civilisation exactly?
The christian concept of “rapture” is rare in that it does at least provide some details, but that doesn’t change the fact that the idea of prophecy is, on the whole, pretty bloody stupid. Most are set far enough into the future to ensure that the prophet responsible will be too dead to get called out when it is eventually discovered that he was talking shite, and many prophecies are frequently reinterpreted after the fact in a desperate attempt on the part of those who championed them to make it look like they were fulfilled. Look at the fantastic leaps of pure arse-backwards reasoning and lingual gymnastics that fans of Nostrodamus will engage in just to be able to claim that the demented French twat predicted 9/11 (it’s always interesting to note how these smug arseholes are never there with printouts of his “spookily accurate” predictions before the event; you know, when it could actually have done some good).
And that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? If it’s true that hindsight is 20/20 then foresight must, therefore, be as blind as a fucking bat, which would certainly explain the paucity of actual detail in your average work-a-day prophecy. The rapture, as I’ve already mentioned, however, is a slightly different beast; it tells us that the faithful will be called up to heaven, leaving the rest of us to spend our remaining days on a planet that’s crumbling like a cake made entirely out of sand and religious promises before we’re all completely swallowed up in the ultimate supernatural boss fight.
This blood-soaked tale of the apocalypse would be bad enough on its own, but the whole thing is made a good deal worse by the fact that so many people believe it, and they do so purely on the word of the most insanely violent and psychedelically mental book of the bible. That many christians actually look forward to the rapture, and derive great joy from the knowledge that they’ll be taken up (of course they will, they’re special!) while all the apostates and other varieties of heathen will be suffering eternal torment, simply shows just how grotesque religious faith can be and how ordinary, decent people can be driven to believe such disgustingly inhumane ideas by those with a vested interest in scaring the living hell into people.
To say that these “prophets of doom” are full of shit would be generous; “delusional, monstrous, opportunistic frauds” would be a much better description and, yes, I’m including this week’s favourite soul-soliciting, money-grubbing, douchebag of a con-man Harold Camping in that too. It’s no coincidence that proclamations such as these are almost always made by people who stand to gain directly (often financially) from the subsequent reaction – just look at what happens when someone like Camping announces the rapture; church attendances go up, the collection plates get heavier, and the donations to pay for billboards and adverts to warn the faithful flood in.
It’s on this point that the veneer of funny starts to wear a little thin, but I shall come to that in a moment as there are still one or two nuggets of rapture-related comedy gold left. It’s hilarious, for example, to watch the furious back-pedalling of idiots like Camping when they’re called on to actually answer for the fact that their claims fell apart quicker than a flat-pack wardrobe with a missing screw (apparently it was an “invisible” rapture and we have, in fact, already been judged – we just won’t know what’s happening until the rapture proper on October 21st … this technically makes Harold Camping the first person ever to turn the extinction of all life on planet earth into the theological equivalent of “The X-Factor” results show).
The funniest part of this whole non-catastrophe is when you see christians mocking Camping for his predictions without any sense of irony or self-awareness whatsoever. “Ah”, they say, “but the bible says that only god will know when the rapture is coming”. So fucking what? You still believe in the exact same stupid, disgusting nonsense, you arsehole, it’s just that the zombie understudy that is Harold Camping went and stuck an actual bloody date on it! You still all believe that you’re so fucking awesome for choosing the right faith (when most of you are only christian because you were born white and in the western hemisphere) and that, when you croak, you’re going to a magical happy land while the rest of us get tortured forever. Your beliefs are arrogant, selfish, discriminatory, ego-centric, inherently violent, and almost certainly wrong because the evidence that supports them is rather like the brain in Paris Hilton’s head; it simply isn’t there.
As I alluded to earlier this ability to believe without question has a dark side that events such as those of this past week are very good at bringing to the fore. Like a raving nutter with a blunderbuss taking pot shots at a hot air balloon, blind faith and devotion can often leave you clinging to the inside of a basket, screaming in terror as that which had previously held you aloft and supported you on your journey suddenly drops out from beneath your feet and you plummet towards the ground with predictably tragic consequences.
Take Robert Fitzpatrick, for example, who spent $140,000 of his life savings to pay for rapture advertisements. Then there’s Lyn Benedetto, who tried to kill her children so that they wouldn’t have to suffer through the tribulation. And, finally, there was the man who committed suicide by crucifying himself in an abandoned quarry. These are just three of a seemingly endless supply of increasingly horrible incidents that demonstrate just how religion causes people to disconnect from their critical thinking faculties and subsequently disengage from reality. You can talk all you want about the good that religious belief can often do, but you cannot ignore the fact that christianity, like many religions (particularly the monotheisms), is a death cult.
Everything about it revolves around death, pain, and suffering, to the point where it actually celebrates these things (it positively revels in them in some cases). To a christian, the festival of Easter is about the death of their cult leader – naturally, they claim it’s about his resurrection and ascendency to heaven but, let’s be honest here, you can’t have someone return to life if they haven’t been brutally killed to bits first. You need go no further than the crucifixion of Jesus to highlight just how obsessed christianity is with the notion of death; the primary symbol chosen to represent their faith is that of a dead Jew hanging from the tree he’d been viciously nailed to – how fucking sick is that? These people actually regard what must be the most famous murder-suicide in history as the single noblest gesture anyone has ever made (despite the fact that you can only forgive someone of sins they committed against you, not others, and it’s hardly a sacrifice to get yourself killed if you’re the physical incarnation of a god who knows he’ll be resurrected anyway).
Faith like this drives all of its adherents towards death with a sense of purpose that is as perverse as it is worrying. They’re taught to believe from a young age that our lives don’t truly begin until after we’re dead, and that everything we do here on earth should be about working towards securing our places in the hereafter. Their holy book is replete with stories involving murder, genocide, rape, torture, and a plethora of other atrocities that are so often described as good, or just, or noble simply because their sky pixie commanded or endorsed them. If the christian bible is in any way accurate in its depiction of their god, then their god is a fucking sociopath. What does that say about the christians who worship him?
The rapture is probably the biggest sultana in this death cult fruit-cake, and a perfect example of the point I’m trying to make. The faithful are taught to believe beyond any doubt that this is the single greatest thing that can ever happen to them – the ultimate goal in the life of any christian is, in essence, to die so that they can go and meet Jesus. So how is it that, whenever we hear news stories about a group of people who are utterly devoted to a charismatic cult figure and are ready, and willing, to die in his name, for his honour, and at his command in order that they might achieve the immortality he has promised them, they only ever feature groups like Heaven’s Gate, the Branch Davidians, or even Al-Qaeda?
When May 21st came and went many christians were apparently baffled that they were still here; so secure were they in their belief that, one day, they would be ferried up to heaven as their recycled Hebrew soap-opera had always promised, and that Saturday was that day because a radio preacher had said so, they simply couldn’t comprehend how it could possibly be wrong. It’s such a shame because there’s really no need for any of it and, if you are one of those perplexed and anxious Jesus-folk, I can help you … it’s really simple … all you have to do is kill your god.
Dictionary.com describes “rapture” as:
ecstatic joy or delight; joyful ecstasy.
I can think of no greater joy than the feeling of having pulled yourself out from under the tyranny of a god that wants you dead. There is no ecstasy quite like the one we can all experience when we are able to think freely, and to live without the fear or confusion that comes with a nonsensical belief in the supposed “virtue” of living to die. And surely there can be no higher reward, no greater delight, than to actually spend your life living …
I’ll tell you what … my rapture is SO much better than yours …
EDIT [January 19th, 2013]: Allison Morris recently sent me this fab infographic on apocalyptic predictions from OnlinePsychologyDegree.net thinking it might be somewhat appropriate and, she was dead right, it is … enjoy! (and big thanks to Allison).