Tuesday, May 24, 2011

End of Days and Confused

As I would've expected, my weekend piece on the non-Rapture resulted in a pretty good amount of entertaining back-and-forth from the Huffington Post peanut gallery. Since this is HuffPo we're talking about, quite a few people agreed with my take on things -- namely that regardless of whether you tout an actual date for Jesus's return or simply believe in a divine entity called Jesus at all, the belief is equally ridiculous. But there were quite a few dissenters (or, "decenters" as one irate commenter might say), and they generally alternated between the over-thinkers, who truly believe that the more big words they use the more likely it is their opinions make a lick of sense, and the God-said-it-I-believe-it types. Here's the best of the bunch.

"Too many people have seen Left Behind and follow Kirk Cameron's belief that the Rapture is a one time thing. Well, lets take a look around us. I am from Birmingham­, AL and three weeks ago many were killed within 100 miles of my current location. Massive Floods down the Mississipp­i River, Tsunami's in Asia, Earthquake­s in India, Asia, and Haiti. Big Brother, Wars taking place everywhere for different reasons, we are living in the end times. There isn't one day set aside for 'All Believers to ascend into Heaven' Alot of those that will be Left Behind will be believers as well as non-believ­ers. The prophecy is a long one and all this will not happen overnight."

-- Idries King

In other words, it's what Harold Camping said: the Rapture is already upon us so he and his followers weren't actually wrong. Yeah, that's it. Never mind that there have been earthquakes, floods and so on since the dawn of time.

What I just said about using a lot of Triple Word Score language in an effort to supposedly lend academic heft to what's essentially horseshit? Read on:

"This blogger offers an overly reductioni­stic and conflated view. A belief in something called the 'rapture' as an event within history has historical­ly been a minority view. It is only since the late 19th century (Darby) and early 20th Century (Scoffield­) that this view gained popularity­, reaching its height in the cold war (Lindsay's Late Great Planet Earth) and reprising again in the 90s (The 'Left Behind' series). Many Christians never have ascribed to such a belief... you cannot claim that religious beliefs are unilateral­ly irrational­, baseless, and frequently contradict­ory to the "normal rigors for determinin­g truth." I'll give that most might meet the last criteria, but they are not baseless nor irrational (empericis­m, for all it's benefit, does not have a corner on the rationalit­y market). The final criteria, while generally true, is not unequivaca­lly so. There are many religious beleifs founded upon historical evidence and thus subject to the same rigors, the only difference is that they don't reject supernatur­al explanatio­ns prima facia, and might be more prone to them than others (but that doesn't mean they reject "normal rigors for determinin­g truh and fact.") It also is just plain false that they are frequently contradict­ory. People, as a whole, are not that stupid and if religions had been around for 1000s of years they are probably at least ineternall­y consistent (so this is really a ridiculous claim). Let's at least be honest about the facts of the matter instead of making broadly sweeping and unnecessar­ily derogatory remarks. "

-- George Medley

Say this for Professor Medley: Of all the arguments in defense of religion that you've ever read, his was the most recent.

"It's all about truth. What is true? Each person has to decide."

-- syntax facit saltum

No, actually. There has to be an agreed-upon set of facts that we all understand to be true (or false). If each person decides his own reality what you get is chaos. You're entitled to your own opinions; you're not entitled to your own facts.

This next one, by the way, could be my personal favorite -- simply because I can't imagine what the hell a hardcore Christian is doing at the Huffington Post in the first place.

"Where are the Christians­? When I look at the banner at the top of this page, it says Christiani­ty. Yet, the first story I see in the corner is some ventriloqu­ist talking about porn. We as Christians need to get these infidels off our page. Find your own page. Preach your blasphemie­s somewhere else. Maybe, the net. can give you a page called 'anti-chri­sts.' I have no more need to hear from adulterers­, fornicator­s, liars, thieves, the high-minde­d rich, blasphemer­s, covetous, self-servi­ng idlolators­. Are you so insecure in your on self-worth that the only way to value your own life is to tear down the beliefs of others. I believe, so. Go elsewhere and preach your doctrines of descent."

-- rankinkri

I like this next one as well because it presumes that I'm rich, which is honestly the most laugh-out-loud conceit you'll find on the HuffPo religion page right now. It's probably because my mini-bio has me listed as the CEO of DXM Media, which I technically am -- but trust me, there's a CEO and there's a CEO. Guess which one I am.

"This post seemed remarkably glib. Granted, one does not generally expect a serious treatment of such a subject in this sort of forum, but it's horrifying to see how the author roped in 2 billion Christians with Harold Camping's group. I suppose that this much at least was expected. What is particular­ly nutty is action, not generally beliefs. After all, one man's lunacy is another man's logic. Camping's group was defined as nutty because their belief system created dangerous behavior. The author of this also fundamenta­lly misunderst­ands why people are drawn to doomsday prediction­s, and this is common from people who have wealth and status in the world. For him, people are drawn to this because the world is so mysterious that we are desparate answers. I'm sure for a CEO, the biggest problem on his plate is the world's mystery. The less fortunate, who live pay check to pay check and cannot logically expect much else from this world have a real reason to yearn for an escape... It's not the religious alone who need to pull their heads out of their collective asses; it's folks like this guy who don't seem to understand that it's suffering, not mystery, that has created this yearning for heaven."

-- mmccathron

By the way, mmccathron makes an argumentative mistake that a lot of supporters of religion tend to make: he draws a distinction between belief and action. Yes, people are entitled to believe whatever they want and if faith gets you through the day then the argument can be made that it does some good. (Approaching it from that angle, however, doesn't in any way make the subject of your belief-system real.) But the thing about belief is that it doesn't happen in a vacuum; it informs your actions. Everything you do in life you do because you have a specific set of beliefs and values backing up each decision. To assume that someone will simply "believe" in something without it ever having a real-world effect is ludicrous.

These next two, just -- good luck.

"My intuition of the "Kingdom of Heaven is at hand" idea is just that--it is at hand, present with you, within you, and you have access to it, here and now, if you will only see it. You must use the "eyes of the spirit" however. Looking out into the world, paying someone else to proxy for you--this misses the point completely­. Rapture happens to each person when they let the ego-based, me me me world drop away and allow spirit to be fully present to you (within you, as you). It has nothing to do with what anyone else is doing. It doesn't mean you're better than anyone else. It gives you no right to condemn anyone else. It just simply means you realize and directly experience your intimacy with God, that has, in fact, always been here. You just allow the scales to fall from your eyes, and directly experience what Jesus was saying. God so loved the world...Yo­u are saved. Accept it, be with it. And everyone else is saved, too. Your job is simply to fully get it for yourself. Directly experience divine love in the here and now--that is rapture."

-- fatafalena

"The reason anyone can miss when the rapture takes place is the scriptures haven't provided them with a vision. There's a cycle vision of civilizati­ons, morning's [this] and evening's [Revelatio­n 21], with short transition periods between them. There are two mass raptures, the first two days of Genesis 1 one is an all-at-onc­e and the one-person­-at-a-time (Matthew 20:1-16) while replenishi­ng of the earth (Revelatio­n 20:5) for Revelation­'s. The 6 days of creation and rest day was the transition from Revelation­'s, Revelation 20:4&5 are the 7 days [millenniu­ms] reverse going into the next civilizati­on. The first day's 'waters' the spirit moved upon symbolizes people, the light and dark was separating them and the firmament between the second day's 'waters' was the all-at-onc­e rapture of the people who couldn't die (Revelatio­n 21:4) which Adam brought upon us. Igniting the sun on the fourth day (Genesis 1:14) [therefore extinguish­ed on the fourth millennium before the earth is rejuvenate­d anew like a plowed field becoming flat again after a time] was for a "signs" to put the Bible's message into as KJVs replenish (Genesis 1:28) and Ecclesiast­es 1:9 tells us. In doing that we see what the 'narrow way with the straight gate' is, the transition­s between civilizati­ons, where the 'saved' ascends into the true promised land Jesus is scouting (John 14:3) to return and take us into one-at-a-t­ime after this civilizati­on is over... And if I'm the last prophet, Elijah (Malachi 4:5-5), whose purpose is to figure it all out and what's required to be part of the rapture, am I not fulfilling my purpose? We don't know who that Elijah is but we do know (Isaiah 49:1) it's his birth name, as mine is. We do know (Isaiah 58:12 & Matthew 17:11) he's to restore all things which he must know what has happened to do. I do know my vision does present an idea of what has and will happen time and time again, so if I'm he I am fulfilling my purpose. Who knows I'm not he except me, whose not saying it here, and what is termed god? "

-- Elijah A. Alexander, Jr.

This next person apparently didn't like my somewhat mocking tone (go figure) and then went on to miss the point entirely.

"Although the logic of this article is sound at a certain level, the author nonetheles­s assumes a certain level of 'of course this is ridiculous­' to certain beliefs but presumably not to others. Strictly logically speaking, one could amend the author's take home message to say the following: 'Believing in Jesus Christ as the resurrecte­d son of the creator of the universe who will eventually return to Earth equals crazy; NOT believing in Jesus Christ as the resurrecte­d son of the creator of the universe who will eventually return to Earth equals not-crazy.­' I'm sure many would protest that there is of course a difference between these views (which ultimately probably reveals little more than what one personally believes) -- and yes, that's exactly my point. There are also VERY important difference­s in the two beliefs the author discusses, and his differenti­ation only has cash value among those who already want to see anything that they don't believe in as lunacy. Summing them up in the reductioni­st way the author does, does not get us very far, nor does it clearly differenti­ate from ANY set of beliefs, at least not without assuming a certain level of what OF COURSE is crazy and is not (laugh, laugh, snort, snort)."

-- dw30

And then there's this:

"'So the Rapture turned out to be a bit of a bust.' ??? HELLO! It hasn't happened yet."

-- Marlyn

Oh, and one person who apparently got the check I mailed.

"Chez is one of the few reasons I even come to HuffPo anymore."

-- Rumi South

Yeah, dude -- I rock.


Matt Osborne said...

The way I see it, Rapture and End Times emerge from a mythology that is universal. For every Revelations, there's a Ragnarok. What I think they share in common is our human experience with civilizational collapse. Y'know, like what Jared Diamond talks about in Collapse. Surprisingly, there's some scientific backing for this; you can read "Noah's Flood" by William Ryan and Walter Pitman, which has been seconded by Robert Ballard's marine archaeology in the Black Sea.

My point here is your commenter from Birmingham is lurching around in the dark for a truth that we CAN feel and see with our own experience. Indeed, one of the reasons why apocalypse paranoia is at such fever-pitch right now is that our civilization *IS* near collapse. Climate change, peak oil, resource wars...these are not imaginary sky gods. They are the doom we actually face.

MJG said...

Eschew Obfuscation

Eric said...

I don't know why the one commenter is recommending that you use Eyes Of The Spirit; I mean, I guess it works okay when your character is pretty low-level, but there's no way you're gonna wipe out a whole horde of orcs with it.

Marsupialus said...

I was so hoping it was going to happen because there's some prime real estate I was looking at around here. I figured with the owners gone, I'd just move in. So what if the world is burning. What's that compared to 5,000 sweet square feet!

Over there on Huff, you've got "practicing" Christians quoting the Scriptures to you. They're completely corrupted texts, mistranslated, miscopied, amended for a whole variety of purposes plus no one can actually track them back to their true sources. And they're "manufactured."

Why do so many of us move ever backward into the dark ages, believing fairytales?