tip off

Rundle: in the face of blinding hypocrisy, the apocalypse goes on

Pastor Harold Camping — the strangely-named 89-year-old retired engineer preaching the apocalypse — has broken his silence over the failure of the rapture to materialise on the weekend, expressing his fundamental bewilderment by the failure of the world to end:

I can tell you when May 21 came and went it was a very difficult time for me — a very difficult time. I was truly wondering what is going on. In my mind I went back through all of the promises God had made. What in the world was happening?”

But eventually he came up with an explanation: God was so merciful that the original timetable of an initial apocalypse followed by five months of earthly torment had been revised because God has been so merciful:

The great earthquake and rapture and the universe melting in fervent heat will be happening on the last day — October 21, 2011. It’s all going to happen on the last day.”

And in speaking to his followers, he gave one of the great unintentional explanations of religion of all time:

It was marvellous how everything was going until May 21 came…”

Yeah, it sure was. That warning of the apocalypse thing was just swimming along until that one small detail ruined everything. It’s right up there with “apart from that, how did you like our fair city of Dallas, Mrs Kennedy?”

Yet the most amazing thing about the “Family Radio” apocalypse was not the fervent activity of its relatively small number of followers, but the fervent attention it gained from the world’s media, and from a global network of atheists and humanists.

The group isn’t the first sect to attract widespread derision as they prepare for the end times — 19th century sects who periodically gathered for the end attracted huge, derisive crowds, and often managed to convert a few of them — but they’re the first to become a part of the global news system for more than a week.

Something that would have hitherto rated a brief mention at the end of a news bulletin became a key story, often an anchor story of whole news bulletins.

In part this was due to the huge presence of the Family Radio crowd — particularly in the US, but also across Asia — via their billboards and ads bought with the life savings of thousands of hapless followers.

Yet the excitement and sheer glee with which their inevitable disappointment was awaited was a new thing. It appeared to be expressing something entirely other. In part it was a measure of the weakness of militant neo-atheism as a movement, its perpetual need to have the most absurd religious expressions to ridicule.

But perhaps the “family radio” prophecy also served as some sort of proxy for the increasing imposition of the rise of incommensurable beliefs in a way that doesn’t even bother to make sense — creationism and extreme climate change denialism being two of the major candidates.

These days, practically all of the US Republican Party in Congress, and a fair slew of the Australian Right, simply refuse to acknowledge the overwhelming probability of man-made global warming — while relying in their everyday lives on a world made by the science that predicts it.

We won’t be around to yell at them when it comes to pass — indeed, that is part of the sheer nihilism that underlies much of the denialist push. The “family radio” apocalypse served as a useful substitute.

The same goes for creationism, hardly a major force in Australia (though if the evangelical Right can infiltrate the government-funded chaplaincy programme it may become so).

People who will fight to prevent their children being taught evolution will fight just as hard, in times of illness, to get them drugs designed and tested by principles that use evolution as a given.

Such petty and partial fundamentalisms are spreading, in a borderless world which is sold as a new utopia — but which simply compels many people to a more desperate search for a rigid framework to live their lives by. These sub-movements crowd out more reasoned and tentative philosophies, because they offer a greater psychic reward; more energy, before the great crash.

Look, for example, in the US at the way the cult of Ayn Rand has crowded out reasoned conservatism on the Right. For standard US conservatism, government was something to be judiciously minimised, but was nevertheless part of the whole life of the nation.

For Randians — which include Alan Greenspan and Paul Ryan, the current GOP author of the 2011 budget proposal — government is a pure parasite, a leach which should not merely be minimised but despised. Armed with this faith, they contemplate their role as government to destroy government; render it unworkable.

When their works end in disaster, they can usually shift the blame onto others. Harold Camping and Family Radio were that rare thing: falsifiable fundamentalists. Jeering at their dazed followers in Times Square was satisfying because it is all but impossible to make any sort of impression on far more powerful figures — such as Greenspan, who sounded, in testifying on the 2008 crash, as bewildered as any unraptured evangelical, as he contemplated the ruins of the US investment banking system and the wreck of his theory.

Despite that, the apocalypse goes on.

15
  • 1
    klewso
    Posted Tuesday, 24 May 2011 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Easy to do, maybe he just misread the year? I do it all the time? “2010”? “2012”?

  • 2
    klewso
    Posted Tuesday, 24 May 2011 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    The immaculate mis-conception”?

  • 3
    stephen martin
    Posted Tuesday, 24 May 2011 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    Yet the most amazing thing about the “Family Radio” apocalypse was not the fervent activity of its relatively small number of followers, but the fervent attention it gained from the world’s media,” - Indeed, and also from Crickey !

  • 4
    Tim nash
    Posted Tuesday, 24 May 2011 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    The thing about the human race is that it periodically looses sight of reason.
    The Roman Empire and it’s collapse saw the world decay from a sustained period of high civilisation to total anarchy in a very short time period.
    The examples cited here, with the global warming doubters included are show us that you could probably more accurately call ‘the going against all reason mob’.
    We should be grateful that this mob currently is relatively non-violent at present and have not turned to burning people or libraries.

  • 5
    Posted Tuesday, 24 May 2011 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Well, the rapture was east to visualise: a huge Mexican wave crossing the planet, with lift-off precisely at 6pm in your own time zone.

  • 6
    Sense Seeker
    Posted Tuesday, 24 May 2011 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    If it weren’t for Crikey I don’t think I’d have known about the impending apocalypse.

    Typical Crikey, perhaps? Blame politicians for living by the polls, but publishing a poll almost daily. Resent inequalities in wealth but time and again highlighting how much so-and-so now owns.

    Fortunately it’s also got good critical reporting and analysis.

  • 7
    Meski
    Posted Tuesday, 24 May 2011 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    Ah no, Rand’s government (in Atlas Shrugged) was a parasite, but not all governments are of this form. Look at it as a cautionary tale, not what is desired to happen by the author. Nor was its aim to destroy government, that was a side effect of destroying an idea.

  • 8
    mikeb
    Posted Tuesday, 24 May 2011 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    a huge Mexican wave crossing the planet” Exactly!

    Amazing also that God was able to include the vagarities of global time zones in the planned apocolypse…….unless maybe he realised at the last moment that Queensland is still in the 50s so “he’d” have to quarantine that spot for another 50 years or so.

  • 9
    Mort
    Posted Tuesday, 24 May 2011 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    Well i was pissed off i didn’t get to see any sky zooming fundies.
    That Camping dude must be a false prophet.

  • 10
    Tom
    Posted Tuesday, 24 May 2011 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    @ Tim Nash (and seemingly half the population)

    One ‘O’ please, you’re making me crazy!

    lose   /luz/ Show Spelled
    [looz] Show IPA
    verb, lost, los·ing.
    –verb (used with object)
    1. to come to be without (something in one’s possession or care), through accident, theft, etc., so that there is little or no prospect of recovery: I’m sure I’ve merely misplaced my hat, not lost it.
    2. to fail inadvertently to retain (something) in such a way that it cannot be immediately recovered: I just lost a dime under this sofa.
    3. to suffer the deprivation of: to lose one’s job; to lose one’s life.

    I know it’s pedantic, petty and silly but for some reason I’m obsessed.

  • 11
    Malcolm Street
    Posted Tuesday, 24 May 2011 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

    Looking at the USA is more and more like watching a freak show. Sad to see one of the great achievements of the 18th century Enlightenment sinking back into a tide of superstition.

    There’s worse to come folks, just look at the curriculum at some US religious schools… http://www.alternet.org/teaparty/151046/the_creepy_christian_dogma_pushed_by_religious_schools_that_are_supported_by_your_tax_dollars?page=entire

  • 12
    David Hand
    Posted Tuesday, 24 May 2011 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

    The real tragedy was expressed in a tweet I heard of. Camping can’t comfort his people by saying “Cheer up! It’s not the end of the world”.

  • 13
    Moira Smith
    Posted Tuesday, 24 May 2011 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

    Guy I have admired your reporting in the past but on this occasion I think you had a few too many good ideas and a few too many bottles of good … (whatever is your poison). Your article didn’t make sense and the structure was poor. IMHO.

    BTW if this apocalyptic group was ‘the first to become a part of the global news system for more than a week’ then I totally missed it, and I am to blame through not watching enough news (though I could swear I caught at least a few ‘PBS Newhour’s and ‘SBS World News’s and even a few ABC News Bulletins over the past week … well I must be inattentive. Or maybe they don’t tell Aussies nothing.

    PS good idea for story though.

  • 14
    Tim nash
    Posted Wednesday, 25 May 2011 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    Sorry about the o : (

  • 15
    AR
    Posted Thursday, 26 May 2011 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    Mort - hardly a false Profit though - apparently none of crazy followers thought it odd that he was telling them to send him all their money because they wouldn’t be needing it where they were going.
    Makes the Great Flying Spaghetti Monster seem reasonable.

Womens Agenda

loading...

Smart Company

loading...

StartupSmart

loading...

Property Observer

loading...