Monday, May 23, 2011

It's the end of the world but you don't know it

As everyone knows (but will, no doubt, very swiftly forget), a Bay Area preacher named Harold Camping predicted the rapture would happen on Saturday. When it didn't, he professed to be "flabbergasted," and took a few days to do some thinking. This afternoon he more or less squarely faced a press conference and told the press and his radio audience that something "mystical" had taken place on Saturday and never fear, the end of the world will happen on October 21 "just as we have been predicting."

In fact, he has been preaching that the original May 21 date would be only the beginning of a five-month period of terror and that the real end of the world would come as the earth is consumed by fire on Oct. 21. Now he's saying never mind the terror part -- God is merciful! -- but he was right about everything else.

Play-by-play of the event is here, courtesy of a live-blogging HuffPost writer, but I thought the most interesting and telling part of Camping's spiel was when he was asked about the people who had sold their possessions and quit their jobs to advertise the May 21 date. Even if Camping was right about the Oct. 21 date, what did he advise those followers to do in the meantime? After all, Camping had answered a previous question as to whether he would be giving up his worldly possessions by saying in a mystified voice "But I still have to have a place to live... I still have to have a car to drive. Why would I do that?"

So what advice did he have for his followers who were now bereft of possessions? "Look," he said, his voice hardening. "We just went through a great recession. People lost their jobs, they lost their homes, they had to move in with a cousin, perhaps, or cut back very much on spending. But they survived. People cope."

So, anybody who believed this old nutbag and did something stupid like stopped saving for their kids' college tuition or quit their job -- they're on their own for the next five months. Surely some of them will kick themselves, go out and get a new job, and work at not being bitter for the rest of their lives. But others will double down for the real EOTW in October. Those are the people we should be afraid of.

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