Sunday, March 6, 2011

I Have to Post This Now, Because the World Will End in May

If Harold Camping is right (and I actually stick to my word from now on that I won't post here until after my big test is over in June) that will mean the world will have ended. Visit that news story to see a few textbook cases of what psychiatrists call "Not endorsing one's delusions": "...After he mentions that he's on a diet, he gets the humor when asked, 'What's the point?'"

"Yes, ha ha ha, I have absolutely no consistency between my stated beliefs and my actions, that's very amusing!" this man might say. But does he actually stop bothering with his diet? Does he wonder why he had so little insight into his motivations that he never noticed the disconnect? The article doesn't cover this, but I doubt it. The bottom line is that these are people whose behavior and utterances don't align well. By thinking about these questions, right now you and I are taking that guy's beliefs more seriously than he is.

But it would be inappropriate to be too gleeful at how misled all these people are, because they've basically ruined their lives over this by quitting their jobs and giving everything away. It's really sad, actually. It would be interesting to hear Dinesh D'Souza try to defend this, or weasel out of it by saying that "you're focusing on a tiny minority". (Note: it's not. 45% of Christian American adults believe the world will end as described in Revelation. 45%!!!!!)

But most amazingly, this isn't the first time Camping has taken in a group of credulous people by predicting the end of the world! Did you get that? He claimed the world was going to end once before - in 1994. Somehow this doesn't seem to faze the people following him now.

If I were in Florida, I wouldn't be able to resist finding these folks on the road and asking them some real questions:

1) If they're wrong and the end doesn't come (even though they've given away their worldly possessions), do they have a back-up plan? Sleeping on their sister's couch, asking for their old job back, preparing for the IRS audit since they didn't file taxes? (This is exactly what I would be asking a friend or family member who was doing the same thing.)

2) Or a little bit harder-edged: do they want to borrow some money? No repayment needed until June 2012 - but then it's 1000% interest. If they believe what they're saying, this is a no-brainer.

3) Are the 2012 Mayan calendar people nuts for thinking it'll happen in 2012? Why?

4) I posted before about how a less morally-minded person could make a game out of anticipating excuses from end-of-the-world types after the Big Day has passed uneventfully. It would be worth asking what they would say to an Islamic apocalypse cult who said these kinds of things after their own date passed. (When dealing with conservative American Christians, always compare to Muslims. Always!) If people in that cult kept believing even after their date passed, couldn't it be because they have so much invested in believing it (identity, pride, burned bridges from their past lives) that they keep believing even though they suspect it's all B.S.?

All of this suggests an Onion article: "Cult Made Up Entirely of Undercover Psychology Grad Students and Journalists Who Think The Rest Are For Real". I would be thrilled if that's what was going on, because it would mean fewer ruined lives.

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