Sunday, May 22, 2011

The cynicism of doomsday

It looks like another End of the World came and went without the world actually coming to an end. While I haven't had a chance to write about the whole Harold Camping brouhaha, I have been making many snide comments on my Facebook status updates about it though. Still, I thought that since I had a chance today, I'd write down some of my feelings now that it's all over - at least, until 2012.

These "end of the world" predictions tend to rile me up more so than a lot of other religious nonsense does. I think that the reason why is that much of my childhood was influenced by the beliefs of the Jehovah's Witnesses, and those crackpots are obsessed with Armageddon. They even made several specific predictions for the Apocalypse during their first century of existence, but then they finally wised up and decided to go with the vague "it's soon" prophecy instead.

Camping is, of course, easy enough to laugh at. In fact, of all the Christians I know, not one of them seemed to take his prediction all that seriously. (Or maybe they didn't want to listen to the crap that I'd give them if they admitted that they believed him.) However, I wished that their reasoning was a bit better, as many of them pointed out to how The Bible says that nobody knows the date. They even cite a specific passage for this. Of course, Camping had Bible verses too, but he had to do a lot of jumping around through various books and passages in order to come to his conclusion. Naturally, my Christian friends dismissed his interpretation, but I couldn't help notice that Camping essentially did the same sort of thing that a lot of Christians do when you bring up a very unambiguous Bible passage about how it's okay to own and beat your slaves or some other Biblical commandment that they want to pretend isn't there.

What was also depressing was seeing some of the comments where some Christians didn't believe it was going to happen, but they were wishing that it would. For them, going up to heaven while the majority of the world's population suffers in the Tribulation is a good thing and an act of a kind, loving deity. And what's in store for you in heaven? Eternal bliss as you praise MacYahweh - kind of like being in North Korea while on a permanent morphine drip.

How come none of them asks the sort of question they'd ask if they were watching a movie with a major plot hole? Why don't they say, "Hey! It's been 2000 years! How long is DA JEEBUS gonna take? Shoot, maybe after 100 years we should have figured that maybe it's not going to happen. Maybe if he didn't have enough motivation after the invasion of the Huns, the Black Plague, the Holocaust, the dropping of the atomic bomb, that "Friday" song, etcetera, then there isn't going to be a return at all. Ya know what? Maybe believing that a carpenter who was the son of God and died so God could forgive us is kind of silly!"

The thing is, I've had a few Christians refer to me as being "cynical" for my lack of belief. I guess it might seem like that when I'm using a mocking tone for my religious critiques. However, I don't consider myself a cynic at all. I mention things like the Black Plague, The Holocaust, and other atrocities of the past because I truly think that the world is still full of hope and promise and that if we overcame THOSE horrors, then we will perservere. When I read that the majority of Americans are now supporting gay marriage, in what is probably one of the fastest turnarounds in any civil rights movement in history, I start to feel like my son is going to live in a world that's more tolerant than previous ones. When I see that crime rates are still lower than they were a few decades ago, I think that things can still get better. Shoot, I'm even enough of a non-cynic to think that things will get better in The Middle East with the revolutions that have just started there. And in the interest of being fair and balanced, I'm hopeful that more Christians will focus on helping people like Jesus wanted them to rather than when the world is going to end. I personally don't care whether they do it in the name of Jesus, Buddha, or Bigfoot - so long as the mission is to help more so than preach, it's a good one.

If you want to really talk about who's a cynic, I'd say it's the people who think that things are only going to get progressively worse - that humanity doesn't have the potential to make things better on its own (all evidence to the contrary). It's cynical to think that the only way things will be made better is if our big imaginary friend takes care of it for us. And it's this type of cynicism that makes me sad for these people.

Oh, and another thing to make me optimistic about the future? Religion is fading away in much of the world. No doubt nutjobs like Harold Camping have done their part to speed that along, so I guess he's not totally useless. See, I can even find something positive to say about a guy like that!

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