I’m with Judy. Let’s start a new species. The old one is downright embarrassing.
I don’t know how many followers (and that’s a perfect term for them) got caught up in Harold Camping’s latest addition to the world’s many no-show doomsdays. But every one of them willingly surrendered the main attribute of being human — the ability to think.
Painful though it was to watch Camping drone Robert Fitzpatrick get grilled by gloaters in Times Square, it was no more than he could have expected. (At least, unlike Camping, he had the guts to show his face in public after the fiasco.) His worst consequence should come when he realizes he blew his $140,000 life savings on another man’s fantasy.
But will he ever get that? Even after repeated disappointments, few True Believers do. They say God was testing their faith or they made a slight miscalculation. They see that the world mocks them — which makes them only cling closer to some bogus Truth.
And it’s not just fringe Christians. Really, how much difference is there between the followers of Harold Camping and the millions of people who faithfully follow the federal government’s dietary guidelines — even as they bloat with obesity and get sick with diabetes? For that matter there’s not much difference between those Unhappy Campers and the tens of millions who Believe government is next to God — but can never answer the question: “If it’s so great why can it only survive on stolen money and coercion?”
I once had a friend who got horribly burned in a patriot tax scam. Lost lots of money. Got in trouble with the IRS. Ouch.
Thereafter, she became an intelligent, diligent, and stunningly witty debunker of such scams. She could take apart fraudulent anti-tax schemes so thoroughly they could never be put back together again.
But somehow, her hard-won wisdom applied only to tax scams. The whole time I knew her, she was always trying to drag me and other friends into all manner of scammy multi-level marketing schemes. If the word “prosperity” appeared in their title, she was sold. I would ask her not to send me sales pitches, telling her I didn’t like having friends try to sell me stuff, let alone try to drag me into multi-layered everybody-sells-everybody-else webs. She’d back off for a while — then pitch me another one. When I’d protest, she’d answer, “But I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t tell you about this OPPORTUNITY.”
Like most True Believers, she was also fickle. The latest scheme was always The One Great Thing. A month later, it wouldn’t be mentioned again. But having forgotten all about Global Prosperity Marketing, Inc. she was sure that Spiritual Prosperity for Wealth and Fame, Inc. was about to catapult her — and all her lucky friends! — into riches.
I grew up in too-close company with someone similar. When she was in her Christian phase, she damned me to hell for being a pagan. A year later, when she became an atheist, all religious people were not just wrong — they were irredeemable fools. And this rapid-fire sequential True Believerism wasn’t only in the big things. Like rock music? Sniff, sniff; you must be terribly immature. Only classical music is suitable for adults and everyone with any sense knows that. But the next year, when a hit movie turned her on to country & western music and $300 cowboy boots, anybody who didn’t like twangy guitars or designer cowgirl attire was simply too disgusting to bother with.
So this weekend we all had a good, eye-rolling laugh at a bunch of well-financed, overly prideful Followers of Fashion. We got the chance to enjoy some funny photos and even funnier video clips. And we got to feel smug and superior to the unknown number of Believers who actually Believed Mr. Camping’s Funny Math because it was easier than asking skeptical questions and relying on their own brains, research, history, or common sense for answers.
But even if there were only 10,000 — or 1,000 — or even a few hundred who followed Harold Camping into folly, how many more out there “think” (if you can call it that) just like those folks about other things? How many others routinely follow rather than ask questions? How many routinely hate the latest media-whipped villain, unquestioningly ride the latest propaganda bandwagon, slaveringly join in the latest witchhunt? How many Believe — over and over again, no matter how many times reality attempts to smack them in the face? How many hate Arabs or pit bulls or militiamen or pot smokers — just because somebody told them to? How many love Obama or Bush despite ample evidence that it just ain’t reciprocal? How many believe any old thing they hear in the media — for no better reason than that pack of willful self-delusionists followed Harold Camping?
Several articles during the pre-Rapture-that-wasn’t mentioned that 41 percent of Americans Believe Jesus will come down from heaven before 2050. Not having seen the raw data or the polling methodology, I’m not sure how to evaluate that claim. But given the number who Believe things like “the policeman is your friend” or “if government didn’t stop us we’d all murder each other” or “the U.S. justice system is the best in the world” or “if you don’t like the government you can change it!” … well, I’m with Judy.
We need to start a new species. Definitely.