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True Believers

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.

14 Comments

  1. Kent McManigal
    Kent McManigal May 22, 2011 7:15 pm

    Everyone must think exactly as I do and hold the same opinions I do or they are crazy!!!

    Or not.

  2. Claire
    Claire May 22, 2011 7:46 pm

    Wow, Kent. You’re fast. I was just editing this post and didn’t even realize I’d accidentally hit the button to publish it. I intended it for Monday, but since you got in there with that bit of wit, I guess I’d better keep it “live” tonight.

    Yeah. Crazy. Or not. 🙂

  3. bumperwack
    bumperwack May 22, 2011 8:15 pm

    Hmm…

  4. Ellendra
    Ellendra May 22, 2011 8:28 pm

    Now you know why I keep saying I’m an elf 😉

  5. John
    John May 22, 2011 11:48 pm

    For your new “species” to be successful it will have to automatically exclude homo sapiens.

  6. A. G.
    A. G. May 23, 2011 12:28 am

    The notable thing about Camping and Family Radio is the influence they have with their somewhat obscure stations. As Libertarianism grows, hopefully it is only a matter of time before a group begans to broadcast in a similar manner. It will be interesting.

  7. Underground Carpenter
    Underground Carpenter May 23, 2011 4:51 am

    Hi Claire,

    If only We All would examine our beliefs. Especially our most closely-held beliefs. I’ve noticed that the more closely-held the belief, the more outrageous the behavior, and always to the bad. I tend to prefer people that say, “Well, maybe,” instead of “Damn straight!” or “Screw that!” But the noise of the world always seems to drown out the quiet people. They’re hard to find. Usually I find them in books.

    Dave

  8. -S
    -S May 23, 2011 7:16 am

    Starting a new species is easy, keeping it going takes a bit more work.

    Wiki sez: “A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring.”

    So to start a new species all one has to do is be selective about whom you breed with. Extend that a bit to whom you socialize with, trade with, correspond with.

    I’ll paraphrase some recent words of wisdom:

    “We are a silent species. A species of the mind. An species without hierarchy, without officers, without commands. We are a species of the intellect and the spirit that can never be targeted, bombed, or shot into submission.

    We are invisible, which sometimes discourages us, but which is our secret strength.”

    Sounds like we’re well on the way to developing our own species!

  9. Matt
    Matt May 23, 2011 7:49 am

    Maybe the rapture actually occurred and we just didn’t notice? Maybe we could work a deal with God (or the deity(ies) of your choice) to take all of the politicians and let the rest of us work it out.

  10. Scott
    Scott May 23, 2011 9:13 am

    Why not have Endadaworld parties? Next year, I’m attending a End Of The World Halloween Party next year..it is 2012,And That’s Really It! Sometimes-most of the time-you just gotta back up, look at the big picture,and laugh at it. The scary part is the numberof people that do believe in some sort of rapidly approaching cataclysm-I work with a Endadaworld/Conspiracy Theory type. It can be entertaining, at times.
    End of the World? Well, doesn’t the sun have a billion or so years of hydrogen left?
    For what it’s worth,I worked at a Methodist college for a decade,and there were very few “hardshells” there-they actually knew the book others just thumped. I wonder how many Christians have actually read and understood the book that’s supposed to be their guide? More than you think, probably, they’re just quiet about it.

  11. Claire
    Claire May 23, 2011 11:18 am

    I neglected to note this predictable form of justification:

    “Judgment Day has come and passed, but it was a spiritual judgment on the world,” he explains. “There is no more salvation. Salvation is over with. The fact is we have 153 days, and on the 21st of October, the world will end.”

    http://www.npr.org/2011/05/23/136560695/doomsday-believers-cope-with-an-intact-world

    Yes, Doomsday really did come & our problem is that we just didn’t notice.

    But on the good side, yep, that means you party guys can party hearty. If you’re a reject, God’s already rejected you so you might as well have fun. OTOH, if God already judged you as one of His Chosen Saturday evening, you’re now free to pillage, rape, murder, steal, and become a politician (but I repeat myself) because you’ve been given a free pass. So enjoy your next five months (minus two days) folks. Anything goes!

  12. naturegirl
    naturegirl May 23, 2011 12:33 pm

    “We are invisible, which sometimes discourages us, but which is our secret strength.”

    I like that….

    I’m assuming those who know how to think for themselves, being the opposite of those who can’t and have to follow others, it’s only right that the thinkers don’t “pack up” with each other either…the thinkers don’t need other people to reinforce their decisions and ideas, like the opposite do……confident in their own decisions and how they approach making them, they don’t need the same validation from anyone else…..They may be lonely or silent, but the strength is really the key here…..

    Sometimes it is nice to find out there’s others out there that know what the heck they want based on what they decided for themselves, but you don’t expect to hear them and it doesn’t change who you are anyway…….maybe that’s what “the meek shall inherit the earth” really means, meek=silent ~ but who wants to inherit the mess “they” leave behind, LOL….

    Saturday was just another day like today is…..and tomorrow is never guaranteed for anyone (for any reason)…..party on like it’s the last minute, just in general “I did it” mode for your own satisfaction…..

  13. Claire
    Claire May 23, 2011 12:47 pm

    “I’m assuming those who know how to think for themselves, being the opposite of those who can’t and have to follow others, it’s only right that the thinkers don’t “pack up” with each other either…the thinkers don’t need other people to reinforce their decisions and ideas, like the opposite do……confident in their own decisions and how they approach making them, they don’t need the same validation from anyone else…..They may be lonely or silent, but the strength is really the key here…..”

    Well said, naturegirl. The above-quoted part of your comment makes me think of something that may not (or OTOH may) have nothing to do with True Believers — the omnipresent trend in social media and social-media marketing to base everything on what your “friends” like. Coupons that take effect only if a bunch of people sign on for them. Programs that notify you about what your “friends” just bought or tell you what your “friends” like or what stores your “friends” just walked into. I mean, I can see how an insecure 14-year-old would find that compelling. But it’s mystifying — and alarming — that so many alleged grownups are being encouraged toward such groupthink. Is that related to the kind of behavior we saw this weekend? I don’t know. But your observation applies equally well in both places.

  14. naturegirl
    naturegirl May 23, 2011 3:22 pm

    If there’s any behavior of crowd following in one area, it’s sure to be in many……I use to think crowd following was stupidity, but then I thought maybe it’s just laziness: it’s easier to have someone else think for them than it is to hunt down all the info and take the responsibility for a decisions or belief on their own…….Maybe it’s that they’re afraid of looking stupid, and end up doing something stupid anyway…..or maybe they just don’t want to be left out and alone…..

    Any way ya want to look at it, there’s one common denominator in all of this behavior: the media…..it’s scary how much of the media makes decisions for people now a days…..it’s scary how many people see something on the news and accepts it as facts and reality, not to mention the final “truth” on a subject……

    But that makes it easier on the rest of us, once it’s on the news we can head in the opposite directional thinking, LOL…..

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