December 17, 2013

Harold Camping Dies Before the Rapture

Harold Camping in 2008
Harold Camping in 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Harold Camping, the Christian radio preacher who predicted that the rapture would happen, has died at the age of 92. If you have never heard of Camping, you are probably curious as to why his demise is receiving so much attention around the atheist blogosphere. Who was Camping, and why is everybody talking about him now? He certainly does not have the name recognition as a Jerry Falwell or a Pat Robertson, but he was still an interesting figure.

Long time readers may remember that I have written multiple posts about Camping, so I figured I should provide a concise summary of how and why he came to our attention. I first became aware of Camping when he made news for predicting that the rapture would take place on May 21, 2011. At the time, I wrote:
Even before May 21st ran its course without anyone being raptured, most Christians thought that Harold Camping was a nut. They were right to do so. But it wasn't Camping's conviction that he could predict the date and time of the rapture that made him a nut; it was his belief in the rapture itself. And because this is a belief most Christians seem to share, this is the lesson Christians should take from yesterday: rapture-belief is nutty, regardless of when one thinks it will happen.
But Camping was not deterred by his failed prediction. He returned to the radio and repeated his rapture claim with a new date: October 21, 2011. Instead of apologizing for the harm his initial prediction caused (e.g., many of his followers quit their jobs and gave away their possessions), he denied having any responsibility and moved ahead with a new date.

When October 21 passed without incident, something unexpected happened. Camping disappeared. He would not return until Spring of 2012, and when he did so, he offered a partial apology. You see, Camping blamed himself for predicting specific and obviously incorrect dates but refused to question the reality of the rapture or the god in which he claimed to believe. Moreover, he seemed to see his failed predictions as beneficial in spite of the harm they caused. The denial was strong with Camping.

I wonder what Camping's former followers think of him at this point, especially the ones who believed him so thoroughly that they gave away everything they owned in anticipation of being vacuumed up to "heaven" by Jesus. Will they mourn him, or will his passing bring up the old wounds of betrayal? I'd like to think that Camping helped to open at least a few eyes, demonstrating the perils of believing nonsense.

H/T to Stupid Evil Bastard

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