"There is no possibility that it will not happen because all of our information comes from the Bible," This is a direct quote from an interview with one Harold Camping, an 89 year old former engineer from California who has once again been stirring the hearts and souls of the God-fearing communities in the world with his latest calculation for the date of The Rapture, the day in which God will call all the good souls into His kingdom and smite those who don't fit into that category with global destruction, unbiased fun and a lot of the old stereotypical fire. But I'm sure you're all wondering:
"What is YOUR opinion of this? What do YOU think about the supposed beginning of the apocalypse?"
Well, I am very happy that you asked! I would love to dissect this in my manner and try to get to the bottom of exactly how I feel.
Firstly, where do I stand with religion in general?
Well, I am not what could be called "traditionally religious". I have been christened into the Church of England (which I can tear to pieces for hours on end) and I have been ordained into the Universal Life Church. I observe the many holidays and traditions in manners SIMILAR to the traditional, but not quite on par with the mass-marketing, buy-my-stuff insanity that it is approached with by the masses eager for another reason to take a day off and buy each other inordinately expensive gifts that have no real bearing upon their lives in spiritual, social or even personal ways. When pushed to pigeonhole myself into one specific religion (the favourite pastime of the ever-present Form-Compiler, that sadistic creature that spends its timing trying to decide upon the most invasive and random ways of getting into your life) I will unfailingly put "Writer" because I feel this covers me the easiest. I do not follow one specific doctrine of faith, I read widely, as one who wishes to be informed in their own writing will, of each and every religion, philosophy and general way-of-life I can come across, but I do not necessarily believe in them.
The Bible, to me, as with any other religious text, is no different than Ram Dass' "Be Love Now", Bertrand Russel's "History of Western Philosophy" and Stephen King's "Rose Madder" (To name but three books in my immediate vicinity). It is a book. One filled with stories about people, either real, based on real, or entirely fictitious, doing the things people do and learning lessons from them, inspiring me in my own ways to go out and see the world from the same angle that they do. I have little-to-no doubt that 2000 years ago a man named Jesus (Joshua) wandered from his home in Nazareth, gathering followers and spreading life-affirming stories to those who felt spiritually lost during a time of great upheaval and oppression, but I do not believe that he performed miracles and I do not believe that the words he spread were about a celestial being that had a dedicated moral interest in our own souls, like some schizophrenic gambler in an ethereal casino wherein the Earth is his bucket of tokens, Hell is the vaults in which the fat cats store their gains and Heaven is the back pocket in which He stuffs his own winnings.
I believe it is all it is, a book designed to present you with an assuring story that will help you in getting over whatever wall your life has come across. It is not a manual for life, one that should be followed as strictly as, say, the how-to-use book of some Kenwood microwave, but perhaps closer to a spiritual TV Guide, designed to offer you a cursory title and brief synopsis of what is available to you over the large selection of (mostly repetitive and unoriginal) channels in life to allow you to choose what you wish to watch, and so it is with THIS in mind that I return to the quote I began with.
Harold Camping has made a name for himself before, when he predicted that The Rapture would occur in 1994, but alas the poor guy was proven incorrect as, lo and behold, here we stand, sit, dance and die 17 years later. This, of course, did not deter our erstwhile depicter of doom. He went back to his books, his Good Book, and his Best Casio and tried again, this time coming up with a new date 21/05/2011 (or 05/21/2011, for you American and other readers) to proclaim the coming of the Lord and all his little wizards to separate humanity into its little columns, take the good ones home and erase the mistakes (Or, to stick with the earlier Casino metaphor, God will cash in his remaining chips while the House will take its own winnings down into its vault).
Yes, as I write this (and I know I'm not on top of anything, not reporting the new or claiming any such nonsense) we are a mere 18 hours away from total destruction! (The actual time has also be deduced to be 6pm, worldwide (though I'm assuming he means East American Time)) And while looking into this marvellous piece of proposed doom I came across the quote that brought about a single response within me: Pure, loud, long and absolutely unexpected laughter.
Honestly, while reading into his work I took it with all the honesty I could, I was open and willing to believe anything and everything he had to say, his mathematical working is sound when compared to the required translations of dates and times found within the Bible but the MOMENT I saw those words I just couldn't keep it up anymore... EVERYTHING about his argument that had been both valid and believable dispersed quicker than a crowd of Goths in a music store as Justin Bieber comes onto the radio (terrible metaphor, but it IS late). I am all for figuring this stuff out, I think it’s a wonderful idea to attempt to liken these kinds of events from such books against our real timeline, but the moment people start taking it for absolute fact because of where it came from, in this case one of the most unreliable and imperfect tomes of calendar depiction ever written, is akin to swearing blind and on the lives of your very family that if you were to head to Kings Cross station on September 1st you'd be able to walk through a pillar onto a hidden platform. The fantasy is fun, whenever I'm there I like to give the old pillar a knock just for the hell of it, but I wouldn't dream of telling you it was fact. I won't say it’s impossible, if this world has proven anything to me beyond a shadow of a doubt it's that ANYTHING can happen, no matter how unpredictable or unexplainable, but please use humility! Don't go scaring the world into quitting their jobs, selling their possessions and bidding their nearest and dearest horrific farewells based upon the single most scrutinized and wholly un-provable text that humanity (and that is the key word, HUMANITY) has churned out.
Were the Bible a book written by God himself, or his angels, or perhaps a small gathering of clerics created specifically for the job of chronicling his life, then I would be less ready to spout these words, but since The Bible is and always will be written by men (and lately women) who have in themselves the same sense of all-empowering doctrinarian and dogma it can never be seen as an absolute fact, and so interesting dates and events of note derived from it should also never be seen in such a light.
Never stop doing it, drawing these ideas, these dates and times from it, because the world NEEDS it, I DO believe that, but DON'T take it as 100% literal, do not poison the lives of others with fear just because you believe in something. Do it yourself, by all means, if it is what you believe, that is what it’s there for, but don't use it as a tool, as a WEAPON to control the actions of those around you. It's not nice.
The tent is always open, and your are welcome to join me.
(Note: For the record, the title of this piece comes from a poster I have hung on my bedroom wall as I type this, it seemed most apt considering everything!)