Case of poor judgment

Copied from Herald Sun
http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/national/case-of-poor-judgment/story-e6frf7l6-1226060322904

End of the world deadline passes

Despite the doomsday prediction that yesterday would be the end of it all, the world is still here

Rapture believers on May 21

Believers warn of the impending doom that was due to arrive yesterday / AFP AFP

THEY spent months warning the world of the apocalypse, some giving away earthly belongings or draining their bank accounts. And so they waited, eagerly or anxiously, for the appointed hour to arrive.

Nothing.

When 6pm came and went at various spots around the globe, and nothing extraordinary emerged.  In Australia and New Zealand, early target of the prediction of Armageddon, and across the world, the deadline was greeted with scepticism and humour.

“People are making jokes like there’s no tomorrow,” was one of the top tweets.

In the US, Keith Bauer – who hopped in his minivan in Maryland and drove his family 4800km to California for the momentous occasion – tried to take it in stride.  “I had some scepticism but I was trying to push the scepticism away because I believe in God,” he said outside the gated Oakland headquarters of Family Radio International, whose founder, Harold Camping, has been broadcasting the apocalyptic prediction for months.

He now plans to hop back in his minivan and begin the cross-country drive back with his wife, young son and another family relative.

The May 21 doomsday message was sent far and wide via broadcasts and websites by Mr Camping, an 89-year-old retired civil engineer who has built a multi-million-dollar nonprofit ministry based on his apocalyptic prediction.

The top trends on Twitter at midday included, at No. 1, #endofworldconfessions, followed by #myraptureplaylist.

Mr Camping’s radio stations, TV channels, satellite broadcasts and website are controlled from a humble building sandwiched between an auto shop and a palm reader’s business. Family Radio International’s message has been broadcast in 61 languages. He has said that his earlier apocalyptic prediction in 1994 didn’t come true because of a mathematical error.

“I’m not embarrassed about it. It was just the fact that it was premature,” he told The Associated Press last month. But this time, he said, “there is…no possibility that it will not happen”.

Why now?

Mr Camping and his followers believe the beginning of the end will come on May 21, exactly 7000 years since the flood in the biblical story of Noah’s Ark.

Mr Camping believed that some 200 million people would be saved, and that those left behind would die in earthquakes, plagues, and other calamities until Earth is consumed by a fireball on October 21.

Christian leaders from across the spectrum widely dismissed the prophecy. One local church was concerned that Mr Camping’s followers could slip into a deep depression in the aftermath of nothing.

“The cold, hard reality is going to hit them that they did this, and it was false and they basically emptied out everything to follow a false teacher,” a pastor said.  “We’re not all about doom and gloom. Our message is a message of salvation and of hope.”

As the day drew nearer, followers reported that donations grew, allowing Family Radio to spend millions on more than 5000 billboards and 20 recreational vehicles plastered with the doomsday message.

In the Philippines, a big billboard of Family Radio ministry in Manila warned of Judgment Day. Earlier this month, group members there distributed leaflets to motorists and carried placards warning of the end of the world.

Marie Exley, who helped put up apocalypse-themed billboards in Israel, Jordan and Lebanon, said the money helped the nonprofit save as many souls as possible.

She said she and her husband, mother and brother were glued to the television on Friday night waiting for news of an earthquake in the southern hemisphere. When that did not happen, she said fellow believers began reaching out to reassure each other of their faith in the prophecy.

“Some people were saying it was going to be an earthquake at that specific time in New Zealand and be a rolling judgment, but God is keeping us in our place and saying you may know the day but you don’t know the hour,” she said.  “The day is not over, it’s just the morning, and we have to endure until the end.”

M Camping, who lives a few kilometres from his radio station, was not home to comment on the lack of Rapture.

FIVE OTHER END-OF-WORLD PREDICTIONS:

1. Followers of William Miller believed the world would end on October 22, 1844.

2.The Jehovah’s Witness religion has predicted the end of the world in 1914, 1915, 1918, 1920, 1925, 1941, 1975 and 1994.

3. Charles Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church, predicted the world would end in 1794.

4. Famous forecaster Nostradamus predicted doomsday would happen in July 1999.

5. English mystic Joanna Southcott predicted the world would end on October 19, 1814, when she gave birth to the Messiah.

___________________________________________________________

I am sure you, dear readers, are as unsurprised as I to realize no one was being raptured today. I did have a fairly thorough plan to loot my neighbors so I could bunker down for the next 6 months and avoid the anarchy…however, I digress. What I find interesting is the reference to other failed predictions of the past. If you refer back to my blog post re: Armageddon Postponed you will notice I refer to William Miller and the Great Disappointment of 1844. Why do people continue to make predictions? And why do the followers continue to follow those who make failed predictions? I find an interesting article based upon a book I will definitely be obtaining here:

http://www.slate.com/id/2295099/

Prophecy Fail

What happens to a doomsday cult when the world doesn’t end?

By Vaughan BellPosted Friday, May 20, 2011, at 3:32 PM ET

A woman declaring the end of hte world. Click to expand image.Preacher and evangelical broadcaster Harold Camping has announced that Jesus Christ will return to Earth this Saturday, May 21, and many of his followers are traveling the country in preparation for the weekend Rapture. They’re undeterred, it seems, by Mr. Camping’s dodgy track record with end-of-the-world predictions. (Years ago, he argued at length that the reckoning would come in 1994.) We’ve yet to learn what motivates people like him to predict (and predict again) the end of the world, but there’s a long and unexpected psychological literature on how the faithful make sense of missed appointments with the apocalypse

The most famous study into doomsday mix-ups was published in a 1956 book by renowned psychologist Leon Festinger and his colleagues called When Prophecy Fails. A fringe religious group called the Seekers had made the papers by predicting that a flood was coming to destroy the West Coast. The group was led by an eccentric but earnest lady called Dorothy Martin, given the pseudonym Marian Keech in the book, who believed that superior beings from the planet Clarion were communicating to her through automatic writing. They told her they had been monitoring Earth and would arrive to rescue the Seekers in a flying saucer before the cataclysm struck.

Festinger was fascinated by how we deal with information that fails to match up to our beliefs, and suspected that we are strongly motivated to resolve the conflict—a state of mind he called “cognitive dissonance.” He wanted a clear-cut case with which to test his fledgling ideas, so decided to follow Martin’s group as the much vaunted date came and went. Would they give up their closely held beliefs, or would they work to justify them even in the face of the most brutal contradiction?

The Seekers abandoned their jobs, possessions, and spouses to wait for the flying saucer, but neither the aliens nor the apocalypse arrived. After several uncomfortable hours on the appointed day, Martin received a “message” saying that the group “had spread so much light that God had saved the world from destruction.” The group responded by proselytizing with a renewed vigour. According to Festinger, they resolved the intense conflict between reality and prophecy by seeking safety in numbers. “If more people can be persuaded that the system of belief is correct, then clearly, it must, after all, be correct.”

When Prophecy Fails has become a landmark in the history of psychology, but few realize that many other studies have looked at the same question: What happens to a small but dedicated group of people who wait in vain for the end of the world? Ironically, Festinger’s own prediction—that a failed apocalypse leads to a redoubling of recruitment efforts—turned out to be false: Not one of these follow-ups found evidence to support his claim. The real story turns out to be far more complex.

What Festinger failed to understand is that prophecies, per se, almost never fail. They are instead component parts of a complex and interwoven belief system which tends to be very resilient to challenge from outsiders. While the rest of us might focus on the accuracy of an isolated claim as a test of a group’s legitimacy, those who are part of that group—and already accept its whole theology—may not be troubled by what seems to them like a minor mismatch. A few people might abandon the group, typically the newest or least-committed adherents, but the vast majority experience little cognitive dissonance and so make only minor adjustments to their beliefs. They carry on, often feeling more spiritually enriched as a result.

For those who draw their inspiration from the Bible, there is some small print in Deuteronomy 18:21-22 which wonderfully illustrates why a failed prophecy may not shake the foundations of a believer’s faith, or cause him any uncomfortable cognitive dissonance.

You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?”

If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed.

Only predictions that come true are from God, you see, while failed prophecies are just down to human slip-ups—a truly divine response to anyone who would condemn either a prophet or a whole belief system on the minor matter of a failed apocalypse.

Even without this sacred disclaimer, it’s easy enough for a believer to reinterpret and revise the details of a prediction so that it fits whatever facts are on the ground. The research literature is littered with such examples. When atomic energy didn’t sweep over the Earth to herald the Second Coming on Christmas Day 1967, the Universal Link group cheerfully reinterpreted their prophecy as pertaining to a spiritual force, rather than a physical effect. When flying saucers never announced their presence to humankind in 1976, the Unarian sect gently reworked its prophecy to refer more broadly to some point in “the future,” while blaming limited human minds for misunderstanding the aliens’ grand plan. When a Pentecostal group led by the God-channelling housewife Mrs. Shepard emerged after more than a month from self-built fallout shelters, they were pleased that the divinely ordained nuclear holocaust had not come to pass—and grateful for having passed a test of their faith.

In fact, so many studies have been conducted on unfulfilled prophecies from religions large and small that they were compiled into a fascinating book from 2000, Expecting Armageddon. None of the groups described reacted to the unexpected persistence of the world with a zealous drive for new members, and most made just minor adjustments to their beliefs. If Harold Camping’s followers remain steadfast in their devotion come Sunday afternoon, don’t be surprised—it’s merely a testament to the human spirit.

For those not waiting for the world to end in a storm of fire and light it is easy to write off the believers as deluded, but Festinger was not so wide of the mark when he suggested that we adapt to even the most unlikely of contradictions using nothing more than our methods of everyday rationalization. The faithful could just as easily be those who stubbornly stand by disgraced politicians, failed ideologies, dishonest friends, or cheating spouses, even when reality highlights the clearest of inconsistencies. Armageddon is unlikely to arrive this weekend, but most of us have lived through it many times before.

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hey guys I totally got raptured!

  2. Awesome! So they do have internet in heaven. I was hoping they did.

  3. Actually, everything is pretty much exactly the same. Which goes along with my belief that things generally couldn’t get much better for me.

    I am hoping to run into John Bonham.

  4. Maybe you should share some of your awesomeness with the under privileged…

  5. Nope. I hate the underprivileged. Those guys suck.


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