Last time I wrote about May 21, I admitted that I felt a little bad for those people foolish enough to sell their worldly possessions and await the apocalypse. Today I experienced another twinge of sympathy reading this article about Harold Camping’s disappointed flock. One of the men interviewed for the piece was Keith Bauer, a 36-year-old trucker. “I was hoping,” he said. “I think heaven will be a lot better than this earth.”
What a thing to say. I get down on this planet a lot—well, mostly the people on it—but I can’t imagine thinking we’d be better off after the Second Coming. (In part, because if such an impossible event were to occur, I know I wouldn’t be saved.) But I was sorry for this man, reading his lament, knowing that he’s broken up inside because the world didn’t end. How sad for him, you know?
And then I just felt pissed. Because the paradise Bauer (and all of Camping’s followers) imagine is one in which I don’t exist. We sinners will be tortured and destroyed while the righteous few ascend to a higher plane. Seriously, fuck that. How could I experience even a moment of concern for this man’s feelings? His salvation is at the cost of my existence. I’m part of what makes this world a place to be saved from, and the reason—according to Camping—that God is so livid.
For most of us, for anyone reading this I’d hope, we recognize how backwards that is. As several comedians and Twitter humorists pointed out, we’d be the ones benefiting from a post-Rapture Earth. I don’t want to live alongside anyone who condemns me to eternal damnation. Go ahead and spirit away Camping and all those who spew hate—it wouldn’t solve all of our problems, but it would make day-to-day life a lot less annoying.
I wish the anticlimactic reality of May 21 were enough of a slap in the face to faith-based idiocy. It won’t be. There are always more lunatics on the fringe, and we continue to let their voices be heard. Sure, I’m as guilty as anyone of tweeting jokes about the Rapture and, um, writing Harold Camping-centric blog posts. But in my mind, there’s a difference between mockery/analysis and legitimizing insanity. The news has been reporting on May 21 as if the billboard plastered around the country were anything more than drivel.
All distinctions aside, of course, I’m still perpetuating the conversation, which either makes me a giant hypocrite or completely un-self-aware. So why am I talking about Camping’s Rapture? I guess for the same reason I talk about anything—it got under my skin. I felt something, not fear or dread about the end of the world, but compassion for people with no compassion for me. And I want to smack sense into them. I want these assholes to know that the world is a shitty place because they are part of it.
But I can’t get through to them, even if any did somehow stumble onto this blog: my words to them mean as little as their words to me. We’re forever at odds. Buying all the billboard space in the U.S. wouldn’t change that.