One year ago, followers of Harold Camping were scrambling to find an answer to why they were still alive. After putting all of their faith and much of their money into advertising the end of the world, many were broke and horrified. Take Robert Fitzpatrick. He spent over $140,000 on advertising the Rapture. Or Keith Bauer, who drove his family to California for the Rapture, maxing out credit cards as they went. After May 21, 2011 had passed, I would have expected them to be furious at Harold Camping and losing faith. But for some strange reason, many of his followers didn’t. Why?
Harold Camping has been President of Family Radio since 1958. He has predicted several dates of the end of the world by using numerology, which is regarded as pseudoscience (or, as it's known to its friends, NOT SCIENCE).
I would've gone with a crystal ball—less math, same results.
His followers weren’t put off by his less than reliable calculations, and spent thousands of dollars on newspaper ads, billboards, and RVs plastered with slogans. They quit their jobs, uprooted their families, and dedicated themselves to preparing for the end of the world. None of them expected to wake up a year ago today. But they did, and instead of calling Camping a fraud, they remained faithful. According to one believer she couldn’t “afford to doubt,” and “if you believed it, you’d be as sure as I am.”
If you believed in Santa, you’d be as sure as these kids you’d get that pet pony.
After putting so much of themselves into one idea, the followers couldn’t accept that they might be wrong. Everyone does this, to some extent. It’s called confirmation bias, the tendency to accept only evidence that fits your worldview. In this case, it appears that no evidence whatsoever was accepted.
Everyone else, including mainstream Christians, mocked Camping’s followers. I mean, why would someone ever believe that some old guy knows when the world is going to end? I contend that mainstream Christianity has only itself to blame. If you teach your children not to question, to believe that Jesus is going to come back and walk the Earth, that all believers are going to be beamed up to Heaven, then how can you be surprised when they start believing that it will happen on, say, May 21st, 2011? 79% of Christians in the United States believe that Jesus is coming back, and 20% believe it will happen in their lifetime. The “crazies” in any religion stem from that religion—call them false prophets or deny that they are “true Christians,” but they were taught from the same book and mostly the same ideas.
Harold Camping admits that he was wrong, but contends in this letter that, although he was wrong, “millions if not billions” were exposed to the bible; which makes the whole thing worth it. Christians might be thinking “Awesome! A million more converts for us!” But think about it. A million more converts is a million more people that will be taught to not question, to believe that Jesus will come back and walk the Earth, to believe that they will be beamed up to Heaven. And so we enter the cycle again.