For a while now, everyone on the Internet has been firing off increasingly unoriginal smug jokes about the poor souls who actually believe that Jesus is coming to pick them up today. And this is happening for a number of reasons — first of all, crazy wingnut extremists are often fodder for humor. Also, people on the Internet have a tendency to repeat jokes till they’re driven into the ground and actually become kind of malicious. But should we cut out the attitude and actually feel sorry for the disappointed people who will not be beamed up to heaven by Jesus today? This piece in The New Republic argues that we should.
Do the end-timers seem ignorant? Yes. Are they insane? Possibly. But should our reaction to them be chuckling glee or something more like sadness? Pay attention to their individual stories–their willingness to sacrifice everything in anticipation that their earthly lives are over–and I dare you not to feel the latter.
Sure, but in the stories referred to here — this NYT account of children whose parents stopped saving money for college because of the Rapture, and this NPR story in which a young couple expecting a baby have stopped saving money in general — our sympathies don’t lie with the believers themselves, but instead with those affected by their beliefs. Like the teenagers in the Times piece, one of whom was quoted saying “I don’t really have any motivation to try to figure out what I want to do anymore, because my main support line, my parents, don’t care.” I feel sorry for the kid. But I have no pity for the adults who are putting him in that position.
The author of the TNR post says that our smugness with regard to the non-Rapture is “cruel,” that we are using these religious nuts to feel superior about our more rational beliefs. She was going to hang out with a bunch of Rapture believers today and write about their reactions when the whole thing turned out to be a bust, but decided against it because it would have been too exploitative, or something.
Wait, are you fucking kidding me? You turned that down? That’s an awesome story.
Seriously though, why should we feel sorry for those who believe in the Rapture? If it wasn’t this, it would be something else. Hey, 2012 is pretty soon, crazy people can latch onto that doomsday theory if they want. If there’s one thing our country needs less of, it’s fanatical religious extremism. When reason and logic score a victory, we can, um, spike the football a little.
(Although, a volcano did just erupt in Iceland. Rapture?)