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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Harold Camping: Could He Be The Bernie Madoff of Faith?

  The information age has enabled all of us to have a bit of a laugh over Harold Camping being proven wrong (again) today. The heavens didn't open up and swallow believers, there were no dreadful superseismic events, nothing happened when the good Christians of the Philippines raised their Bibles to the sky. And some of us laughed at Camping's idiocy and that of other high-profile people, but there is a flip side to this entire spectacle. May 21 proponents made a lot of money off of the hopes and dreams of average people.

   Harold Camping expanded his millions by lying to people who needed to believe in something. From unemployment to addiction, people seek guidance during the rough times, and some try religion. These  vulnerable people become bait for spiritual sharks like Harold Camping. Good people have given up their jobs to drive Rapture vans and spent fortunes advertising this complete and utter hoax. Christian Family Radio doesn't run without money, and the kind it runs on is donated by those who can scarcely afford to give.

 So far, Harold Camping hasn't spoken out as to why his third such prediction turned out to be wrong, and while many people are laughing, I don't think it would be humane to have too much fun with it. Average folks were taken advantage of en masse by an 89-year-old con man who will never have to pay the price for any of his many, many swindles. Harold Camping is like Bernie Madoff, only the stocks he sells are in the afterlife. both men sold hope and if you'd feel sympathy for someone swindled by Wall Street, you should also feel for those whose lives have been ruined by false prophets.

 While I realize that people are free to choose for themselves, rules exist to ensure fairness. For example, if I sold you a roof and took your money, yet failed to give you a roof, you could sue me. There are thousands of regulations related to stock market procedure that you must follow under penalty of prosecution. I have no idea how one would go about attempting to sue evangelical criminals, but if you could nail these guys for Breach of Promise for every time they lied to you, dishonest preachers would have to leave the game.

  People are taught from birth to have faith- be it in themselves, their parents, or a deity. Millions of decent people whose only crime was listening to the words of yet another self-proclaimed prophet had their entire belief systems shattered. Even though I'm atheist, I cannot celebrate the confusion, trauma, and depressive regret being felt by victims of what can only be called spiritual abuse. Camping and other parasitic evangelical leaders are another story- they deserve mockery and more in exchange for their tax-deductible robbery of the lower and middle classes.

  If you're inclined to believe in a supernatural guide for your life, I have nothing wrong with you as an individual. While I may think your sky friend is a figment of your imagination, if it brings you and your family joy and peace, then pray on. Rock your prayers and have fun with it. There's nothing that says you have to go to a gilded building and pay money to millionaires to have a relationship with your supernatural buddy. No God would mandate that you eat crap-in-a-box in order to give 10% to buy private jets and luxury vacations for rich people. While you're forging your spiritual path, you'll run into people who will want you to attend their admission-fee-required hate parade. And when you respond that you can pray at home and your friend seems horrified, simply reply that if the megabuilding was truly considered sacred by your deity, there wouldn't be a lightning rod on it.

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