May 21 Apocalypse Idiocy: It’s not all funny

May 23rd, 2011
submit to reddit Share

Sure, it was pretty easy to laugh at the idiots who thought the world was actually going to end on May 21. Unfortunately it’s not all fun and games. Some people actually believed it and had more to deal with than a lot of disappointment when it did not come.

Apparently one woman was convinced that the end times were really near. Due to the conflicts in the Middle East and the earthquake in Japan, she was convinced that judgment was approaching. When preacher Harold Camping stated it was to be on the 21st of May she took it seriously. She attempted to kill herself and her two young children.

Fortunately, she failed. After slitting her daughters’ wrists and throat and her own, someone found the injured trio and called for an ambulance before they all bled to death.


More info and video here

I don’t know what else to say to this. There are some people who take even the nuttiest religious claims very very seriously.


This entry was posted on Monday, May 23rd, 2011 at 12:10 pm and is filed under Culture, Misc, religion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
View blog reactions



32 Responses to “May 21 Apocalypse Idiocy: It’s not all funny”

  1. 1
    DV82XL Says:

    While I’m not one to miss a chance at giving a shot to religion, this looks like a case of someone that would have gone off the deep end at some point regardless. Having said that, the obsessing over ‘the End Times’ that is prevalent in several Western countries has reached a point where the possibly of an outbreak of mass hysteria is a real risk.

    The delusional predicting Armageddon have been with us forever, but it is the mass media and the internet that now gives them a reach where they can collect followers at an unprecedented scale. While I will stop short of calling for censorship in cases like this, I do think there is a need to provide a broad spectrum of counter arguments to such tripe. This is something that is unfortunately lacking and where traditional churches should pick up the slack.


    Quote Comment
  2. 2
    Bob Wilson Says:

    “There are some people who take even the nuttiest religious scientific claims very very seriously.’

    You mean like bleeding people to cure their illnesses or the aether?


    Quote Comment
  3. 3
    Anon Says:

            Bob Wilson said:

    “There are some people who take even the nuttiest religious scientific claims very very seriously.’

    You mean like bleeding people to cure their illnesses or the aether?

    Be nice if you could not add words to quotes.


    Quote Comment
  4. 4
    Blubba Says:

    Although the numbers ebb and flow, I’ve known lots of religious people with apocolyptic beliefs since the late ’70s. They were generally very pleasant to be around, almost like kids behaving extra well before Christmas in hopes Santa would notice. They never had specific dates in mind but they thought it would be “soon”, which I took to mean as in their lifetime. When it didn’t happen around the millenium the talk slackened off some but didn’t disappear.

    I agree, Harold Camping may resonate with a few people who were vulnerable to begin with but I doubt he drives many to the edge. He just offers a lower railing to climb over for people who were looking to jump anyway.


    Quote Comment
  5. 5
    Sigivald Says:

    When preacher Harold Camping stated it was to be on the 21st of May she took it seriously. She attempted to kill herself and her two young children.

    The weird part about that sort of thing is that Christian doctrine is unequivocally opposed to suicide.

    You’d think (wrongly, but you’d think) that someone who was sure that Judgment Day was coming would not go out and immediately commit what is universally considered a mortal sin (three times!)…

    (What DV8 said, too – I think the issues this woman had were merely catalyzed by religion, not caused by them. In the absence of Christianity, I suspect she’d have found something else to act out the crazy with.)


    Quote Comment
  6. 6
    Anon Says:

    Religion though can cover up mental health problems quite well by treating them as though they are of divine origin.


    Quote Comment
  7. 7
    Airrider Says:

    Compounded by illness this might be, but I was AFRAID something like this might happen.

    Thankfully it was a failure.


    Quote Comment
  8. 8
    MikeC Says:

    Seems it’s now due October 21 – http://www.stuff.co.nz/oddstuff/5046003/Apocalypse-preacher-now-saying-October-21


    Quote Comment
  9. 9
    Anon Says:

    Yeah well they tend to do that a lot when their predictions fail.

    Most of those who followed him will know better than to be fooled again but a small core will hang on to October (and some of them will hang on even after that fails).

    Come to think of it the JWs had a history of failed predictions and they’ve managed to survive (though they have stopped giving dates and just say “soon” when asked). Maybe we’re watching the beginning of something similar to those obnoxious door knockers.


    Quote Comment
  10. 10
    Nobody Says:

            Sigivald said:

    When preacher Harold Camping stated it was to be on the 21st of May she took it seriously.

    She attempted to kill herself and her two young children.

    The weird part about that sort of thing is that Christian doctrine is unequivocally opposed to suicide.

    You’d think (wrongly, but you’d think) that someone who was sure that Judgment Day was coming would not go out and immediately commit what is universally considered a mortal sin (three times!)…

    (What DV8 said, too – I think the issues this woman had were merely catalyzed by religion, not caused by them. In the absence of Christianity, I suspect she’d have found something else to act out the crazy with.)

    Well apparently by Harper Magazine’s Survey: Only 40 percent of Americans can name more than four of the Ten Commandments, and a scant half can cite any of the four authors of the Gospels. Twelve percent believe Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife.

    Full report: http://www.harpers.org/archive/2005/08/0080695

    Of course this is report isn’t university sanctioned or peer reviewed, but begs the question if religious people today know what the basis of their faith is. Do they actually know what the stories of their holy books mean or symbolize? Do they actually care about their faith or are they just following on the “community” that the faith created?

    To me all religion have one goal, and that’s probably to better the human community and morals (although sometime this message become twisted, unfortunately).


    Quote Comment
  11. 11
    DV82XL Says:

            Nobody said:

    Well apparently by Harper Magazine’s Survey: Only 40 percent of Americans can name more than four of the Ten Commandments, and a scant half can cite any of the four authors of the Gospels. Twelve percent believe Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife.

    Most Christians treat the Bible like a software license. They don’t actually read it, they just scroll to the bottom and click, ” I agree.”


    Quote Comment
  12. 12
    Franck Says:

            DV82XL said:

    Most Christians treat the Bible like a software license. They don’t actually read it, they just scroll to the bottom and click, ” I agree.”

    Absolutely, but it’s impossible to agree to the whole bible, as the two books describe successive and incompatible doctrines. “An eye for an eye” is quite the opposite of christianity.


    Quote Comment
  13. 13
    Anon Says:

            Nobody said:

    To me all religion have one goal, and that’s probably to better the human community and morals (although sometime this message become twisted, unfortunately).

    It doesn’t seem to be doing all that good a job.

    You only need to read http://www.pitzer.edu/academics/faculty/zuckerman/Zuckerman_on_Atheism.pdf to see that.

    More likely religion was a means for grabbing and maintaining power over people.


    Quote Comment
  14. 14
    JoeP Says:

    By featuring apocalypse idiocy, you’re only empowering the perpetrators.

    There will always be nutty people. Get over it.


    Quote Comment
  15. 15
    soylent Says:

    Sufficiently advanced stupidity is indistinguishable from malice.


    Quote Comment
  16. 16
    Annie Says:

            DV82XL said:

    Most Christians treat the Bible like a software license. They don’t actually read it, they just scroll to the bottom and click, ” I agree.”

    I’ve never heard it put quite like that before. What a fantastically descriptive analogy!

    I have to disagree with you on your other point though, DV82XL;

            DV82XL said:

    … the obsessing over ‘the End Times’ that is prevalent in several Western countries has reached a point where the possibly of an outbreak of mass hysteria is a real risk.

    I thought the general feeling in the US was very tongue in cheek, similar to how the media covers the NORAD Santa tracking every year. I saw several Facebook posts saying things like “Happy rapture day!” and I think maybe it’s sort of like how Americans celebrate Cinco de Mayo more than Mexicans do… any excuse for a party!


    Quote Comment
  17. 17
    DV82XL Says:

            Franck said:

    Absolutely, but it’s impossible to agree to the whole bible, as the two books describe successive and incompatible doctrines. “An eye for an eye” is quite the opposite of christianity.

    Which is why you will find atheists are more familiar with scripture than the faithful. The fact remains that the Bible simply doesn’t hold up under any detailed scrutiny, and not just for conflicts in doctrine. While those can be explained away by interpreting the differences as the developing relationship between Man and God, others are more difficult to.

    Notably, the historical record is largely unsupported by secondary evidence, including some glaring ones like the lack of any Egyptian record of the biblical pharaoh. In fact no evidence exists at all for the presence of Jews in the Empire during the time-frame in question. Very little evidence exits for the existence of the biblical David, and that which does is rather flimsy at best. In fact all of Samuel/Kings/Chronicles/Ezra-Nehemiah suffers from a lack of secondary support, which is unusual in a region as rich in antiquities as the Middle East.

    No one that studies the Bible in any depth can help but see that this is very far from received truth or a product of divine inspiration, but rather a heavy-handed attempt at revisionism in the name of political expediency to justify later acts.


    Quote Comment
  18. 18
    Michael Karnerfors Says:

    Big oops… the story is two months old. Check the date on the YouTube video.

    /M


    Quote Comment
  19. 19
    Andrew Jaremko Says:

    @soylent

    Sufficiently advanced stupidity is indistinguishable from malice.

    I agree completely. Thanks for the brilliant riff on Clarke’s Third Law. This is something for the skeptical community and the pronuclear community to remember always.


    Quote Comment
  20. 20
    Anon Says:

            soylent said:

    Sufficiently advanced stupidity is indistinguishable from malice.

            Andrew Jaremko said:

    I agree completely. Thanks for the brilliant riff on Clarke’s Third Law. This is something for the skeptical community and the pronuclear community to remember always.

    I thought it was based on Hanlon’s razor.

    Though it is always worth remembering and it does explain most of the followers of the green movement.


    Quote Comment
  21. 21
    drbuzz0 Says:

            Michael Karnerfors said:

    Big oops… the story is two months old. Check the date on the YouTube video.

    /M

    hmm… the story page says it is recent. Only the youtube video is march 22. Maybe the uploader put in the wrong date? I don’t remember if you can change the date on youtube videos.,


    Quote Comment
  22. 22
    Andrew Jaremko Says:

    @Anon – thanks. I wasn’t familiar with Hanlon’s Razor. But the two statements kind of complement each other and raise a moral issue in my mind. To wit: what do we do when stupidity crosses the line and harms, not just the stupid, but others as well? Or harms not just people, but more of the web of life? The Hippocratic Oath is often quoted (not quite correctly) as saying “First, do no harm”.

    I think it’s one way I’d measure a person, by what they do about it when they realize that they are doing harm through their beliefs, choices and actions. And now that I’ve said that, I have to look at myself that way. A brief glance shows I don’t measure up yet….

    We could toss aphorisms back and forth forever. But I remember one from a Larry Niven Belter story – the protagonist musing that his uncle always used to say “Stupidity is the only capital crime”. Unfortunately we can’t wait for the stupid to receive their Darwin Awards – Niven/Pournelle in “Oath of Fealty”: “Think of it as evolution in action.” The stupid can take the rest of us down with them.


    Quote Comment
  23. 23
    Andrew Jaremko Says:

    And then, right after posting that comment, I ran into this story on the Bad Science blog: We should so blatantly do more randomised trials on policy.

    Ben Goldacre, the blogger, starts:

    Politicians are ignorant about trials, and they’re weird about evidence. It doesn’t need to be this way. In international development work, resources are tight, and people know that good intentions aren’t enough: in fact, good intentions can sometimes do harm. We need to know what works.

    Apply the scientific method to public policy? With measurements? And expect to make rational decisions based on results? That would be the end of politics as we know it!!! Politicians always know the answers! That’s why we elect them…. [/snark]


    Quote Comment
  24. 24
    Soylent Says:

    @Andrew

    That would be a disaster.

    Admitting fault, changing your mind or admitting you don’t know a priori the best policy is impossible for a politician to do.

    Double blinding is not possible.

    It is impossible to hold everything constant and only vary one factor.

    Success is sometimes undefined, sometimes difficult to measure and sometimes difficult to agree upon. In the difficult to measure department we have neoclassical economics, whose adherents tend not to believe regulation against fraud is either necessary or particularly desirable and bubbles are impossible; under their metrics we were doing spectacularly during the height of the housing bubble. In a sense the metrics used optimize for accounting fraud.

    In the category of difficulty of agreeing about the definition of goals we have certain weirdos on the far right, for whom a free market is the goal rather than the mechanism of obtaining a goal; whatever the free market does is the definition of free, fair and equitable. for certain weirdos on the far left redistribution isn’t a mechanism for obtaining a goal; equality of outcome is a goal in itself. For many people success is determined on a case by case basis in a haphazzard manner by comparing how good they feel about the outcome that actually happened with how good they feel about the best outcome they feel was attainable. For some success is defined by your team winning; sort of like football fans would define success.

    The incentives are only as good as your ability to measure the outcome. If teachers’ jobs depend on the performance of their students in standardized tests, teachers will teach their students how to do well in standardized tests; the degree to which standardized tests are a flawed measurement of performance is the degree to which the incentives on teachers are misaligned with doing a good job. If there is some way to game the system to produce favourable measurement results for what is clearly a pathological outcome, it will be done.


    Quote Comment
  25. 25
    Calli Arcale Says:

            Sigivald said:

    When preacher Harold Camping stated it was to be on the 21st of May she took it seriously.

    She attempted to kill herself and her two young children.

    The weird part about that sort of thing is that Christian doctrine is unequivocally opposed to suicide.

    Don’t forget, it’s also unequivocally opposed to predictions of the actual date of Armageddon, and warns several times of false prophets. Someone who does a thing like this doesn’t have a very clear grasp of Christian doctrine — otherwise they would realize that Camping has about as much theological support as Dana Ullmann has scientific support. But there’s more to it than that. Someone who gets suckered into this so completely has some very serious mental issues going on. Most people can recognize Camping to be utterly ridiculous without even having to wonder about whether or not he has any Biblical basis to what he’s saying. Some people can’t. She may be mentally ill, and Camping’s predictions fed into her delusions. Or she may be extremely gullible, and Camping’s predictions just happened to be what she heard at a particularly vulnerable moment.

    It’s not an isolated case, either. Many times someone has predicted the end of the world, someone has committed suicide ahead of time. Their rationale is usually to avoid any pain and suffering associated with some sort of apocalypse. There have also been times, of course, when people have committed or attempted suicide (and even murder-suicide, as in this case) believing that the world was ending without someone making a prediction. It makes me wonder how common it is to develop this delusion, and if there is a connection to schizophrenia (which seriously impairs people’s ability to judge the reality of things).


    Quote Comment
  26. 26
    Anon Says:

            Andrew Jaremko said:

    @Anon – thanks. I wasn’t familiar with Hanlon’s Razor. But the two statements kind of complement each other and raise a moral issue in my mind. To wit: what do we do when stupidity crosses the line and harms, not just the stupid, but others as well? Or harms not just people, but more of the web of life? The Hippocratic Oath is often quoted (not quite correctly) as saying “First, do no harm”.

    It is important to realise that the worst immorality wasn’t done by people who were evil per se but by people who were trying to do the right thing but who had incorrect beliefs.

            Andrew Jaremko said:

    I think it’s one way I’d measure a person, by what they do about it when they realize that they are doing harm through their beliefs, choices and actions. And now that I’ve said that, I have to look at myself that way. A brief glance shows I don’t measure up yet….

    Usually they’ll just come up with some rationalisation as for why they aren’t actually doing harm.

            Andrew Jaremko said:

    We could toss aphorisms back and forth forever. But I remember one from a Larry Niven Belter story – the protagonist musing that his uncle always used to say “Stupidity is the only capital crime”. Unfortunately we can’t wait for the stupid to receive their Darwin Awards – Niven/Pournelle in “Oath of Fealty”: “Think of it as evolution in action.” The stupid can take the rest of us down with them.

    Yeah, that is a problem, if the stupid only hurt themselves then it wouldn’t be so much of a problem but it is the stupid who commit genocide, who refuse to solve global warming, who create theocracies, etc.

            Soylent said:

    The incentives are only as good as your ability to measure the outcome. If teachers’ jobs depend on the performance of their students in standardized tests, teachers will teach their students how to do well in standardized tests; the degree to which standardized tests are a flawed measurement of performance is the degree to which the incentives on teachers are misaligned with doing a good job. If there is some way to game the system to produce favourable measurement results for what is clearly a pathological outcome, it will be done.

    Not to mention teachers changing the students’ tests to get better performance (or even just to not get a bad review).

    Then there’s the “No child left behind” act in the US (which should really be called “most children left behind”) which so distorts the incentives that only those on the border between passing and failing matter for funding purposes (while not providing any incentive to help those who are really far behind or really far ahead).


    Quote Comment
  27. 27
    Andrew Jaremko Says:

    @Anon, @soylent – thanks for your thought-provoking replies. @soylent – even though it’s the function of our brains (and I include all our mammalian, reptilian, avian et. al. cousins) to identify and then game the system – does that mean we shouldn’t try to get to the facts?


    Quote Comment
  28. 28
    Anon Says:

    Of course you’ve got to be aware of the fact that people are going to be gaming the system.

    Ideally you wouldn’t be letting anyone know that you’re experimenting or what you’re actually measuring but that might have difficultly getting through an ethics committee (with good reason).


    Quote Comment
  29. 29
    Soylent Says:

            Andrew Jaremko said:

    @Anon, @soylent – thanks for your thought-provoking replies. @soylent – even though it’s the function of our brains (and I include all our mammalian, reptilian, avian et. al. cousins) to identify and then game the system – does that mean we shouldn’t try to get to the facts?

    Blindly following mechanical, dispassionate measurements of human qualities tend generate pathological outcomes. At the very least you need supervision by human brains with right motivations to look for and report pathological outcomes. It’s still not likely to work very well, but it may sometimes be better than case by case, ad hoc human judgement.


    Quote Comment
  30. 30
    Calli Arcale Says:

            Anon said:

    Then there’s the “No child left behind” act in the US (which should really be called “most children left behind”) which so distorts the incentives that only those on the border between passing and failing matter for funding purposes (while not providing any incentive to help those who are really far behind or really far ahead).

    Which wouldn’t be quite so disastrous if the incentives weren’t so powerful as pertaining to those borderline students. Schools can die on the basis of what happens to those students — if a school administrator panics, they’ll sink every resource they can into those kids, even if it means crippling foreign language or any other challenging courses. It’s a surefire recipe for mediocrity.

    But there’s another twist. The politicians who crafted NCLB realized that schools would focus only on those kids with a chance of moving up into the “passing grade” category. So they made sure that not only do they have to nudge the borderline kids up, each year they have to nudge up *more*, with an eventual goal of 100%, with no exception for the disabled, the underprivileged, and the just plain unwilling, and totally ignoring that 100% is a logical absurdity that treats education like some sort of absolute value where you just have to make sure the kids get the full amount and they’ll be fine. As if it’s like opening up their skulls and pouring in the education.

    (I have educators in my family, so NCLB is a pet peeve of mine.)


    Quote Comment
  31. 31
    Vader Says:

    “Religion though can cover up mental health problems quite well by treating them as though they are of divine origin.”

    Ironically, the belief that madness was of divine origin guaranteed at least a modicum of humane treatment of madmen in some Christian, and other, cultures.


    Quote Comment
  32. 32
    DV82XL Says:

            Vader said:

    Ironically, the belief that madness was of divine origin guaranteed at least a modicum of humane treatment of madmen in some Christian, and other, cultures.

    However when it was considered to be of satanic origin, they were burnt at the stake.


    Quote Comment

Leave a Reply

Current month ye@r day *

Please copy the string 3I1rG4 to the field below:

Protected by WP Anti Spam