Still, there’s something really worth pointing out in the wake of the non-Rapture. While it was easy for most of us to handily dismiss the lunatic predictions of Pastor Harold Camping and his merry band of messianic misfits, what shouldn’t be forgotten is just how unremarkable their basic belief-system is. Sure, even a lot of hardcore Evangelicals ridiculed Camping’s assertion that Jesus was going to appear out of the sky today, but make no mistake: Whether they choose to say it loudly and publicly right now, as far as they’re concerned the only thing Camping got wrong was the exact date. There are millions of people still going about their business today convinced that at any moment they can be beamed up to heaven while the rest of the Earth falls into a period of tribulation that ends in its ultimate destruction. And by the way, these people aren’t considered crazy — they’re just called faithful, and deserving of having that faith respected and lent credence by the rest of us. It’s fascinating that, really, the only thing that puts Pastor Harold Camping and his followers one step over the line into the world of the insane outlier is that they thought they had figured out the time of Jesus’s return, not that they believed absolutely in the notion of a divine entity called Jesus — or that he would magically appear to us — in the first place.
If you need it put in more reductionist terms it can be summed up like this: Believing in Jesus Christ as the resurrected son of the creator of the universe who will eventually return to Earth equals not-crazy; believing that you know when Jesus Christ will make that triumphant return equals crazy. See how, well, crazy that is?
Where, exactly, is the logic in this? Appeal by ridicule? Is there not also a certain amount of conclusion running around begging to be the premise? Straw man, of sorts, anyone? Could we not simply use this same argument to first lambast pseudo-science and then argue that there is a distinction without much of a difference when it comes to science?
As one HuffPo reader nicely put it:
. . . Strictly logically speaking, one could amend the author’s take home message to say the following: "Believing in Jesus Christ as the resurrected son of the creator of the universe who will eventually return to Earth equals crazy; NOT believing in Jesus Christ as the resurrected son of the creator of the universe who will eventually return to Earth equals not-crazy." I’m sure many would protest that there is of course a difference between these views (which ultimately probably reveals little more than what one personally believes) — and yes, that’s exactly my point. There are also VERY important differences in the two beliefs the author discusses, and his differentiation only has cash value among those who already want to see anything that they don’t believe in as lunacy. Summing them up in the reductionist way the author does, does not get us very far, nor does it clearly differentiate from ANY set of beliefs, at least not without assuming a certain level of what OF COURSE is crazy and is not (laugh, laugh, snort, snort).
Students of the shroud will quickly see the Joe Nickell in this. Nickell likes to tell us there are many fake relics throughout the world, bits of the true cross etc.. He then tells us that to think they are real is crazy. Thus believing that the Shroud of Turin is authentic . . . “See how, well, crazy that is?”