For the uninitiated The Rapture is a component of quite extreme evangelical doctrine which claims that on a certain day God will literally take the faithful to heaven while the heathens, heretics and atheists (such as myself) live out our plague-filled days on the doomed Earth before being whipped off to Hell to suffer eternal damnation. “Rapture”, on the other hand, is an awesome song by Blondie.
Anyway, what got me thinking about all this? Well, it’s this guy in the USA who claimed that The Rapture was going to happen on the 23rd of May and was “flabbergasted” when the 24th arrived without the world being annihilated. Turns out it was just a failure to see the spiritual truth – the world HAS ended, but it will continue to physically exist until the 21st of October.
No biggie. I had no plans for Christmas anyway.
I’m certainly not what you would call anti-religious. I’m happy to agree that I have only as much evidence for the existence of the physical world as they have for the existence of the metaphysical world (which is to say, I perceive “matter” and claim my perception is based on what’s real; they perceive “spirit” and claim the same). Most religious individuals I’ve met in my life have been moderate, compassionate and certainly not dogmatic – the same goes for most atheists. The same probably goes for most people regardless of what they do or don’t believe.
But then there are some odd characters whose beliefs I really struggle to tolerate. Sometimes this intolerance stems from the hatefulness of the views – racists and terrorists (are they really different?) fit into this category. Then there are the beliefs that are so out there that I can’t really find away to attribute any kind of credibility to them. Believers in the The Rapture fall into this category.
Now, I’m sure that they’re mostly nice people. As I said, most people are nice. Yet, I simply can not take their beliefs seriously. The fact that they believe it – I can take that seriously. But what it is that they believe… I mean, really?
I’m not talking about the rank and file membership here, by the way. I’m an atheist but I’m skeptical about the veracity of much science and resigned to the fact that even if it was explained to me, I probably wouldn’t understand it. Many folks that I’ve met who hold religious convictions adopt a similar stance when it comes to the “truth” of doctrine. The general tenets are just and thus they adhere to their faith, but unquestioning faith in the literal word of doctrine that has been passed through generations and rewritten numerous times – that’s not something that they subscribe to. For an atheist like myself, trusting science whole-heartedly is something I simply can’t do. Not, at least, in the context of university grants competition, potential profitability quotients and the ever-diminishing standards for university graduation. I mean, I can accept gravity but the idea that time and space become singular inside a black hole – that’s pushing it, fellows. I’m not saying it’s not true. I’m simply saying that I have trouble making the leap of faith to whole-heartedly believe it.
Aside from that, I subscribe to a social perspective on the nature of matter. Matter is what ‘is real’ in your experience. Society and economy are the basis – regardless of their particular incarnation at a particular moment in time. Society and economy shapes how we experience and, hence, dictates what is experienced ‘as real’. Science may assert that we are made of atoms but when was the last time you played catch with one? The ball is ‘real’. That it is made from atoms is belief. There are probably a few people reading this who are saying “But I can work the mathematical proof that supports the existence of atoms”. I have no doubt that you can but I can’t understand it. So, should I just take your word for it?
Of course, a line of questioning like that is moving very close to Flat Earth philosophical territory. The world looks flat. I haven’t witnessed anything that shows me it’s not flat. Just because you say it’s round doesn’t mean I should believe you… etc etc.
And, perhaps, that’s the great value in extreme views – whether abhorrent, confusing or ridiculous – when you try to explain why you don’t believe them you are really asking yourself: “Why do I believe what I believe?”.