Well, I am happy to report that I and my family, agnostics, atheists and theists alike, have survived the 2011 version of The Rapture.
To my knowledge, none of the religious folk in my family actually believed any of that nonsense, at least not as asserted by Mr. Camping. Some of them may, however, actually believe the story as predicted in the last book of the bible, Revelations. Many Christians do, and not all of them are kooks and nut cases.
It is interesting, however, to note that however much many of us have both derided the prediction that yesterday was to have been the beginning of the end of times and are gloating that yet another boring prediction has failed - again - this idea, this religious prediction, IS a mainstream belief. It is just that most Christians look at it as being the subject of some far off thing in time and space that probably won't affect them or their kids. Thus, it gets pushed off to the back of their minds and in cases like this week, are relegated to the status of being an embarrassment.
So, why do modern Christian denominations still preach that this is part of god's plan? Why is it still tolerated as a part of the canon, thus a "true" book of the bible? Oh, some might say, it is just the harmless meanderings of a church bishop over a thousand years ago, and really is meant to be allegorical, not a REAL prediction. And the preacher will go through about an hour of theological rationalizations to prove it. Or maybe less.
But IS it harmless? Just how much harm could the senseless delusions of an imprisoned, exiled bishop of over a thousand years ago cause in the 21st century?
I guess we could start out by asking about all these recently broke believers who gave away all their worldly goods, expecting to be in Paradise right now, instead of behind on their mortgages and with no savings to send their kids to college (now that the Rapture has been postponed yet again, so that maybe there'll be time for college after all).
But the REAL harm is to the Middle East and the United States, as our country charts a course through that quagmire of political minefields, blindly pursuing a course of action designed to support Israel, regardless of consequences, simply to please a small, vocal religious minority in this country that has aligned itself with at least part of the Jewish community. A religious minority that firmly believes the predictions of the end of times, and is determined to bring about the conditions that are supposed to presage the beginnings of those events described in the book of Revelations, chief among them, the rebuilding of the Temple of Jerusalem. (We'll just ignore the explosion of violence and anger such a move would cause in the Muslim world, we all know Jesus will never allow those backward Muslims to stop his Return.)
This group of the ultra religious will never tolerate reasonable suggestions to end the cycle of violence. Ideas like the President's suggestion of borders and a two state solution are met with anger and derision, and never mind sensible suggestions like making Jerusalem an international city, and allowing both states to then share it as a capital. No, it must remain a political football, forever to divide the various sides in this eternal conflict.
The insanity of this reality is denied when any of the mainstream Christians in this country hear this. They cannot abide the idea that even a small part of the biblical canon could be instrumental in defining bad policy - so much that they will even deny the disastrous nature of that policy and make up nebulous reasons to defend the policy as good for this country.
The occurrence of predictions like Mr. Camping's should be opportunities for this country to examine these issues, these beliefs and the results that come from their implementation, and make adjustments to end the influence of bronze age literature on US foreign policy.
Sadly, we probably won't.