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Category: foolishness (page 2 of 14)

My first failed rapture

Back in 1981, a newspaper article arrested my adolescent attention. It was so striking that I clipped and saved it, and here it is all these years later.

Believer predicts ‘liftoff’

Los Angeles Times

TUCSON, Ariz. — The “liftoff” is just a trumpet call and a day away, Bill Maupin says.
Tomorrow, June 28, a trumpet heard around the world will sound in the heavens and “all of us on Earth who have accepted the Lord will slowly rise from the ground in our bodies and drift into the clouds,” he says

“Millions of people will ascend into the heaven toward evening on June 28. It is prophesized in the Bible.”

Maupin, 51, founder and president of the 50-member Lighthouse Gospel Tract Foundation here, has been predicting this day of “rapture” since 1976. Now, he and the other group members believe they are spending their final days on Earth.

“We know we are going to ascend into heaven June 28.”

Holmer Pappageorge, 53, former owner of a restaurant, says the Lord led him to Maupin’s door. “I’m saying my goodbyes to my friends,” Pappageorge says.

“Television news crews and newspaper photographers all over the world will be filming us going up,” Scott Braun, 28, predicts.

“I was a merchant seaman sailing on a ship in the Far East when the Lord told me one night to go to Tucson. I had no idea why he wanted me in Tucson. He led me to this house.”

Joe Wade, 20, a busboy at a local restaurant, says his mother told him God is coming back. “He will meet us in the clouds and take us with him to heaven.”
“It’s going to happen soon. I‘ve got goose bumps all over.” Wade displayed his arms, which were indeed covered with goose bumps.

Maupin, his wife, Elizabeth, and their five children live on an estate in northeast Tucson on an acre of land. Their living room is the size of a chapel and is filled with folding chairs, a podium, a piano and musical instruments and religious tracts.
The Maupin bedroom is a greenhouse crowded with scores of trees and plants. A spiral staircase leads from the foot of their bed to the ceiling.

Maupin says Satan will take over the world for seven years after the massive ascension on the last Sunday of this month. “Satan and his cohorts will chop off the heads of a billion people still on Earth who turn to the Lord during a 50-day period begnning Dec. 2, 1984,” Maupin says.

“It’s all in the Bible. On May 14, 1988, one day before the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the state of Israel, Christ will come back to Earth. bringing along all of us who went to heaven June 28.

“When he returns to Earth he will reign for 1,000 years.”

Maupin says the prophecies all are in the Bible but it takes years of study to determine the dates on which the prophecies will be fulfilled.

What if the prophecies do not come true? Maupin was asked.

“There is no question in my mind. I’m absolutely conviced without a doubt.”

“Trust in the Lord,” chanted his assembled followers.

“Every human being since Adam who has been saved will rise from their graves and join the living in the liftoff,” Maupin says.

Now once you’ve lived a while, and you’ve seen rapture movements come and go, you see how silly it all is. But despite growing up in a Millennial church, this was the first time I’d seen someone predict the End of the Times so unambiguously, and I’ll be honest — I was a little freaked out. Of course, the guy wasn’t a Mormon, so what did he know? But despite the semi-sarcastic tone of the article, a part of my brain said, “What if he’s right?”

The day came and went, and then on June 29, a follow-up article appeared in the paper. How would Maupin explain the failed prediction? He made a move that failed rapture predictors typically make the first time around: reschedule.

This time he’s absolutely sure of rapture date

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — The mass, bodily ascension into heaven erroneously forecast by a fundamentalist sect for June 28 will occur instead on Aug. 7, the group’s leader says.

“This time, I’m absolutely positive,” said Bill Maupin, spiritual leader of the Lighthouse Gospel Tract Foundation. It’s Aug. 7.”

Maupin, 51, and the approximately 50 members of the church-like foundation received nationwide publicity last month after predicting the ascension, or rapture, based on an interpretation of dates and “signs” related in the Bible.

Maupin said “a slight miscalculation” caused the incorrect date.

“There was a period of time there (in the Bible) that I just didn’t see,” he said. “It had to do with Noah and the flood and the 40 days and 40 nights. I got out my Bible on the 30th of June, and the Lord showed it to me.”

And after August 7 passed uneventfully? Maupin declined to set another date, but instead claimed that the rapture was no big deal really, and that ‘the important thing’ was that they were making people aware of Jesus or some crap like that.

‘Rapture’ put off again

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Fundamentalist leader Bill Maupin has once again postponed the day on which his followers are to ascend to heaven, saying the auguries that were to precede the event have not occurred.

Maupin declined to set another date for the “rapture,” or ascension, “It sure isn’t very far away,” he said Saturday.

Maupin, who heads a group of about 50 followers of the Lighthouse Gospel Tract Foundation here, first predicted that the faithful would experience rapture on June 28.
When that deadline passed, Maupin said there had been a “slight miscalculation” and said the ascension should occur by noon Saturday.

This time, however, he hedged his bets, saying that it would first necessary for Israel to capture Damascus, Syria and Lebanon and for someone from the United States to intervene in that holy war.

“The rapture is not main thing I expected to occur,” Maupin said. “When we started, it was not so much the date of the rapture. It was making the people of the world aware of the events that precede the rapture. The events have not occurred.”

Maupin still believes a Mideast war is imminent. He said he expects Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s government to attempt to regain Israel’s biblical borders.

Maupin said he does not know if his followers are disappointed to find themselves in Tucson instead of in heaven, but he said he believes they remain strong in their faith.

There have been a lot of raptures since then, and whenever they’ve come along, I’ve thought of ol’ Bill Maupin and these clippings. In a way, the non-event helped me become a skeptic and helped me understand how ridiculous religious people can be and how shifty their advocates are when they’re proven wrong.

I only just found these clippings, or else I would have posted them just after the failed Harold Camping prediction as a way of showing how eerily similar their rationalisations were. But never mind, there will always be more, whether in 2012 or beyond. That’s another thing I learned from rapture predictors.

Grammar police: A case study

I don’t usually share Facebook conversations, but you gotta see this. It’s like a lot of rants from grammar police, but this one hits all the highlights.

Here’s the original grab: “George Lucas disses neighbours by doing something awesome”. One reader looked askance at the appearance of the word ‘diss’.

At this stage, I’ve decided that only a gentle corrective is required. But this reader escalates.

Whoa. Who knew that the word ‘diss’ would cause such an ‘appauling’ ‘degredation’ of language? One would have thought that someone so devoted to the preservation of correct English would… use it. I’m forgiving of bad spelling and punctuation, but not when someone holds themselves up as a protector of language. Grammar police should take note: when you have a rant, it’s a virtual certainty that you’ll start spelling words wrong.
What bugs me most, though, is the presumption that a word that comes from Black American usage is automatically ‘lazy’, ‘degraded’, ‘uneducated’, and ‘eroded’. This is what privileged speakers of the standard variety tend to throw at people who speak non-standard varieties. Racism isn’t cool, but criticising their variety of language is an acceptable substitute.
There’s no linguistic reason to think that there’s anything intrinsically wrong with African-American Vernacular English. Like all language varieties, it’s regular and rule-governed. His rant says nothing about language, and everything about his own attitude towards people of colour. After all, why is he complaining about the slang term ‘diss’, and not the equally slang term ‘awesome’? It’s simple; white people say ‘awesome’, so that’s okay.
So here’s what I usually say to grammar police (plus a poke at the ‘lazy thug’ jibe).

But this reader is not one to hearken to liberal elitist linguistics professors. He responds with a blistering salvo.

Oh, I’m Australian! That explains everything! Who knows what kind of made-up mumbo jumbo they speak?
And then he blocked me, so the fun had to stop.
So let’s finish by noting the common features of the linguistic fascist, all of which are present in this exchange:
  • A belief that language change is indicative of some kind of moral decline
  • A belief that — not just using non-standard varieties of language, but simply borrowing words from them! — will cause ignorance, indolence, and crime
  • A volatile and touchy sense of privilege that easily erupts into attacks of bile
  • Terrible spelling and punctuation

Mormon apostle goes full anti-science

Times come and times go, but religion provides an anchor of constancy (if an anchor’s what you need). So it’s good to see Mormon apostle Russell Nelson engaging in the time-honored religious tradition of slagging science.

Well, that’s not fair. If there’s science that they like, then it’s a gift from god. If they don’t like the science, then it’s either Satan’s deception, or some irrelevant wild guess that will get resolved in the fulness of time.

Here’s the clip (from 7:12).

“Yet some people erroneously think that these marvelous physical attributes happened by chance or resulted from a big bang somewhere. Ask yourself, ‘Could an explosion in a printing shop produce a dictionary?’ The likelihood is most remote. But if so, it could never heal its own torn pages or reproduce its own newer editions.”

The printer’s shop analogy is extremely tired — evolution is not ‘by chance’! Mutation is, but natural selection is non-random. So yes, if books could reproduce and if only the fittest books survived to reproduce, then yes, we would see books that could heal torn pages and update themselves. Nelson is making a false analogy between a living being and an inanimate object, and the two have different qualities.

Analogy aside, what Elder Nelson has done must be very strange and uncomfortable for Mormons. He’s waded into science, and sneered at ideas from biology, physics, and cosmology that he doesn’t undertand, and that there’s real evidence for and no real reason to disbelieve.

To see why this is such weird territory he’s in, let’s take a look at mentions of ‘evolve’ or ‘evolution’ in General Conferences.

Predictably, the most mentions came when evolution was a new theory, and religious people were scrambling to figure out what to do about it. It popped up again as more young people started attending universities, and horrifying their religious parents with the science they were learning. Since then, things were calming down to background levels. The two words ‘evolution’ and ‘evolve’ weren’t even mentioned in all the 1990s! The last time Darwinian evolution was mentioned in General Conference was in 1984, when Bruce McConkie and Boyd Packer both had a bash. That’s 28 years of letting it lay.

So the scene was set for the LDS Church to let the issue go, accommodate evolution, and claim that they were never really against it, which is how they seem to resolve all their old conflicts. Instead, Nelson has recycled his old material, and renewed the attack. That’s going to take some time to walk back.

And just for comparison, no GA has ever trashed the Big Bang — the phrase doesn’t appear in the entire GC corpus. Nelson is really in deep water here.

What must intelligent Mormons be thinking?

a. Oh, Grandpa!
b. Um, are we not supposed to believe in the Big Bang now?
c. He spake as a man.
d. Let’s go shopping!
e. We just heard how not everything from the pulpit is doctrine, so no problem!
f. Holy fuck. This guy is a leader of my church, supposedly getting revelation from god, and he’s completely and unambiguously wrong. What else is he wrong about?

Because he is wrong. He’s proudly ignorant, making a joke out of something he doesn’t understand, and expecting the audience to laugh along. (Which of course they did, nervously.) He’s coming off as really dumb, and he’s considered one of the smart ones! (He was a doctor, doncha know.)

The takeaway: A major LDS leader just put himself (and the church) up against science. Are Mormons creationists now? Or is it possible to ignore an apostle?

Will this shake some educated Mormons up? The likelihood is most remote! But I think it should be a really big deal, and I’d like to hear from some smarter Mormons to see how they’re coping with this.

Public square

There’s this phrase that I’m hearing that’s heading for my bin. Every time I hear it, the speaker is bullshitting. No, it’s not “states’ rights”. It’s “public square”. As in “religion has a role in the“.

‘Religion has a role in public square’, says Rick Santorum

Or “we’re being excluded from the”.

Backstory: Professional Christian and growing pain Kirk Cameron decided to air his opinion on gay people.

“I think that it’s… it’s… it’s unnatural. I think that it’s… it’s detrimental, and ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization.”

Okay, so he has the right to that opinion. And other people have the right to their opinion of his opinion.

In response to the comments by Cameron, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) issued the following statement:

“In this interview, Kirk Cameron sounds even more dated than his 1980s TV character. Cameron is out of step with a growing majority of Americans, particularly people of faith who believe that their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters should be loved and accepted based on their character and not condemned because of their sexual orientation.”


Christopher Rice, novelist
“Kirk Cameron says marriage was defined by God in the Garden of Eden. No response from Cameron on why the world isn’t full of talking snakes.”

Roseanne Barr, actress-comedian
“Kirk or Kurt or whatever Cameron is an accomplice to murder with his hate speech. so is Rick Warren. Their peers r killing gays in Uganda.”

Josh Charles, actor
“I know Growing Pains was only a TV show, but I have to think both Alan Thicke & Joanna Kerns must feel they failed as parents tonight.”

Zach Braff, actor
“If Kirk Cameron hates gay people, why was he best friends with Boner?”

Jesse Tyler Ferguson, actor
“The only unnatural thing about me being gay is that I had a crush on Kirk Cameron until about 24 hours ago.”

Alan Thicke, actor
“I’m getting him some new books. The Old Testament simply can’t be expected to explain everything.”

Cameron, for his part, is appealing to his right to speak in the good old P.S..

“I should be able to express moral views on social issues,” he said, “especially those that have been the underpinning of Western civilization for 2,000 years — without being slandered, accused of hate speech, and told from those who preach ‘tolerance’ that I need to either bend my beliefs to their moral standards or be silent when I’m in the public square.”

What he means, of course, is that he should be able to say whatever he wants with no consequences. No one should be allowed to criticise his viewpoint. We’re silencing him because he’s frightened of our disapproval, poor petal.

He concluded, “I believe we need to learn how to debate these things with greater love and respect,”

Keep in mind, it was he who referred to people’s lives and relationships as “detrimental, and ultimately destructive”. Reminds me of this cartoon.

And now I’m trying to remember if I’ve ever heard the phrase “public square” by anyone other than a smarmy religionist who was trying to explain why their superstition and irrationality should be taken seriously in civic discourse. Nope, don’t think so.

Mormon proxy baptisms: What’s the harm?

There’s an amazingly clueless blog post on the Millennial Star about Mormon proxy baptism, in which author Geoff B. helpfully instructs people on

How to respond when a church says it is baptizing your dead

His response is: What’s the harm? If we think that it’s just a silly ceremony, then no harm done. Why, we should be glad that they took the time to do something nice for our ancestors. What a thoughtful gesture! We should send flowers and a nice note.

The whole post (and subsequent comments) show the signs of having been written by someone who thinks their church is wonderful, that eveything they do in the service of their church is an unalloyed good, and that they are therefore incapable of overreach.

Let’s back up a bit. What’s the deal with Mormon proxy ordinances? If you haven’t heard about it from Bill Maher or Stephen Colbert, read on.

There’s a tough problem in Christianity: Everybody who has ever lived needs to accept Jeebus through baptism, but what about people who lived before him? Do they go to hell? Does god give them a pass if they were nice? Or what? Mormons have resolved this problem in a very creative and time-consuming way: they collect names from genealogical records, dunk each other while thinking of a person’s name, and then pretend that the person gets to choose to accept the ordinance in the afterlife. I think this is a terribly creative solution to a knotty problem in Christianity, and the fact that it’s such an elaborate work-around to a problem that god should have really thought of before is a testament to
a) the theological difficulty of the problem
b) the creative genius of Joseph Smith, and
c) the lengths people will go to in the service of their silly religions.

Mormons think this work is incredibly important, even quoting Malachi:

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:
And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

Ponder for a second. The earth has existed for 4.5 billion years, serving as the habitat for trillions of creatures who have lived and died on it. And Mormons think that if they don’t sit in the dark and extract names from squeaky microfilm readers and then necrodunk each other, it’s all for naught, and Jeebus will smite us all with a curse. What a horrible lack of perspective.

One nice effect of proxy work (from the point of view of head office in Salt Lake City) is that it keeps Mormons coming back to the temples (and paying tithing) as often as possible. Perhaps this is why there doesn’t seem to be much attention paid to dunking everyone only once. Anne Frank, for instance, has been baptised at least nine times.

One thing that hasn’t been mentioned enough in connection with all of this is that it isn’t just baptism. Mormons perform the full range of church ordinances on the deceased, including the ‘washing and anointing’, temple sealings, and something called the ‘endowment’, in which Mormons wear clothes that look like this:

All right, so what’s the harm in all this? As mundane as this sounds, I think it’s a boundary issue. Yes, Mormons make the audacious claim that everyone needs to be a Mormon, and yes, it’s annoying, but if people want to make the choice to be Mormons themselves, so be it. But to many people, monkeying around with someone else’s religious status post mortem seems just a mite invasive.

Some people like their faith tradition. They’ve had it for years. They might identify as X even though they never do anything X. These things seem to matter. So for a non-believer, the idea that unrelated peopole could hijack your ancestors, and aid them in becoming a part of some completely different faith tradition (and there’s not a thing you can do about it) is deeply unsettling. It rubs people the wrong way, and because it involves performing a symbolic act upon a deceased member of someone else’s family, it’s a particularly egregious way to rub someone the wrong way. That Mormons don’t seem to comprehend why anyone would object to this is indictive of their insularity and cluelessness, and perhaps they would benefit from pondering how they’d feel if someone tried to make their deceased relatives gay or something.

Back to Anne Frank. Mormons have copped flak for baptising Jews killed in the Holocaust. For Jews, there’s an extra layer of ouchiness. See, Mormons think that Israel is a chosen people, and by believing in Jesus (as they think the Jews should have done), they become a part of Israel — the Israel that god always intended. They take Paul at his word when he said that they would become “grafted in” to the olive tree. To show how seriously they take this, Mormons even assign themselves to one of the tribes of Israel. In a ritual called a “patriarchal blessing”, an older Mormon gentleman lays his hands on your head, does some free associating and cold reading, and makes predictions about the rest of your life. Mormons think it’s personal scripture, straight from god. And during the blessing, the partriarch names which specific tribe of Israel you’re from. I was from Ephraim, like every white guy, but I’ve known people allegedly from Dan, Manasseh, and even Levi. It’s all BS, but it shows just how much Mormons want to co-opt the whole Israelite thing, and claim it for their own. And therein lies the ouchiness. Mormons think they’re Israel in ways that Jews are not, not fully. And the only way Jews can be Israel-for-reals is to go through the Mormon Church. So converting Jews to make them Mormons — Israel in the latter days — seems like, if not ethnic cleansing, ethnic supplanting.

So if Mormons reading this could get one thing out of it, it would be that symbolism matters, and the posthumous Mormonising could be seen not as a nice gesture, but as a gesture of hostility and of religious and cultural imperialism. Does it do anything metaphysical? No. Is it an antagonising gesture? Yes.

UPDATE: Seriously, check out the unapologetic comments on the post. The commenters are unapologetic about carrying out what is, after all, one of the main aims of the church. To do otherwise would be disobedient to their god. It shows how people under the influence of religion don’t play well with others. And it explains why the Mormon Church can’t be honest when it gets caught at this kind of thing, and “promises” to knock it off.

Why are atheists so rude?

It was Orientation Day on campus. People can sign up for clubs (including the UWA Atheist and Skeptic Society), and there are always tons of church groups doing their schtick. So I like to see what’s out there.

Here’s a conversation I had. It went pretty much just like this.

Heaven’s gape

Religious people are posting this image on their walls and pages unironically as an inspirational photo.

What they’re missing is that the pic (‘shopped, natch) is actually a reference to the infamous and incomprehensibly gross ‘goatse’ image. If you don’t know what that is, don’t look it up. Just check out the Snopes page, or use your imagination: Instead of hands stretching a hole in the clouds, think ‘giant gaping rectum’.

I think the ‘goatse cloud’ image might be a perfect analogy (sorry) for religion in general. Some people find inspiration in it, but it’s just something that someone made up. There’s nobody in the sky, but if there were, he’d be a huge asshole.

She’s just a

Is Michele Bachmann a lyin’-ass bitch? The Roots (of Jimmy Fallon fame) seem to think this is an appropriate assessment; the other night, they used the amazing Fishbone song of the same name to play her on.

But isn’t that a little harsh? Whether she’s a lyin’-ass bitch depends on whether she actually believes the insane things she says. If she sincerely believes them, then she’s a crazy, wrong-headed, god-soaked, log-stupid, vicious, callous, deluded, vaccine-denying, dangerous historical revisionist that has no business sitting on a local school board, much less voting in Congress or running for President of a major country.

But not a lyin’-ass bitch.

Well, she might be a bitch.

I’m just glad they played the song because I haven’t thought of it in ages.

Hey, why don’t we throw it on?

By all means, continue.

Thank goodness these people are off the streets.

Praying perpetually to save society

In 12 years, the music has never stopped at the International House of Prayer — a leader in a small but growing movement dedicated to perpetual prayer.

Young people have flocked here from as far away as Britain and South Korea, convinced that their prayers, joined in a never-ceasing stream, can push back evil forces that threaten to overwhelm society.

“It’s probably one of the fastest-growing movements within the broad evangelicalism,” said Brad Christerson, a professor of sociology at Biola University who studies charismatic Christianity. “They’re really engaging a new generation of young evangelicals.”

IHOP, as the church is known, sees prayer as a form of “spiritual warfare,” battling demons who keep a constant hold on parts of society. Continuous prayer is a way of extending that struggle around the clock.

“What we do opens and shuts doors to angels and demons,” founding pastor Mike Bickle said recently.

I guess it makes more sense than the typical view of prayer, which is that you’ve got a sort of inept god who can do anything, but still needs a steady diet of increasingly desperate coaxing and prodding to get him to do the things he already knows he needs to do.

This Dominionist view of prayer, though, seems to be that god’s more powerful than society-destroying demons, but you need to keep feeding him prayer energy to help him level up or something.

Never mind. I don’t get it. The whole idea is weird, and I’m very glad these people are off together in a building somewhere, doing effectively nothing for long periods of time.

Arabic not materialising on airplanes

Is there any language scarier than Arabic? (Unless you understand it, of course.) It doesn’t go in the right direction, and it looks so… foreign! No wonder it’s caused havoc before.

And when Arabic script unexpectedly appears on airplanes, well, it’s enough to make people involuntarily micturate.

Mysterious messages that appeared to be scrawled in Arabic writing on the underbellies of several Southwest Airlines jets were being investigated Wednesday by the airline and the FBI, Los Angeles radio station KNX-1070 reported.
The graffiti, which began appearing in February on 737-model planes, has been found more often in recent weeks, according to the report.
The writing appears to have been etched using a chemical process and is visible only after an auxiliary power unit is turned on.

So how do they know it’s Arabic? Gawker comes to the rescue with photos.

Where’s the Arabic? You mean those cross-looking things that look like someone wiped some dust off the plane? That’s the Arabic? Hey, wait — it looks kind of like a sword! Yeah! That’s Arabic, right? I think they have a sword on their flags.

Well, the markings are so not Arabic that even the Daily Mail has had to admit it.

The airline had suggested the symbols, which only show up with heat and are believed to be vandalism, looked like Arabic writing.

However the Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. looked at the photos for MailOnline and a spokesman concluded they are ‘not Arabic script’.

It’s kind of sad: Muslims are now the most-feared group in society, just as Jews, Freemasons, and Catholics were in times past. As such, nervous people project their fears onto them. Strange markings on airplanes? Concerns over immigration? Mosque down the road? Obviously all part of a takeover attempt by Muslims.

But now, hopefully now people who work in aviation can stop being worried about Arabic script, and worry about something else, like lesbians kissing.

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