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May 20th, 2011
09:01 AM ET

My Take: Doomsdayers not so different from the rest of us

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

I know a lot of people are eagerly awaiting 6 p.m. this Saturday, either to greet the rapturous return of Jesus with open arms or to snicker at the idiocy of the followers of radio host Harold Camping, the evangelist behind all this holy hoo-hah.

I’m looking forward to 6:01 p.m., and the recalculations and reinterpretations that invariably ensue whenever Bible believers are proud enough to imagine that they know the day and the hour of Jesus' return, and bold enough to announce their imaginations to humanity.

People have been predicting the end of the world ever since they started thinking about the world as a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Thus far everyone has been wrong. So we have a lot of experience as a species with what the Millerites of the 19th century called the Great Disappointment.

Initially, the Baptist doomsday preacher William Miller predicted the return of Jesus between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844. When the latter date passed his followers did some recalculations (based on a different Jewish calendar) and settled some other dates. When those dates passed they found another date—October 22, 1844—based on a prophesy in the Bible's Daniel 8:14 (“And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed”).

After this Great Disappointment, some Millerites slinked away. Others decided that Jesus actually had returned, just not as they had expected. The notion that October 22, 1844 marked a spiritual rather than a physical return of Jesus became the basis for the Seventh-Day Adventist Church.

As for Harold Camping, he has been here before, too, predicting the arrival of Judgment Day in September 1994 only to go back to the Bible and his calculator and settle on this coming Saturday.

Predictions–and disappointments–such as these have inspired a cottage industry of social scientists trying to figure out how doomsday believers deal with the cognitive dissonance that comes “when prophecy fails.”

But the bottom line is that religion persists because it is adaptable. And one of its adaptations is that it almost never goes the route of Emily Litella, the hard-of-hearing "Saturday Night Live" news commentator who would come on "Weekend Update" (in the body of Gilda Radner) and complain, for example, about the effort to turn Puerto Rico into a steak, only to be corrected by Jane Curtin. At which point she would say, “I’m sorry.  Nevermind.”

I know my atheist friends are getting ready to party on May 21, and many Christians are already embarrassed by Camping and his followers. But I’m not convinced the rest of us are all that much different.

When confronted with facts that disprove their pet theories, for instance, our politicians almost never say, “Nevermind.” They recalculate and equivocate and go about their business. The rest of us do much the same, often preferring in our relationships, our jobs and our worldviews (religious or otherwise) the comfort of the stories we carry around in our heads to the reality of the facts on the ground.

Religious fanatics aren’t always so different from the rest of us. They are bolder, perhaps–more willing to air their craziness to the world. But the rest of us are crazy in our own way, harboring illusions about the federal budget deficit, or our spouses, or our politicians that are disproved by the facts, and dealing with cognitive dissonance with more of the same.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Belief • Bible • End times • Fundamentalism • Obama • United States

soundoff (1,432 Responses)
  1. DGH

    no, they are crazy

    May 20, 2011 at 10:55 am |
    • GAW

      Whatever you say dude! We won't question you because you're right.

      May 20, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • kristen

      ur right htis baloonie story is crazy as hell.

      May 20, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • Runchickenrun

      no, this is true. World is not going to end tomorrow....lol

      May 20, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
  2. Jordan

    The story of Jesus is thousands of years older than Jesus and has many names. The story of Horus for example. My favorite is the super religious trying to spin the story as "not being the same." It's the same thing. The truth of the matter is, there might be a God. But do you really HAVE to know in order to be a good person? Just don't be a dick and you'll be fine.

    May 20, 2011 at 10:55 am |
    • Lycidas

      I think you got your Egyptian dieties wrong there champ. And if you did or didn't...similiarities does not equal truth.

      May 20, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • Artist

      Lycidas

      ....... And if you did or didn't...similiarities does not equal truth.
      -------–
      Same goes for assumptions coupled with faith

      May 20, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
    • Runchickenrun

      There is no "Jesus,'

      May 20, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • I wonder....

      Event....Yeshua of Nazareth, a.k.a. Jesus
      Conception........By a virgin. 3
      Father........Only begotten son of Yehovah (in the form of the Holy Spirit).
      Mother........Miriam (now often referred to as Mary).
      Foster father........Joseph.
      Foster father's ancestry........Of royal descent.
      Birth location........In a cave or stable.
      Annunciation........By an angel to Miriam, his mother. 3
      Birth heralded by........An unidentified "star in the East."
      Birth date........Born during the fall. However, his birth date is now celebrated on DEC-25. The date was chosen to occur on the same date as the birth of Mithra, Dionysus and the Sol Invictus
      Birth announcement........By angels. 3
      Birth witnesses........Shepherds. 3
      Later witnesses to birth........An unknown number of wise men. 3 They are said to have brought three gifts; thus the legend grew that there were three men.
      Death threat during infancy........Herod tried to have Jesus murdered.
      Handling the threat........An angel tells Jesus' father to.... "Arise and take the young child and his mother and flee into Egypt."
      Rite of pas-sage ritual........Taken by parents to the temple for what is today called a bar mitzvah ritual.
      Age at the ritual........12
      Break in life history........No data between ages of 12 & 30.
      Baptism location........In the river Jordan.
      Age at baptism........30.
      Baptized by........John the Baptist, a.k.a. John the Baptist.
      Subsequent fate of the baptiser........Beheaded.

      Event....Horus
      Conception........By a virgin.
      Father........Only begotten son of the God Osiris.
      Mother........Isis-Meri. 4
      Foster father........Seb, (a.k.a. Jo-Seph). 4
      Foster father's ancestry........Of royal descent.
      Birth location........In a cave.
      Annunciation........By an angel to Isis, his mother.
      Birth heralded by........The star Sirius, the morning star.
      Birth date........Ancient Egyptians paraded a manger and child representing Horus through the streets at the time of the winter solstice (about DEC-21). In reality, he had no birth date; he was not a human.
      Birth announcement........By angels.
      Birth witnesses........Shepherds.
      Later witnesses to birth........Three solar deities.
      Death threat during infancy........Herut tried to have Horus murdered.
      Handling the threat........The God That tells Horus' mother "Come, thou goddess Isis, hide thyself with thy child."
      Rite of pas-sage ritual........Horus came of age with a special ritual, when his eye was restored.
      Age at the ritual........12
      Break in life history........No data between ages of 12 & 30.
      Baptism location........In the river Eridanus.
      Age at baptism........30.
      Baptized by........Anup the Baptiser.
      Subsequent fate of the baptiser........Beheaded.

      May 20, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
    • J

      @I Wonder...

      I've always wondered where I could find more information on Horus and Mithra. I was introduced to the parallels in a mythology class and they were later reiterated on Bill Maher's "Religulous". Not to say that I hold true everything that my professor and Bill Maher say, but I was trying to do my own research (which I encourage everyone to do). Where did you find your information? Wikipedia is a failed source for this kind of information, on this topic...

      Thanks!

      May 20, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
  3. Dan

    where is everybody going to go since the end of the world is tomorrow? thank g-d my judgement day has already occured i am still here. well anyway thank g-d population control. alright no more traffic. more gas, no more waiting in lines, heck i cant wait please make my wish come true.....

    May 20, 2011 at 10:53 am |
  4. Dan

    Jesus is not coming back. Would you come back to this dump?

    May 20, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • Relictus

      Sure. A U-haul can only take so much in one trip.

      May 24, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
  5. BobZemko

    With all the time and energy that has been spent in this "end of the world" scam, he could have been doing something productive like feeding the poor.

    May 20, 2011 at 10:52 am |
  6. Roman

    yes, only John Connor can save us now

    May 20, 2011 at 10:51 am |
    • mister

      I hope so 🙂

      May 20, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • Free

      You could always try sticking your thumb up in the air, or haven't you read any Douglas Adams?

      May 20, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • Frogist

      @free: I'll be walking around with my towel for the next couple days.

      May 20, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • Free

      Frogist
      And remember "Don't Panic!"

      Another good bit from The Guide is this one:

      _Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so mindbogglingly useful could have evolved purely by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as the final and clinching proof of the non-existence of God. The argument goes something like this:
      "I refuse to prove that I exist," says God, "for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing."
      "But," says Man, "The Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn't it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don't. QED."
      "Oh dear," says God, "I hadn't thought of that," and promptly vanished in a puff of logic._ 🙂

      May 20, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
  7. darkstar

    Uh, anyone that believes the world is coming to an end and/or longs for this event to happen are completely different from the "rest of us" rational people. They are nothing like me and I don't want them to be. They are delusional and are in dire need of medical attention.

    May 20, 2011 at 10:51 am |
  8. Frogist

    I think it is true that none of us leads a life without some sort of flight of fantasy. There are things that are simply easier to deal with outside of reality. It is a coping mechanism. I'm sure many of us would like to think we're completely sane, rational human beings down to the tiniest bit of our person but I think we can't help but be a little "delusional". Like when you know your hair is thinning but you deny it completely. Or that you're getting too old to play football like you once did but you still brag you can take those 18 yr olds on the field. I think these little white lies don't hurt us so much as provide us with a buffer from the harsher reality of our situation. It's when the fantasy starts to take over our actions that we need to worry. It's just fine to hold onto the idea that someday the wrongdoers and hurtful people will get their just reward. Not so good when you take up a gun and start "rewarding" them yourself.
    That's the line I think these Camping followers crossed. They made their fantasy idea into a reality. That's why I think we're more likely to accept or tolerate those who say "Jesus will come one day" more than those who say "Jesus is coming Saturday at 6."
    It's also important to let go of the white lies when confronted by an idea that challenges you. How does that phrase go? When we stop learning we start dying. To remain rigidly in denial hurts us as well. It holds us back from personal progress which can hold our community back as well. I think we all know that.

    May 20, 2011 at 10:48 am |
    • Happy

      This all is just amusing. It's getting some play because it's a slow news day and people like to be distracted and entertained.
      These guys are a hoot!

      May 20, 2011 at 10:55 am |
    • FSM

      Well said.

      May 20, 2011 at 11:45 am |
  9. MACT

    As I understand it, Camping has made a LOT of money with his ministry. I hope he has the honesty to give it all away before Saturday: or maybe even more so on Sunday.

    May 20, 2011 at 10:47 am |
    • Bible Clown

      "I hope he has the honesty to give it all away" Ha ha ha, that's comedy gold. Ministers NEVER give away their money. God gave it to them to keep, tax-free.

      May 20, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
  10. Nonimus

    I think Prothero could have made his point better if he had pointed out that doomsday predictions are not restricted to the religious and more likely are part of human nature. For example, Mayan Calendar (12/21/2012), Haley's Comet with cyanogen gas (1910), Nostradamus (August 1999), Richard Noone and Astrological doom (5/5/2000), etc.

    May 20, 2011 at 10:43 am |
    • Peace2All

      @Nonimus

      Agreed.

      Peace...

      May 20, 2011 at 10:51 am |
    • God

      It is all based in ignorance, which religion promotes.

      May 20, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
  11. LaughingBarbara

    This is the truest thing Prothero said: BUT THE REST OF US ARE CRAZY IN OUR OWN WAY, HARBORING ILLUSIONS ABOUT THE FEDERAL BUDGET DEFICIT, OR OUR SPOUSES, OR OUR POLITICIANS THAT ARE DISPROVED BY THE FACTS, AND DEALING WITH COGNITIVE DISSONANCE WITH MORE OF THE SAME! Amen, brother.

    May 20, 2011 at 10:30 am |
  12. Monte

    I do not believe in atheists, and if they did exist, I am certain they would not party.

    May 20, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • Artemiss

      What? You don't believe in Atheists...
      I understand that you are trying to make a joke, but honestly not believing in Atheists would be like Atheists not believing in Christians or anyone not believing in Norwegians... just plain idiotic.

      May 20, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • Winning2011

      Artemiss, you obviously don't get the joke...

      May 20, 2011 at 10:56 am |
    • Nonimus

      @ #WINNING,
      "I understand that you are trying to make a joke,"
      I just didn't think it was any good.

      May 20, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • Atheists

      We don't believe in Monte either. We heard he went to Mohammed.

      May 20, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
  13. Julian R

    It is true that religion can be a great source of courage... I only find it sad that sometimes people become foolish due to religion. Im currently 17 years old and I was baptised, but not religious at all.... I believe that for those who are in deep need of comfort,, then religion can be a good safety net for them....... I have to go spend all my savings now at the store to stock up supplies because of the end of the world is coming... and I interprate it to be in the form of a zombie manifestation.... all jokes aside... I respect religion until it will hurt people even when they dont even know it.

    May 20, 2011 at 9:52 am |
    • Free

      "It is true that religion can be a great source of courage..."
      One can also say that this is offset by religion also being a great source of fear, of which this whole end of the world business is just one example. If it comes down to the fear being too much for the courage to handle then you may want to think about how economical buying into religion actually is. You may be better off just sticking to the ordinary sources of fear and courage that we all employ.

      May 20, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • squiddy79

      You are a smart kid....weather people agree with you are not, it is obvious you think and analyze things...something kids your age should do more of.

      May 20, 2011 at 10:56 am |
    • Hal

      When I was your age I always wondered why am I here, now, during this short period of time in history. Well my answer came fourteen years later when I put my trust in Jesus Christ. I know why I am here and for what reason. Once you put your trust in God the Son and not baptism then He will help you to understand what is currently happening in our world.

      May 20, 2011 at 10:57 am |
    • SeanNJ

      @Hal: You didn't find answers. You simply became uninterested in looking for them any longer. My sympathies on the loss of your humanity, and your divorce from your capacity for rational thought.

      May 20, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • Bucky Ball

      @squiddy79
      ahhh, me too, WHETHER they agree or not, or able to spell or not.

      May 20, 2011 at 11:38 am |
  14. Preston

    The end says that they would be doubting the bible if they woke up on may 22, 2011.
    The are doubting the bible already by stating that they know saturday is the end.
    MARK 13:32 "But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. "
    So unless they are the father, they are doubting the bible, by thinking that people do know. These are the people who turn people away from Christ. Now all the people the reach, will except Jesus as their savior, Wake up on Sunday think that Christianity is a lie because people, "CHRISTIAN" people lied to them.

    Jeremiah 23:16 (New International Version)

    16 This is what the LORD Almighty says:

    “Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you;
    they fill you with false hopes.
    They speak visions from their own minds,
    not from the mouth of the LORD.

    May 20, 2011 at 9:50 am |
    • squiddy79

      I do not affiliate myself with any organizes religious group however, I agree. This guy is self righteous and arrogant, he should be ashamed of himself and if he really believes in his heart of hearts that he is doing this for the greater good (which I doubt)...he needs help. That being said, even though we all know this is all a bunch of malarky, Maybe this will help people realize that life is about helping others, and doing good deeds every day, and be a loving and compassionate person...those qualities can be found in people no matter what religion ( of lack of) you affiliate yourself with, because its the right thing to do.

      May 20, 2011 at 11:06 am |
    • Quing

      Amen, David!

      May 20, 2011 at 11:12 am |
    • Quing

      I meant Preston. lol

      May 20, 2011 at 11:13 am |
    • Corrie

      Amen Preston. You hit it right on the head. It's people like Harold Camping that make non-Christians think Christianity is something strange, and not to be believed. Don't take it from Camping or those like him, find out for yourselves and you will see what true Christianity is.

      May 20, 2011 at 11:22 am |
    • SeanNJ

      @Corrie: Trust me...Camping doesn't make it any sillier than it already is. We didn't need him to point it out.

      May 20, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • Bucky Ball

      Mark 13:30 "Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, until all these things be accomplished".

      This "getting it wrong" thing is a recurring theme in this cult.

      May 20, 2011 at 11:32 am |
    • RHarris

      Coo coo!

      May 20, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • TheTruth72

      @Bucky......Do you know what generation he is talking about? You assume it was the generation Jesus lived in. Gather the context of what is happening in the verses surrounding that verse that you listed. He is talking about the generation of when the signs for the last days are.

      Most non-believers will take verses like these out of context. Much of the time it's because they want to quickly disprove something and grab a verse with a quick glance with out looking at it's true meaning and context. I'm not saying Christian's think or should think they are superior to anyone else because of what they believe. It's because Christians believe the Bible is true that they study it in a deeper sense and try to gather the context from surrounding verses to make sense of difficult to understand verses.

      With that being said, I don't believe in Harold Camping's teachings and I clearly think he is a false prophet.

      May 20, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • deepandcrazy

      after centurys of trying to understand our existance, we tend to interper the situation that fits our beliefs. beliefs are very powerful blocks. if you knew what i knew, u would see how everyone thinks a god(seperate from self) is reality. we pile interpertations on top of interpertations as we grow. At the same time, religion tricked everyone(unintentionally maybe) to rely on beliefs and faith in a manor where you cant change your beliefs. time digs in those beliefs.
      From my key consious point in existance, i learned that beliefs were not meant to be permanant or all of you would believe santa exists. as we grow, we change our beliefs to adapt to our new understandings.
      we are afraid to be wrong. so religion is strong. if you talked to a scientist, they would use facts as a means of control. u would not win any argument. religion uses faith and beliefs as means of control. thsi creates argument.
      What you should do is realize that their may be more than meets the eyes that go outside of science and religion.

      if you want to know TRUTH, then learn to look beyond your beliefs. you will realize that 1 religion must be right meaning 99percent of others are wrong. that means that there is a great chance that u are wrong. if you deny, you only aggitate yourself. i put stuff on my site that offers a new understanding. it will go against programmed beliefs that run independent of the consious mind.

      www dot deepandcrazy dot com. the god is self. we are event forming creatures that go outside of time and space at another level of consiousness that is always active. . that means that the wars are showing us that we fight ourselves knowing that we are all a part of god.

      we(humans) are actually event forming creatures. you cant see your creation cause you programmed beliefs into your stucture as untouchable. if you believe that the end of the world is coming, you will make it happen. you adust to those beliefs.

      when i try to explain what i know to others, they tell me that that is my belief. what if mine is wrong. i tell them that the difference between them and i is that i dont rely on beliefs, cause that is how im able to see more. i allow myself to grow.

      i read in a book to imagine having a beutiful piece of land and a home surrounded by a fence.
      its wonderful and perfect, but imagine that fence as a belief. as long as your inside that fence, you feel safe, BUT if you were to go outside that fence, you will realize that there is a whole new world to explore.

      May 21, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
  15. deepandcrazy

    for info on how religion just a concept we create , i put info on http://www.deepandcrazy.com

    After trying so hard to do right and others us wrong,
    after realizing that MY religion is the right one and all others are wrong,
    after realizing that i want to be heard and no one listens,
    after realizing that the world aint right,

    I realized that we are all wrong, We are all right, We are all good, We are all bad, we are all positive, we are all negative....

    Once we realize that, all the anger is shared, all the fear is shared,
    all the love is shared, all the morals are shared
    we are only fighting ourselves.

    We need to set down our guns and accept eachother and HOPE for the best...
    This is where TRUST, FAITH, HOPE really is about. not connected to an invisible god(away from self)...
    a message for us to wake up and change our existance.
    CHANGE THE FREQUENCY.. it starts within self

    May 20, 2011 at 9:45 am |
    • numbnut

      That was very well put. Thank-you.

      May 20, 2011 at 11:01 am |
  16. bonnie

    no offence but does anyone read the bible. it says Christ will come like a thief in the night. the time during the last days will be a period of years during the tribulation. no mention of the antichrist that will be a person of power and everyone who follows him will be marked and you wont be able to buy food or clothes without the mark of the beast. sorry but come on, please people read your bible and dont follow someone blindly.

    May 20, 2011 at 9:45 am |
    • Hal

      Ditto

      May 20, 2011 at 11:00 am |
  17. David Johnson

    Suggestion to CNN:

    Why not have a Jesus watch? Send reporters to be with Camping and friends. Watch the four corners of the world for the return of the baby Jesus. It could be a hoot! A learning experience for the kids! Look how stupid mommy and daddy are!

    Why there really isn't anything in Al Capone's Vault...

    God, I love idiot believers!

    Cheers!

    May 20, 2011 at 9:38 am |
    • CW

      @ David Johnson,

      Hey I know your trying to be funny. All jokes aside this is something that we christians DON'T and I mean DON'T back. For it says in the Bible that "NO one not even the angels know the time and place when Jesus will return". Now for me that's enough to tell me that no one who is a christian would even try to guess at....they are false prophets...by the way false prophets are also spoke of too in the Bible...and it says to stay away from them.

      Anyway....I guess a better joke will be have CNN show up on "judgement day"(which isn't tomorrow as I don't know when it will be) and show all the faces of the atheist and non-believers who have refused to believe in God. Now that is going to be a sight to see.

      May 20, 2011 at 10:07 am |
    • J

      @CW – I suppose your God is going to reward an individual, such as yourself, that is eagerly awaiting a day when non-believing people will be punished? Grow up and stop being so divisive.

      May 20, 2011 at 10:17 am |
    • SeanNJ

      @CW: "NO one not even the angels know the time and place when Jesus will return".

      Convenient, built-in self-defense mechanism.

      May 20, 2011 at 10:22 am |
    • Nonimus

      @CW,
      I don't know why you're anticipating "judgement day," based on your obvious dislike for atheists I wouldn't think you'd make it to heaven anyway, you know love your neighbor and all that. Not to mention you're pride at knowing the mind of God, who will be saved and who won't, and what exactly is the *correct* interpretation of scripture.

      May 20, 2011 at 10:27 am |
    • CW

      @ J,

      I'm not being divisive...I'm just pointing out the fact as it is spoke in the Bible. Don't think that is divisive....Everyone has a choice...you have a choice.

      @ SeanNJ,

      Its not a self defense I'm pointing out....Mark 13:32. I guess if you want to have fun ask Camping what his interpretation of that verse is.

      May 20, 2011 at 10:29 am |
    • CW

      @ Nonimus,

      First off...I don't h-ate or dislike anyone. Second....what I point out is exactly what is written in the Bible...by the way....I'm not sure what "your" abilities are in reading english but the verses seem pretty clear to me. Third...I have never professed to knowing "God's mind" as you say....I DO know however based on the teachings of the Bible and the wisdom that our Lord gives that he wants you to believe in him and have a relationship with him. Like I said the Bible is pretty clear.

      May 20, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • J

      @CW – "Anyway....I guess a better joke will be have CNN show up on "judgement day"(which isn't tomorrow as I don't know when it will be) and show all the faces of the atheist and non-believers who have refused to believe in God. Now that is going to be a sight to see."

      Come on man. There's nothing funny about people being punished for not believing in Jewish folk lore.

      May 20, 2011 at 10:42 am |
    • Shari

      "I DO know however based on the teachings of the Bible and the wisdom that our Lord gives that he wants you to believe in him and have a relationship with him. Like I said the Bible is pretty clear."

      Your lord didn't write the bible so you are blindly following a book written by men who had a need to control the masses without complaining about how miserable their lives were.

      May 20, 2011 at 10:44 am |
    • JJ in CT

      @ CW – Good morning.

      You stated: "I'm just pointing out the fact as it is spoke in the Bible."

      How do you know the bible is factual? Is it because it is the word of god? How do you know it's the word of god? Is it because the bible states it's the word of god? That's circular reasoning.

      How do you know for sure that the bible is the word of god? Can you answer this question?

      May 20, 2011 at 10:47 am |
    • Nonimus

      @CW,
      I'm sorry, your apparent glee at the prospect of Atheists missing the boat on salvation and burning for eternity was perhaps distracting me from seeing your love for all mankind. My apologies.

      The english verses may seem clear to you, but not to everyone, else why the 30K+ chritian denominations, especially since they weren't even written in english. Your certainty seems more prideful than actually based in reality.

      By claiming certainty based on one interpretation of the Bible, you seem to be claiming to know the mind of God. In other words, you are claiming to understand what God meant in the face of multiple interpretations that may disagree with your own, or the one you chose to believe.
      If God is a mystery, isn't certainty a deception?
      If no man may know the mind of God, isn't claiming to know who will be saved and who won't also claiming to know God's judgement?

      May 20, 2011 at 10:58 am |
    • Free

      David-
      CW is referring to Mark 13:32 "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." just in case you haven't heard that one this week. 😉

      What you may not have been shown lately is that a lot of things and people are called God's son as in:

      Exodus 4:22 "Then say to Pharaoh, ‘This is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son,"

      Jeremiah 31:9 "because I (God) am Israel’s father, and Ephraim is my firstborn son."

      Psalm 2:7 "I will proclaim the LORD’s decree: He said to me (David), “You are my son; today I have become your father."

      Of course, the Greek-speaking world had a whole different, far more crudely literal understanding of what a god's son was which may be how Jesus got rendered as a Hercules-like hero. Remember that Hercules' last labor was to enter the underworld and capture Cerberus, the three-headed dog that kept people from escaping. Sound familiar?

      May 20, 2011 at 11:00 am |
    • J

      @ CW – "I'm not being divisive...I'm just pointing out the fact as it is spoke in the Bible. Don't think that is divisive....Everyone has a choice...you have a choice."

      Isn't making a choice between two things, divisive? You're either with us or you're not. That's what I'm getting out of this.

      May 20, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • Frogist

      @DavidJohnson: Excellent idea! Get on it, CNN!

      May 20, 2011 at 11:06 am |
    • beagle

      @CW

      To me it's very interesting that you reference ones ability to understand English as a justification for your interpretation of the bible. The bible was not originally written in English (mostly ancient hebrew, greek and aramaic) so really you are just reading someone else's interpretation of what the bible says and using at as some method to assert your superiority over others who you deem not as enlightened as yourself. seems rather narcissistic to me.

      May 20, 2011 at 11:10 am |
    • Peace2All

      @David Johnson

      "Jesus Watch"... Excellent Idea, my friend ! I like it !

      Peace...

      May 20, 2011 at 11:14 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Ahh CW – the great purveyor of Apocalyptic Schadenfreude.
      I wonder – how do you feel about the 144,000 Jews that get a free pass into your exclusively Baptist heaven come Judgement Day? No Christ required for them...

      May 20, 2011 at 11:30 am |
    • Free

      CW
      "I'm not being divisive...I'm just pointing out the fact as it is spoke in the Bible."

      And I suppose that anyone quoting from another book, say Mein Kampf, shouldn't be accused of being divisive either?

      May 20, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • Peace2All

      @Doc V.

      You Said: "Apocalyptic Schadenfreude."

      Perfect call !!

      Peace...

      May 20, 2011 at 11:59 am |
    • Atheists

      CW, really, you'd like to be there and see people's faces before your god begins to torture them? Christians are weird and sadistic, and I hear things like that from them over and over. "Don't believe in my merciful god, huh? I'd like to rip your intestines out and nail them to a burning log until you saw how much love He has for you!" Glad that "love thy neighbor" thing is working so well for you; wh,y you are a SAINT!

      May 20, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
    • Bible Clown

      I'd like to see CW's face when Mu rises and the Goddess Pele comes to burn alive anyone who doesn't have a ta'a nut in their pocket.

      May 20, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
  18. Shelley

    I believe in the rapture and the physical return of Jesus. However, I don't believe it will happen tomorrow at 6 pm, simply because if one reads their Bible, Mark 13:3 states: 32 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." To predict is putting more trust in ourselves and our calculations than Scripture. I for one, am looking for Jesus' return but go by Mark 13:3. To do otherwise is to tempt the Lord to prove himself which is sin.

    May 20, 2011 at 9:28 am |
    • Shelley

      Slip of the finger...It's Mark 13:32 😛

      May 20, 2011 at 9:31 am |
    • David Johnson

      @Shelley
      I believe in the rapture and the physical return of Jesus. However, I don't believe it will happen tomorrow at 6 pm, simply because if one reads their Bible, Mark 13:3 states: 32 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."

      Although Jesus didn't know the exact date and hour, He did predict He would be back in the 1st Century:

      [Jesus Speaking ] Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” – Matthew 24:34

      Spin it how you want, but Jesus said what He said. It is what it is.

      Jesus did not come back, as he predicted. He had a prior engagement – death.

      Cheers!

      May 20, 2011 at 9:44 am |
    • Nicole

      Well said Shelley!!!!

      May 20, 2011 at 11:00 am |
    • Ann

      @David Johnson

      "Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled." -Matthew 24:34

      The NIV has a footnote stating that there is an alternate translation for "generation." It could also read "Verily I say unto you, This race shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled." Meaning, that the human race will be around to see Christ's return, not necessarily the same people who were alive in the 1st century.

      May 20, 2011 at 11:13 am |
    • SeanNJ

      @Ann: How convenient. First prediction didn't come true, so change the translation to prevent that from happening again. Oh, and throw a little of that "nobody knows" stuff around for a little extra protection.

      Really? This doesn't start to stink to you, even a little bit?

      May 20, 2011 at 11:20 am |
    • Ann

      @SeanNJ

      It might, if every language didn't have words with more than one meaning. Not being able to ask the writer, "Hey, which definition of that word were you using" is more than a little frustrating. Don't yell at me; I didn't write the Bible.

      May 20, 2011 at 11:33 am |
    • Free

      Ann-

      "Say what you like,” we shall be told, “the apocalyptic beliefs of the first Christians have been proved to be false. It is clear from the New Testament that they all expected the Second Coming in their own lifetime. And, worse still, they had a reason, and one which you will find very embarrassing. Their Master had told them so. He shared, and indeed created, their delusion. He said in so many words, ‘this generation shall not pass till all these things be done.’ And he was wrong. He clearly knew no more about the end of the world than anyone else.”

      C.S. Lewis, The World's Last Night: And Other Essays, p.97

      Try reading the article at this site:

      http://catchkevin.com/was-c-s-lewis-right/

      May 20, 2011 at 11:51 am |
    • Free

      Ann-
      If it's differences in meaning that rings your bell you might be interested in my post to David above concerning the differences between the Jewish understanding of "Son of God" and the Greek.

      May 20, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Ann
      How about this Bible passage:

      “Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.”
      —1 John 2:18

      That last hour happened some 2000 years ago.

      Since then, people have claimed He's returned as Sun Myung Moon, Emanuel Swedenborg, Baha u llah, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, David Koresh, Hailie Selassie, John Thom, Arnold Potter, William Davies, George roux, Ernest Norman, Krishna Venta, Ahn Sahng-Hong, Jim Jones, Mashall Applewhite, Hulon Mitchell, Wayne Bent, Ariffin Mohammed, Mitsuo Matayoshi, Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda, Inri Cristo, Thomas Provenzano, David Icke, Shoko Asahara, Hogan Fukinaga, Marina Tsvigun and Sergei Troop.

      But I think we all know deep inside that everyone's favourite middle eastern carpenter has been quite dead for all that time and will remain so.

      May 20, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • Ann

      @Free

      You make some interesting points, and I really enjoyed that article. Thank you for discussing this with me in an informative fashion. The search for truth is never-ending, and even things that we don't like to hear are good for the mind and soul. I think the different translations and interpretations of the Bible are fascinating. I can't really say that you've swayed me to your side, but you have certainly given me food for thought. Be well.

      May 20, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
    • God

      All convenient self propagating nonsense.

      May 20, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • Free

      Ann-
      "even things that we don't like to hear are good for the mind and soul."
      Even the conclusion that God is not real? Keep digging into the Bible with an open mind and you'll face that question sooner than later, I'm afraid.

      Best wishes!

      May 20, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • Magic

      Ann: "if every language didn't have words with more than one meaning. Not being able to ask the writer, "Hey, which definition of that word were you using" is more than a little frustrating."

      An omniscient and omnipotent "God" couldn't / wouldn't permit such rampant mistranslation, misinterpretation, mis-transcription and misunderstanding of its purported 'Word'.

      May 20, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
  19. David Johnson

    This was a good post! Cheers to Prothero!

    Prothero said: "I know my atheist friends are getting ready to party on May 21..."

    WoW! Is the man a prophet? Can he see me getting ready to tap the keg?

    And he said: "many Christians are already embarrassed by Camping and his followers."

    My thought is, they shouldn't be. Camping believes Jesus will be here on Saturday. Other Christians believe Jesus will be here some other day. Both are deluded. Why quibble over who is more so?

    Yep, I will be with my friends, drinking heartily. Thank you Jesus for coming back on Saturday and not Sunday. Saturday is a no beer limit night.

    Cheers!

    May 20, 2011 at 9:28 am |
    • Jennifer

      David,
      It is obvious that the only reason you are making comments is to antagonize and insult people. You need to grow up because you sound childish! So what if you don't agree with Christians on the return of Jesus? That is your right, as is mine as a Christian.

      May 20, 2011 at 11:08 am |
    • SeanNJ

      @Jennifer: Actually, the point is to illustrate how silly the beliefs are. If you feel antagonized or insulted by it, perhaps you need to examine why?

      May 20, 2011 at 11:22 am |
    • Bible Clown

      "antagonize and insult people. You need to grow up because you sound childish!" And that's different from you how?

      May 20, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
  20. JohnR

    Prothero may have a tiny point here, but about the last thing we need right now is a bunch of "I'm OK, You're OK" vis-a-vis these screaming idiots.

    May 20, 2011 at 9:07 am |
    • Dorianmode

      Agree. Please read my book : "I'm OK, You're Not So Hot".

      May 20, 2011 at 11:43 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.