Cheer up Harold we all make mistakes, it’s not the end of the world, you know. 

Earth is where we all live now

So I ask you, dear readers, why is it easier for people to believe the world will end at some exact time because a religious nut-job radio show host tells them so – than it is to believe in global warming?  I don’t get it?!

Christian radio host, Harold Camping, said he knew without a doubt that May 21st was the day of Rapture from his readings of the Bible – because, you see, he’s a mathematician.  His interpretation somehow convinced him that massive earthquakes would strike the Earth and Christian believers would ascend to heaven while the rest would be left to wander a godforsaken planet until Oct. 21, when the world will come to a fiery end.  He even had a time – 6:00pm.  

I’d been traveling this week so had been reading USA TODAY and noticed several full-page ads proclaiming “Judgment Day” which announced the end of the world according to this so-called prophet Harold Camping. This message was accompanied with Bible citations, a promotion of Camping’s book “Time Has an End”, and associated website information found at www.timehasanend.org.  It also included this quote, “A multitude of faithful Bible students, that no man can number, agrees: The end of the world, beginning on May 21, 2011, is established by God’s Word The Holy Bible and God will shortly bring it to pass.”

The message was clear … if you believe in the Bible you’ll not question this proclamation.

His message also asked readers to buy multiple copies of this newspaper and send an original to our leaders, relatives and friends with a personalized note pleading them to head this warning. Well, that’s one way to increase newspaper circulation, but I had to pass.  I rarely plead.  

I couldn’t escape this yarn because I was in the bible-belt, North Carolina, where this prediction received a lot of attention and it was hard to escape stories about folks who gave up everything to prepare for their afterlife. I wondered, what is about humans that make us so gullible?  Why or how are we so willing to believe one thing over another? If tens of thousands of people can believe the end-of-the-world prediction from this guy, why can’t our scientists and social & political leaders convince these same people to believe that global warming may be caused by human beings?!  It has the same dire warning.  Climate scientists have been telling us for years that climate change may bring the Earth to a cataclysmic end – although it will take much longer than October 2011 to fully poison our planet. 

Maybe it’s the times.

Steve Wohlberg,who has written several books about the end of the world and believes the Apocalypse is fast approaching, stated, “The climate that we’re living in, with so many things happening in the world, lends itself to people believing something is going to happen.”  Luckily, the majority of Americans are rational and most dismissed this nonsense regardless of the Camping’s confident and widely-publicized predictions.  In fact, some joked that the world couldn’t possibly end before May 25th … as that’s the last day for the Oprah show and God himself is sure to be her final guest.  [Although the world may feel like it is ending for diehard Oprah fans!]

Yesterday I was on a cross-country flight going east to west that spanned three US time zones, so I had three opportunities to witness Earth’s destruction from above. [I had a window seat] During the flight I dozed through the first 6:00pm EST, but no one was too concerned until the pilot informed that we’d need to buckle up and hold on tight because we had to dodge turbulent storm cells hovering over the Midwest. These storms produced a number of tornadoes that did cause death and destruction, but that actually occurred today and was primarily in Missouri where scores of people were killed.  A tragedy, yes, but not the colossus worldwide event that was anticipated by Camping and his flock.

We humans have our beliefs, however formed, and we cling to them even in spite of compelling data or all evidence to the contrary. It is rare to change our mind or modify our opinions even when presented with solid facts and figures, but maybe it isn’t the mind we’re dealing with … maybe it is something else.

The seething hatred expressed by climate change deniers towards Al Gore is a case in point. Regardless of the dire predictions espoused by Gore, supported by the majority of the scientific community, they can’t seem to separate the messenger from the message.  Climate change deniers use personal attacks on Senator Gore as a lightning rod to rally support for their disbeliefs and to dilute the message.  To me, that is just a waste of valuable time and akin to the “birthers” who continue to deny President Obama’s American citizenship – a vocal minority that refuses to accept overwhelming evidence.

Ironically, the same USA Today issue that ran the full-page “Judgment Day” ad also included an editorial entitled “Latest climate change report put deniers on the hot seat”.  This column pointed out that the nation’s pre-eminent scientific advisory group issued a report called “America’s Climate Choices” whose key findings were straightforward and unequivocal: “Climate change is occurring, and is very likely caused primarily by human activities, and poses significant risks to humans and the environment.” http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/editorials/2011-05-16-Report-puts-climate-change-deniers-in-hot-seat_n.htm

Among those risks in the USA: more intense and frequent heat waves, threats to coastal communities from rising sea levels, and greater drying of the arid Southwest.  So, why aren’t people mobilizing to deal with this predicted threat to our livelihood?  Is it ideology vs. science?  Faith vs. knowledge?  Right brain vs. left?  Sanity vs. insanity?  Who really knows?!

Perhaps it is that some people are so ready to go to Heaven that they don’t give a rip about what’s happening here on Earth?  

A fundamentalist Christian friend of mine, Connie Caplinger, once told me “some people are so heavenly minded, that they’re no earthly good.” Although Connie was a true believer and was living a godly existence, she very much cared for the comfort and prospers of others. Each summer she used her hard-earned vacation time to go to Mexico to help the poor. Although small of stature, Connie was full of love and big in spirit and she helped build churches, schools and hospitals in some of the poorest parts of Mexico. She never missed a Sunday church service, a bible class, or an opportunity to mentor new souls to her beloved savior. I learned from her that humans can cherish both the here ‘n now and the afterlife and my hope is that people will someday begin to care as much about living this life as they do the next. 

Whatever a person’s religious, political or philosophical belief, this is the only place we have to live as a human being (at least in this Universe) and we share a responsibility to each other and the planet we live on.

Yes, there is calamity in the world and disaster strikes with massively negative results, but if you look around you’ll see that there are things going on that show the Apocalypse is still a long way off. Such as, Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to Ireland (the first British monarch to visit the nation in over 100 years), and Donald Trump deciding not to run for the US Presidency.  Maybe now that Oprah will have more time, she’ll take up the cause to warn and explain to her followers that there is work to be done in this life before you move on to the next.  My assumption is that her credibility and force of personality is much stronger than some old geezer with a radio show.