Secular Right | Reality & Reason

May/11

20

Karl Popper and the Rapture

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It’s odd to observe conventional believers—such as Rush Limbaugh on his radio show today—mock the Rapture proponents.  The evidentiary basis for more mainstream propositions about the afterlife and the nature of God is identical to those predicting a Doomsday within our lifetimes: a set of allegedly Holy writings coupled with textual exegesis.  Christians or Muslims who confidently describe Heaven and Hell, the parceling out (by a set of ex post facto rules nowhere published in sufficient detail for a person to know what gets you into heaven and what doesn’t: for example, what if someone was a lousy tipper, or didn’t report income, or ignored pooper scooper laws?  Thumbs up or thumbs down?) of the living and dead, and the various attributes and activities of God have no more empirical grounding for those claims than Harold Camping has for his.  The only mistake of Millenarians is to offer a hypothesis that is actually falsifiable.

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8 comments

  • Mark · May 20, 2011 at 8:02 pm

    Amen, Sister Heather!

  • Susan · May 20, 2011 at 9:15 pm

    There are–as far as I can tell–two sets of conventional believers: Those who interpret the Bible literally and those who interpret it allegorically. Beyond that, there’s an argument between the literalists over whether the Bible gives the exact date of The Rapture. Those who believe the world ends tomorrow say the Bible provides the exact date of the dissolution, though I don’t know if they’ve accounted for time zones. The other literalists claim that “no man can know” when the apocalypse occurs, just that it will.

  • John · May 20, 2011 at 9:22 pm

    “by a set of ex post facto rules nowhere published in sufficient detail for a person to know what gets you into heaven and what doesn’t: for example, what if someone was a lousy tipper, or didn’t report income, or ignored pooper scooper laws? Thumbs up or thumbs down?”

    It’s easy. God gives us each $45 in grace credits every day. For a pooper scooper violation, that’s a $20 penalty. For burglarizing a car, that’s a $32,000. You get $4.25 back for rescuing an injured bird. If you still have credits at the end, you go to heaven. If not, you are reincarnated and have to pay back your debt. Charles Manson is going to have to live about 12 lives as a priest to pay off the credits.

  • Clark · May 20, 2011 at 9:27 pm

    Susan, I think the dichotomy of literalism and allegory is just too extreme. There are a lot of defensible readings of a text and some religionists might agree a text means something but not accept anything like inerrancy. And even a lot of inerrantists might say only broad doctrines are inerrant but that the authors of the text can be wrong about a lot of minor things. Further pinning down what is meant by literalism is pretty tricky with many texts. (Take Isaiah for instance)

    So while that taxonomy is pretty popular I don’t ultimately think it’s helpful.

    The problem with this particular millennialist group is that it takes a allegorical reading of many passages but argues it’s a literalist allegorical (i.e. that the allegorical range of meanings is limited by the text itself) It then runs a set of strained implications from those readings. Most people just think the exegesis is ridiculous – as is common for people making these sorts of predictions.

  • Susan · May 20, 2011 at 11:18 pm

    Perhaps I should explain what I mean by “literalists”: Young Earth Creationists and those who regard every word of the Bible as literally true. In other words, to them, the Bible is an objective historical record of actual events that occurred between the creation and the crucifixion and the resurrection.

    The spectrum of allegorists would, I suspect, be much broader.

    I think my point, that those who sincerely believe that the world will end tomorrow (again, check your time zone) would be far more likely to be found among the literalists, still stands.

    In any event, I wouldn’t hesitate to invest in green bananas. Nor to pay my bills.

  • Acilius · May 21, 2011 at 1:10 am

    “The evidentiary basis for more mainstream propositions about the afterlife and the nature of God is identical to those predicting a Doomsday within our lifetimes: a set of allegedly Holy writings coupled with textual exegesis.”

    That’s painting with rather a broad brush. Many Christian groups, such as the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Anglicans, still do talk about “tradition” as a source of knowledge. The tradition they have in mind was already 1500 years old when texts of the Bible became widely available. Indeed, the Bible itself was generated in the course of that tradition. Therefore, to reduce that tradition to “textual exegesis” is to miss the point altogether.

    Of course, different groups, and different individuals within each group, mean dramatically different things by that word “tradition.” Considering that radical Protestantism has been exerting its influence for centuries, no doubt many do mean something purely supplemental to the Bible, and these may be akin to Mr Camping in the way you describe. Others may use the word to mean very little, perhaps just an injunction to accept whatever the hierarchy of the day might happen to say. Some may even have ideas of tradition that are richly empirical, perhaps ideas without which empiricism as we know it could never have gained a foothold in the west.

  • Mark in Spokane · May 22, 2011 at 5:45 am

    I bought green bananas!

    One question: is Rush Limbaugh a conventional believer? I was unaware that he is a Christian or even a religious adherent. From what I have listened of his show, he appears to believe in God, but I am unaware that he has professed a belief in Christianity. However, I’m not a Limbaugh scholar, so I could very well be wrong about this…

  • John Smith · May 27, 2011 at 11:06 am

    It’s called the “hierarchy of superstition.” I’m not crazy–THOSE people are the crazy ones. Let’s laugh at them together!

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