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Party like it’s 12 years ago

By Amanda Marcotte
Friday, May 20, 2011 20:46 EDT
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If all this Rapture joking has you confused, here's Jamelle Bouie's explanation of what the Rapture is, and who believes in it. It's not too late to organize a party to celebrate when the world does not end tomorrow, though I admit it'll be bittersweet when we realize Sunday morning that the Bible-thumping, abortion-frenzied, gay-hating, Obama-is-a-secret-Muslim crowd is still with us instead of hanging out naked with Jesus.  The top of my Rapture playlist will be "Banned From the End of the World" by Sleater-Kinney.

Jamelle also tweeted his disapproval of pranking Rapture believers by leaving piles of clothes everywhere tomorrow, pointing out that you could traumatize a true believer who actually believes he's been left behind.  My sympathies are far more limited.  In fact, I'd say that people who have elaborate fantasies of how the feminists, queers, atheists, Jews, etc. are going to pay with war and damnation really deserve to have a moment where they think, "Holy shit, god thinks I'm just as evil as all those other people!"  In general, I wish I could provide them daily doses of humility like that until they actually get over themselves. Jamelle was right to note that some children are pretty traumatized by the hoary hell-and-damnation bullshit that their parents rain on them, but hey, maybe this prank could be the first clue to those kids that their parents are full of shit.  And that might actually help them escape the emotional abuse of being tormented with fears of hell. 

(All this reminded me, by the way, of a passage in the Puritan leader Samuel Sewall's diary, when he noted in 1696 an incident involving his daughter: "It seems Betty Sewall had given some signs of dejection and sorrow; but a little after dinner she burst out into an amazing cry, which caused all the family to cry too; her mother asked the reason; she gave none; at last said she was afraid she should goe to hell, her sins were not pardoned. " He describes the child as inconsolable; I imagine such fears continue amongst the children of those who've inherited the Puritans' sensibility. Again, I think of fundamentalist religion as child abuse.)

Belief in the Rapture is an American invention, as far as I understand, and it's popularity has risen, I believe, in no small part as a response to the growth of rationalism and science.  The emotional appeal of the Rapture is twofold. For one, it allows you to believe you can opt out of that dying thing.  It also has a childish appeal for people who want to enact revenge on the modern world for leaving religion and their claims to authority behind.  It allows believers who resent all those empiricists and egalitarians to believe that all the cool kids will get theirs one day, when the believers totally get to join the special club of people sucked into heaven, where they can gleefully watch the trials and tribulations of all the people who laughed at them and are now being punished.  Again, my sympathies for them are severely limited.  I may laugh at fundamentalists and want them to lose political battles, but I don't sit around thinking that it would be fucking awesome if someone pulled their toenails out with red hot tools.

Not only is the belief in the Rapture particularly petty and cruel, it also creates real world problems.  As noted before, children can often be pretty traumatized by this stuff. It can also get under the skin of people suffering anxiety disorders. I do have some sympathy for people who need to believe so much that they spend their savings and quit their jobs, because I suspect those folks are suffering from deep depression and are basically suicidal.  But they need help, not a bunch of religious blather.  In fact, the religious blather is keeping them from getting help.

This is all the more reason to make jokes and throw parties and otherwise make a mockery of this stuff.  Showing fearlessness in the face of hellfire and damnation can often cause others who have been provoked into anxiety over this stuff to see that others aren't afraid, and this can give them courage. 

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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