The notion of the "rapture", whereby the righteous and virtuous are all simultaneously hoovered up off the earth to everlasting glory and bliss at God's right hand on a given date was pretty much originated (or at least popularised) by a bloke called John Nelson Darby in the mid-19th century. After the salutary lesson of the Great Disappoinment in 1844, when the first attempt at attaching a specific date to it ended in predictably ignominious failure, those predicting the apocalypse have got a bit better at explaining away the series of failed predictions, and more importantly enabling the faithful to perform the necessary mental contortions to keep believing. The usual explanations include:
- our devotion to preparing for the big day, and our fervent commitment to believing in it, have resulted in a stay of execution for everyone: praise be! This seems to have been the approach taken by the devotees of the barking UFO cult in the classic book When Prophecy Fails.
- it really did happen, but in some subtle way that we aren't yet devout enough to understand. We must redouble our efforts, in order that we may get a second chance: praise be!
- sorry guys, we got the maths wrong; this numerology stuff is tricky, you know. Here is a new date to prepare for: praise be!
An even more amusing form of cognitive dissonance is that exhibited by those who ridiculed Camping for making Christianity look ridiculous, including, deliciously, Answers In Genesis - these are the people who not only run the ludicrous Creation Museum in Kentucky, but who are also planning to build a ruddy great replica of Noah's Ark elsewhere in the same state.
Lest you imagine that Ken Ham's insane carpentry posse are some bunch of freakish statistical outliers, boggle for a moment at the fact that a survey from last year reveals that 41% of Americans rate the likelihood of the second coming of Jesus happening by the year 2050 as "probable" or better, and 23% say it'll definitely happen.