I also learned a little bit more about the Bible and the history of religion, both in articles and in posts by commenters. I hadn't realized that many scholars read Revelation as a metaphor for the struggles of the early church in the face of opposition and that stories of the Apocalypse were meant to steel their faith against such challenges. Apparently, there is also a biblical verse that says no one, not even the angels or Jesus, would know the date of the end. Which makes Camping a false prophet for mainstream Christians. Of course, there have been many Doomsday predictions through the centuries (including a 16th-century mathematician's prediction. And of course, Nostradamus. And the Mayans coming up in 2012), often coming at times of political and social upheaval. Even Camping had predicted one in the 1990s. I liked one Buddhist's take on it (I think it was a Buddhist), that any day could be the end of the world for us and that we should embrace the moment for our end could come at any time. I guess that means, we'll all have our personal rapture.
I was glad it didn't penetrate the kids' awareness. I read a touching story about one person's devastating childhood fear of the last Camping prediction. And I remember being scared of Nostradamus (particularly because of an HBO special). But our kids didn't know. However, if they had, I don't think I would have vacillated about telling them it wasn't going to happen. As I commented on Motherlode (#22),
I believe that part of my job as a mom is to teach my children how to evaluate and analyze the flow of information that comes at them daily from media, peers, etc. We talk about considering the source of the information and the motivation behind it and how it aligns with our family's beliefs (my kids are almost 6; mostly we talk about what commercials are). As Unitarian Universalists, we apply the same criteria to religious or spiritual ideas. If my kids were aware of the rapture movement, we would talk about who Camping was, how he predicted the end of the world in 1994, the history of Doomsday predictions, the relationship of money and religion (and the definition of cult), as well as our specific UU principles that support the inherent worth and dignity of all people, meaning no one gets "left behind." Which is all to say, I imagine we'd come to the conclusion that the world is not ending tomorrow.
And because there will always be predictions of the end of the world (I think the current belief is the Mayans have pegged Dec. 2012), I'll get lots of practice talking to them about such issues.
Thinking on it again, I should've added that we would also talk about the right to free speech and also respecting other people's beliefs even if we don't agree with them. But respecting them doesn't mean believing them. And I suppose, if the beliefs are really harmful, as some would say Camping's are (or the Taliban or Neo-Nazis . . .or on an altogether different level, the BSA, etc), we would have to talk about what to do next. Mainly, how not to stay silent in the face of injustice. Thankfully, they'e only 5-ish, so I don't have to go there quite yet.
Of course, for true believers, the lack of rapture and earthquakes was no doubt devastating. There has been surprisingly little news about them, after all the coverage beforehand. I mean, how would you cope after something like that? If you truly believed . . . . I guess it would be as devastating for them as it would have been me for if the rapture had actually happened on Saturday.