As an atheist I have natural compassion. It’s how almost all atheists work, actually. We care about others and right from wrong because that’s who we are. We don’t experience or examine or witness an event and then turn to a book of instructions to tell us how we should feel and what we should do. Our reaction is natural compassion.
True, we get frustrated by all the religious types that threaten us with death and damnation for not believing in their particular brand of sky-fairies, and so Christianity, Islam, etc., etc. (and, hey, there are so very many of them, and they are all so different to each other, with of course, each one claiming to be the one and only true religion) are not exactly our friends, and those wrapped up in them we watch carefully from a distance. They are always trying to blow us up, start wars on our behalf, hurt us, or rule over us, such are the teachings of their brand of religion.
However, we atheists have a very natural compassion. So, whilst the whole Harold Camping Judgement Day / End of the World / Rapture thing made us laugh and point, there did come a tipping point at which most of our hearts went out to not only those who’d killed themselves and their tiny children as part of it, but those who’d got so caught up in the whole thing, lost everything, and so were just standing there looking so perplexed, pathetic and dumbfounded.
The unedited video of the New York transit worker who’d blown all his life savings on advertising the End, being cajoled and verbally abused and mocked in the middle of Time Square whilst repeating that he didn’t understand why nothing had happened actually becomes quite hard to watch. Because of his stupidity and the self mind-control he’d given up to the fantasies of some ranting preaching millionaire, the man was ruined financially, and mentally devastated. He looked awful. Really awful. After his initial shock, instead of dealing with the fact he’d been conned, he started to reason that “God must be testing us” and looked for any explanation other than the truth.
I can only guess this is an identical reaction to that we will hear comes from young 14 or 15 year old girls who’ve run away to be with somebody they met on the ‘net, in a chatroom, on MSN or Facebook. Their predator will have presented themselves, maybe, as a similar 14 or 15 year old girl. They will chat for ages on the ‘net, both apparently pouring their hearts out about how lonely, scared, misunderstood by their parents, hated by everybody at school, etc., etc., they are. The ‘victim’ will truly believe they are running away to meet up with their new best friend. When they get to the meeting place they’ve been groomed for they suddenly discover that the young girl they were going to meet in order to go hide out on a family farm away from all the pressure, is in fact a fat 45 year old man who has been mind-bombing them.
Here’s where something very interesting happens. Instead of saying, “You sick bastard” and running off feeling humiliated, the victim will stay with the predator, mentally looking for some other kind of explanation to smooth things over and make it right. I mean, after all, they’d really got to know them and identify with them and give them the love and support they craved.
Indeed, if the predator has posed as (say) a 15 year old boy, their ‘net conversations may have even become erotic and sexual in nature. The victim will believe she has found ‘the one’ and feels loved and in love. When the ‘reveal’ shows her a greasy 45 year old man, maybe even older than her own father, she will as often as not still stay some nights in a motel with him engaging voluntarily in sex. Again this is because she is so confused by the ‘reveal’ that she can’t accept that all the cyber love, attention and comfort she had received was just at the hands of a paedophile.
The victims can’t even begin to accept the truth and so their minds will provide a million different rationalisations to make what’s happening make sense and be ok, especially when nothing about it is ok.
Harold Camping’s victims are similarly traumatised and confused. He’d managed to get inside their heads and feed them the comfort, hope and salvation that they’d for some reason felt they were missing from real life. He did this right up until the ‘reveal’. Now, instead of seeing reality for what it is, they have various forms of ‘denial’ manifesting within their heads. These range from their god testing them through to the ‘judgement’ having taken place and their god finding nobody fit to rapture. Anything but the truth. Hey, that’s religion for ya.