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The May 21 Non-Apocalypse: Countdown to Rationalization

The IntersectionBy Chris MooneyMay 19, 2011 6:23 PM


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great post on the End Times Christian group who says the world will be over in two days. (Details here.) They're waiting for the "Rapture," but like Jamie, I'm waiting for the rationalization. Recall that these people are heavily invested, emotionally and also financially, in the world ending. Here's NPR:

While I was away, Jamie did a

Camping's predictions have inspired other groups to rally behind the May 21 date. People have quit their jobs and left their families to get the message out. "Knowing the date of the end of the world changes all your future plans," says 27-year-old Adrienne Martinez. She thought she'd go to medical school, until she began tuning in to Family Radio. She and her husband, Joel, lived and worked in New York City. But a year ago, they decided they wanted to spend their remaining time on Earth with their infant daughter. "My mentality was, why are we going to work for more money? It just seemed kind of greedy to me. And unnecessary," she says. And so, her husband adds, "God just made it possible — he opened doors. He allowed us to quit our jobs, and we just moved, and here we are." Now they are in Orlando, in a rented house, passing out tracts and reading the Bible. Their daughter is 2 years old, and their second child is due in June. Joel says they're spending the last of their savings. They don't see a need for one more dollar. "You know, you think about retirement and stuff like that," he says. "What's the point of having some money just sitting there?" "We budgeted everything so that, on May 21, we won't have anything left," Adrienne adds.

Sad, but we have seen this pattern before. And because these believers have sunk so much in, "cognitive dissonance" theory (or, motivated reasoning) predicts they will "double down" and come up with some new reason for why they weren't wrong, and may grow more intense in their beliefs. What will they say at that point? Hard to say exactly, but let's consult NPR again:

"If I'm here on May 22, and I wake up, I'm going to be in hell," says Brown. "And that's where I don't want to be. So there is going to be a May 22, and we don't want to be here."

Well, these believers surely will not decide on May 22 that they're actually in hell. That would contradict their identities--and their emotions. They've told us as much themselves. So whatever they come up with, it won't be the conclusion that would seem to logically follow from what they believe now. This should be interesting.

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