Ask an Atheist with Sam Mulvey

The Backpedaling is Here: No, Really, It Happened!

Gawker has the beginning of the expected backpedaling.   And the backpedaling is… depressingly unsurprising.

As we, most religious people on Earth, and everyone outside of a little multi-million dollar media conglomerate/winnebago borne cult expected, the moment the world was advertised to end came and went with the usual mediocrity.

A couple hours later, we partied our asses off, as you may have heard about, but really, that story is well told.

The story about how much of a jerk Harold Camping is remains, especially given his first statements about his eschatological 0 for 2 record.

The first things we heard from the Family Radio camp were surprisingly humble for a Christian media organization:

But on Sunday, almost 18 hours after he thought he’d be in heaven, there was Camping, “flabbergasted” in Alameda, wearing tan slacks, a tucked-in polo shirt and a light jacket.

Birds chirped. A gentle breeze blew. Across the street, neighbors focused on their yard work and the latest neighborhood gossip.

“I’m looking for answers,” Camping said, adding that meant frequent prayer and consultations with friends.

“But now I have nothing else to say,” he said, closing the door to his home. “I’ll be back to work Monday and will say more then.”

Of course, after ruining families, retirement accounts, and being morally responsible for at least one attempted murder/suicide, he can’t leave well enough alone.

We were convinced that on May 21, God would return in a very physical way by bringing in an earthquake and ushering the final five months of judgement. When we look at it spiritually, we find that he did come.

Apparently someone, somewhere, clapped and wished hard enough, and Jesus came back.   Well, clapped and wished, or spent millions of dollars to create Camping’s (and incidentally, our) time in the limelight.  So, the end arrived, but neglected to kill us all or even manifest in any meaningfully testable way.

In another article, we hear from not Camping himself, but someone else attached to him:

Family Radio’s special projects coordinator, Michael Garcia has said he believed the delay was God’s way of separating true believers from those willing to doubt what he said were clear biblical warnings.

“Maybe this had to happen for there to be a separation between those who have faith and those who don’t,” he said. “It’s highly possible that our Lord is delaying his coming.”

Once again, we find that when the claims of religion fail to manifest, their lack is a “test of faith”, rather than evidence against these claims.   It happens so often that talking about it has become droll.  The people pointing these failures out are seen as the source, rather than the detector, of these insanities.  But the truth remains: without special pleading, these claims are nothing but fancy mouth noises.

Sadly, these failures marketed as tests of faith suggest a new course of action for Camping’s followers:

We’re not going to pass out any more tracts. We’re not going to put up any more billboards — in fact they’re coming down right now… The world has been warned. The world is under judgment… We’re just learning we have to look at all of this more spiritual [sic]. But it won’t be spiritual on October 21.

They’re going to hole up.  That’s good for the public, but potentially really, really bad for the followers of Harold Camping.  I can say that this image brings up some very scary imagery from the past, but I hope they only stand as cautionary tales and not an indicator of things to come.

Meanwhile, the world remains under judgment, according to this religious iconoclast.  How is this noteworthy?  According to these supernatural booster clubs, the world has always been under some sort of judgement, seconds away from disaster.  Always, every day, again and again, a dark pall is cast over humanity and all of the time we’ve taken to try and build an understanding of each other, the world around us, and a civilization fit for the name.

How this is morally or psychically superior to a world judged only by the people who live in it is completely beyond me.

As fans of fiction and modern mythologies, Mike and many of our cast members talk about how they’d prefer to live in a world where magic and super powers exist, while understanding that they do not.  As for myself, and in this circumstance, I find the truth far, far better than the fiction.

To be honest, some of us are a little tired of Harold Camping, and we wish that he would look for his own, near enough, personal end of the world and imagined judgement in peace and silence.  Even so, the flaws in this saga are important and serve as a marker for the harm that magical thinking creates.  So we will be here, continuing to count down, continuing to celebrate the earth’s continued existence– and the third failed prophecy, when the Mighty Camping will finally strike out.

About the Author: Sam Mulvey

Sam Mulvey is a producer and the technical brain behind Ask an Atheist. He is a collector of vinegar varieties, vintage computers, antique radios, and propaganda.

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I think the biggest thing that bothered me (besides the horrible stories about people throwing away their lives and finances) is if you take religion out of the equation, very few people would have given good old camping a serious thought and labeled him the senile crack pot that he is. Put religion back in and the man is a prophet and gains thousands of followers.

This is why my christian friends and family wonder why I can’t take their religion seriously.


The believers in my family won’t even dare bring up the Camping fiasco in my presence because they know the storm of ridicule they’ll receive if they do. Camping and his ilk will keep twisting, turning and spinning, simply adding more garbage, assertions and creating more fables to tack upon the ones already failed. They simply do not have the honesty or personal integrity to admit fault and just shut the hell up.


You know, I oscillate between feeling sorry for the people gullible enough to follow a man like Camping and just giving them all the finger. On one hand – I’ve read reactions from his followers – you have people that were straight up duped. On the other hand, you have a group of people that were totally fine with putting up billboards and signs and what have you about all of us burning in hell forever, duped or not. My instinct as an empathetic human is to feel sorry for the people who got caught up in it all. But… Read more »


Having confronted a number of “mainstream” Christians with the Camping fiasco over the past few days, I notice that their reaction to him seems to be similar to their reaction to Fred Phelps, the original obvious troll who is obvious. That is to say, something to the effect of “Why are you listening to that guy? He’s just some wacko, he’s not a true Christian.” Ah yes, the “true Christian” defense. How do I dismiss thee? Let me count the ways. One thing that you hear a lot when you bring up people like Camping and Phelps to the average… Read more »


My question to Christians, particularly those that believe the Bible is the infallible Word of God: Why have you not stoned Harold Camping and others of his ilk? If they want a return to a fabled “Christian Nation,” they’d better start with their own. As demanded in Deuteronomy 18: 20: But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die. 21: And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word… Read more »


So nothing happened on May 21st and nothing is going to happen on October 21st either. Obviously God is waiting until Dec 21st 2012 to rapture his peeps. And if Harold Camping is still alive as that date approaches (God forbid) i’m sure God will tell him as much. I just hope when Jesus finally gets back from whatever it is he’s doing now, that he performs some of his David Blainesque tricks on network televion for all to see. I just hope it’s not pay-per-view.


Christians do not practice old Testament law in accordance with the Council of Jerusalem ruling in Acts 15. The only Jewish laws which they need to follow are those pertaining to blood, sexual immorality, and eating strangled animals. Everyone really needs to learn this, because better arguments can be made and used and it kills me when Atheists waste their time repeating misinformation. Secondly Camping was declaring a prediction already exists within the book of Daniel, rather than having been in direct communication with god. That doesn’t qualify under as a prophet under the standards that require stoning. He is… Read more »

Roger Robinson

Come on – All religion does is create wars and Turmoil. Its Really all a load of Horse Shit. WHEN YOU DIE. YOUR DEAD. NOTHING. OK??? Thats it. I live life to the full, not worrying about some magical God might judge me. GET A LIFE AND HAVE A LAUGH. FUCK SAKE….


Words in parentheses are mine. John: “Christians do not practice old testament law…laws only pertaining to blood, sexual immorality (of course)and strangled anmials(what’s wrong whith strangled animals as oppose, say, knifed animals, anyway?) How about the ten commandments? Don’t you follow them? They include more than the three conditions cited by you. Camping “does not qualify to be stoned, because he is just repeatin a prediction, rather than being in communication with god”, therefore: “that does not qualify (Camping) to be stoned under the standards that require stoning”. Could you sir, specify the standars under a prophet quilifies for stoning,… Read more »


Two things: 1. Let’s at least get their prediction right. I think it was that the rapture would happen on May 21, with a massive earthquake immediately ensuing, followed by natural disasters till finally on October 21 the world would be totally destroyed. So, they didn’t change the date of final destruction, but instead moved the rapture to coincide with the date of total destruction. There’s enough to ridicule without misrepresenting the initial prediction. 2. Just as a circle is a special case of ellipse, Harold Camping and his followers are merely a special case of the elliptical orbits that… Read more »

rANdomE ONe

At least I can go to my gaming expo before the world ends (Again…)


fcing aroud


Where exactly in Acts 15 (or anywhere) does it say you don’t have to follow the old testament laws? It just says that some men said circumcision needs to be done to be saved, while paul said that “grace through Jesus Christ” is what you need, they argued weither or not they should teach gentiles, fornication bad, idols bad, etc. Add to that a bunch of oldspeak which could be interpreted as just about anything. Just your usual thing. There is NOTHING about being able to cherry pick your morality or not having to follow old testament laws. Lying for… Read more »


and sometimes you just love a bibble quote

Kill False Prophets

    If a man still prophesies, his parents, father and mother, shall say to him, “You shall not live, because you have spoken a lie in the name of the Lord.” When he prophesies, his parents, father and mother, shall thrust him through.   (Zechariah 13:3 NAB)

[…] would rationalize his failure into a vague, insubstantial success and kick the ball down the field. He did. We called him out on the lives that he was destroying, convincing people to spend their life […]

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