I'm happy to steal USA Today's excellent headline for my title, after yet another loon, in this case one Harold Camping in the States, disappointingly finds that his 'Bible guaranteed' end of the world has not come to pass.
I always wonder, when things like this happen, in the case of cults or whatever, those that don't kill themselves en masse anyway (such as the Branch Davidians, or those in Kampala in 2000, or the Heaven's Gate cult in 1997), what happens in the first few minutes, the first few seconds, after their promised Rapture fails to happen? How long do they give it? A few seconds, a few minutes? Just in case your watch wasn't set right or something? Do they open their eyes, tentatively at first, to see if the sun's still in the sky and their bodies still very much bound to Earth?
Mr Camping especially may have some explaining to do. He said the apocalypse would come not only on a specific date, but at a specific time - namely, 6pm 'wherever you are'. So, for example, if it hits 6pm in the westernmost part of the planet according to the dateline, was he expecting this Rapture to to start there and then sweep round the planet like the day/night terminator, sticking strictly to a pre-determined timescale? "Can't take these people up yet, it's only five to."
The main problem with this nonsense is not, of course, with Mr Camping himself - he's just one more nutcase who finds himself disappointed to go on living, and can take his place in infamy until the next one inevitably comes along. It's with the poor, deluded souls who swallow it and basically prepare for the end of their lives. There may possibly be some vulnerable people in that group, who have had a genuinely held belief completely shattered and must now somehow just pick themselves up and get on with it. As usual with these things, the people least needing such disappointments are likely to be among those suffering them.
All is not bad news, though. This magnificently entrepreneurial organisation has sprung up in the States to show the world that, hey, not only are we atheists happy to leave you to your belief systems, we're animal lovers too.
What larks. Given their 'unprescedented (sic) demand' lately, I wonder if they'll now be deluged with phone calls from disappointed and slightly embarrassed clients wondering if there's a discount on offer now the Rapture hasn't happened?