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88 Reasons


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Hey everyone. I wrote this for a friend a little while ago before I found this forum and since then noticed that I used some well worn cliches, so I'm on my knees begging for your forgiveness. Anyway...this isn't the whole story but it's a big part of it.

 

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There was a lot of talk in the news recently of the prediction that the rapture, the sudden calling of all X-tians to heaven, was going to happen on May 21st. I haven’t looked into the specific reasons for this prediction, but this stuff usually gets predicted every few years. This time around it wasn’t just going to be the sudden disappearance of people, it was going to be a giant devastating earthquake followed by huge tsunamis. I’m not sure where they’re pulling this stuff from, but they are on fire about it.

 

The rapture has played an embarrassingly significant part in my life, considering I spent just about 20 years in utter, abject horror of it happening. I was raised Pentecostal, and while they are intensely weird about a lot of stuff they are seriously focused on the rapture and the end times. My church had a very “believe this or else” vibe to it and we seemed to focus less on enjoying god’s love than avoiding his wrath. As a result I never really loved god, I only ever feared him. Not a great way to grow up.

 

I was first introduced to the book of Revelation and the end times when I was about 11 years old. I guess that was when they figured you were old enough to handle it. At the time it didn’t register that much because I just assumed that I would be called up with the faithful. However, the more we learned about it the more it seemed like there was pretty much no way to be faithful enough to make the cut. We weren’t learning to relax and enjoy the life that god had given us, we were learning to fear our creator and spend the whole thing trying to minimize the punishment received after death. At times it seemed like a no-win scenario, but that didn’t mean we should stop trying. We learned all about the horrors of hell, even sitting in the dark to emulate hell’s apparent pitch blackness. Yeah. We watched 1972’s A Thief in the Night, which showed us that being a good person and following the Ten Commandments wasn’t enough to make the cut. You could save a thousand nuns from a burning building, donate every cent you make to charity, find the cure for AIDS and go to church seven days a week, but if you don’t give your life to Jesus you’re still going to hell.

 

Suffice it to say I spent the vast majority of my formative years absolutely terrified. Terrified that whatever I was doing wasn’t good enough. Terrified that any moment god would call up his followers and begin the end of the world. Terrified that god would forsake me and leave me to struggle through the tribulation. You know, the kind of stuff most typical 12-year-olds are worried about.

 

 

The year is 1988. Edgar C. Whisenant publishes a pamphlet entitled 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988, which predicted that Christ would return between September 11-13 of that year, and mails them to ministers across America. The minister at my church read his 88 reasons and took them seriously. He gave a few sermons letting the rest of us know and within days just about everyone at my church had a copy of the pamphlet and was starting to make preparations for the second coming of Jesus. At that point we only had a few months to prepare, and while no one went as far as selling off their earthly possessions, we all assumed that we had very little time left on this planet. Like before, I was much more afraid of being left behind than I was excited about being called up by god, and my church perpetuated that by focusing on the horrors that awaited us if we weren’t 101% ready for his return.

 

September 11th, 12th, and 13th came and went. The rapture did not happen and we all let out a huge sigh of relief. That was not the end of it though. We were quickly told that just because it didn’t happen when it was predicted didn’t mean that it wasn’t going to happen at some point. In fact, man was not supposed to be able to predict when it would happen so of course it’s no surprise that Whisenant’s prediction was wrong. It will still happen, and all signs point to it happening in our lifetime.

 

Things were different from that point forward. The rapture was now my greatest fear and something I was constantly conscious of and worried about. More than a few times a week I would see someone, look away for a second and when I looked back they’d be gone. My body would instantly become flushed with fear and my mind overrun with panic thinking they had just vanished. If I was at home I would run and turn on the X-tian radio station, at school I’d go looking for someone from my church that I knew would have vanished. The monumental relief that followed finding out it did not happen felt good, but the tension was never fully gone because I knew it was only a matter of time before it would happen all over again.

 

This went on for years. And years.

 

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A lot of things factored into the gradual loss of my faith, but a major part of it was my fear of god slowly turning into anger and resentment. After all, if god loves us, why does he feel the need to constantly threaten us with eternal damnation? He creates the planet and and drops us all here without any choice. He then makes everything fun against the rules, which is just as well because pretty much everything on the planet kills you in one way or another anyway. We’re supposedly given the choice of whether or not to worship him, but it’s not exactly a free choice. I’ve heard god likened to a mugger with a gun to your head demanding your wallet. You technically have the choice of whether or not to give him your wallet, but if you don’t you’re going to meet a horrible end. What kind of free choice is that? If that’s the case, why even give us the choice to begin with?

 

At one point it occurred to me that god must have created hell just to give us some legitimate and convincing reason to worship him. After all, if there was no threat of eternal damnation, what other possible reason could we have to thank god for dumping us on a planet filled with pain, hate, and death? It’s straight up coercion. Like a firefighter that lights a house on fire, throws us inside, then blames us and demands that we thank him for it all before he saves us from the flames. We're not doing a good enough job of it so he send his son, but all he does is remind us to dial 911. Gee, thanks. My hero.

 

Up until a few years ago I was in a place where I still believed that god existed, he was just at best an incompetent dullard, at worst a malicious asshole. I would blame god for every little thing that went wrong in my life, no matter how small. I’ll admit it was flattering that god stopped starving children in Africa long enough to help me spill something on my new pants, but it really didn’t seem like a sensible use of his time. See what I mean? Asshole.

 

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These days I’m no longer afraid. I’ve done the reading, research, and soul searching I needed and I’m convinced it’s all bullshit. I don’t seriously expect the rapture to happen, and if it does I can admit that I was wrong. It won’t make god any less of an asshole, it will just be the proof I needed that the asshole exists. Until then all I can really do is make the best of what I have to work with and do what I can to un-wreak the havoc he’s wrought upon the world.

 

In the meantime they've pushed out their prediction until October 21st, but I'm not holding my breath.

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Welcome aboard endlessjake! Your extimonial reminds me a little of mine.

 

Things were different from that point forward. The rapture was now my greatest fear and something I was constantly conscious of and worried about.

 

Kind of reminds me of when I thought I had committed the "unpardonable sin."

 

 

I’ve heard god likened to a mugger with a gun to your head demanding your wallet. You technically have the choice of whether or not to give him your wallet, but if you don’t you’re going to meet a horrible end. What kind of free choice is that? If that’s the case, why even give us the choice to begin with?

 

Good analogy. Its kind of like the Godfather's offer that you can't refuse. But its actually worse since Vito Corleone can't torment you for all eternity!

 

At one point it occurred to me that god must have created hell just to give us some legitimate and convincing reason to worship him. After all, if there was no threat of eternal damnation, what other possible reason could we have to thank god for dumping us on a planet filled with pain, hate, and death? It’s straight up coercion. Like a firefighter that lights a house on fire, throws us inside, then blames us and demands that we thank him for it all before he saves us from the flames. We're not doing a good enough job of it so he send his son, but all he does is remind us to dial 911. Gee, thanks. My hero.

 

Right on! Another one I've thought of is if someone saved me from certain death (say the burning house). I give heartfelt thank-yous to this person, but then they suddenly hand me a book they wrote and claim that now that they've saved me I have to dedicate my entire life to following their teachings in the book! If I refuse they threaten to put me in the same life threatening predicament that they just saved me from.

 

 

In the meantime they've pushed out their prediction until October 21st, but I'm not holding my breath.

 

Great! Another excuse to throw a rapture party! :woohoo:

 

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...if god loves us, why does he feel the need to constantly threaten us with eternal damnation?

I think that about says it all.

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Hi, endlessjake

 

Wow, I can sure relate to your fear of the rapture. I remember times I'd go to a friend's house, knock on the door, and...no answer, even though we had pre-arranged to meet then. I would feel this panic rising inside that the rapture had happened and I had been left behind. I seriously feared this. Turns out my friend was just late getting home. But still...close call.

 

I am so glad that's behind me.

 

I'm so over it that I am planning a Mayan party on Dec. 21, 2012. So freeing....

 

Peace.

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