Notes From the Margins…

Jesus and the whales

  • May 22, 2011
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It’s the day after the beginning of the end of the world and outside my window everything seems calm in the neighbourhood.  There was no earthquake at six o’ clock yesterday and God’s elect do not seem to have floated upwards from their clothes and cars and wherever else they were, leaving the rest of us to die horribly – at least not here in rural Derbyshire.  Harold Camping, the octogenarian evangelical ‘preacher’ who promised the world that 3,000,000 would be saved has so far fallen silent.

Other end-of-the-worlders have found a way of dealing with this non-event, as proponents of  such fantasies often do.   Take today’s announcement from Judgement Day Is coming May 2011, one of many websites devoted to this theme, which informs its readers that:

Jesus has come, few were saved, even less noticed his presence, but May 21st was still Judgement Day.  If you are reading this blog, then you were not saved by Jesus in the Second Coming, and have been left behind during the End of Days.  There are just five months remaining until the End of The World on October 21 2011.  Prepare yourself for the End Times now by stocking up on water, canned goods, and appropriate clothing before the End of The World.

These declarations are somewhat contradictory and confusing.  If, as the authors insist ‘  There were millions saved that went unnoticed on May 21st’,  surely it ought to be possible to detect the absence of so many people?  Could this be the reason why Harold Camping has been so silent?

For the rest of us, there is now a five month hiatus between Judgement Day and the actual End of the World.  Jesus is out there and  it promises to be a turbulent time,  but those wishing to commemorate what the website describes as a ‘historic’ event can still buy t-shirts with the slogan ‘I survived Judgement Day 2011’ (price $20.40) and celebrate a survival that the website’s authors assure us will be only temporary.

May 21st was also a day in which the fate of sixty pilot whales stranded in Loch Carnon in Scotland hung precariously  in the balance.   At the beginning of the day things were looking bad.   Some of the whales had hit their heads and the remainder of the pod were in danger of becoming beached and stranded.   By the end of the day the situation had improved and the whales were heading back out to open sea.

This morning they have drifted back towards the bay and risk becoming beached once again.  The problem in trying to rescue them, according to one conservationist, is that  ‘Pilot whales have extremely strong social bonds, which sadly means healthy whales within the pod will follow sick and injured whales on to the shore.’

Human beings also have ‘strong social bonds’, and can also act out of solidarity with people they know and people they don’t.   As the ongoing rescue effort in Lake Carnon demonstrates, such altruism is not necessarily confined to the same species.   But human beings can also behave in ways that are not only selfish and egotistical, but driven by a deep sense of loathing and contempt toward the very idea of humanity.

This loathing and contempt is an intrinsic component of these 21st century Christian Rapture fantasies and have been for some time, whether in Camping’s insistence that gay pride and same sex marriage are ‘proof’ that the Day of Judgement is imminent, or the bloodthirsty fantasies of mass killing and divinely-ordained destruction that will supposedly take place during the tribulations, to the absolute indifference of the would-be elect towards this imagined devastation and their own gloating certainty that they will be saved.

Some Rapture fantasists have cited the extinction of fish and animal species as another indication of the coming End Times, regardless of the fact that such extinctions are usually a consequence of human activity.  So the day-after-the-end-of-the-world I wish the whales of Lake Carnon well.    One whale is already dead, and I hope that natural solidarity does not lead the rest of the pod to destruction.

But whatever happens to them has nothing to do with divine intervention.   And I would like to suggest that both their ‘strong social bonds’ and the efforts of those who are trying to save them are infinitely more worthy of admiration and emulation than the bloody anti-humanist visions of retribution emanating from delusional fantasists and conmen like Harold Campings – and their credulous followers.


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About Me

I’m a writer, campaigner and journalist.  My latest book is The Savage Frontier: The Pyrenees in History and the Imagination (New Press/Hurst, 2018).  The Infernal Machine is where I write on politics, history, cinema and other things that interest me.

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