It's been reported that that highly visible and extremely active atheist group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to the California attorney general asking him to launch a probe into Harold Camping's Family Stations Inc., alleging fraud and deceit. FFRF is suggesting that Camping and his organization did not even belief their May 21st doomsday prediction, and simply used it as a way to bilk gullible Christians out of large sums of money.
I must say, my initial reaction was to think that FFRF, in a style that is not atypical of them, was overreaching. I mean, sure, Camping is an idiot, and sure his assertion that the Rapture was on a fixed deadline may have done serious harm to some people's lives, but it seemed to me that FFRF was operating based on a typical false premise, unfairly reducing religion to the notions of greed among the leaders and fear among the flock.
There may have been fear tied up with people's faith, and Camping may have incidentally benefited from it, but that doesn't mean that he specifically designed to amplify and exploit those fears in order to make money. If so many people believed the pronouncement, why should be suppose that the person who made it didn't have just the same kind of faith?
I did think all of these things as I was reading the article, until I got to the part where it quotes Camping's response to the requests from some followers that he give back the savings that they spent to help him spread his message.
"Why would we return it? We're not out of business. We still have to go another five months. ... Maybe by Oct. 21 we'll only have $10 left."
Holy crap. That really does make me wonder whether the man actually believes in anything. With a quotation like that, at eighty-nine years old, has he just decided that he plain doesn't give a damn what he does or what anyone thinks of him at the end? It's hard not to suppose that he doesn't even believe he'll have to account for anything once he's left the world and all his poor followers have been left behind.