Monday, May 23, 2011

Ethics After the Rapture

Since this rapture did not happen, I think it us now time to seek answers to a few questions.

I will start with these. . .

(1) How much money did Harold Camping's and its executive officers take in on this campaign?

(2) Did its decision makers act in any way as if the Rapture they claimed would happen was certain to take place? Did they disavow Camping's claims?

I am interested here in the possibility of fraud - perhaps not in the legal sense (making one subject to criminal penalties) but at least the moral sense (making one worthy of the condemnation and contempt of good people).

How much profit did those people realize? And what is the specific nature of their culpability?

Here's a question - why did they not sell off their broadcast license to those who denied the Rapture and use the money to set up the means to protect people they loved who might be "left behind"?

Would a lawsuit be able to compel them to release emails and other records detailing their activities in the months leading up to May 21? Would it be possible to see if they were delivering private assurances to friends that contradicted their public statements - planning vacations to places that should not exist? What is the relationship between what they claimed and what they actually believed?

Fraud identifies one level of culpability. Did these agents display the lack of aversion to making claims they believed to be false? As I mentioned in my previous post, we have reason to condemn such people to inhibit these traits - because of the harm that they do (a harm that is very much evidence in the effects that this failure will have on the lives of those who actually believed it). It certainly does us no good to construct a society in which people like this profit. If they profit, that will encourage others to pursue the same path, leading to more suffering.

Even if these agents are innocent of moral fraud, that does not clear them of the charge of intellectual recklessness.

The drunk driver may not be guilty of intentionally murdering the child he runs over on the way home from the bar, but that hardly proves that he is a moral saint. He is still guilty - still worthy of condemnation - because of the lack of concern with the risks he creates for others through his actions.

Here, I see no possible defense against this charge of moral recklessness - a type of intellectual laziness and disregard for the potential harm caused to others that others can certainly influence through condemnation.

Another facet of their moral culpability is exposed by asking the question, "What are they going to do for the people made worse off by their actions."

Family Radio owns over $100 million in assets - not counting the private wealth of its executives. Their actions lead people to quit their jobs and empty their retirement accounts (and send the money to Family Radio). They had to. The only way to be saved is to truly believe, and no person who held onto their assets could be thought of as "true believers". The threat was explicit. Believe, or suffer with the Earth through five months of hell until the world is destroyed. Prove your belief by acting as a person who believes the world will end on May 21st would act. Give away your worldly possessions - you will have no need of them. Of course, Family Radio is right there asking for donations.

Now that they have been proved wrong, and they have a large audience of loyal listeners made worse off by their actions - do they feel even a slight bit of shame and guilt, of moral responsibility, for the consequences of their ill-conceived actions? A true believer shows his belief through his actions - by acting as a person who believes that the world will end would act. A morally responsible person shows his moral character through his actions - by taking action to restore something to those that they have harmed.

So, is Family Radio going to take any percentage of its $100 million in assets and try to restore something at least to those harmed the most by putting trust in them? Or will they simply take what they were given, and ask for more? This tells us something of their moral character - something of what type of people they are.

Of course, the executives at Family Radio could respond, "It's not our responsibility. We did not force our listeners to drain their accounts and give us their money."

In one sense, this is not true. Threatening them with hell on earth is not much different than threatening them with a gun. Threatening them with hell is not much different than threatening them with a gun that is not loaded. It counts as force - when the gun is put to the head of somebody who does not already know that the gun is not loaded.

Even without this argument. Somebody trusted you, and now they are worse off because of it. You did not warn them of your possibilities of being wrong. You told them that you were certain you were right. You told them that they would suffer severe consequences if they did not listen. And, now, they are worse off then they were before. A decent person would feel some sense of responsibility for those results. A person who says, "Hey, tough luck. That's what you get for trusting me," deserves only our contempt.


Baconsbud said...

I very much doubt anything will come from this. The answers to most of your questions will probably be no or we are free from any government investigations because we are a religion. Morally I would say they should set up a fund to help those out who bought into their claims but don't see that happening.

Anonymous said...

It is hard to feel sorry for the fools that bought Camping's swill. On the other hand, my sense is the his "faith" is mainly attached to dollar signs and ego.

Anonymous said...

Gee Baconsbud, why would you suggest that morally the rest of us who live in the real world should set up funds to help those who would buy into such crap and get rid of all their money and possessions? A great deal of our country was robbed of their life's savings by a total crook who was legitimized by our governments failure to practice due diligence and catch his fraud before it "raptured" all his followers. We didn't see any fund for that do certainly hope there is no such fund set up to help a bunch of chicken little's who tried to have us all follow in their ridiculous footsteps... I guess being broke and homeless sets off the five months of unspeakable misery for those people and the rest of us who did not buy in, are in essences saved from the misery, at least for now. Even non-believers should have heard that you shall not follow a false prophet....