They spent months warning the world of the apocalypse, some giving away earthly belongings or draining their savings accounts. And so they waited, vigilantly, on Saturday for the appointed hour to arrive.
When 6 p.m. came and went at various spots around the globe, including the East Coast of the United States, and no extraordinary cataclysm occurred, Keith Bauer — who hopped in his minivan in Maryland and drove his family 3,000 miles to California for the Rapture — took it in stride.
"I had some skepticism but I was trying to push the skepticism away because I believe in God," he said in the bright morning sun outside the gated Oakland headquarters of Family Radio International, whose founder, Harold Camping, has been broadcasting the apocalyptic prediction for years. "I was hoping for it because I think heaven would be a lot better than this earth."
But he added, "It's God who leads you, not Harold Camping."
Bauer, a tractor-trailer driver, began the voyage west last week, figuring that if he "worked last week, I wouldn't have gotten paid anyway, if the Rapture did happen." After seeing the nonprofit ministry's base of operations, Bauer planned to take a day trip to the Pacific Ocean, and then start the cross-country drive back home Sunday with his wife, young son and another family relative.
In New York's Times Square, Robert Fitzpatrick, of Staten Island, said he was surprised when 6 p.m. came and went. He had spent his own money to put up advertising about the end of the world.
"I can't tell you what I feel right now," he said, surrounded by tourists. "I don't understand it. I don't know. I don't understand what happened.
"Obviously, I haven't understood it correctly because we're still here," he said.
It tempting to feel sorry for gullible dupes like these, except that these gullible dupes are the same people who made Rick Scott the governor of Florida, and Scott Walker the governor of Wisconsin. These gullible people are the same people who read Andrew Breitbart and listen to Sarah Palin. These are the same people who gay-bash and want their particular brand of Christianity to become the mandatory state religion. These are the same people who scram "Keep the government out of my Medicare" and elect people like Paul Ryan. They are stupid, frightened ignorant people who are beyond learning, who are beyond allowing anything like empirical reality to interfere with their already-established worldview. So today we get to point at them and laugh.