THE GUARDIAN: "Dealing with the end of the world time after time" : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

This is posted here for the Polly cult, who actually believe that 'the world will continue just fine, Thank You'...:)]

Dealing with the end of the world time after time

Eileen Barker: Professor whose faith in people wins trust of the cults

Andrew Brown
Saturday January 8, 2000
The Guardian [UK]

No one has seen the end of the world come round more times than Eileen Barker. "The last date the Jehovah's Witnesses set was 1975. I remember going to Wembley Stadium in 1973 and sitting next to a lady who told me that it was going to be 1975. She was fascinating, but she had this awful halitosis and it proved too much for me."

Since then she has talked to more disappointed end-time believers than anyone except St Peter: as the professor of the sociology of religion at London School of Economics, she has an unrivalled reputation for being trusted by journalists as well as the people she writes about. The only people who really dislike her are the anti-cult zealots, who have never forgiven her research on the Moonies, which showed that most members, far from being brainwashed, simply grow up and grow out of it. The Moonies didn't much like it either.

In the last year, as the world has wondered whether it should hunker down for the Y2K apocalypse, Eileen has been travelling among the people for whom this is all old hat. In late November, she was with an American messianic community in Boston, USA, where they were very keen to keep secret until December 31 their knowledge that these are the end-times, in case anyone mixed up their apocalypse with the vulgarities of computer programmers.

Before Christmas, she was in Budapest, where a sadder but possibly wiser believer, who had been awaiting the earthly return of Jesus all of his life, told her that perhaps he had been wrong.

The truly extraordinary thing about Eileen Barker is how she manages to remain sympathetic to people whose beliefs she finds completely absurd. "I'm driven by a vulgar curiosity about how people can believe and do things that seem really weird to me. It gives me the opportunity to ask impertinent questions and pry into people's lives."

Her sense of the absurd is sometime tinged with wistful melancholy: "Something I find really sad is when people die who I have interviewed, and who firmly expected JC back in their lifetime." Most often, she specialises in an exuberant suspension of disbelief. Perhaps the secret of this is that she was a professional actor for five years and only took up sociology after leaving the stage to look after a sick daughter.

Though she is now officially an OAP, nothing seems to slow her down. Last year she managed four continents in one five-week trip, among groups who all expected the end of the world for entirely different reasons.

But, she says, if there is one thing the last 2,000 years have taught these people, it is not to put a date on their optimism. "In Lisbon I went to a cult devoted to the Virgin Mary where everyone was expecting the prophet to commit suicide on 9/9/99; but I wasn't worried. She'd told me she had arranged a picnic on the 10th."


-- John Whitley (, January 07, 2000


Keep up the good work John. We will win this one for sure. I just wish the rest of my minions worked as hard as you. You can bet on payday there will be a little bit more money in it for you.

-- Rendonite (, January 07, 2000.

I'm still only accepting payment in Spam and flour, on the barrelhead :)

-- John Whitley (, January 07, 2000.

Kay Ser Ah Ser Ah! Whatever will be, will be. The future's not ours to see. Kay Ser Ah Ser Ah!

-- Think It (Through@Pollies.Duh), January 08, 2000.

Ms. Barker is "now officially an OAP". Is this some cult offshoot? Has she succumbed to the "dark side"? Do Brits have many acronyms like this that we Yanks have no clue as to their meaning?

-- just another clueless (acronym@challenged.sot), January 08, 2000.

"OAP" = Old Age Pensioner. The British, unnecessarily brutal when confronted with some facts, have not yet discovered that such people can be instantly rejuvenated by conversion into 'senior citizens'....:)

-- John Whitley (, January 08, 2000.

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