Now that the "rapture" has come and gone with the expected result, and we non-believers have hooted in derision, blog-posted, tweeted, facebook-posted, rapture-partied, or just plain enjoyed another day in this wonderful world of ours, what's next?
It's always condescending to say "I feel sorry for ______". The folks that believed the rapture was coming yesterday probably feel bad today. They should. We should all feel bad when we believe and act on things that have no basis in reality. When we make bad decisions about our lives, we feel bad, we learn, we modify our behavior, and we hope to do better next time. We repeat this process throughout our lives.
Why do people believe in prophecy, and supernatural beings and forces, and the events that prophecies claim will occur? I think the first few chapters of "The God Delusion" says it better than I can. But it's worth repeating - we perceive things that are not there because it confers evolutionary advantages. If we jump and run because we perceive a poisonous snake out of the corner of our eye, we insure that ***if a snake is indeed within eyesight*** we will be difficult to attack. Not responding in this way means that if we fail to perceive a threat, that threat may have an advantage. Over time, the threat wins. Being fearful and acting on that fear insures our survival. We are fearful creatures.
Things get complicated because humans are self-aware, have emotions, can remember the past, anticipate the future, and can imagine how things could be under different conditions. We have hopes and dreams. Sometimes, our fears and feelings of helplessness combined with our hopes of transcending these unfortunate feelings (and the conditions that generate them) cause us to want to believe in transcendence that defies physical cause and effect.
Yesterday, thousands, maybe millions of people had their hopes of transcendence from present circumstances dashed on the rocks of reality. There is no such thing as prophecy. There is no heaven. There is no god. There is no judgement by a supernatural agent. There is no rapture and no tribulation and no damnation that springs from anything beyond what exists in the universe.
Some very, very nasty things exist in this universe - many of them man-made right here on earth. When things are incomprehensible and bad, it's no excuse to look for magic to deliver you. It's time for you to deliver you.
Some very, very, very beautiful things exist in this universe. They are there now. They were there yesterday. They will be there tomorrow. There is no reason not to participate in this life, and make your life better, and make your family's and neighbor's and fellow human's lives better ... and enjoy the beauty and wonder along the way.