In case any of our readers are unaware, January 16th is a noteworthy date for Armstrongists. On this day in 1986, the founder of this movement and cult “passed the baton” along to his chosen successor and died, leaving his followers to scatter into the shadows of doctrinal confusion like an upturned bowl of spiders. Such is the legacy of this self-proclaimed “apostle” of Yahweh.
But out of the chaos that had disintegrated the Armstrongist cult a new constellation of “splinter groups” began to crystallize. Each of these sub-cults claimed to “hold fast” to what they had been taught by their fallen guru, and at least one began to attach a cosmic significance to the anniversary of Armstrong’s death. From their pulpits they would proclaim any major news item reported to have happened on January 16th in a given year as a sign from Yahweh honoring Herbert W. Armstrong. These perceived signifying events were counted by the faithful as divine vindication for their belief in Armstrong’s eminence, in his purported role as an apostle of God.
But is any of this reasoning valid? Or is it merely a ploy?
Well, today we will take a look at what it takes to make a date like January 16th cosmically significant. We will guide you through the same method used by the cults and thereby grant you their self-same ability to attach cosmic significance to any date you please (hell, you can even make your own birthday a special day to Yahweh–or Thor, if that’s how you roll). Then we will ruin all your fun by briefly discussing the flawed reasoning behind it all!
But first: how to manufacture significance.
Step One: Pick a Day, Any Day
The first step in manufacturing significance is, of course, to pick a date. Any date will do, but it’s more exciting if the date has some personal significance to you. (That way, when you start to notice that other things happened on that date, you can draw a correlation between other things that happened and the thing that makes the date significant to you, which then, of course, makes that thing significant to everyone!–but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.)
Good dates to use are, for example, your birthday, the day you got married, the first time your cat coughed up a furball or the day your guru died. Holidays will work, too, or anniversaries of important family events–any date upon which something happened. That’s it. Step one is easy.
Step Two: Other Things That Happened
Step two is a little more challenging. In this step, your task is to scour the headlines for generally significant things that happened on your selected date. Just to be clear, the original thing that happened can’t be used in this step; you have to find other things that happened, because step three will require that you make a connection between the first thing that happened and these other things that happened.
But why do these other things that happened have to be “generally significant,” and what does that phrase mean? Well, the other things that happened have to be significant to most people, generally speaking, because your goal is to make a personally significant event appear to be a generally significant event, by making a connection between the two events, so that you can get people to take you seriously for once.
Examples of generally significant events are the sinking of the Lusitania, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the day Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated (none of which occurred on January 16th). But remember! It is important that you only look for generally significant events that happened on the date you selected in step one. Generally significant events that happened on other dates are superfluous to your purpose here, and will only make you look like a fool (so pretend they didn’t happen!).
This brings us to step three.
Step Three: Connecting the Dots
This is the easiest step of all. What is the line that connects the something that happened that is personally significant to the other things that happened that are generally significant? Of course! Your special day, the date you selected in step one! This is called a correlation. Say it with me, cor…re…la…tion. Good! It means the “mutual relation of two or more things.”
Now you can show your friends that your personally significant event is correlated with the generally significant events that you cherry picked from the headlines!
But you aren’t done yet; there is one more step to go. After you learn the trick in step four, though, you’ll be ready to make your personally significant event (and by extension, you yourself) appear to be something really special!
Step Four: You Hung the Moon, Baby!
To go for the full effect the Armstrongists’ have achieved you have to realize the full potential of your correlating success in step three. Once you have connected the dots, you have set yourself up for making some pretty spectacular claims.
You see, the correlation itself is significant, isn’t it? I mean, why would the anniversary of, say, your first bloody nose happen to fall on the same day as the Moon landing? Coincidence? I think not. There has to be something behind this connection you’ve worked so hard to invent.
It is your task in step four to figure out this cause. Is it because you are from the Moon? Maybe. Is it because you are actually the representative of Cthulhu on earth? Sure, that would work, too–as would pretty much any grand claim you feel is true about yourself.
Why “grand?” Well, because you are trying to attach a cosmic significance to your correlation. Don’t fiddle around with little things like, “Oh, it’s because I searched CNN’s database for hours looking up world events that happened on the same date as my 21st birthday party at that strip club in Mid-Town.” That won’t cut it. You have to be grand! Above all else, use your imagination! (But don’t say Yahweh is making things happen to commemorate your death. That’s already been done–and you aren’t dead, anyway!)
So, that’s it! Now you’re ready to proclaim your manufactured, cosmic significance to all the nations.
The Let Down…
Well, unfortunately, this is all bullshit.
The failure of logic begins in step three, wherein a correlation is drawn among events that happen to fall on the same date coincidentally. The mistake is in thinking (or asserting) that this coincidental correlation is significant instead of trivial. One can appreciate how trivial such coincidences are when one explores the infinite number of alternative correlations that can be drawn.
For example, Herbert W. Armstrong is not the only person to have died on January 16th, and of all generally significant events, the great majority have occurred on dates other than January 16th. This manufacturing of significance is an example of postdiction, specifically, a counting of hits (significant events that happen on January 16th) and ignoring of misses (significant events that do not happen on January 16th). The latter far outnumber the former, of course.
So there is no valid relationship between Armstrong’s death and world events, except for the trivial and meaningless coincidence that a tiny fraction of world events (both significant and insignificant) happen to occur on the anniversary of Armstrong’s death (and that of the approximately 155,204 other people who died that day). Furthermore the grandiose explanation given for this trivial coincidence (that Yahweh is commemorating Armstrong’s death by causing specific events to occur) is both unjustified and problematic to say the least.
But the fact that I was born on November 28th proves that Artemis honors me as the sexiest man alive. If you don’t buy that, perhaps you need to check your attitude.