Numerology, Critical Thinking, and Hope

It has been almost a year since the rapture should have occurred, at least according to Harold Camping. Lots of people were convinced by his arguments, and there was at least one couple that sold their property and took a vacation with their life savings, since the rapture was coming and they wouldn’t need their earthly possessions after that. This was convincing, to some, I suspect because their hope blinded them to the realities of the arguments. That isn’t to say that hope is always blinding, of course, simply that there are times when our hopes can lead us to believe things that are plainly antithetical to rational belief.

This is where some who disagree with my religious convictions (or religious convictions in general) might jump up and exclaim that of course I’m right, and hope is what blinds those of religious faith to the rational non-religious arguments against the existence of any sort of deity. I won’t respond directly (apologetics can be saved for another time), but I will simply state this: I believe there is a right and true place for hope and for things believed in hope. I do not believe all hope or all beliefs from hope are anti-rational, nor do I believe that all rationalists exist in a paradigm without hope (nor should they).

Back from that aside, and to the main point: there are a lot of threads of thought designed to play into our hopes. These sorts of arguments take advantage of our hopes, intentionally or otherwise, and force us to live in a way that is discordant with reality, present or future.

Harold Camping showed us a numerology argument that threw many for a loop, but I don’t know anyone personally who thought his argument made sense. You can read a bit about it here, if you are so inclined, but the short of it is this: taking a series of numbers (dates, years, prophecies, etc.), doing some fancy math, and then attempting to interpret the final number somehow lands you at a date for some future event, in this case, the rapture.

It only takes a few leaps to arrive at other views most would call slightly crazy; any sort of conspiracy theorist is only a small jump away from Camping. People want to believe certain things, and so they will. Some have argued that Reach Records is full of members of the Illuminati, while others have suggested that Denver Airport is run by the same underground transgovernmental organization (the Illuminati, not Reach Records).

I’ve gotten used to reading about numerology in theological circles; there is almost always someone who wants to prove some future event using numerology. I was not expecting to read about it in the world of gaming. Yet, wild hope breeds strange thought. There is no telling how serious the individual putting for the argument is, but it showed that people were still willing to put time into crafting ideas others would deem ridiculous. You can read the argument for the upcoming announcement of Half-Life 3 here, but I will summarize:

Gabe Newell’s Rank on Forbes’ Richest Men List: 864

Years between HL and HL2: 7 Years
Years between HL2 and L4D2: 5 Years
Years between L4D2 and Portal 2: 3 Years
Total: 753

3 = HL3 or Episode 3 (or E3)

And there you have it, proof that Half-Life 3 will be announced at E3 this year. Or maybe it will be Half Life 2, Episode 3. Or maybe it will be Left 4 Dead 3, or even Portal 3. That last 3 seems a bit lonely to me, so far as guessing what exactly it means.

Well, and the whole process is strange. There is that, too.

There are better things to hope for than the coming of Half-Life 3, and there are better reasons to hope than numerology. Besides, remember what nearly-dead hope did to us in gaming much more recently? I’m looking at you, Duke Nukem Forever.

Published by

J.F. Arnold

James received his MA in Philosophy of Religion at Talbot School of Theology in 2013. He holds a BA in Biblical Studies from Biola University, and is a graduate and perpetual member of the Torrey Honors Institute. James blogs on a number of subjects, including technology, theology, and hip-hop. He has written for Biola’s Center for Christianity, Culture, & the Arts, The Gospel Coalition, and he is an editor for Mere Orthodoxy. You can also keep up with him on Twitter (@jamesfarnold).