The world didn't end on May 21st 2011. It didn't end in 2000, in 1999, 1997 or even 1666. Most disappointingly, it didn't end in 2012 either. No supervolcano has blown off, swine flu didn't wipe out half of the Earth's population, Christ has not returned and even Rome is, stubbornly, still standing. What is wrong with all the Doomsday predictions? Why they never come true and yet people still get excited by them? What are the most ridiculous or most tragic prophecies made so far? Join me in search for answers to those and other questions.
Armageddon that didn't happen
Oops, the world didn't end. Again. Despite all the promises that have been made.
The failed prophecy of Harold Camping
Bohoo, May 25th 2011 came, went and we’re still here. What a surprise. But if you happened to be on the Moon or in some subarctic ice field without access to media for those few weeks, let me quickly explain.
Harold Camping was an American radio broadcaster, head of California-based Family Radio. He’d been predicting Armageddon for quite a while, naming May 21, 1988 and September 7, 1994 as judgement days that – guess what – proved apocalypse-free. But a few years ago he really made it big, right to the media worldwide. Probably all the news stations had mentioned Camping’s Doomsday, if only as a joke. Even Google had May 21 2011 in top keywords for a good while. If you live in America, there’s good chance you’ve seen billboards and some such threatening you to repent while you still can, because the time is running short.
Guess what, May 21 came, went and nothing happened.
But millions of dollars had been spent for this ridiculous advertising campaign. Well, Camping didn’t pay for the billboards with his savings, did he? If you, dear reader, happen to belong to the crowd who dug out their credit cards and donated cash for Camping’s Big Act, do you feel like a fool now? If the answer is yes, then I believe your feeling is quite justified. There’s world hunger, cancer, homelessness etc, and there are people who give their cash to lunatics. The world didn’t get the Armageddon, but it deserves it for such tricks.
Anyway, what did Camping do after his prediction proved to be a complete and utter rubbish? Did he hide in some deep hole, disappearing from public attention forever? Of course not. He emerged again, with new Doomsday date, 21 October this time, same year.
Call me a heretic if you want, but somehow I wasn’t worried.
May 21st poll
Did you believe in Harold Camping's prediction?
The End is Nigh
So you thought that after May 21st you’re safe? Wrong! There’s another Doomsday date approaching!
This time it’s May 29th, brought to you by the notorious failed Armageddon prophet, Marylin Agee. Apparently it’s the nth time she’s doing it. You have to admire zeal of the girl, tirelessly bringing to you empty threats that somehow don’t just materialise. Have a look at her website, for the logically minded it’s pretty entertaining (ok, in a rather sad way).
There are many more. Mostly, naming the Bible as their authority. And, dear Christians, let me tell you – they really give you a bad name.
And the next Armageddon is due...
Quite a few new Doomsday dates have been proposed since 2011. We might be going through an apocalyptic scenario at this very moment. There's a notion called Blood Moon Prophecy stating that four lunar eclipses happening between April 2014 and September 2015 are a sure sign of the approaching Rapture. Apparently, we've already been through six years of the great tribulation - not that I noticed - and are scheduled for the big fat end next autumn. We'll see how it goes.
In case this Armageddon fizzles out like all other, there's another one promised for 2020, then 2021, 2026 etc... Wikipedia helpfully lists some of the more popular dates.
Also, new prophets are sure to spring up along the way - apparently Doomsday predictions are prime bestseller material. I might even write one myself - when would you like our world to end? I haven't picked a date yet so I'm open to suggestions :).
When fanaticism becomes tragedy
May 21, 2011 caused only a few casualties. Media report of a Californian woman who was prevented from killing her two teenage daughters and herself in fear of the approaching apocalypse. A man in Taiwan jumped off a tall building to his death, allegedly in fear of same. But it could have been much worse.
In 1997, 39 members of Heaven’s Gate cult commited suicide in fear of approaching alien invasion.
In 1978 more than 900 members of People’s Temple movement poisoned themselves in what was later called ‘the largest mass suicide in history’. The group included more than 300 children.
These are only the most drastic examples.
Please, always remember – stupidity kills.