In most disaster movies, the naysayers and doubters usually look silly and irrelevant in the larger scheme of the impending plot. This time around, I’m one of those naysayers/doubters.
Poor Harold Camping…on a radio show earlier today, when asked, “what if the world doesn’t end tomorrow?” Camping essentially said something like, “it has to end, we don’t have a back-up plan”.
For those who believe tonight will be the last full night of life on this earth as we know it, take a deep breath and read the following. Apparently, the guy has done this before!
In a comfortable office, Bible placed firmly atop his lap, 89-year-old Harold Camping is preaching with utter certainty about the end of the world. “May 21, 2011, is the day of judgment,” he says with conviction, in a YouTube video posted last year. “It is the day that ends all gospel salvation activity … It is the most important day by a billion times than any other day the world has ever known.” On that day, Camping estimates roughly 207 million people, or about 3% of the world’s population, will be plucked from the earth. What will follow is five months of earthquakes and other calamities until the world officially ends on Oct. 21 of this year.
Like all who proselytize the end the world, Camping has spread his message using a small army of followers; in his case, they’re supported by a substantial budget that by some estimates is more than $100 million. There have been stories in the media of families selling their homes, quitting their jobs and budgeting their finances such that by May 21 they will be left with nothing. After all, they won’t need it, right?
But Camping has been wrong before. The former engineer, who started the Family Radio network in 1958, predicted in 1992 that the world would end in September 1994. (He also wrote a book, titled 1994?, along the same lines.) When the apocalypse failed to materialize, Camping cited a mathematical error and re-emerged with a new date: May 21, 2011. Despite dubious evidence to support it, the current campaign has garnered a surprising number of followers, who hand out pamphlets, broadcast his message from the backs of trucks and plaster it on billboards nationwide — a fact that Paul Boyer, a historian at the University of Wisconsin who studies apocalyptic beliefs, attributes to Camping’s radio voice. “He has a very compelling manner of speaking,” Boyer says. “He speaks with conviction and there’s a certain percentage of people who will respond to that sort of belief.”