That’s right, boys and girls—the world will end one month from today on October 21, 2011. There’s not much time left to finish those nagging last-minute chores!
Of course I’m referring to Harold Camping’s predicted Rapture on May 21 and the end of the world 153 days* later. Not a lot happened on the “Rapture” and, as Armageddons go, the one we’re in right now seems quite mild. Camping’s predictable backpedaling reframed May 21 as “an invisible judgment day.”
Camping’s Family Radio organization came out of this fiasco financially strong, but many of his followers spent their retirement savings to spread the word during the run-up to May 21. Camping has done nothing to correct the harm he’s caused, and some have called for a fraud investigation.
Camping hasn’t learned from his public humiliation and is holding fast to his date for the end of the world. He said, “It won’t be spiritual on October 21st. The world is going to be destroyed all together, but it will be very quick.”**
Many Christians, embarrassed that Camping spoke for their religion, quoted Matthew 24:36 to argue that Camping is unable to make a prediction about the end. In this verse, Jesus says:
But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
Christians also quote another verse: “The day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.… Destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman” (1 Thessalonians 5:2–3). But Camping can quote the very next verse:
Aha—the true Christian like Camping apparently can know the end!
But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief.
Or maybe the Bible is simply a sock puppet that can be made to say anything.
Photo credit: Wikipedia
*Why 153 days? Since 153 = 32 × 17, we consult Camping’s numerological handbook to find that 3 = God’s purpose and 17 = heaven. He says that this means that it’s doubly sure that those for whom it was God’s purpose to take to heaven will indeed go there.
But 153 means nothing to the good souls who’ve already been raptured and applies only to the unfortunates left behind. Why not conclude instead that it’s doubly God’s purpose (3) that those suffering through Armageddon will go to heaven (17)?
And if we’re playing numerological games, why stop at 153 = 32 × 17? The sum of the numbers 1–17 is 153. What does that mean? And if you cube the digits and add them up, you get the original number: 153 = 13 + 53 + 33. It’s easy to find whatever magical message you want through numerology, though it’s no better at predicting the future than reading animal entrails.
**Elizabeth Tenety, “Harold Camping reaffirms October date for the end of the world, says May 21 date was ‘invisible judgment day,’” The Washington Post, May 24, 2011. Link.
- Who better to help out during these post-Rapture times than atheists since they’re guaranteed to not get raptured? Seattle Atheists collected money to help those left behind with a program called Rapture Relief. In the unlikely event that the sun rises on October 22 and this whole thing was another in a long list of foolish predictions of the end, the money will be donated to Camp Quest, an organization dedicated to help the next generation not get sucked into belief systems lacking evidence. Like Christianity.