Celebrate Harold Camping Day, the Day to Remember Our Favorite Doomsday Prophet!

Celebrate Harold Camping Day, the Day to Remember Our Favorite Doomsday Prophet! May 20, 2015

Does May 21 ring a bell? In 2011, it was the day that should’ve been the last day on earth for devout Christians, according to Harold Camping.

Camping is my favorite doomsday prophet. If he’s not for you, I’m sure he’s in your top five. He used the infallible science of numerology to conclude that May 21, 2011 would be the date of the Rapture®. Good Christians would be whisked off the earth to avoid the horror of Armageddon, the final battle in which the blood would flow as high as a horse’s bridle for more than a hundred miles. Our reality would end five months later. Camping spent $100 million on advertising to warn the world, including putting his message on 3000 billboards.

Harold Camping apocalypse

Countdown to Armageddon!

Who could be surprised? Camping was wrong. May 21 came and went and he and his Christian friends were still here, so he declared it “an invisible judgment day” but was certain that the world was still on the chopping block.

If you remember those Bible verses stating that the end would be a surprise and that even Jesus didn’t know it, don’t forget that the Bible can argue for just about anything. Camping found verses that make a convincing argument that Man can indeed know the time of the end.

And then, of all the bad luck, the world didn’t end five months later as predicted. Too little and too late, he finally realized his mistake and publicly admitted it.

While many of Camping’s followers spend their life savings to make themselves right with God, Camping did not dissolve his $100 million radio empire and donate it to the needy in anticipation of the end. It was almost like he didn’t believe his own preposterous story. He didn’t even compensate his followers who had lost so much in believing him.

Camping was recalled to heaven in 2013, perhaps to consult with God on the timing of the End. His Family Radio web site has since scrubbed away all mention of this humiliating debacle.

Camping’s mistake was being specific. He actually tried to make a testable, precise prophecy using the rules that we all follow when demanding a prophecy from the other guy. Christian apologists swoon at feeble biblical “prophecies” like those in Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22, but they’d laugh at them if they came from someone else’s religion. They know what makes a good prophecy, but they can’t see that their favorites aren’t even close.

For more of history’s end-of-the-world prophecies, see this infographic.

More doomsday insanity

Doomsday prophecy must pay well, because it’s still popular among people who are either charlatans or deluded (it’s hard to tell for sure).

Street preacher Ray Comfort assures us that we’re in the end times, though his efforts crumble on critique.

John Hagee has invented a new, timeless Bible prophecy, the Prophecy of the Four Blood Moons. The concept is ridiculous, and the movie didn’t help. Three blood moons (that is: lunar eclipses) have come without incident, and the fourth will come on 9/28/15. Get the popcorn ready and come back here in about four months for some schadenfreude.

Hagee makes clear that this is just grandstanding with his book’s subtitle, “Something is about to change.” If God is giving us a message with these four blood moons, then what is the message? If Hagee is just going to pick some big event after the fact, where’s the prophecy?

I’ll note one final flabby Christian prophecy, this time a Catholic one. Dwight Longenecker (whose analysis I’ve recently critiqued here) handwaved that the Third Secret of Fatima indicated that big changes would happen by May 13, 2017, the 100-year anniversary of the apparition of Mary at Fatima. I’d try to make sense of it for you, but I’m sure I can’t.

You might think that Chicken Little’s false alarms don’t amount to much except to ridicule the Christians who enable and support this kind of thinking. Or you might feel outrage that these ridiculous Christian leaders and their Bronze Age thinking still exist in the twenty-first century. Either way, let’s remember groundless prophecies past and future on May 21, Harold Camping Day.

There’s a sucker born every minute.
— Barnum 3:16

Image credit: Lord Jim, flickr, CC

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  • Mick
    • RichardSRussell

      It’s like the definition of the lottery: a tax on people who are bad at math.

      I don’t engage in schadenfreude over it, but it’s kind of hard to work up much sympathy for these damfools, either.

    • Incredible. I wonder if Camping had much reaction to these stories.

      • wtfwjtd

        Whenever I hear people say that religion does no harm, I think of stories like these, and beg to differ. I think of it as kind of a flip side extreme to Pascal’s wager.

  • The_Wretched

    My son recently had his first ‘big’ end-of-the-world. He wasn’t surprised that my wife and I didn’t care much. He was surprised when pretty much all the xtians (except the asshole neighbors) were entirely laid back about it too. We explained to him that after you see a few of them and nothing is different, the next one becomes much less interesting.

  • GrizzlyD

    2012 was supposed to be the end. All my LaHaye-reading relatives and stepfather the prophet were sure of it, but they were pretty sure Harold was off by a year. All the signs pointed to 2012. They also became doomsday-preppers. I never worked up the nerve to ask why they were stockpiling beans and bullets if they were sure they were going to be raptured. I guess they figured they’d be leaving it for me, which is thoughtful of them, I reckon.

    • Greg G.

      I sent Christmas cards that year with a Bizarro cartoon of a depressed Mayan warrior sitting at a bar and the bartender tells him, “Cheer up, pal, it’s not the end of the world.”

  • Snowflake

    I totally misread the title. I just skimmed. I somehow thought it was a camping weekend. I presumed for atheists. Just in time for Memorial Day.

    I found that Harold Camping Rapture most amusing until I realized all the harm done.

  • Greg G.

    There was a hell fire billboard on a street corner near my house that said “When you die, you will meet Jesus.” Then across the street, a billboard sign was put up that said, “Jesus is Coming May 21, 2015.”

    I thought, “That’s nice. I guess I won’t have to die to meet him, after all.”

    • Snowflake

      So he is coming to your town?

      • Kenneth Henderson

        I met him the other day! He’s a really nice guy, found out his son (named Emmanuel, who’dathunkit!) goes to my son’s school, and he really does build hot rods!

        • Snowflake

          Wow. Maybe he can come to my son’s school. They can build robots. And help him pass his Regents and get into a good college.

        • Kenneth Henderson

          LOL, actually its true Snowflake. 🙂 (His name is Jesus Juarez and his kids are Emmanuel, and Sophia. Emmanuel is in grade 6 and Sophia is in my son’s class, grade 8. And yes he does build hot rods, though there is a song called Jesus Built My Hot Rod by Ministry, but I guarantee he’s the real deal.)

          Here is a pic of one of his cars, down the street from our house. I’ve seen his cars around the neighborhood, but never made the correlation until I saw him at school and introduced myself.

        • Snowflake

          Beautiful car. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

        • wtfwjtd

          Nice ride! Buick Riviera?

        • Kenneth Henderson

          Yep! Its a 1965. 🙂

      • Greg G.

        He’ll be here any minute now, according to some sources.

        • Snowflake

          Wow. Gonna try to meet up with him at the local bar? If so, spill all the scoop. What does he look like, snazzy dresser, does he tip well? If the wine sucks, does he make more. Do tell.

        • Greg G.

          There’s a good idea. Maybe I’ll take him to the filthiest bar and grill in town and have him declare all foods clean. The owners can thank me later.

        • Snowflake

          I am sure they will thank you. Then send him to NYC to what I always called “The dirty hotdog man”. Don’t laugh. It is those corner hotdog stands. They are very scary.

        • Kodie

          Sabrett’s: our wieners aren’t as old as 7-11’s.

        • Jack Baynes

          Be sure to get the T-shirt, so everyone knows you were there.

        • Greg G.

          I want one that says,
          “My neighbor got raptured and
          all I got was this lousy T-shirt.”

          Edited to correct spell check.

  • Zeke Piestrup

    Jesus made the same mistake as Harold. Mark 9:1 to May 21. https://youtu.be/cMJj59bA8-E

  • Kenneth Henderson

    Harold Camping must have been someone really special because Jesus gave him head of the line privileges.
    I’ll continue to enjoy my time here on Earth, no rush to join the masses if the rapture happens, to be honest, I’ll probably be dressed in a feather boa, dancing around in rainbow spandex holding a very bright yellow umbrella with the words I hear Hell is fabulous this time of year! (No I’m not gay, but I have a lot of friends who are, and I would rather go be with them, then be with today’s so called Christians in their heaven.)

  • InDogITrust

    I still remember the utter bafflement i felt the first time i saw a Camping billboard: i was driving and had to pull over and stop to examine it properly, since i could not believe that what i was seeing was not actually an ad for a movie.
    I was dumbfounded and then wanted to laugh, but instead was really really sad that there were people who were so superstitious that they would spend thousands of dollars to put that message on a high-traffic billboard in Los Angeles.
    And as more of the boards cropped up around the city, and learning that people were literally bankrolling everything for those boards, all those people cheated out of their lives, all that money that could have been spent helping people.

  • My favorite dramatic re-enactment of the Rapture, from Six Feet Under (NSFW):


  • Harry Camping truly is my favourite Predictor of Doom™. Dooooooooom, I tell you. So he bought 3000 billboards? I didn’t know the number was that high, and yet atheist orgs have a tough time even getting a couple before they’re either vandalized or taken down ahead of time.

  • Rudy R

    All those doomsayers are just in a long line of epic failures that started with Jesus. The indigent, apocalyptic rabbi prophesized that the Kingdom of God would come during his generation, and 2,000 years later, crickets.

    • trj

      The Kingdom of God/Kingdom of Heaven thing is amusing. Jesus announces dramatically that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. Yet nothing happened, so apologists are left with claiming it was some sort of spiritual event that nobody discovered, much like Camping’s invisible spiritual Armageddon.

  • Cognissive Disco Dance

    If Jesus won’t come to Harold, then bring Harold to Jesus I guess or something.

  • Cognissive Disco Dance

    Wow I never knew Dwight was that far gone. He’s really way out there isn’t he.

  • Jack Baynes

    Don’t be silly, of course the Rapture came, and all the good Christians were taken up. It’s just that nobody seems to have actually known any of these true Christians that disappeared.

    • RichardSRussell

      I use the same line with fundy TBs and then go on to explain that the reason they didn’t notice it is that the Bible says only 144,000 people (out of 7+ billion) will be saved, and the only ones who qualified were newborn infants (most of them from China and India) who hadn’t yet started on their careers as irredeemable sinners. “But you, buddy? You’re doomed to hell on Earth, just like the rest of us. Better learn to make the best of it, just like everyone else has to.”

    • Steve Gray

      I would not miss the Christians one damn bit. Good riddance.

  • Greg G.

    Another good SMBC comic for the Cross Examined readers:


    • Kodie

      I’ve pointed this out to people several times, theists always wanting to use Adam and Eve as the model of marriage, but they’re terrible parents and their children reflect that. What could anyone say about Adam and Steve that’s worse just because they’re gay? Hetero married couples are not necessarily ideal, and they should stop using Adam and Eve to support superiority of “one man-one woman” marriage.

    • I like “I didn’t come from no slime!” evolution deniers who have no problem with God creating Adam from dirt.

  • Dys

    What was always funny to me was all the apocalyptic Christians that piled on to mock Camping, when the only significant difference between their reasoning was that Camping had the nerve to pick an actual date.