Don't Stop Believing in the End of the World

Despite his May 21 end-of-the-world prediction being completely and totally wrong, Christian radio host Harold Camping has some reasons to believe that on October 21 -- tomorrow! -- the world is really, really going to end this time.

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Despite his May 21 end-of-the-world prediction being completely and totally wrong, Christian radio host Harold Camping has some reasons to believe that on October 21 -- tomorrow! -- the world is really, really going to end this time. Camping made headlines last spring with his failed prediction that the rapture would occur on May 21, revised his forecast to this Friday. Camping originally argued that the rapture--when the holy ascend to heaven--would happen on May 21 and that the apocalypse--when the rest of us would be destroyed with the Earth--would happen on October 21. Since May, he's amended his theory to say that both would happen simultaneously in October. (In this economy, who could afford two dates?) Here's a few reasons some sad, sad souls are still believing him.

  • God accomplished exactly what he wanted on May 21 The official line from Camping and the folks at Family Radio is that they weren't wrong at all. The point of attention they generated was to warn the world of the coming end. "To accomplish this goal God withheld from the true believers the way in which two phrases [rapture and apocalypse] were to be understood." In short, God tricked everybody. They argue that a "spiritual" Judgement Day really did happen on May 21, except that those judged worth of heaven stayed put for the time being. They'll just ascend to heaven later.
  • Harold Camping is the best apocalypse scholar out there While one blogging follower of Camping admits that the radio host isn't perfect, we should still believe him because he's simply a "biblical genius" and knows more about the apocalypse than anyone else. "Harold Camping is a very old man who has studied the bible his entire life, and may be the most well versed Catholic human ever," he writes in one post. The 90-year-old probably does a good job of projecting that sense of authority onto others. "I would not be surprised to discover that Mr. Camping sees this prediction as his life's work, the culmination of decades of intensive Bible study, filtered through the sieve of faith," a religion professor tells Fox News. "If this is correct, then perhaps he sees in the world a reflection of his self."
  • The "Rapture Index" is off the charts Another apocalypse-watcher--Terry James of Little Rock, Arkansas--has been keeping tabs on just how nigh the apocalypse is--and things are looking pretty nigh right now. Since 1993 he's maintained the "Rapture Index"--a score of how closely world events, like wars and natural disasters, fit the Biblical signs of the end times--and it just reached it's all-time high of 184 in August, The Independent reports. Factoring into that August high were the Arab Spring, the East Coast quake, and Hurricane Irene. Though the index is down to 180 today, it's still in "fasten your seatbelts" territory, says James. The last time it reached a comparable level was after 9/11.
  • Space seems to be really angry If wars and natural disasters aren't enough to convince you of the coming end, just look up in the sky. Apoca-holics are pointing to several celestial events they argue legitimize their claims. Comet Elenin had its closest approach to Earth last Sunday and the annual Orionoids meteor shower will peak tomorrow. However, none of this is too out of the ordinary: Elenin was some 22 million miles away from our planet at its nearest and the Orionoids reach its peak in late October every year.
  • Steve Jobs just doesn't die without the world ending While rocks flying through space might scare some people into believing, others look to types of stars. According to one blogger at, Apple CEO's passing heralds the end times. "The death of Steve Jobs is a clear sign from God that he did not want to let one of the worlds most influential, yet non-religious, people suffer through the 2011 Apocalypse. How will the world change now that Steve Jobs is dead?" A few other signs, according to the writer: the earlier deaths of Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, and Jani Lane and this year's late-season collapse of the Boston Red Sox.

Still, so far this latest rapture prediction doesn't seem to have the same grip on the public consciousness as Camping's May 21 prediction. One of the big reason Camping gained notoriety in May was the $100 million his church spent on audacious billboards and bus signs proclaiming the impending end of the world. This October's apocalypse is more low-key, reports Reuters: no bilboards have been spotted. Perhaps that's because of all the sad believers who contributed to the cause are now broke.

Even the religious leader seems more circumspect this time around, leaving some rhetorical room to err. He told listeners in a recent show that "the end is going to come very, very quietly probably within the next month ... by October 21," The Washington Post reports. "Probably"? Camping seemed much more confident back in May. When asked by Daily Intel if he was worried he might be wrong, he said: "It’s going to happen. It’s going to happen. ... It is going to happen." Not a "probably" in sight. Of course, Camping is a canny veteran of predicting end times: before becoming famous this year, he predicted the world would end on May 21, 1988 and then Sept. 7, 1994. So, you know, if we all make it to the weekend, there can always be another one.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.