The End of the World: 2011 Edition
I can't just title this page "The End of the World", because that has been predicted before. And before that. And before that, and — well, you get the idea.
Weekly Weird News
Yeah, a large variety of the world's nutballs throughout history just can't stand the thought of peace and harmony: the ultimate disaster must be at hand! Whether it's overpopulation, nuclear war, Y2K (or other random numbers), a solar eclipse, spacecraft reentry, 2012's "End of the Mayan Calendar", or even global warming, catastrophe is nigh! Run! Scream! Repent!
And that reminds me: we haven't even gotten to Christ's Second Coming yet!
But here's the latest example of that, from True's 15 May 2011 issue:
May Day May Day May Day
Harold Camping, 89, president of California-based religious broadcaster Family Radio, says the world will end on May 21, and has been buying billboards to spread the word. Robert Fitzpatrick, 60, believes him: the Staten Island, N.Y., man has spent $140,000 — his entire retirement savings after working 26 years at a desk job — to buy bus and subway ad placards to alert people to the impending doom. "Global Earthquake: The Greatest Ever!" the ads scream. "Judgment Day May 21, 2011." The Bible, Fitzpatrick says, provides "proof that cannot be dismissed," and God will only save True Believers from the apocalypse. "Most churches teach that if you just believe, you will be saved," he says, but admits to "just a little doubt" that he'll be one of them, since "it is God's choice." Of course, Camping also predicted the world would end in September 1994 — just one of hundreds of wrong end-of-the-world predictions made by religious groups over the years. What if the latest prediction is wrong too? "Everybody asks me that," Fitzpatrick says. "I don't want to talk about it." (RC/New York Post) ..."I personally guarantee the world won't end on May 21, and Camping's followers are fools to believe him." —Every rational person on Earth
All that said, I'm really, truly hoping that not everyone who reads this agrees with me — I'd love to hear from someone who believes this so-called prophecy (use the Comments form below). No, really! I'll urge you to pick up a Lifetime Subscription to This is True for just $10,000. If you're right, you'll have no need for the cash. If I'm right then, well, you could use a lifetime of a publication that encourages you to think, couldn't you?
And hey, if you're still worried, it's never too late to get a stack of Get Out of Hell Free cards! As we like to say, "Don't Leave This Earthy Plane Without One." Click the card to order.
May 22 Update
Not surprisingly to "every rational person on Earth," the world didn't end as scheduled by Camping. But Mr. Fitzpatrick, of course, was quite surprised. I followed up on his story in the 22 May issue:
"I just don't understand," said Robert Fitzpatrick over and over again. Fitzpatrick, 60, of Staten Island, N.Y., was so sure the world would end on May 21 that he spent his life savings warning people about the apocalypse. "I'm very surprised," he said as the appointed moment — 5:59 p.m., local time — came and went. "I fully expected that something would happen." He was in Manhattan's Times Square for the apocalypse, surrounded by crowds and media. "It's 6 o'clock we're still alive," yelled one onlooker, generating applause from the crowd. Others in the crowd had been chanting "Hell no, we won't go!" Fitzpatrick now admits he "doesn't know" what will happen on October 21, when the entire universe is supposed to be consumed by fire, according to the prophecy he previously had embraced. (RC/Staten Island Advance) ..."It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring." —Carl Sagan, American astrophysicist (1934-1996)
October 21 Update: This Time I Really Mean It!
What, you didn't notice?! The world ended today. It did too! Because some jackass said "The Bible Guarantees It!" you know it happened. Because, you know, it was guaranteed! By the Bible!
I refer, of course, to Harold Camping. His prediction of "rapture" on May 21 flopped when nothing happened. I ran the story in True (above — scroll back!) When nothing happened, Camping retorted "IT DID TOO!" (which may be a slight paraphrase): May 21 really was Judgment Day, he insisted, and God has done all the reckoning He needed to (despite Camping preaching that the world would, in no uncertain terms, end May 21 in a giant Earthquake; God apparently decided to be much more subtle).
Camping's own employees didn't buy it, by the way: "I don't believe in any of this stuff that's going on," a Family Radio receptionist at their Oakland headquarters told CNN in May, "and I plan on being here next week." But, she said, some co-workers did actually blow their life savings on nice cars or vacations in anticipation of the world (nay: the entire universe!) ending, because, you know, God would want them to have a nice ride to Armageddon. The receptionist noted that "about 80%" of Camping's own workforce didn't believe his prediction, and admitted that the calendar she keeps had lots of appointments scheduled for well after the supposed Armageddon.
Yet you didn't even notice you're dead now. That just shows how observant you are!
Well of course Camping is a whackjob. You know that as well as I do. My point is that he was able to convince scads of followers to quit their jobs and blow their life savings on spreading his message of the end of the world. Repent! Hurry! Time's almost up! Of course few listened to the gullible fools who now are jobless and broke in the worst economy since the Great Depression. Yet still, millions of people — let's call them "lesser fools" — still listen to Camping's radio stations and the horribly errant words of a false prophet.
And why does that matter? I've actually heard people say that since the world is ending, we don't need to take care of it. OK, so Armageddon didn't happen this time (or the time before that, or the time before that, or the time before that, or the time before that, or the time before that, or the time before that, or the time before that, or the time before that, or the time before that, or [repeat literally hundreds of times!]), but surely it's coming really, really soon, so why worry about pollution, or climate change, or dumping old tires in streams, or living in a way that's sustainable for our children, their children, and the generations to come? They'd rather think that God made the world ...so that we could screw up His creation. This makes Biblical sense (or even common sense!) ...how? The bottom line becomes: if God doesn't destroy the world, then we will. Yeah, surely that is what God would want for His creation!
So my contention, as stated in my tagline on the first story on Camping, is that those who believe this garbage are fools, and "every rational person on Earth" knows it. It takes a pretty big ego to think the world will end in your lifetime.
But hey, don't worry: when I said it's the end of the world "2011 edition", you can count on another prediction in 5... 4... 3....
I've got it! How about the end of "the" Mayan calendar? Because clearly, the Maya knew the world was going to end in 2012, so they quit doing the calendar for that reason, not because they ran out of flat rock to chisel it on. Here's the truth: the Maya actually had a number of calendars, ranging from 260 days to a generation — 52 years. The world didn't end when those calendars did, now did they? But then there's the Mayan "Long Count" calendar that spans from the modern calendar's August 11, 3114 BCE, and ends 5,126 years later on December 21st, 2012 — because it was designed to. And obliviots contend there's some significance to that, and (EEEEEEEK!) say that must be the end of the world. Right.
No, just like the other Mayan calendars simply started over after 260 days, or 365 days, or 52 years, so does the Long Count calendar. Pretty obvious when you think about it, but fear mongers don't want you to think, they want you to fear. They want you to be irrational — the opposite of rational. Do you just swallow that, or think about what you want to believe?
Meanwhile, no one seems to wonder that if the Maya were so smart to know that the world would end well over a thousand years in the future, why weren't they able to predict their own civilization would die out much, much sooner? Because it did — in the 9th century.
When the "world ends in 2012" prediction joins the hundreds before it and also proves false, you can be sure there will be another one. (See: "It takes a pretty big ego to think the world will end in your lifetime," above.) Fear mongers want you to live in fear; that gives them power. I refuse to, and invite you to live with me — with common sense and rationality. That's the sort of thing you can do when you think for yourself, rather than listen to obliviots who do numerology on select Biblical passages, or on the lint in their navels, or the dust on their brains. And yet, Camping's Family Radio is still asking for contributions to Spread The Word. Yes, really.
The truth is, life is uncertain. It's likely to continue for thousands and thousands of years into the future, and there will be good times and bad times, just like always. The best we can do is to leave a better world for our kids than our parents left for us. Is that really too much to ask?
This is True is about thinking for yourself about issues that matter, not following fear mongers, idiots or politicians (I know: that's redundant). If you're not already a subscriber to my free weekly newsletter, I invite you to scroll up to the top of this page and find the subscription box. It won't hurt: the stories are quite entertaining since I want you to enjoy the process. It's why I call True "Thought-Provoking Entertainment."
March 2012: Another Message from Camping (But!)
Harold Camping has issued ...no, not another prediction, but rather an apology!
"Events within the last year have proven that no man can be fully trusted," he wrote on his web site in March 2012. "Even the most sincere and zealous of us can be mistaken."
This was no little mistake: at Camping's insistent urging, people quit their jobs and blew their life savings to "get the word out" (or, if you prefer, "get the Word out") to the world. Some left their families. All because of the ravings of an admitted "zealot".
Here's another of his two-faced mea culpas: "Yes, we humbly acknowledge we were wrong about the timing; yet though we were wrong God is still using the May 21 warning in a very mighty way. In the months following May 21 the Bible has, in some ways, come out from under the shadows and is now being discussed by all kinds of people who never before paid any attention to the Bible." Notice how short the apology is, and how long the "yet" portion is. One almost expects the phrase "So the end justifies the means" to pop up at any moment.
Camping still can't help but admit that "We must also openly acknowledge that we have no new evidence pointing to another date for the end of the world. Though many dates are circulating, Family Radio has no interest in even considering another date."
Great. Then he goes on to say that "God has humbled us through the events of May 21, to continue to even more fervently search the Scriptures (the Bible), not to find dates, but to be more faithful in our understanding." God didn't humble you, pal: the world did.
And then there's this: "Reading about and even discussing about the Bible can never be a bad thing, even if the Bible's authenticity is questioned or ridiculed." Yet few did that. No, Mr. Camping, we were ridiculing you, your self-importance, and your insistence that only you knew the truth. Address that and maybe you'll redeem yourself — a little.
Camping admits "we now realize that those people who were calling our attention to the Bible's statement that 'of that day and hour knoweth no man' (Matthew 24:36 & Mark 13:32), were right in their understanding of those verses and Family Radio was wrong." — and he doesn't pull that punch with an excuse.
But he goes right back to that in his next statement. He acknowledges that while he "guaranteed that Christ would return on May 21 and that the true believers would be raptured" was an "incorrect and sinful statement", he goes on to say that foolishness "allowed God to get the attention of a great many people who otherwise would not have paid attention."
Sinful? You'd need a calculator to tally up the ways. And sorry, but if God wants to get our attention, he's not going to do it through a tin-plated radio (or TV!) preacher. Nor is He going to "punish" some specific country for allowing gays to marry by wreaking wholesale destruction on random cities by the use of foul weather that visits every year anyway.
"However, even so," he continues, "that does not excuse us. We tremble before God as we humbly ask Him for forgiveness for making that sinful statement. We are so thankful that God is so loving that He will forgive even this sin."
Right: women who initiate divorce will go to hell to burn in painful eternity, but false prophets who urge the faithful to quit their jobs and throw all of their money away will be forgiven (but too bad about those suckers, eh?!)
What incredible gall.
"So we must be satisfied to humbly wait upon God, and trust He will guide His people to safety," Camping says. "At Family Radio, we continue to look to God for guidance." How about using common sense and the brains that were provided to him? Nope: no sign of that.
And even after all of this, Camping still wants you to $end $ome ca$h, plea$e: "And, your steadfast involvement and support is so appreciated!" Remember, that which you reward, you get more of. At least we didn't get a teary "He will call me back to Heaven if our financial needs are not met! Quick! Send more money!" Yes, well, his "real" followers don't have any now, eh? He needs new suckers.
When someone tells you "the Bible guarantees it" or even "it's in the Bible," I have some advice: Look for yourself. Don't take anyone's word for it. (Then consider asking yourself, "Who translated this Bible? From what source? Did they have an agenda in mind while doing that translation?") And if they tell you scare-mongering ghost stories — and won't you please give them some money so they can tell that story to others? — you might want to turn your back. Fool you once, shame on them. Fool you again and again and again and again and again, shame on you.
Camping had a stroke on June 9, 2011; his "end days" were spent trying to recover.
Family Radio, meanwhile, suffered huge financial losses, and many of the staffers quit, with some denouncing Camping as a cult leader.
In late 2013, Camping fell at his home, and died two weeks later, on December 15. He was 92 -- and the rest of the world still goes on.
But you can bet some other false prophet will rise to take his place.
- - -
This page is an example of This is True’s style of “Thought-Provoking Entertainment”. “True” is a newsletter that uses “weird news” as a vehicle to explore the human condition, and bring up questions about society — in an entertaining way. If you enjoyed this page, consider scrolling up to the top of the page for a free e-mail subscription.
To really support True, sign up for a paid subscription to the much-expanded “Premium” edition:
(More upgrade options here.)
Q: Why would I want to pay more than the regular rate?
A: To support the publication to help it thrive and stay online, and this kind of support means less future need for price increases (and smaller increases when they do happen), which enables more people to upgrade. This option was requested by existing Premium subscribers.