End times predictions have always been a lot of fun. For most of my childhood, I thought the world would be destroyed on May 5, 2000 because of a certain book that’s not selling very well nowadays. Of course, when May 5 came and the world didn’t tip over and spill Antarctic ice everywhere, I learned an important lesson: most end times prophecies aren’t very reliable. In fact, so far, every single prediction that the world will end has gone unfulfilled. Of course, this doesn’t mean that all such prophecies must therefore always be wrong, but it has become a rather reliable source of amusement when nothing happens.
In a recent example, Christian radio host Harold Camping has predicted that the Rapture will occur this May 21 at about 6 PM. 6 PM where? Well, everywhere! Through the highly technical process of picking certain numbers out of the Bible and multiplying them together, Mr. Camping has concluded that May 21 will be the day when a massive earthquake will “throw open all graves”. At about 6 in the evening in every time zone, “the bodies of all unsaved people will be thrown out upon the ground to be shamed”. Given Mr. Camping’s prediction that only 2% of the world will be saved, and various estimates that a hundred billion people have lived throughout history, it seems that the rest of us are going to be buried under a steadily advancing wave of billions of reconstituted corpses. Praise the Lord!
According to Mr. Camping, “The inhabitants who survive this terrible earthquake will exist in a world of horror and chaos beyond description”, which doesn’t really sound much different from how things are now. Of course, the party won’t last forever, since God is going to destroy the world five months later on October 21. I guess we’ll have to amuse ourselves with all the remaining believers whose religion has just been proven false.
Of course, plenty of people have wondered what would happen if May 21 arrives and there’s still no Rapture. What would Mr. Camping do then? To hear him tell it, “The Biblical evidence is too overwhelming and specific to be wrong.” Can’t argue with that! He’s even claimed that the success of the gay rights movement is really because God has planned it as a sign of the end times. So if anyone ever has a problem with us, we can just say we’re doing God’s work.
It’s hard to imagine how Mr. Camping would recover from a failed prophecy, given that he’s left himself no way out. If he thinks he can’t possibly be wrong about this, who’s going to believe him when he says the same thing next time? With the support of his followers, he’s launched an entire network of radio stations centered around the idea that the Rapture will happen on May 21. If they don’t get swept up into heaven, where are they going to go? The world will still be here, and there’s no way for them to pretend otherwise. What happens when an unstoppable belief meets an immovable reality?
On the other hand, we should always be prepared for the possibility that this might actually happen. Sure, some people might say that listening to mythical nonsense on the off chance that it might be right is a stupid way to go about your life, but obviously they’ve never heard of Pascal’s irrefutable wager. Better safe than sorry!
I’m pretty sure that forcing myself to believe all this in order to be saved is kind of unrealistic at this point, so in the event of a Rapture, I’ll be assembling a crash program of leading heathens, Satanists and wizards to overthrow God before he can destroy the world. We’ll have a whole five months to work on it, and the theological data generated by a second coming will be invaluable. I probably won’t have time to keep doing videos, so if there is a Judgment Day, I’ll just hand over my channel to Maggie Gallagher. I’m sure she’ll have something interesting to say!
So mark the date: May 21. Either the most unexpected turn of events in history, or the most predictable failure of religious prophecy. No matter what happens, I can’t wait!