Despite the fact that the 6 pm deadline has passed in many countries without any sign of an armageddon, the debate over whether May 21 is infact ‘judgement day’ or ‘doomsday’ still rages on. All eyes are on the man who says his calculations are accurate and the world will end on May 21.
According to the New York Times, there was nothing out of the ordinary happening outside the office of Harold Camping, the man in the eye of the ‘doomsday prediction’ storm, except a sign saying that the offices were closed. “Sorry we missed you!” the sign concluded.
The 89-year-old Californian preacher and radio host had prophesied that the Rapture would begin at 6pm May 21st in each of the world’s time zones, with non-believers wiped out by rolling earthquakers, as the saved ascended into heaven.
His refusal to schedule a media interview for the following day – “It is absolutely going to happen. There is no way that I can schedule an interview because I won’t be here.” – was being replayed by media as the world firmly stayed standing.
On the microsite Twitter, groups of atheists and sceptics were last night swapping tales of After Rapture parties, with one group, in Tacoma, Washington, branding their celebration “Countdown to Back-Pedalling”.
Mr Camping’s doomsday prediction wasn’t his first. He blamed an earlier apocalyptic prediction which passed quietly in 1994 on a mathematical error, last month saying: “I’m not embarrassed about it. It was just the fact that it was premature.”
This time would be different, with “no possibility” it would not happen. While across the United States, some devotees reportedly sold all their possessions and took to the streets to warn of the second coming of Jesus, in Britain, sceptical voices were louder.
After 6pm passed without incident in New Zealand and Australia, Stephen Fry tweeted: “Marvellous news! Rapture doesnt mean end of world; apparently all the planet’s imbeciles disappear in one go.”
Amid the sound of ruffled feathers he later added: “Calm down. Never said all Christians are imbeciles. Just those who think they’ll be raised up today.
They do the faith a grave disservice.” Earlier TV scientist Professor Brian Cox had suggested it was a good time for a global practical joke: “I think we should all pretend the rapture is happening so that when Harold Camping gets left behind later today he’ll be livid.”
Some of the first reports that the apocalypse was not keeping to schedule emerged from New Zealand. Kiwis confirmed there were no signs of the dead rising from the grave, nor of the living ascending into the clouds to meet Jesus Christ.
Daniel Boerman tweeted: “I’m from New Zealand, it is 6.06pm, the world has NOT ended. No earthquakes here, all waiting for the Rapture can relax for now.”
On the island of Tonga, which reached 6pm an hour earlier, there was a reported absence of zombies, true believers hurtling skywards, arch-angels and trumpeters.
Two minor earthquakes did hit the Pacific earlier in the day, measuring 3.1 and 4.8 and not triggering any tsunami warnings, but earthquakes of that magnitude are a regular occurrence in the region. Mr Camping, a retired engineer, spread his message of doom via Family Radio, which has a network of 66 radio stations and online broadcasts.
However websites in the United States reported that not all of those working for the station were so sure, with a receptionist telling journalists that she expected to turn up for work on Monday. After the day of reckoning, Mr Camping said non-believers would suffer through hell on earth until October 21, when God would pull the plug on the planet once and for all.
The Rapture – the belief that Christ will bring the faithful into paradise prior to a period of tribulation on Earth that precedes the end of time – is a relatively new notion, rejected by most Christians. However, the prophecy has led to unrest in Vietnam, where thousands of members of the Hmong ethnic minority gathered near the border with Laos earlier this month to await the world’s end.
The government arrested a number of “extremists” and dispersed a crowd of about 5,000. Mr Camping came up with his prediction using a calculation that started with the year of the Great Flood, 4990 BC, added 7,000 years because, in the Bible, God “reminds us that one day is as 1,000 years,” and then subtracted one because of a glitch when passing from the old to the new testament calendars.
As May 21 drew nearer, donations grew, allowing Family Radio to spend millions of dollars on more than 5,000 billboards plastered with the doomsday message.
In 2009, the non for profit reported that it received $18.3 million in donations, and had assets of more than $104 million. Yesterday, in California, some believers had shut themselves inside to pray as they wait for the world’s end.
Others were meeting with their children for tearful last lunches, and preparing to leave behind pets and be swept up to heaven. Some wanted to make sure their pets receive good treatment, no matter what happens.
Sharon Moss, who founded AfterTheRapturePetCare.com to provide post-apocalypse animal care, said a new wave of customers has paid $10 to sign up in the last few weeks. “
A lot of people have said you should be out there saving souls not saving pets but my heart says ‘why can’t you do both?”’ said Moss.
New York mayor Michael Bloomberg – who is Jewish and, according to Mr Camping’s prophecy, therefore unlikely to be beamed up to sit alongside Jesus in heaven – said on his weekly radio show on Friday that he would partially suspend parking restrictions in New York if the world ended.
Seeing the potential to profit from the prediction, one website was selling T-shirts marked: “I survived May 21, 2011. You really thought the world would end? Dumb ass.” However, it was hedging its bets on delivery times. “If the world doesn’t end, you’ll get your shirt in approximately 10 business days,” it says. [via Bhaskar and KY3]