By now you probably know that the world ends tomorrow. At least according to Harold Camping, a radio preacher who has a serious comedy name. This date for the Rapture is so widespread that even Time is making fun of it (won’t we all be sorry tomorrow if…).
Camping is certainly not the first dipshit to claim the world was ending (and since the world won’t end tomorrow, he won’t be the last either). Here are some other folks who called the apocalypse and ended up being wrong; Camping should look at how they dealt with their errors and be prepared for Sunday.
The Millerites. People have been calling the end of days for millenia, but the Millerites are probably the best precursors to Camping’s lunacy. Like Camping the Millerites, a sect founded by Baptist preacher William Miller, used Biblical math to try and figure out the Second Coming. They settled on the date of October 22,1844. Jesus, as you probably figured, did not respond to their Evite. The date became known as the Great Disappointment.
How They Dealt With It Not Happening - The Millerites were a big group, national in scope and numbering in the thousands. And like any big group of stupid people, they had a hard time facing their own mistake. William Miller kept waiting for Jesus to come, thinking maybe he had just missed the train, until his death in 1849.
Other Millerites reacted in different ways, some of it really crazy. Some figured that the date was correct and that we had entered the Sabbath era, thus none of the faithful should work anymore. Others began acting like children, because of this gem from The Gospel of Mark: “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” Others started rationalizing, saying that it had happened, just not the way anybody expected. Still others started setting new dates for the end.
Eventually the Millerites splintered into a number of sects, one of which is still around today: Seventh Day Adventists. The Ba’hai accept the teachings of William Miller and say that his date was correct, and that the founder of their religion was the product of Miller’s apocalypse.
Jehovah’s Witnesses. Before they were officially known as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the folks in the Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society were making some crazy claims about the end of the world. They pegged the date to be 1914, and later made a number of other assertions of dates. They eventually quit doing that.
How They Dealt With It Not Happening - Simple: they used it as the basis of their beliefs. Jehovah’s Witnesses think that Jesus Christ ascended to the throne of heaven in 1914, and that Satan was cast unto the world. As far as these jokers are concerned we are living right in the smack dab middle of the end times, and they could be coming to an final end any minute now.
The Witnesses are pretty amazing in that they keep changing their own belief system again and again. At one point they used the measurements of the Great Pyramid of Giza as a way to pinpoint the end, and then they decided that Satan built the pyramid. Then they had 1920 pegged, but they threw that date away before they even got there. Somebody finally wised up and made the end of times a more vague, always in the future date. So I guess the way that they essentially dealt with constantly being wrong about the apocalypse was to become like every other religion and make hard to pin down promises.
The Family. Scumbag pedophile David Berg started a cult called The Children of God or The Family International, which was dedicated to spreading Christ’s gospel and sexually abusing young girls. Occasionally Berg would also issue prophecies about the end of the world. In 1974 he said that the Comet Kohoutek would cause massive destruction on Earth and herald the end of days. Later he said that California would fall into the seas and the Tribulations would begin in 1989, with Jesus coming back in 1993.
How They Dealt With It Not Happening - This is a cult of brainwashed jerks, so they probably just kept on believing. Berg went to hell in 1994.
Sister Thedra’s UFO Cult. Michigan housewife Dorothy Martin got into L Ron Hubbard’s pre-Scientology Dianetics in the 1950s. She, of course, went nuts. Martin, later known as Sister Thedra, started getting transmissions from the planet Clarion through automatic writing, that old spiritualist standby where you place a pen in your hand and let the spirits write through you. She was warned that a great flood would destroy the Earth on December 21st, 1954, before dawn.
How They Dealt With It Not Happening - Martin got a whole group of believers together, telling them that the aliens from Clarion would be coming in a flying saucer to rescue them before the end. These people all quit their jobs, sold their stuff and gathered at Martin’s home, awaiting their ride. It never came. At first they all agreed the clocks were wrong, which explained the lack of ET rescuers; as the night wore on they started freaking out. But luckily Martin got another transmission from Clarion - the assembled group had been so full of light and goodness that the gods had seen fit to spare the Earth.
That’s a pretty common way of explaining unfulfilled armageddon prophecies; the believers, using the power of prayer or positive thinking, averted the end of the world. Everybody gets to feel like a hero. Later they probably come to their senses and feel like schmucks.
Hal Lindsey. Evangelist and goon Hal Lindsey wrote a book with the awesome title The Late Great Planet Earth, which became a bestseller in 1970. The book was a very literalist view of end-time prophecies, using the statehood of Israel as the springboard for a countdown to the apocalypse. Lindsey saw Russia as the great enemy, the hippies as the immorality that would destroy civilization, and figured that the world would end about a generation after the founding of Israel, some time in the late 80s.
The Late Great Planet Earth became a movie, narrated by Orson Welles, who is about the perfect dude to intone your eschatalogical nonsense. Lindsey wrote a sequel, called The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon, although that was less popular. When the 80s came and went and the only apocalypse was in the world of fashion, Lindsey started looking at the millenium as his next marker; his book Planet Earth - 2000 AD said that the faithful had until the turn of the century to make peace.
How They Dealt With It Not Happening - Lindsey just kept on keeping on. He’s still out there, with a show on TBN. He now says that Obama is the Antichrist.
Pat Robertson. Epic asshole Pat Robertson is ALWAYS making stupid predictions. He predicted the end of the world in 1982. He also predicted a tsunami would hit the Pacific Northwest in 2006, a massive terrorist attack would kill thousands in 2007 and that the Mideast would go nuclear in 2008. Somehow he has not managed to predict his own merciful death.
How They Dealt With It Not Happening - Pat Robertson just keeps on being a huge fucking asshole. That’s all he needs.
Elizabeth Clare Prophet. With a last name like Prophet you would think she knew what she was talking about. Prophet was a medium, through whom the Ascended Masters spoke. Her husband, Mark, used to channel the Archangel Michael, which is a pretty big deal.
When Mark died in the early 70s, Prophet took over their New Age church, Church Universal and Triumphant. In the 80s she began constructing a survivalist compound in Colorado, and she predicted a Soviet first strike on the US in the late 80s. Then she developed Alzheimers. In the 90s The Church was hoarding weapons, and Prophet kicked it in 2009. She probably got reincarnated - after all, she had previously been born as such luminaries as Queen Guinevere of Camelot and Marie Antoinette.
How They Dealt With It Not Happening - Well, Prophet got Alzheimers, which probably helped her not deal. The Church just kept trucking, though, building fallout shelters and amassing an arms cache for the Tribulation. Never give up, you loons.
Richard Noone. In 1997 Richard Noone published the book 5/5/2000 - Ice: The Ultimate Disaster, which really sounds like a TV movie title. In that book he said that Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn would line up for the first time in 6000 years, causing a pole shift which would bury the world in ice. This did not happen.
How They Dealt With It Not Happening - This was Noone’s only book. He seems to have pretty much dropped off the map, counting his money.
Movement For The Restoration Of The Ten Commandments Of God. This is a good one. This Ugandan religious group was so hardcore into the Ten Commandments that some of them wouldn’t even fucking talk, because they were afraid of breaking the ninth - “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” Sex and soap were right out. These guys, led by a banana beer brewer who had visions of the Virgin Mary (who hasn’t after a couple of mugs of banana beer?) set the end of days for January 1, 2000. As the date approached, people sold all their stuff and got ready for the end. It never came.
How They Dealt With It Not Happening - The cult moved the date. Still, people were getting upset and felt swindled. But the new date of March 17th was considered foolproof, and when 530 believers got together to worship at the end, their church blew up and they were all killed. Including dozens of kids. It turned out the windows and doors of the church had been sealed, so this probably was a mass murder and not a mass suicide. In the weeks that followed Ugandan authorities found hundreds of other bodies at other church compounds. They had all been murdered by the religious leaders in the days leading up to the final worship.
Harold Camping. Radio evangelist Harold Camping did some math based on prophecies in the Book of Daniel and decided the world would end on September 6th, 1994.
How They Dealt With It Being Wrong - He moved it to tomorrow.