05/06/2011 03:16 pm ET Updated Jul 06, 2011

Doomsday Cranks Descend On Washington, Ironies Abound

Do you have plans for the summer of 2011? I know I do. I'm going to visit London, and redecorate my apartment, and maybe go see some movies or something. But we all may want to put our plans on hold, because it's entirely possible that the world might end in just over two weeks. That's the view of some end-times cranks, anyway, who have rolled up on the Washington Monument to explain that everyone needs to have their affairs in order by May 21, thus earning them a profile in today's Washington Post. If they're right, I have just one thing I want to share with the rest of the world: Suck on that, student loans!

This particular doomsday warning is the product of Harold Camping, a Christian fundamentalist radio host of the Family Radio Network in Oakland, California. Based on his reading of Biblical texts, Camping has surmised that the world will end 7,000 years after the Great Flood, and by his reckoning, that means come May 21, our time is up. Of course, he's been down this road before, only to see his prediction of global doom in 1994 fail to come to pass, but he has a way of rationalizing all of that:

"It's just like anyone who invents something or comes to a truth or any technician -- they don't immediately make a finished product," he explained. "I did not come to the finished product until three years ago. It was at that time that God showed some exquisite proof."

So, call it doomsday, version 2.0, I guess. Naturally, this sort of thing raises all sorts of questions, but there's one curiosity in particular that stands out:

This time, he insists that he's right, and by lunchtime Thursday, about 50 area residents joined up with the caravan to support his message. Among them was Gary Vollmer, who took a leave of absence from the Department of Homeland Security to spread the word. He's supposed to go back on May 23. "But I'm not going back," he said. "I'll be gone on the 21st."

Hold on, now. This guy took a leave of absence from the Department of Homeland Security to warn people of the coming apocalypse? Sounds like he's hedging. Why didn't the Department of Homeland Security just fire him? How do you return to the Department of Homeland Security if your warning of worldwide doom fails to pan out? I mean, either his judgment on the matter is sound, and we won't need a Department of Homeland Security in a few weeks' time, or his judgment is off and he probably shouldn't be working for the DHS in any capacity.

(At the very least I hope his coworkers have scavenged his office supplies.)

There's mention of another guy who was bold enough to actually quit his job, but the Post reports that he was an insurance underwriter, so you have to imagine that performing his line of work while actively believing the world was going to end became pretty untenable after a while.

Anyway, it's been nice knowing you all. This song goes out to the true believers.

This time, it's for real, believers say: Doomsday coming this month [Washington Post]

How To Survive The Apocalypse: Some Things You Need To Know Before The World Ends

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