Remember earlier this year when the world didn't end?
Like every other doomsday prophecy throughout history, the May 21st rapture promised by Oakland-based Family Radio network owner Harold Camping never materialized. The 90-year-old, self-styled prophet now claims the world will end by this Friday and not with a bang, as previously predicted, but rather with a whimper.
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"The end is going to come very, very quietly probably within the next month...by October 21st," said Camping in a radio address delivered earlier this month. "Probably there will be no pain suffered by anyone because of their rebellion against God...We can become more and more sure that they'll quietly die and that will be the end of their story."
You'll note the word "probably." Catherine Wessinger did. She's an expert on doomsday groups at Loyola University in New Orleans and editor of The Oxford Handbook of Millennialism. She says she's seen this before.
When prophecy fails, she says, "the person making the prediction can give themselves a way out, sort of a backdoor way of getting out of the prediction. Or on the other hand, when nothing happens, the event can be spiritualized."
After the fact, Camping's retroactively revised his prediction such that May's apocalypse was scaled back to an "invisible judgement day."
While Camping said he was "flabbergasted" when May 22nd rolled around and everything remained essentially unchanged, a post on Family Radio's website explains why the previous prediction only seemed like a bust:
What really happened this past May 21st ? What really happened is that God accomplished exactly what He wanted to happen. That was to warn the whole world that on May 21 God's salvation program would be finished on that day. For the next five months, except for the elect (the true believers), the whole world is under God's final judgment. To accomplish this goal God withheld from the true believers the way in which two phrases were to be understood. Had He not done so, the world would never have been shaken in fear as it was.
Camping suffered a stroke only weeks after his May prediction yielded worldwide backlash and subsequently halted his daily radio sermons. Even though he has not returned to full-time broadcasting, he has occasionally released pre-taped segments broadcast on the network.
An engineer by training, Camping's predictions are largely derived from applying math to clues he believes are hidden in the bible. The Huffington Post gave a rundown of Camping's numerology here.
Camping promoted his prophecy with thousands of billboards across the country that convinced many of his followers to get rid of their worldly possessions or take extravagant trips in preparation for the end.
Ironically, while many of Camping's faithful rearranged their lives around his predictions, most Family Radio employees remained skeptical. A receptionist in the radio network's Oakland office told CNN Money in the days leading up to May 21st, that 80 percent of her coworkers believed nothing was going to happen and continued working as normal in the weeks leading up to the promised judgment day.
Camping has a long history of unsuccessfully predicting the end times. He preached that the world was going to end in 1994, and released a book titled 1994? on the subject.
The multi-million dollar Family Radio network is funded almost exclusively by donations and comprises 65 stations around the United States and has a worldwide reach extending as far as Nigeria.
As they have many times before, Taiwanese comedy video producers Next Media Animation sum up the issues surrounding Camping's latest prediction in their own inimitable way: