May 21 is here and Armageddon is late again

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Painting: Viktor Vasnetsov 1887 Courtesty Wikimedia Commons

You may have noticed when you woke up today that the world hasn’t ended.

May 21 has arrived, and much to the dismay of the followers of American radio evangelist, Harold Camping, the sun is still shining and the birds are still singing -- and thousands of the faithful have not ascended to their final reward.

Camping had predicted the end of days as the twenty-first of May, even hiring billboards across the United States to spread the message.

Radio evangelist and doomsday prophet Harold Camping. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Not that it’s much of a surprise that the world hasn't ended. Camping hasn’t had the greatest of track records when it comes to predicting the apocalypse. In 1992, Camping predicted in his book, “1994?” that the end of days would arrive in, appropriately enough, 1994. His numerological formulas proved as ineffective then as they have today.

Camping isn’t alone as a failed prognosticator of doom. Countless doomsday profits have claimed to have had direct knowledge of the exact date that the world would come to an end, and so far, success has eluded them.

In the mid-1800s, religious leader William Miller claimed to have a line on Armageddon. His followers even sold all of their possessions and climbed up on their roofs to await the world’s finale – only to have to climb back down again the next day. After admitting his error, Miller postponed the apocalypse to a later date and people listened. Their chagrin at his second failed prediction has gone down in history as the Great Disappointment.

Doomsday preacher William Miller. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Sadly, Camping and Miller are far from alone in their ranks of doomsday prophets. It seems that people have an unending appetite for forecasts of doom. While Camping and his followers might disappear from the news, it’s probably just a matter of time before the next would-be oracle emerges.

After all, the Mayan doomsday, 2012, is just around the corner.

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