It’s about that time again.
The end of the world, that is. The EoW seems to come around from time to time. There seems to be no end to it. The world, that is. If The World had the staying power of the EoW, nobody would be worrying about the EoW.
We’ve seen it before. We can start with Ezekiel. Wikipedia has a good description. According to the Talmud, Ezekiel “prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple.” He apparently did this on a regular basis but never got the date right (it was about 587 BCE).
William Miller prophesied the second coming of Christ. A good account is again to be found on Wikipedia. See the references.
In 1822 Miller said Christ would return “on or before 1843.” None of Miller’s predicted dates ever panned out and his early large following eventually thinned out. The Seventh Day Adventist Church derives from the surviving Millerites.
So much for the past.
We come now to the 21st century, in which we now find ourselves the beneficiaries of millennia of intellectual progress. And Rome goes bananas over an arcane earthquake prediction.
Raffaele Bendandi was a real scientist, and around 80 to ninety years ago he promoted the notion that the positions of the sun and the planets could foretell earthquakes. Mussolini honored him at the time. Bendandi died in 1979, but his ideas linger.
As 11 May approached this year, thousands of people in Rome prepared for a predicted earthquake. BBC has reported that “there has been an 18% increase in the number of city employees in Rome applying to take the day off.”
There was a slight problem with this predicted earthquake. Apparently Bendandi never predicted an earthquake for 11 May of this year.
The news outlets have provided scant information on the origin of the earthquake scare and how it came to be connected to Bendandi. The entire frenzy appears to have been Internet gossip-driven. Anyhow, it was likely a good excuse for taking a day off and seeing some of Italy’s fantastic countryside.
More to home, radio evangelist Harold Camping has predicted the end of the world would come on 21 May. Here is the message to listeners on the 66 stations that carry Camping’s program. The text is from the eBible Fellowship Web site:
May 21, 2011
And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man. Revelation 9:5
The End of the World
October 21, 2011
The purpose of this tract is to inform you of the great urgency there now is in the world for each and every person to be reconciled to God. The Bible is the Word of God! Everything the Bible declares has the full authority of God Himself. Now, at this time, information is coming forth from the Bible which clearly reveals God’s plan for Judgment Day and the end of the world itself. The Bible has opened up its secrets concerning the timeline of history. This information was never previously known because God had closed up His Word blocking any attempt to gain knowledge of the end of the world. We read about this in the book of Daniel:
Daniel 12:9 And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.
OK, Camping only promised Judgment day. More was to come.
When 21 May came and went, some were disappointed. Camping was “flabbergasted.” Yahoo news reported Camping as admitting “It has been a really tough weekend.”
Camping was probably not as flabbergasted as some of his believers. The Los Angeles Times reports the predicament of one such:
Keith Bauer, a 38-year-old tractor-trailer driver from Westminster, Md., took last week off from work, packed his wife, young son and a relative in their SUV and crossed the country.
If it was his last week on Earth, he wanted to see parts of it he'd always heard about but missed, such as the Grand Canyon. With maxed-out credit cards and a growing mountain of bills, he said, the rapture would have been a relief.
On Saturday morning, Bauer was parked in front of the Oakland headquarters of Camping's Family Radio empire, half expecting to see an angry mob of disenchanted believers howling for the preacher's head. The office was closed, and the street was mostly deserted save for journalists.
For the Rev. Camping, reality was too much to swallow. When his prediction of a Saturday rapture failed to materialize he quickly adjusted the future. Now it’s 21 October, and it’s the real thing. People are not going to just disappear. This is going to be the real EoW.
I stop here to remind readers that the NTS is not an anti-religious organization. We are not here to debunk people’s faith, which for many is the basis of morality. It’s when religious belief crosses the line into the physical world that the NTS gets interested. A few examples would include creationism, faith healing and reincarnation.
Harold Camping’s tomfoolery would be another example. And it’s not Camping that we target. It is those believers who cross the line that divides privately-held notions andpotential self-destruction that gain our interest. There are a number of roads to ruin, and allowing somebody else to do one’s thinking is one of the lowest.
We think of the Heaven’s Gate cult of 14 years ago and, worse, the Jonestown tragedy of 1978. Closer to home was the self-immolation of the Branch Davidian cult of 1993. In all instances people abandoned a real-world view in return for a certain amount of mental comfort. To the extent people naturally need some level of reassurance outside their own selves, some of this reliance may be unavoidable. The process seems to go awry when people narrow their focus and lose sight of physical reality.
The most an organization like the NTS can do is to act as a catalyst that constantly puts out a different message, a signal that reason and self assessment will assist in seeing the true picture. People may argue about what constitutes the “true picture,” but a good assessment is that a view from reality points the way from self-destruction. The fate of the Heaven’s Gate cult provides a sharp picture of self-delusion and destructive thinking. Members packed their bags and took poison as they prepared to meet a spacecraft that was following the comet Hale-Bopp. Their bags were discovered near their bodies, still packed and ready for the imagined trip.
Back to earthquake predictions. It appears Bendandi got a better deal. More recently seismologists in Italy are being charged with manslaughter for failing to predict a fatal earthquake last year.
Seismologists and a government official from Italy are being tried for manslaughter after failing to alert citizens of the 2009 L'Aquila earthquake that killed approximately 300 people.
Those being tried are six seismologists and one government official who did not warn citizens of the L'Aquila earthquake in time, which took place on April 6, 2009. The seismologists are responsible for assessing the risk of an earthquake occurring in a certain area.
I guess the moral is “Do your job, stay out of trouble.”