May 21 – Anniversary of a Failed Prediction

Posted on May 21, 2016

Part of the annual celebration of
the fact that we're still here!
Some people celebrate today with parties and humor. They call it Rapture Day or End of the World Day – but they're really celebrating the fact that it ISN'T the “Rapture” or the “End of the World”!

You see, back in the 1990s, a Christian radio broadcaster and author named Harold Camping predicted that Jesus would return to the Earth soon; he made many calculations and at least one failed prediction but then ended up firmly fastening on May 21, 2011, being the date of this return.

Jesus coming back to the Earth may sound like a good thing, but Camping taught that a few hundred million people would be suddenly raptured—taken “up” into heaven—and that many millions more would die in a series of gigantic earthquakes and other disasters. Fire and brimstone and plagues. Scary, scary stuff. He predicted that the actual end of the world would be October 21, 2011...and that BILLIONS of men, women, and children (and I presume animals and plants) would die.

Camping talked about this prediction for years. A LOT of people – including most Christians and almost all non-Christians – rejected Camping's dire prediction. However, some people did believe, and there were problems for some of these believers. Some of them gave up their jobs, sold their homes, sold all of their belongings, and gathered together to await the Rapture. Some people not only stopped investing and earning money, they spent most of their own money promoting the prediction, I guess in an effort to (in their eyes) save people's souls. For example, one retired New Yorker spent $140,000 publicizing the prophecy.

These ads almost look like they are jokes -
but they were real attempts to spread the news
about Camping's (wrong) prediction!

Of course, May 21, 2011, came and went with no return-of-Jesus, no Rapture. October 21, 2011, came and went with no end-of-the-world.

It's sad to say that some of Camping's followers were totally impoverished by the actions they took based on their own certainty that Camping was correct. Homeless, jobless, broke, some went into hiding. Some people at Rapture-awaiting gatherings had been arrested by police (this happened in Vietnam, for example) as “extremists.”

Camping was super-duper wrong, which he later admitted. He even apologized. I don't want to laugh at his incorrect ideas – especially since he suffered from a stroke about a month after the 2011 prediction had failed, and he died in 2013.

Instead, I want to point out that there will always be people who sincerely come up with, write, say, and publicize ideas that are completely wrong. We should all think through ideas we hear about – look to see if the ideas are logical and reasonable, check to see if there is good evidence that supports the ideas. We should especially take care to examine ideas if people are urging us to spend money or give up valuable parts of our life on the basis of the ideas.

In other words, be skeptical. Check sources, look at the evidence given, and wonder about the possible motivations behind statements, ideas, or causes. Question authority; question simplistic / pat answers; question appeals to fear.

Also on this date:

Independence Day in Montenegro

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