Well, looks like we’re all still here. No Rapture on the 21st, no piles of person-less clothes on the street for those of us Left Behind to deal with. No screaming and gnashing of teeth as the world descends into chaos. Looks like Harold Camping was wrong. I’ll give you a second for the shock to wear off. Ok, back with me? Good. I don’t think too many people were terribly surprised when the Rapture didn’t come, but there was a certain sect of people that really bought into it. Are they fools? I’m not one to judge, but if history has taught us anything, it’s that there will always be groups that will follow somebody that claims to know when the end of the world is coming. Don’t believe me? Check out some of these past end of the world predictions that clearly didn’t happen as we’re all still here.
William Miller – 1843
After serving in the War of 1812 and seeing both his father and sister die, this farmer from New England began studying the Bible in earnest with an interest in the afterlife. Eventually Miller, and the thousands of people that would become his followers, came to believe that the world would end on April 23, 1843. In anticipation of this, his followers gave away all their earthly possessions, which of course became problematic when the world in fact did not end.
Joseph Smith – 1891
In the 1830’s Joseph Smith founded the Mormon Church after he “found” golden plates that he translated into what would become the Book of Mormon. Since God was apparently “talking” to Smith, he thought it would OK if he predicted when the world would end as well, so in 1835 he predicted that the world would end sometime before 1891 – or anytime within a 56 year time span. While he didn’t live to see if he was right, we’re still around to let people know that he was wrong.
Albert Porta – 1919
At least this one attempted to ground itself in science. A respected meteorologist, Porta theorized that on December 17 of 1919 six planets would align and that the resulting magnetic field would cause the sun to explode, with Earth being taken out in said explosion. December 17th came and went and the sun is decidedly not blown up.
Pat Robertson – 1982
In 1976 Pat Robertson (yes, that Pat Robertson) predicted that the world would end in October or November of 1982. Four years later in 1980 he repeated this claim in a move that some would later call “ballsy or insane…depending on how you lean”. 1982 came and went and while the world didn’t end, Pat Robertson is still on the air, hosting The 700 Club, and being a lunatic.
Harold Camping – 1994
Wait, isn’t this the guy that said the Rapture was coming this past weekend? It sure is, but wouldn’t you know it, he made a similar prediction about the Rapture happening in the year 1994 and that didn’t happen either. I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to see a trend here and wait with bated breathe to see when the Rapture will be happening next.
Heaven’s Gate – 1997
When the Hale-Bopp comet became visible in 1997, several groups went to extremes, but nobody could top the Heaven’s Gate group. Believing that the comet signaled an alien spaceship that they could get on through only one method – suicide. After moving into a mansion that cost $7,000/month, the 39 members of the cult proceeded to, over the course of three days starting on March 24th, commit suicide through poison and asphyxiation, all while wearing identical outfits and arm bands with “Heaven’s Gate Away Team” on them.
Nostradamus – 1999
Most people are familiar with 16th Century pharmacist and predictor of the future Nostradamus. While he supposedly nailed predictions such as the French Revolution, Hitler, the JFK assassination, and the atomic bomb, Nostradamus dropped the ball on his end of the world prediction, which he said would happen in the seventh month of 1999. To top it all off, he also said that Genghis Khan would reappear to lend a helping hand in the end of the world.
Mayans – 2012
Ok, so this one hasn’t come to pass yet, but by know I think everybody is familiar with the supposed Mayan prediction that the world comes to an end on December 21, 2012. What people seem to forget is that while the Mayan calendar does indeed end on the modern December 21, 2012, it’s akin to how our current calendars end on December 31st every year – they cycle through to a new one. That being said, as we get closer and closer to the date, watching the crazies come out should be entertaining if nothing else.