Camping's not the first, and he undoubtedly won't be the last, to confidently predict the end of the world. I'm reminded of the New Yorker cartoon showing a Christ-like figure holding a sign that reads “The End Is Near” chanting, as he walks down a crowded Manhattan sidewalk, to the obvious alarm of his fellow pedestrians, “10-9-8-7...” Remember the Heaven's Gate episode of the 90's? In that one, dozens of believers committed mass suicide because they bought into the prediction, brought on by the appearance of the Hale-Bopp comet, that the earth's demise was imminent, but that they would be saved/resurrected by an alien spacecraft supposedly flying behind that comet.
If you think that's fanciful, you're obviously not familiar with the precepts of a couple modern-day, broadly accepted, so-called religions, whose tenets aren't far removed from that kind of inanity. It's enough to make a rational person wonder whether there's anything that's presented as biblically-based, as Camping's prediction supposedly was, that wouldn't be accepted by a credulous, religion-besotted public that has long since replaced what passes as “faith” for science or common sense. But, I digress. Back to doomsday predictions.
If you think this most recent prediction of Armageddon was absurd (aside: knock, knock; who's there; Armageddon; Armageddon who; Armageddon tired of these stupid Armageddon predictions), ask yourself where you were on Monday, December 3rd, 1990. If you were anywhere near Memphis, you should remember a prediction of localized annihilation by a self -professed climatologist, (my disdain for whose practitioners has been well documented in comments I posted in memphisflyer.com in connection with the recent flood) named Iben Browning.
Browning confidently predicted a “major” earthquake (7 on the Richter Scale or greater—-the 2010 Haiti earthquake was a 7) along the New Madrid fault that would rival the one in February, 1812, during which the Mississippi River flowed backward and Reelfoot Lake was formed.
Unlike Camping, whose earlier, similar, prediction fizzled, Browning claimed (dubiously, as it turns out) accuracy in predicting the Mt. St. Helens eruption, as well as the Mexico City quake of 1985 and the Loma Prieta (California) quake of 1989. The surprising thing is how generally-accepted this charlatan's prediction became. The town of New Madrid, Missouri was inundated by journalists from around the world, prompting one resident to say he was more concerned about being run over by one of the dozens of media trucks that suddenly swamped the area than by any earthquake, while the local media in Memphis ginned up a combination of fear and anticipation about the imminence of the earthquake the likes of which had never been seen before and, thankfully, hasn't since.
Offices in Memphis closed and many workers spent time in basement shelters in anticipation of the event. Schools in four states shut down, earthquake insurance became unobtainable, flashlights and bottled water (which had yet to achieve cult-like status) were sold out, and people left the area in droves. All of that for a prediction that wasn't even biblically based. Admit it: if you were here, you probably bought into the prediction to some extent, even if you didn't prepare for your inevitable demise. So, should we be surprised that as many people as did bought into Mr. Camping's prediction, especially when, for so many, the Bible trumps science?
Dr. Browning died a few short months after his bogus prediction, probably from sheer disappointment, and while it would be cruel to wish the same fate for Mr. Camping, one can only hope he has learned his lesson, and will never be heard from, ever again. But is there any doubt some other false prophet will come along to take his place, or that some religioholics among us will credit the next yahoo who predicts yet another doomsday based on biblical certitude? Heaven help us. I hope not.