Harold Camping is ever-present on the cable channel of the Alameda Bible Fellowship, a low-key man proselytizing from a well-thumbed Bible. But look what he's started. The third top hashtag on Twitter this afternoon is "#iftheworldendsonsaturday."
On Camping's website, FamilyRadio.com, a page full of numbers concludes, "Indeed, in the face of all of this incredible information, how can anyone dare to dispute with the Bible concerning the absolute truth that the beginning of the Day of Judgment together with the Rapture will occur on May 21, 2011."
Lots of Twitter jokes in response: "That technically means I dont have to study for the two exams I have next week." Or, "i will cry, because i havent met justin bieber yet."
New York's Mayor Mike Bloomberg had some fun today with Camping's prediction of doom: "If the world ends tomorrow I don't think you'll have to worry about returning library books or parking tickets." (Thanks to WABC-TV for passing this on.)
Over at The Atlantic, Tina Dupuy doesn't think it's funny. "Doomsday prophets are religion's going out of business salesmen: 'You look like a nice guy, let me level with you, this deal is not going to be here tomorrow. This whole place is over. This deal — you'll never see it again. Yes, we take all major credit cards.'"
A colleague here noticed at least one entrepreneur on eBay, selling "$100,000 Rapture Insurance." Opening price: $19.99. "Don't be caught off guard and leave your family high and dry without a way to survive when you are taken to Heaven."
Courtney Hutchison of our staff asked theologians and psychologists to help explain why we're all so fascinated with Doomsday. Gary Laderman, chairman of the department of religion at Emory University, offered this thought:
"It's a scenario where you can pinpoint the heroes from the villains, good from evil. It's a powerful story that people identify with. It's not so foreign to be fixated on the end of the world, our society today just fixates on it in popular culture instead, with Armageddon movies."
Amid the guffaws, I'm seeing a lot of scientists and reporters saying they're determined not to make fun of the believers. They're not bad people, they're just wrong…right?