Friday, May 20, 2011

Everybody panic! We only have hours left on earth!


This isn’t simply Judgment Day for Arnold Schwarzenneger and his marital transgressions. Our own Judgment Day is upon us: Family Radio, a non-denominational Christian radio station, is predicting the end of the world for this Saturday, May 21. 

The date is supposedly based on careful study of the Bible by the station’s founder, Harold Camping, who uses a very…well, interesting mathematical formula to come up with his date.

The imminent judgment day is part of a pretty fringe non-denominational message that Camping spreads. The radio station also has lately started advocating that the “Church age is over” and that Satan is now ruling all churches. He suggests that no one remaining inside a church at the time of the rapture can be “saved.”
Family Radio is based out of Oakland, CA but they have 66 stations all across the country as well as a half dozen in different countries around the world. The station was founded in 1958 and managed to stay around this whole time. Despite their fringe positions they still manage yearly revenues in the millions of dollars, mostly through listener donations.

So what’s the exact reasoning that led Camping to the date? According to an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle (we’re sorry in advance if this makes your head hurt):
The number 5, Camping concluded, equals “atonement.” Ten is “completeness.” Seventeen means “heaven.” Camping patiently explained how he reached his conclusion for May 21, 2011. “Christ hung on the cross April 1, 33 A.D.,” he began. “Now go to April 1 of 2011 A.D., and that’s 1,978 years.”
Camping then multiplied 1,978 by 365.2422 days – the number of days in each solar year, not to be confused with a calendar year.
Next, Camping noted that April 1 to May 21 encompasses 51 days. Add 51 to the sum of previous multiplication total, and it equals 722,500.
Camping realized that (5 x 10 x 17) x (5 x 10 x 17) = 722,500.
Or put into words: (Atonement x Completeness x Heaven), squared.
“Five times 10 times 17 is telling you a story,” Camping said. “It’s the story from the time Christ made payment for your sins until you’re completely saved.
So there you have it. Irrefutable proof that the world is going to end.
Never mind that the April 1, 33 A.D. for Jesus’ crucifixion doesn’t actually have any biblical basis, and never mind that the numbers 5, 10 and 17 are basically just being pulled out of nowhere. This questionable math hasn’t stopped the station’s hosts from embracing the date wholeheartedly or stopping tens of thousands of listeners from tuning in to hear the news.

The slightly more frightening thing is that Family Radio doesn’t seem to be trying to get anything out of this other then attention and listeners. They aren’t doing any sort of fundraising drive to accompany their doomsday prediction. If it’s a PR stunt, it’s a pretty bad one — all of their attention dries up next week if the world doesn’t end. That leaves what, for us, is a much scarier concept: that they actually believe what they’re selling.

This isn’t the first time Camping has predicted the end of the world either. He said the world was going to end for the first time on Sept. 6, 1994 and promoted the date for several years beforehand. On the fateful day, Camping and his followers gathered in the Veteran’s Memorial Center in Alameda, California, dressed in their Sunday best with Bibles open and facing the heavens. When the end didn’t come, Camping said something about a math error and started running new calculations. Eventually he came up with the new date.
It’s a pretty unsettling fact of religion that someone always seems to have the need to preach about the end times. In the last decade alone we’ve seen at least a dozen different crazies claim that the end was just around the corner. Turns out, the world is still here.

This is probably just another crazy preacher trying to get more attention with drastic claims, and there’s not going to be much harm to anything other then the man’s credibility. Either way, if we’re all still around, we’re going to be pretty interested in seeing what Family Radio will be airing on May 22.

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