Well we survived the Mayan Apocalypse. Whew! What a load off the shoulders of all those doomsday preppers out there. Or is it? I mean, once you get past the feeling of being a total fool, what do you do for fun?
Here’s the thing, people: the end of the world has apparently been coming for a long, long time. The first prediction I can find through my lazy Google search was for 634 BC. Apparently a lot of Romans thought that 12 eagles had revealed some mystical number that was supposed to represent the lifetime of Rome, and people arbitrarily decided that that each eagle represented 10 years, so Rome was supposed to be destroyed 120 years after its founding. I wonder how you prepare for the end of the world in an era when you don’t have canned goods?
There were many predictions that the world would end on December 31, 1999, but this kind of millennium prediction is, apparently, old hat, because the same thing happened 1000 years previously. Even the Pope at the time was in on that prediction, causing riots throughout Europe. Boy, I bet Pope Sylvester II felt awfully sheepish the next day. Doomsday predictions based on calendars that are made up, often quite arbitrarily, by humans make me laugh. (See more about that in my previous blog entry entitled “I’ve Got Your Number. Right here. https://theviewfromadrawbridge.wordpress.com/2012/12/12/ive-got-your-number-right-here/ )
Oh these pesky, impetuous popes! The ironically named Pope Innocent III predicted that the world would end 666 years after the beginning of Islam. So we should have been toast in the year 1284. Honestly? Is this responsible behavior for God’s Representative on Earth? I don’t think so!
But the funniest predictions, if you ask me, are from the people or groups whom I call “revisers”. These are people who have the audacity to push the date further out into the future when their previous predictions don’t come to pass. Case in point, the Bible Student Movement, the group responsible for originating those delightful Watch Tower tracts that get stuffed under your windshield wipers at strip malls to this day, has predicted that the world would end in 1874, and then (oops!) 1878, and then (our bad) 1881, and then (we mean it this time, really we do) 1908, and then (seriously) 1914, 1916, 1918, 1920, and 1925. For crying out loud, people! What’s it going to take for you to stop getting sucked in to this stuff?
The Jehovah’s Witnesses branched off from the Bible Student Movement, and jumped right on the doomsday bandwagon. They have predicted our ruin would occur in the years 1941, 1975, 1984, and then they wised up and got more vague and said it would all be over “sometime” before 2000. Well, so much for that. And yet I still get these people knocking on my door. When is THAT going to end? That’s what *I* want to know.
Another one I find amusing is Elizabeth Claire Prophet. She was the leader of the Church Universal and Triumphant. She became convinced that the Russians would start a nuclear attack and had her followers spend millions building an enormous fallout shelter. But we all know that construction projects are rarely, if ever, completed on time, so when the bunker wasn’t done by the predicted date of the nuclear attack, she simply revised the date. You’d think that would have been a bit of a red flag, but no. When the structure was finally completed, everyone took shelter and waited for the explosions, which, of course, never came. Not surprisingly, the movement lost a lot of followers after that, including her own son. Search her on youtube and you’ll see a lot of interesting footage of her in full military garb, or speaking in tongues. She came by her flair for languages honestly, though, as she claimed to have been previously incarnated as Nefertiti, Queen Guinevere of Camelot (apparently she was real after all), St. Theresa of Avila, St. Catherine of Sienna and Marie Antoinette. She died of Alzheimer’s disease in 2009, leaving behind a big ol’ honkin’ fallout shelter in Montana, in case you and a couple thousand of your friends should ever need one.
Okay, so I have been poking fun at all these doomsday chumps, but sadly, these predictions can have a very negative and sometimes tragic fallout, if you’ll excuse the pun. People often spend a great deal of time and money preparing for an end that never comes. They also warp their children into living a life of fear and anxiety and paranoia. And even worse are the predictions that lead to death. On March 26, 1997, Marshall Applewhite and 38 of his followers in the Heaven’s Gate Cult committed mass suicide so that they could be picked up by a space ship and live lives at “a level of existence above human”.
Of course, I have no answers for all of this, and I’m certainly not going to make any predictions. I just know that there are a lot of people with anxiety disorders in the world, and there are even more people who are so desperate for answers that they’re willing to follow those people. I prefer not knowing the date of my demise. If the bombs are going to fall, I’d rather have them drop right on my head while I’m living my life to the fullest.