That's less than two weeks away. Mr. Camping makes the six o'clock call, saying that monstrous earthquakes will begin then "around the Pacific Rim," where this author happens to live, and only about ninety or a hundred feet from it, depending on the tide. It will circle around the globe with the sun until the Apocalypse is complete about a day later. The surface of the Earth will pop like corn in a microwave while all believers will be Hoovered into Heaven in the process called the Rapture. Sinners will be left clinging bleakly to the ruined soil, watching the special effects ordained by the Book of Revelations, including the Antichrist, the battle of Armageddon and the end of all HBO miniseries forever.
Mr. Camping makes his prediction based on the premise that, among other things, 5/21/2011 will mark the day that it has been exactly 7,000 years since Noah's flood. If you've been keeping count at home, you'd know if he was off by a couple weeks, but at this location we're going to take his word for it.
Upon hearing of the imminent End of Days, this reporter contacted a spokesman for the Universal Church Triumphant of the Apathetic Agnostic (formal motto "We Don't Know and We Don't Care") for a reaction from the opposing camp and found it surprisingly positive. When asked about the Rapture, the spokesman replied "Well, we're a tad doubtful about the six PM call, since the Pacific Rim comprises about half the time zones on the planet and Mr. Camping did unsuccessfully predict the end of the world back in 1994, but we're praying he's right this time."
Is that true?
"No, that was irony. Let's just say we're hoping for it optimistically."
Really? The end of time? The utter destruction of all humanity?
"Had to happen sooner or later anyway. If you'll check your facts, you'll note that while the Rapture is scheduled for May 21st, the final dissolution of the cosmos isn't until October 21st. That gives us 153 days days of peace and quiet with Camping and hopefully, the rest of born-again Christianity having been slurped up into Heaven by the giant straw of God's mercy. That's a hundred and fifty-three days we can sleep in on Sunday, tolerate homosexuality, believe in evolution, fail to pray in public schools and use the Lord's name in vain when we injure ourselves accidentally without having to listen to some pious hemorrhoid tell us we're going to Hell for it."
But won't we, in fact, be going to Hell?
"There is that. On the other hand, we've got six months to plea-bargain our way out of it. Certainly, most of the attorneys on earth aren't going to get beamed into Heaven, so we'll have all the legal talent on the planet with which to seek a lighter sentence. Instead of an eternity of fiery damnation, maybe we can get off with supervised probation."
According to the Bible, isn't that what we have now?
"And so far it's worked out fine. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Condemning seven billion living souls to Hell at once is bound to cause logistical problems. No matter how hot they keep the place, adding that many room-temperature souls to it at once is bound to cool things off. I'm not saying it's going to freeze over, but…"
But what about the people who have devoted their lives to spreading the word about the end? Like Adam Larsen of Kansas, who's driving an RV around the country warning people of their coming doom. He's quoted as saying, "My favorite pastime is raccoon hunting, I've had to give that up. But this task is far more important."
"So, Armageddon is going to take the pressure off the raccoons as well. More good news. We're only worried that when Mr. Larsen gets funneled up to eternity, nobody's going to be behind the wheel of that RV. The end of the world is going to be dangerous enough without a lot of unmanned machinery rolling around. I expect the Mothers Against Raptured Driving will have a spike in donations on May 22nd."
The spokesman's other line was ringing in the background, and he excused himself to answer it. "Got to go," he said upon his return. "That was the Mayans. They're so ticked off about their eschatological fifteen minutes getting pre-empted, they're moving up their end of the world to this weekend. Hate to cut you short, but it's our responsibility to start not caring about that, either."
But which of the predictions is the correct one?
"Can't tell," he replied. "Just don't buy season tickets to anything is my advice."