Nevermind 2012. You might have heard that the Rapture will happen this coming Saturday, May 21, followed by five months of tribulation and then the Apocalypse on October 21. According to Harold Egbert Camping, things are going to be so bad in the meantime that any of us unlucky enough to survive will actually be grateful when the universe shuts its doors for good. Camping is no amateur–you know he’s good because he’s been predicting the end of the world for decades. His book 1994? set a date for the second coming in late September of the same year.
The great thing about debunking end time prophecies is that if you’re wrong, you don’t have to worry about being embarrassed. Apparently you don’t have to worry too much about being wrong if you’re in the business of issuing prophecies either. I’ll withhold judgment on Camping until next Sunday, but I will note that the Jehovahs Witnesses, who own so much prime Brooklyn real estate, have been demonstratably wrong on innumerable occasions, starting with their precursor, William Miller, who, after a couple of false starts, definitively settled on October 22, 1844 as the absolute last day. Click here for a nifty chart of 220 false end of the world predictions. Or if you like, click here for a list with a narrower scope, that just covers the years 1971-1997 (you can read more about Camping there too, if you’re interested).
The compilers limit themselves to Christian prophecies, but Jews have had their end time prophets too. Sabbatai Zevi (1626-1676) didn’t predict the end of the world exactly but the fulfillment of history. Before he converted to Islam in 1666, he said he was the Messiah and that he would lead the Jews back to the Holy Land. Islam is replete with End Time scenarios and prophecies; some Sufis believe the world will end in 2076. Here’s another list of End of the World prophecies that I found at Religious Tolerance.