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Doomsday: After Many Predictions, We're Still Here

Jan 6, 2011 – 8:00 AM
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Lee Speigel

Lee Speigel Contributor

"Repent, repent, the end is near!" Or is it?

How many times have we heard that in movies, on TV, throughout literature and in the Bible? Yet, as often as people have predicted a global apocalypse, we're still here, still intact.

You've undoubtedly heard about the upcoming end of the world, scheduled for Dec. 21, 2012. Based on an ancient Mayan calendar, some believe that date signals possible cataclysmic events for our home planet, where others, like NASA, insist the only thing that will happen on that day next year will be another winter solstice.

But, for all the preaching and chanting and doomsday whistle-blowing, you'd think that, by now, we would have learned that end-of-the-world predictors have sort of missed the mark.
Mayan calendar
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A Mayan religious calendar at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., expires on Dec. 21, 2012. Some have predicted that the world will end on that date.

One doesn't have to search through ancient texts and soothsayer pronouncements to find more modern apocalyptic visions.

In 1925, a young California resident, Margaret Rowan, claimed the angel Gabriel paid her a visit and foretold the end of the world in February of that year. Didn't happen.

Then, in 1954, Dorothy Martin insisted ships would arrive in Oak Park, Ill., to transport believers off the doomed planet. Didn't happen.

The Heaven's Gate mass suicide of 1997 was connected to the idea that when the Hale-Bopp comet passed by Earth, our planet would be cleaned and rejuvenated. Didn't happen.

Last year, we learned that, for just 30 bucks, we could all avoid doomsday by becoming ministers in the Church of the SubGenius, thereby allowing us to live forever. That sounded like a better deal than the Ginsu knives sold in TV infomercials.
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A man wears a doomsday sandwich board sign.

We shouldn't leave out the Jehovah's Witnesses. In the late 1800s, founder Charles Taze Russell predicted the world would end in 1914. After numerous follow-up end-of-world proclamations, this religious organization is no longer date-specific about doomsday but maintains that it will happen soon.

Now we see that Family Radio Worldwide evangelist Harold Camping has pegged May 21, 2011, as the date for the Rapture -- that pre-Armageddon ascent to heaven reserved for those who will be ultimately saved.

And please, before any of you start sending me e-mails, claiming that I'm being sacrilegious, or not honoring the Scriptures, or treating all of this a little too lightly, think about this: What if doomsday actually happens? Who's going to care at that point? It's not like you can convert your life's savings into travelers checks.

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And who's going to report it to the masses? I mean, we'll all sort of know it when it happens, so there won't be any further need for TV, radio, online or newspaper coverage of such a staggering event.

We won't have to worry about mortgage foreclosures, unemployment figures, lack of medical insurance, retirement funds or the war on terrorism.

Hmm, maybe an apocalypse is actually just what this planet needs. Of course I don't really mean that, but it probably makes sense to be a lot more prudent about paying so much attention to those who would call for an end to the only home we have.

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