Globe Editorial

Judgment Day: The next one could be worse

May 20, 2011

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Maybe you’re wondering whether to sell those Sox tickets you have for tomorrow. Harold Camping, a California-based radio host and head of the Family Radio network, has concluded, based on his version of biblical numerology, that tomorrow is Judgment Day. The faithful will be raptured up to heaven, while everyone else will face five months of fire, brimstone, and “Real Housewives’’ reruns leading up to the end of the world. To alert the public, Camping and his disciples have been handing out pamphlets and taking out ads around the world.

While Camping and his crew have been unusually aggressive, they aren’t the first to predict the end times, nor will they be the last. History is regularly punctuated with predictions about calamities, whether theological, economic, or environmental. Indeed, this is Camping’s second attempt; almost 20 years ago he predicted that the rapture would occur on Sept. 6, 1994.

Despite his less than stellar track record, some of Camping’s disciples this time around have mortgaged their futures to get his message out. A married couple, both medical students, gave up internships in Orlando to spread the word in Bulgaria, while a former New York transit worker pumped $140,000 into ads plastered around that city. For some people, the universal human desire to be a part of epochal times — to stand at the center of history — is strong enough to overcome all skepticism.

And if tomorrow proves anticlimactic for Camping’s followers, well, there are other opportunities: The Mayan doomsday arrives, by some calculations, in December of next year.