Sunday, May 22, 2011

Doomsday dud explained!
Harold Camping has some serious explaining to do. Or does he? He may be an embarrassment to Christians, laughing stock to atheists, and a "nut" to everyone else, but what motivated his charismatic confidence? (Image: Karl Tate, TechMediaNetwork)

If readers are reading this, Harold Camping and's predictions that the end of the world would start Saturday (May 21, 6:00 pm) failed to pan out.

That's good news for most of us. But Camping and his Christian followers were looking forward to the end. After all, they believed that they were likely to be among the 200 million souls sent to live in [space] paradise forever.

[That is the total number to get to heaven, past and present, because the worldwide earthquake was going to toss up the dead, according to Camping.]

Piestrup documenting Camping in the run up to the end (Michael Macor/The Chronicle).

So how do believers cope when their doomsday predictions fail? It depends, said Lorenzo DiTommaso, a professor of religion at Concordia University in Montreal who studies the history of doomsday predictions.

Doomsdays without Doom

The classic study of "doomsdays gone bad" took place in 1954. A Chicago woman named Dorothy Martin predicted a cataclysmic flood from which a few true believers would be saved by aliens. Martin and her cult, The Seekers, gathered the night before the expected flood to await the flying saucer.

Unbeknown to them, however, their group had been infiltrated by psychologist Leon Festinger, who hoped to find out what happens when the rug of people's beliefs is pulled out from under them. Festinger's study, which became the basis of the book When Prophecy Fails (Harper-Torchbooks 1956), revealed... More

Countdown to extinction: the last seven days with 89 year old Christian prophet Harold Camping. "It's the gays and drug addicts!"