Some day the world will come to an end. Be it through a natural demise like the Sun expanding to devour it, or by the hand of the humans who occupy it, the fact that its days are numbered is undeniable. For nearly the entire life of the human race men have wondered and theorized about the end times. The Mayans predicted an exact day, the Christians an exact sequence of events, and in more recent years, cult leaders have again and again seen their prophecies about the rapture fail. I’d like to talk about the latter, cults, and some of the consequences of that Millennialism mentality.
A family friend of mine was one of the many people tricked into following Harold Camping and his predictions of the End Times in May 2011. My friend was utterly convinced that Mr. Camping was telling the truth, up to the point where he was willing to sell everything he had (which wasn’t much) and take his children on a cruise a few weeks before he thought the world was going to end. He believed he might as well spend all his money, since after May 2011 the world would be gone anyways. Thankfully, he was persuaded to not throw away his life savings based on Mr. Camping’s “prediction”. However, I was able to see first hand some of the consequences of Millennialism. Here was a man, with a family to provide for, willing to risk their whole future because he was tricked by Camping. While he was fortunate enough to not lose everything, others were not so lucky.
The fact that Mr. Camping was able to gain so many followers is a testament to his charisma. He was able to persuade thousands of sane, otherwise intelligent people to follow him, a remarkable feat.