'Rapture' apocalypse prediction sparks atheist reaction

File photo of Harold Camping Harold Camping says he will spend Saturday at home in California

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US atheists are holding parties in response to an evangelical broadcaster's prediction that Saturday will be "judgement day".

The Rapture After Party in North Carolina - "the best damned party in NC" - is among the planned events.

Harold Camping, 89, predicts that Jesus Christ will return to earth on Saturday and true believers will be swept up, or "raptured", to heaven.

He has used broadcasts and billboards to publicise his ideas.

He says biblical texts indicate that a giant earthquake on Saturday will mark the start of the world's destruction, and that by 21 October all non-believers will be dead.

Mr Camping has predicted an apocalypse once before, in 1994, though followers now say that only referred to an intermediary stage.

"We learn from the Bible that Holy God plans to rescue about 200 million people," says a text on the website of Mr Camping's network, Family Radio Worldwide.

"On the first day of the Day of Judgment (May 21, 2011) they will be caught up (raptured) into Heaven because God had great mercy for them."

'Countdown to back-pedalling'

The Rapture After Party in Fayetteville, North Carolina, is a two-day event organised by the Central North Carolina Atheists and Humanists.

Promoters of Harold Camping's prediction in New York, 13 May 2011 This prediction has been given an unusually high level of publicity

"Though the absurdity of this claim is obvious to the majority of the world, it's a great opportunity to highlight some of the most bizarre beliefs often put forth by religious fundamentalists and raise awareness of the need for reason," said a posting about the party on the group's website.

Atheists in Tacoma, Washington, have headed their celebration "countdown to back-pedalling".

Events were also due to take place in Texas, Florida and California.

An atheist and entrepreneur from New Hampshire, Bart Centre, is enjoying a boost in business for Eternal Earth-bound Pets, which he set up to look after the pets of those who believe they will be raptured.

He has more than 250 clients who are paying up to $135 (£83) to have their pets picked up and cared for after the rapture.

They would be disappointed twice, he told the Wall Street Journal. "Once because they weren't raptured and again because I don't do refunds."

'No Plan B'

Meanwhile Mr Camping says he knows "without any shadow of a doubt" that "judgement day" is arriving.

There is no "Plan B", he says.

His campaign has been unusually widely promoted - both in the US and overseas, including in the Middle East.

In Vietnam, thousands of members of the Hmong ethnic minority gathered near the border with Laos earlier this month to await the 21 May event, the Associated Press reported.

He said rolling earthquakes would occur at 1800 in the world's various time zones.

The internet has been alive with reactions as the apocalypse failed to materialise in various countries.

One early posting on Twitter read: "Harold Camping's 21st May Doomsday prediction fails; No earthquake in New Zealand."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 305.

    I am a Christian who has done extensive bible study all my life, and I cannot make any sense of these predictions. Yes, Christ will return, but he makes it quite clear that only the Father will know the day and time, not some American preacher. It is sad that this kind of miss-understanding of the bible gives such bad publicity to real Christianity and the true meaning of the Gospel.

  • rate this

    Comment number 245.

    As a Christian I &, I am sure, the majority of Christians find these "end of the world" predictions tedious & depressing. Sadly, it gets into the press no matter how small they start out. I'm curious exactly how many believe compared to the number of Christians who think it is hogwash. I think the number of believers will be statistically negligible but it still gets all this press attention.

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    I'm a Christian and having great fun over this nonsense. The Bible is pretty explicit in saying that nobody knows the day or the hour. When anybody says they know when the end is happening, it is always about their ego and never about God. Also fundamentalists always try to use fear and guilt to coerce non believers... conversely Jesus used genuine love to convict them. See you all tomorrow :-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    All you cynics posting here are going to look pretty damn stupid if this prediction turns out to be correct! You can always console yourself that if the prediction actually turns out to be correct, there'll as least be no-one left to laugh at you...

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    Haha, I'm in Wellington New Zealand and we all seem to be fine.. it's almost May 22!


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