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Apocalypse Date

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The evangelical broadcaster who left followers crestfallen by his failed prediction that last Saturday would be Judgement Day says he miscalculated.

Harold Camping said it had "dawned" on him that God would spare humanity "hell on Earth for five months" and the apocalypse would happen on 21 October. Mr. Camping said he felt "terrible" about his mistake. But he said he could not give financial advice to those who spent their life savings in the belief the end was nigh.

Mr. Camping had predicted that on 21 May, true believers would be swept up to heaven while a giant earthquake would bring destruction for those left behind. His independent ministry, Family Radio International, spent millions of dollars on broadcasts, billboards and campaign vehicles to publicize the prediction. Some followers donated their life savings or simply gave away their worldly possessions as the day approached. Many expressed bewilderment and shock as the day came and went with no sign of the global cataclysm. "I've been mocked and scoffed and cursed at," said Jeff Hopkins, a retired TV producer in New York State who spent some of his savings customising his car to showcase Mr. Camping's warning. "It's like getting slapped in the face."

Mr. Camping had not been seen since Saturday until he appeared on a show on his Open Forum radio show, broadcast from Oakland, California, on Monday to give a 90-minute sometimes rambling presentation that included a question-and-answer session with reporters. He said that when his prediction had failed to materialise he felt so terrible that he took refuge in a motel with his wife. He said sorry for not having the dates "worked out as accurately as I could have" and added "I'm not a genius, and I pray all the time for wisdom". Over the weekend, he said, he had returned to the scripture and it had "dawned" on him that a "merciful and compassionate God" would spare humanity by compressing the apocalyptic destruction into a shorter time frame. But he insisted 21 October had always been the end-point of his own chronology - or at least his own latest chronology, as a previous prophecy that the apocalypse would strike in 1994 also failed to come to pass.

Asked if he had any advice to offer those who had given away their material wealth in the belief the world was about to end, Mr. Camping said they would cope. "We just had a great recession. There are lots of people who lost their jobs, lots of people who lost their houses... and somehow they all survived," he said. "We're not in the business of giving any financial advice," he added. "We're in the business of telling people maybe there is someone you can talk to, and that's God."

Questions for discussion:

  1. What are your opinions regarding people like Harold Camping and their followers?
  2. Imagine that the world really is going to in the next few months. What are your plans for your last weeks on earth?
  3. If the world really is going to end this year: how do you think it will happen? What possible Doomsday scenarios have you heard about or seen in movies?
  4. Do you think that the human race will survive forever or will we become extinct some day? Will humans outlast the Earth? If we die out, what do you think will be the cause of our extinction?
  5. Many Christians believe that the worthy few will be swept up to heaven by God in the rapture while the sinners will be left behind to suffer hell on Earth. Do you think you are good enough to qualify for the rapture or will you be left behind? How good do you think a person has to be to be chosen?
  6. Imagine: scientists predict that the world will be hit by a series of cataclysmic disasters starting with multiple asteroid strikes followed by massive tsunamis, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions that will effectively destroy human civilization. The majority of the world’s population is not expected to survive and those who do will have to struggle in a world without any functioning governments. It will be anarchy. Survivors will have to compete with each other for whatever food, water and other resources are still available.
    • How will you survive?
    • How will you eat?
    • How will you protect yourself and your family?
    • What will you need to prepare?

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