Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Doomsdays of Yesteryear: Harold Camping - Rapture in September, 1994

From my column "Psychic Vibrations" in The Skeptical Inquirer, March/April, 1995:

1994 was a great year for the world ending. Indeed, the world ended more times in 1994 than in any other year in recent memory. Harold Camping, president and general manager of a 39-station network of religious radio broadcasters, proclaimed that before the end of September, 1994, the dead would be arising from their graves for their final judgment. Camping explained to the San Jose Mercury News (Sept. 4, 1994) that he had arrived at his prediction by a laborious and careful process of counting off significant dates in the Bible. Furthermore, his math has been checked by a nuclear physicist and “a number of scientists at the Lawrence Livermore lab,” as if errors in arithmetic were the only way such a prediction might go awry. Mainstream religious scholars, of course, suggested Camping was seriously mistaken. Fortunately, Camping exhorted his listeners, “Don't do anything bizarre. Just live the way you should have been living all the time.” His stations are still on the air, and seem to have found something else to talk about.
A current Harold Camping billboard in Stockton, CA. Photo by Michael Fitzgerald
 June 9, 1994 was another date on which the world ended. Various fundamentalist prognosticators somehow settled upon that date, and started warning ominously that “June ninth is coming,” the day on which God would supposedly “rip sin out of the world.”  Warnings were issued for a major destructive earthquake somewhere along the Pacific “ring of fire,” supposedly only the first event in an eschatological progression. So widespread was the expectation that it was even mentioned on the 700 Club [evangelist Pat Robertson’s popular TV program], although with the clear disclaimer that it would not be the start of the Rapture. When a large underground earthquake, which caused little or no damage or casualties, struck on this date, it was hailed as fulfillment of the prophecy. The last we checked, the world still had plenty of sin.
But don't give up on the eschaton merely because the world has survived into 1995. Dr. Leland Jensen of Missoula, Montana says that he is the Second Coming, and that during 1995 the earth will suffer great meteor impacts, earthquakes, and major planetary changes. Those lucky enough to survive all this will enjoy Heaven on Earth. And according to a story in the Washington Post (March 12, 1994), followers of the Institute of Divine Metaphysical Research expect the world to end in an instant, by 1996. So the end may come while you are reading this page. Fortunately, even if these people are right, they won't be in a position to gloat about it!


  1. Assuming May 21 is THE day, perhaps you or a reader will clariy the time aspect for me.

    I have read that the event begins at 6 pm. Is that standard or daylight time? My location (Arizona) does not switch to daylight savings time, does that mean the unsaved get to enjoy an extra hour before the hammer falls while Colorado and Utah are obliterated?

    If only it were so simple - Navajo and Apache counties in the eastern part of my state DO go on daylight time, so will they get wiped out with the rest of the Mountain Time Zone?

    How much time does it take to repent? If this event begins at 6 pm local time, I figure I have roughly 16-17 hours (give or take an hour) before it hits my location. If I receive word that Australia has been wiped out, I will issue an absolutely sincere apology for my sins.

  2. Tyler,

    I was puzzling over some of these same questions myself. Did Camping say it was going to be at 6PM, and if so, didn't he bother to specify which time zone?

    May 21, like every other day, begins at the date line in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Since I'm in California, the day is already 21 hours old "somewhere" before it even begins here. So if we hear reports of the dead crawling up out of graves in Pacific islands (Tahiti, for example), even the Australians will have at least a few hours to do whatever it is one has to do to repent. Also, airport radars should detect the clutter of airborne Christians, so it won't take long to realize that it's happening.

    For these reasons, it seems to me that The Rapture might occur simultaneously, across the globe. Probably the author of Revelations didn't realize that the world was round, and hence didn't foresee this problem. Maybe it will be at 6PM in Jerusalem, the Holy City. Or wherever. That means that some Christians have to do their Rapting in darkness. It would be wise for the faithful to sleep outdoors the night of May 20-21 whenever possible, to lessen the danger of being trapped in ceilings or attics. Care must be taken to avoid injury to those who suddenly experience an unfamiliar buoyancy, but do not have a clear path up to the open sky. Special attention must be paid to those who are in institutions such as hospitals and may have IV tubes or other restraints attached, and to those in prison who have found Salvation. The latter are especially likely to become entrapped in bars, or perhaps even be shot by guards who believed them to be trying to escape.

    Some have suggested that, during the Rapture, Raptees can travel through solid walls, like those experiencing a UFO abduction. If so, that will solve many problems. However, it may also be that only their bodies can travel through solid objects, leaving behind all clothes and prostheses. If this is the case, some will undoubtedly lose their Salvation by becoming unduly aroused by the sight of so many beautiful naked bodies. This may result in them falling from a very great height, so those still on the ground should remain safely under solid cover while others are still Rapting.

  3. Only four days to go, folks.
    Make the most of them.


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