Thinking about the new year always gets me in the mood for … doomsday!
Yes, that’s right. The end of the world. Why? Because this is the time of year when all the so-called prophets, doomsayers, religious kooks—er, I mean televangelists—historians, and psychics come out with their predictions for the end of the world. Some will say it’s almost here! Others will hedge their bets by giving a later date. Or no date at all, just a vague warning. Many will just ask that you pony up some cash, and they’ll entreat God to postpone it (and when nothing happens, they’ll say he worked a miracle!).
Wikipedia, the font of all Internet knowledge, mentions more than 165 major/interesting predictions of doomsday since 66 AD. This year I decided to see if 2018 had been predicted for global destruction. Often January 1 is the date. But it seems like we’re safe this year (although the future looks dim), so let’s look back on some of the better predictions and a few of the ones to come.
* 365 AD: Hilary of Poitiers, a French bishop, announces that the end of the world will happen later in the year. He started a trend for the next 1652 years of getting it wrong.
* 1285: Pope Innocent III predicts the world will end 666 years after the rise of Islam. While no one remembers him, the number 666 is famous throughout the world.
* 1524: A group of astrologers in London predicts the end of the world will begin with an enormous flood in London. 20,000 residents pack up and leave. One can only assume how the astrologers were treated when those people came home.
* 1524: Thomas Müntzer, an Anabaptist, and his followers announce the beginning of the Millennium (the time of the reckoning). He and his people face off against government troops and lose when the cannons are brought out. Poor Thomas is tortured and then beheaded, proving it pays to stay quiet if you’re not sure.
* 1534: Jan Matthys gives a great prediction, that the Apocalypse would occur on April 5 and only the city of Münster, Germany would be spared. Herman and Grandpa rejoice.
* 1697: Cotton Mather. This old prune-faced Puritan minister wouldn’t take “wrong” for an answer. He predicted the end of the world in 1697. When it didn’t happen, he revised the date two more times. And somehow people still believed him, showing that lack of common sense was just as prevalent then as now.
* 1780: When the skies mysteriously darken over New England, the Connecticut General Assembly announces the end of times has arrived. Later, it turns out to be a combination of a terrible forest fire on a cloudy day. And this proves that government was just as clueless then as now.
* 1806: A hen in England lays eggs with the words “Christ is Coming” on them. This is eventually discovered to be a hoax perpetrated by Mary Bateman, who went to the trouble of writing on the eggs and then sticking them back into the chicken to be laid again. This began the trend of doing stupid things in order to become famous.
* 1844: William Miller, leader of the Millerites movement in the U.S., stands out in this list because he predicts Christ will return on March 21. When that doesn’t happen, he changes it to October 22. When it still doesn’t happen, the Millerites undergo the “Great Disappointment,” a period of upheaval in their movement which couldn’t have been fun. In fact, members wrote about being taunted by adults and children, asking if they had their tickets to “go up.” Caricatures of the group’s leaders appeared in newspapers. And in some cities, Millerites were attacked by mobs and their churches burned down. Eventually, calmer heads prevailed and the Millerites changed their basic tenets, going on to form the basis of what is today known as the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, the fastest-growing religious organization in North America. With a focus on spirituality and total body health, and scientific evidence showing their members live longer than the general population, it’s hard to say they aren’t doing something right. They also still believe in a coming Armageddon, but they no longer predict the date.
*1910: Proving that science won’t be left out, Camille Flammarion predicts that Halley’s Comet will impregnate the atmosphere and snuff out all life on the planet. This led to “comet pills” being sold to protect against toxic fumes. At least people made money!
* 1892-1911: Charles Piazzi Smyth spends years on calculations based on the dimensions of the Great Pyramid of Giza and determines the Second Coming will happen between 1892 and 1911. Sadly, Smyth’s math skills were not quite as good as he believed.
* 1935: Televangelist Wilbur Glenn Voliva provides some comic relief when he announces that “the world is going to go ‘puff’ and disappear” in 1935. The only thing that disappeared was his reputation.
* 1969: Good ol’ Charlie Manson predicts that a race war in 1969 will bring about the end of the world. Wonder how many times he thought back on that prediction while sitting in prison?
* 1972: Herbert Armstrong issues the third of his three apocalyptic dates. (He previously believed 1936 and 1943 would be the dates.) While he was obviously a nut, you have to give him credit for never giving up!
* 1974: David Berg, the leader of the Children of God, says that the end of the world will be heralded by the comet Kohoutek.
* 1975: The Jehovah’s Witnesses spent every year since 1966 trying to convince people the world would end in 1975. Somehow, the world, and them, are all still here.
* 1976: Pat Robertson, the world’s worst emissary of God, predicts on national TV that the world will end in 1982. This proves to be neither the first nor last time he makes an ass of himself in front of the world.
* 1978: Leland Jensen believes a nuclear disaster in 1980 will initiate Armageddon, followed by 20 years of global conflict. He’s pretty much come the closest, with Three Mile Island in 1979 and then the near-catastrophic crash and fire at a military base in the Midwest, including a plane with 10 hydrogen bombs aboard. And we do know that the years 1980 to 2000 had plenty of conflicts. But, once again we’re still here, so Jensen gets no prize.
* 1993: Not satisfied to be wrong once, David Berg announces the Second Coming is coming. Strike two!
* 1996: Sheldan Nidle, a psychic, predicts the world will end on December 17, accompanied by 16 million space ships and a host of angels. Later it’s determined he just listened to Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush” too many times.
* 1999: The President of Yale University, Timothy Dwight IV, predicts Christ’s Millennium will begin in the year 2000. Hundreds of Harvard students and faculty get a good laugh.
* 2000: There are no fewer than 11 predictions for 2000 being the end of times, some dating back to the 13th century. Isaac Newton, Ruth Montgomery, Edgar Cayce, Sun Myung Moon, and others all picked this date. And that doesn’t count all the scientists who said the world would collapse due to computer failures. Other Y2K loons include Joseph Kibweteere, Jerry Falwell, Tim LaHaye, and Jerry Jenkins.
* 2007: He’s back! Pat Robertson now believes April 29 will be the day of the Earth’s destruction. And yet somehow he still gets his suckers—I mean, followers—to fork over their hard-earned money. Seriously, I’m in the wrong business!
* 2012: Thanks to the Mayans and their crazy calendar, hundreds of thousands of people believe this is the year the asteroid Nibiru will destroy Earth. Or maybe it will be aliens. Or a supernova. Instead, the closest we come to a miracle is the Giants beating New England in the Super Bowl.
* 2013: Way back when, Grigori Rasputin predicted this would be the year fire destroys the world and Jesus returns. His crazy eyes prove to be no match for actual reality.
* 2017: David Meade, scientist, conspiracy theorist, and ancient alien devotee, brings the focus back to Nibiru and says that on September 23 it will destroy the earth. Giorgio Tsoukalos’ hair sags in sympathy when it doesn’t happen.
What does the future hold?
Well, Jeane Dixon, the famous American psychic, claimed that 2020 is the date of Armageddon, and the time when Jesus, Satan, and False Prophet will battle it out for all our souls. She also previously claimed the end of the world would happen in 1962, so … maybe we shouldn’t start worrying just yet. Although that would be the final year of Trump’s presidency …
- Kenton Beshore, a pastor, says that Jesus actually returned in 1988 and that the Second Coming will be between 2018 and 2028.
The Messiah Foundation International has the idea that in 2026 an asteroid will strike the earth. Scientists say the odds of that are 300,000 to 1. Which, considering the odds of winning a lottery jackpot are 1 in 750 million and the odds of getting struck by lightning are 700,000 to 1, isn’t exactly comforting.
The Orthodox Jewish Talmud states the Messiah will return in 2239 and the end of the world will occur 1000 years later. This one is my favorite, because I’ll be long gone before it happens.
So, with all that in mind, Happy New Year!
Until next time … (if there is one!)