Please Explain: Apocalypse Predictions

Friday, May 20, 2011

You may have noticed billboards and people handing out pamphlets in the subways claiming that the world will on May 21. Well, since that’s tomorrow, for today’s Please Explain we thought we’d investigate the long history of doomsday predictions. We’re joined by Jesus Rodriguez-Velasco, Professor in the Department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures at Columbia University, who teaches a class called “The End of the World.” John R. Hall, professor of sociology at the University of California Davis, and author of Apocalypse: From Antiquity to the Empire of Modernity. And Doug Weaver, Associate Professor of Religion at Baylor University.


John R. Hall, Jesus Rodriguez-Velasco and Doug Weaver

Comments [45]

Phil from Sparta

I just heard that Mr. Campings's new prediction is 10/21/2011. I trust you won't waste our time with another segment on "the end of the world".
Again, the entire concept has proven itself to be nothing more than superstitious drivel.

May. 24 2011 09:07 AM
Giuseppe from Manhattan

Mankind has been fascinated with recondite numerical codes
hidden within the fabric of reality at least since Pythagoras.
The arcane beliefs of numerology reincarnated in the scientific
method, which sanctioned mathematics as the most effective
language to study Nature. Nonetheless, the belief that this is
Nature's deep language rather than the language we use to
describe Nature persists.

Curiously, some of the most formidable advances in technology
(computer science's reduction of information to bits) and math
(the proof of Gödel's incompleteness theorem) can be considered
as going in the opposite directions: transforming language to

May. 21 2011 08:21 PM
John Steinmetz from New York, NY

This Saturday?

I am making my preparations. I am going to the bank, this afternoon, to have all my money converted into American Express Travelers Checks. They are good anywhere, so, I am taking my AmEx checks along.

However, what I am to wear?

I don’t know if I will be going to a warm place or a cold cloud. I am not looking forward of spending the rest of my ‘life’ on a cold fluffy cloud. I am afraid that I will slip thru some thin cloud and fall all the way down. However, if I do, do that, I will be in a nice warm place.

…And what about all the people who are flying? They won’t have anyplace to land. Boy, are they going to rack-up frequent-flyer miles. Do you really think that the airlines going to honor them? How are the airlines going to deal the pilot’s rest periods?

Leonard Lopate really missed this opportunity to have these believers donate all their wealth to the WNYC pledge drive. It could be enough money to see this season thru.
Me? I’m not donating any money to WNYC, since it won’t be around for me to listen to. I’ll just have to listen to heavenly music.

May. 20 2011 02:30 PM
Ed from Larchmont

One should note that from a Catholic point of view, the idea of left behind - people taken away, those left destroyed, and the first returned to the earth, and judged later, is heretical. But if it makes us think of the end of time, it might be a good thing.

May. 20 2011 02:10 PM
Esther from Montreal

Dear Brian from Hoboken,
As an orthodox Jew I can clearly say that the same G-d you don' t believe in, (magical person who lives in the sky) I also don't believe in!

May. 20 2011 02:04 PM
Brian from Hoboken

I think this is all phooey but I would like to point out that Christians and Jews today have made fun of Camping and his followers as crazies. For any other religious people out there who want to poke fun of this topic, keep in mind that you go to church or synagogue, get down on your knees in unison, and chant and sing to magical person who lives in the sky. So to my eyes you also look crazy. The old saying "pot calling the kettle black" comes to mind.

May. 20 2011 01:58 PM
jesse from bloomfield

Just wanted to say that I don't agree with Mr. Camping also, another scripture in revelation tells that god will destroy those destroying the earth. So again the earth isn't going anywhere. Thanks. Can't remember the exact scripture though.

May. 20 2011 01:53 PM
Dennis C. McGrath

No empty shoes here.
No one in blue sky above.
Rats. Got work Monday.

May. 20 2011 01:52 PM
Jim from NYC

We are planning a "Rapture Sale", tomorrow. "Everything WILL go"
And if we survive to Sunday we'll follow-up w/ a "Fire (and brimstone) Sale"

May. 20 2011 01:50 PM
Lee from BPC

So if back in the day everyone gave up everything to the church perhaps now is a good time to give up everything to WNYC. Good pledge drive planning!!!

May. 20 2011 01:49 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Or at least there will always be ways to *interpret* events as indicating that the apocalypse is imminent.

And since Leonard just mentioned global climate change, I'll add that my interpretation of God's promise after the Flood is, "I won't destroy life on Earth again...I'll leave that to you!" Complete w/the rising of the waters.

May. 20 2011 01:49 PM
Karl W from Brooklyn

As Peter Tosh sang: Everyone wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die. Interesting how much attention is getting, Thanks for another interesting show.

May. 20 2011 01:48 PM

I sometimes feel quite alarmed and panicked about the world, about people and our behavior. I an understand the sentiments of the caller. And how maybe it could even be a sort of relief for the world to end.

May. 20 2011 01:48 PM
Ed from Larchmont

Careful, you have to specify which Church.

May. 20 2011 01:47 PM
John Morrisoj from NYC

WNYC is missing a major fundraising opportunity here: "Rapture Pledge". Good deed, can only help you rapture... put it on your Amex and never have to pay!

May. 20 2011 01:47 PM
DarkSymbolist from NYC!

Oh Raymond, Raymond, Raymond......sigh...

May. 20 2011 01:46 PM
Jude from NYC

I'm afraid I'll inadvertently get "raptured" and be stuck for eternity on some obscure cloud with a bunch of believers. I am not a believer. Can I hang garlic or something so that god guy doesn't scoop me up?

May. 20 2011 01:45 PM
jesse from bloomfield

I just wanted to share a scripture at Isaiah 45:18 it says god created the earth created the earth firmly established it not for nothing but to be inhabited. So the earth isn't going anywhere, the world as we know it along with its governments are another story.

May. 20 2011 01:44 PM
Ellen Laveyra from Brooklyn

Why is WNYC giving so much air time to this topic? It'd rather listen to the pledge drive. Enough already

May. 20 2011 01:42 PM
Ed from Larchmont

You can use the Bible to predict any date, using different pieces. But the Church is the authoritative interpreter of the Bible. What they have said is 'Be prepared at all times'.

May. 20 2011 01:42 PM
Martha from Brooklyn

How do the followers of these apocalyptic predictions deal with the failure of their predictions -- in other words, how do they explain the day after to themselves? What's the psychology there?

(Also, it's Revelation, not Revelations -- small point)

May. 20 2011 01:42 PM
Andy from Belmar NJ

Harold Camping comes off as a sincere, if little odd, curmudgeon.
He believes that the end of the world starts with an earthquake and the rapture, tomorrow, around 6 PM.

Michael Stipe was right, I feel fine

May. 20 2011 01:41 PM
silvia from new jersey

The book of Revelation indicates 144,000 that will reign with Jesus and a great crowd. This indicates that the survivors that will live on earth will not have a fix number and can be millions. Also, the use of the 12 tribes of Israel is symbolic because some of the names mentioned in that chapter did not have a tribe, like Joseph, and it is also missing some names that did have a tribe.

May. 20 2011 01:40 PM
Ed from Larchmont

The book of revelations dates from the 90s AD, but it doesn't specify a date. It is included in the inspired canon. You can tell from items in the text. It says that John wrote it while on Patmos, so it can be dated to the 90s.

May. 20 2011 01:39 PM
antichrist h. from 4th dimension

obama needs to qurantine natayahu when he arrives here and immediately make israel into 52 state, america loves jews and vice versa..tadaaa everyones happy then we will travel freely to jerusalem and claim our new world order...that would be death to this world

May. 20 2011 01:39 PM
Ed from Larchmont

When you hear from the Catholic Church that the end is near, then pay attention.

May. 20 2011 01:35 PM
Anne Mendelson

Don't forget all the wild things that have been believed about the "New Jerusalem" -- for instance, the episode in 1534 when a bunch of zealous Anabaptists seized the city of Munster, proclaimed the New Jerusalem there, and instituted a reign of terror for more than a year.

May. 20 2011 01:34 PM
Gary from the Village from New York

Important Judgement Day Update:

I just figured out the latest miscalculation by the preacher that will delay the rapture by a few more years. It is this. The Bible is a lot of unscientific nonsense. Just read it for its uplifting moral values and shut the hell up!

May. 20 2011 01:32 PM
smh from CT

It is already May 21 in Japan and that part of the world and they're still there. Is Camping's Bible US-Centric?

May. 20 2011 01:27 PM

When was the book of Revelations written?

May. 20 2011 01:27 PM
vanessa from downtown, BK

Excuse me your guest is totally wrong about the 144,000 that will be saved, (unless he is trying to push the Jehovah's witnesses belief on your show). This is very controversial and not all Christians believe that only 144,000 will be saved. but the book of revelations chapter 7, please read all of it, not just one part, clearly says,
" After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands"
the fact that these people are wearing white robes means that they have been redeemed and are also saved.
before you invite someone on your show make sure that they have done their research.

May. 20 2011 01:25 PM
smh from CT

It is already May 21 in Japan and that part of the world and they're still there. Is Camping's Bible US-Centric?

May. 20 2011 01:24 PM

The world as the ancients knew it *already* ended. Can you imagine what they might think about all this if they were to visit us in a time machine?

May. 20 2011 01:24 PM
antonio from bayside

Hey folks it's 5:21am in new zealand? I guess they believed in american exceptionalism back then too?

May. 20 2011 01:23 PM
Ash in Chelsea

Well, shucks. Nobody told me about the ending. Not only have I made plans for the weekend, I also bought three green bananas this morning...

May. 20 2011 01:21 PM
Amy from Manhattan

These apocalyptic true believers always seem to forget that after the Flood, God promised never to wipe out life on Earth again. I hope there are rainbows in a lot of places tomorrow, just to remind them!

May. 20 2011 01:20 PM
Amy from Manhattan

"Apocalypticism"? That's a new one on me! If 2 groups disagree on the date of the apocalypse, is that an apocalypti-schism?

May. 20 2011 01:14 PM

Have a great weekend, everybody!

See you next Monday.

May. 20 2011 01:12 PM

Jesus is joining us? Very fitting!

May. 20 2011 01:08 PM

@ Joe from NJ

Thanks, I checked it out and forwarded to as many of my contacts as possible! Gotta counter this nonsense somehow!

May. 20 2011 12:55 PM
Tony from Canarsie

An important thing the media omits from its reporting of end times nonsense is the profit motive. Though it's based on total piffle, a lot of people eat this stuff up and there's nothing on the menu that's free. As long as it's lucrative, charlatans and lunatics will continue to spout it and buy into it.

May. 20 2011 12:36 PM
Mike from Tribeca

For anyone interested in where all this wacky (and dangerous in my opinion) "rapture" and "left behind" stuff comes from, I recommend professor and Lutheran pastor Barbara R. Rossing's excellent "The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation" (Basic Books 2005).

May. 20 2011 12:28 PM
Stuart from nyc

1) No one seems to be mentioning the Comet Kohoutek. In 1973, David Berg, founder of the Children of God, predicted that Comet Kohoutek foretold a colossal doomsday event in the United States in January 1974.

2) If Saturday is not the end of the world, will Family Radio cease their broadcasts? On what grounds can we petition the FCC to withdraw their licenses?

May. 20 2011 12:26 PM
Joe from NJ

Here's a history of failed doomsday prophecy-

It's really long!

P.S.- shhh, don't tell Mr Camping...

May. 20 2011 12:13 PM
Ed from Larchmont

Our Evangelical friends are very zealous and active, but their theology is not that well developed, so they arrive at conclusions like this, as have other Protestant groups in the past.

May. 20 2011 08:06 AM

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