This year's Doomsday prediction is based on the Mayan calendar, which ends December 21 or 23, 2012 (depending on which scholar you talk to.)
Now lookit; the Mayans had three calendars, all much more complicated than the Pirelli calendar hanging in my shed. One followed the sun cycle, the second was used for crop rotation and the third counted the Great Cycle of 1,872,000 days, or about 5000 years. And yes, this year the Great Cycle ends.
But even the Mayans do not believe the world will end when the Great Cycle finishes. They believe that they will flip it over, look at the new picture, read the thought for the epoch, and start again.
Besides, the Mayans were not a lost master race; they did not have the wheel, the arch, the plough or domesticated animals, and they were constantly warring with each other.
If they could see the end of our world why did they not see the end of theirs, in 900AD - or the Spanish invasion in the 16th?
The end of the world, in fact, has a very long history. Remember Y2K? The whole banking and communications system was supposed to come to a standstill. All that happened was that someone in Des Moines got his credit card stuck in an ATM.
But that was nothing compared to Y1K. On the eve of the first millennium Christian armies across Europe waged holy wars on pagan countries so everyone could die as Christians when the end came. There was a legend that an emperor would rise from his sleep to fight the antichrist - so they dug up Charlemagne. Unfortunately he just lay there.
In many places, people gave all they had to the church.The church did not give back these gifts when the Lord did not eventually appear.
But fears about the end of the world go back even a lot longer than that. An Assyrian clay tablet dated to around three thousand years before Christ - about the time the Mayans were predicting the last apocalypse, in fact - bore the words "Our earth is degenerate in these latter days. There are signs that the world is speedily coming to an end. Bribery and corruption are common."
Thank God bribery and corruption is behind us anyway.
So there's nothing new under the sun, (which is every historian's mantra.) Belief in the imminence of Doomsday was rife in Biblical times. In fact, it was the backstory to the modern Gospels.
In 90CE Saint Clement 1 predicted the world was about to end imminently. There were other close calls in 365, 500 and 968 predicted by church figures, including one anti pope. In 992 there were reports from Germany on a Good Friday that 3 suns and 3 moons were fighting. (But German beer is quite strong.)
Other near things:
1033 (the one thousand year anniversary of Christ's death),
1306, (alignment of planets - via John of Toledo)
1284 (666 plus year Islam was founded - via Pope Innocent III.)
1524 (world destroyed by flood in London - one of the driest years on record)
1553 (via Melchior Hoffman, founder of the Anabaptists)
The Black Death was seen as an obvious prelude to the end. The population of Europe was decimated. It was apocalyptic - but the world survived.
The Old Believers in Russia believed that the end of the world would occur in 1669. Twenty thousand burned themselves to death to protect themselves from the Antichrist.
More predictions; 1736 (British theologian and mathematician William Whitson) 1783 (following an Icelandic earthquake that caused poisonous clouds to blanket much of Europe), 1792, 1794; on October 22, 1844, the Millerites enthusiastically expected Jesus' return in an event now poignantly called "The Great Disappointment." Afterwards, many followers wished they had not sold their possessions and quit their jobs.
Then there's the predictions of the Watchtower Society. One of their number, Nelson Barbour, said that Jesus would return in 1874. After his followers camped out to wait and ended up seeing nothing, Barbour said he had come back but he was invisible. More forecasts followed: 1878, 1914, 1915, 1918, 1925, 1932, 1941, 1975, 1994.
In 1806, there was the Prophet Hen. It began laying eggs in the English village of Leeds with the words “Christ is Coming” on them. The town went into panic. Then it was discovered a local prankster had been writing the words on the eggs in corrosive ink, then reinserting them into the hen. Ewww.
When the Hale-Bopp comet appeared in 1997, there was a rumour that an alien spacecraft bent on destroying Earth was trailing it. 39 of the San Diego-based UFO religious cult known as Heaven’s Gate committed ritual suicide over the course of three days while wearing identical Nike sneakers and arm bands that read “Heaven’s Gate Away Team.”
A former NASA engineer wrote 88 Reasons Why the Rapture is in 1988 from his own calculations drawn from the Bible. “Only if the Bible is in error am I wrong; and I say that to every preacher in town.” It's still listed on Amazon.
It sold four and a half million copies. You can see it here: Why the Rapture is in 1988
Last year the end was prophesied on 21 May by Family Radio evangelist Harold Camping. Camping convinced thousands of his followers that those not carrying signs or wearing neon-yellow shirts would meet their maker.
Someone in New York poured his life savings into ads for Camping’s campaign.
I am sure, one day, the earth will become a red giant and consume the earth. I just don't think it will be next year. But if I'm wrong ... remember you heard it first!
And if the end is nigh you have only 360 days to read 'HAREM.' If you'd like a giveaway, send me your prediction for the end of the world with your email address and the type of reader you have to colin underscore falconer underscore author at hotmail dot com and I'll send you one!
Until next time - if there is one - Happy New Apocalypse!