Jan. 02, 2013 - Issue #898: Apocalypse Not?
The ending(s) of the world thus far
What kind of post-apocalyptic wasteland is this?
No massive earthquakes have devoured the 104 Street promenade; the high level bridge remains unblemished by rows of abandoned, overturned shreds of car; Daryl Katz hasn't become a Road Warrior-style warlord, cackling maniacally atop a sled pulled by a mutated Taylor Hall/Ryan Nugent-Hopkins fusion, and he isn't erecting a Thunderdome where bloodsports and chaos reign. Well, not really.
Mayan calendar be damned, it seems we're stuck with the world we know, for now. And even though we aren't reduced to foraging and fighting through what were once cities to find safe canned goods and oil for vehicles, we can still look back upon the year that was with a certain bittersweet remembrance. And, hey, it's not the first time the end of the world has been a no-show.
In memory of the apocalypse that wasn't, we at Vue have lovingly collected a few past no-shows for you within these pages, broken down by category and focusing on a representative or two of each predicting force.
This is probably the one everyone knows best, given it's the most recent non-Mayan doomsday. Camping's excessive 2011 campaign warned us all that the rapture would happen May 21, 2011, when the good and holy of the world would be pulled up into heaven, before five months of fire and brimstone would batter the rest of us, ending with the biggest bang of all: the destruction of the world.
Except that didn't happen at all, and plenty of goading tweets were tweeted and smug guffaws had at Camping's expense. Still, not put off by being wrong for a second time (his original prediction happened back in 1994, with similar accuracy), Camping re-reported that a spiritual judgement had occurred on the date, and revised his Judgement Day prediction to October 21, for real this time. But you're still here, right? Yeah, me too. Camping's now retired from the end of the world prediction game, after a good ol' fashioned public ribbing that followed his zero-for-three stat..
And with that, Camping joins the well-trod ranks of the repeat offender apocalypse predictors, including the likes of Cotton Mather (three predictions), Sabbatai Zevi (two predictions), Herbert W Armstrong (three predictions), Marilyn Agee (10+ predictions; she even wrote a book, The End of The Age) and, really, scads more would-be heralds.
Cult seems a pretty strong word to use in this case, but at its formation in England in 1792, the Shakers—or, in longhand, The United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing—was calling the end of days as about to happen, then and there. The group saw its work to be preparing for the end to come (preparations that included not marrying and generally remaining chaste), but, as it went on, the whole "D-day cometh" thing seemed less a definitive date and more a "let's be ready, just in case." To its credit, the group was an early advocate of gender equality, looking to its women for leadership and preacher duties, and, for a time, it was pretty convincing: at The Shakers' zenith, the group consisted of 20-odd settlements and a body of converts some 20 000 strong (given the whole "no marriage no sex" thing, they attracted members through preaching, indenturing and adopting.)
Still, the 19th century saw a dwindling of their numbers, as urban focus grew: today there's a paltry few remaining.
Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God
Of course, the Jonestown People's Temple bunch are the go-to example for real doomsday cults, but the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God was another: formed in the late '80s in Uganda after Credonia Mwerinde and Joseph Kibweteere claimed to have had visions of the Virgin Mary, they called for the end of days to occur January 1, 2000. When it didn't happen, the membership was pretty upset, and the movement's influence over it began unspooling.
The leadership immediately predicted the new D-date of March 17. Then, in an act of horror that was presumed to have been a premeditated, a mass fire broke out at the Movement's doomsday party at the church in Kanangu. The windows and doors were boarded up, and all 530 members, leadership included, perished in the blaze.
The Big Rip Theory
First published in 2003, the Big Rip Theory offers up that the expansion of the universe will ultimately see it tearing itself apart. It's rooted in the idea of invisible dark energy taking up more space and, in doing so, shrinking the size of the observable universe. When it gets too small, the very structure of everything would tear itself apart, making this a total bummer of a theory. If it's any consolation though, we're talking billions of years in the future. Same with the next one.
Heat Death of the Universe
Rooted in that pesky second law of thermodynamics, Heat Death claims that the universe, being the isolated system it is, will eventually approach a state where all energy is evenly distributed—maximum entropy, meaning no heat energy is available to do work, everything cools down, all the stars go out and that's all she wrote. But don't worry: again, billions of years in the future. We'll all be dead by then. Unless we find a way to stop aging. In which case, we'll all probably be there when it happens.
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