The end of the world has been postponed – again

AP People gather around a sacred fire at the Mayan archeological site of Iximche during a ceremony marking the end … Continued


People gather around a sacred fire at the Mayan archeological site of Iximche during a ceremony marking the end of the 13th Oxlajuj B’aktun in Tecpan, Guatemala, on Dec. 21, 2012.

I can imagine there might be some who are disappointed the world and human society continues to persist despite the direst Mayan predictions. The last few remaining months before Dec. 21, 2012 were supposed to be marked with earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, tornados, hurricanes, floods, blizzards, droughts, famines, epidemics, war, nuclear disasters and general ecological collapse.

It’s amazing to think anyone could believe the world would come to an ignoble end on Dec. 21, 2012 on the word of some poorly translated, uninformed gossip from a long-dead empire. I spent most of 2012 explaining to people that though the world, and the universe in which it finds itself, has a definitive expiration date, Dec. 21, 2012 wasn’t it—regardless of what the Mayans would have us believe. In actuality, the Mayan calendar doesn’t predict the end of the world. Their calendar simply ends just as all of ours do with the month of December. But just because our 1989 desk calendars’ ended with December, it didn’t mean there wouldn’t be a January, 1990.

The Mayans used two calendars, both of which had major astronomical and mathematical errors inherent in them. Actually, they didn’t create their calendar system. Rather they stole it from the Olmecs—the people whom the Mayans slaughtered when they took over their crushed empire.

Contrary to what New Agers would have us believe, the ancient Mayans weren’t wise, healthy, enlightened people with “magic psychic powers” that could control the elements and the natural world around them.

In reality, the Mayans were a failed empire with a failed economy which, like their Aztec neighbors, practiced wide-scale slavery, human sacrifice, infanticide and cannibalism (ritual and otherwise.) They were also responsible for massive deforestation in their Central American empire which caused widespread ecological collapse which in turn caused famines and epidemics that quickened their collapse. They couldn’t be as wise as modern pagans claim if they so efficiently wiped themselves out having stolen their empire from its previous owners by force of arms.

Coincidently, though the Mayan Empire is defunct lo these many years, (their classic period lasted from AD 250-900) the Maya are still with us very much like how Romans remain in Italy’s capital though their empire has also gone the way of the dinosaurs. When the Maya are approached about their ancestors’ prediction of the 2012 Apocalypse, they shrug and admit ignorance. In a sense, this modern obsession with the “true knowledge” of the Mayas’ ancient writings, is a pretentious, modernist version of noblesse oblige colonialism. “Poor Third World folk don’t understand but we, the liberal, educated and enlightened people of Western, 21st century, First World countries, do.”

The Maya weren’t the first people to predict the end of the world. Many offered possible dates including the Egyptians, Sumerians, Hopi, Aztecs, Incans, Hindus and others. Nostradamus predicted a great comet, Nibiru, would impact the Mediterranean Sea in 1999. Edward Cayce, that old goat, assured his followers the world would end in 1999. He also insisted the Earth’s axis would tilt in the 1950s and the western portion of America would be utterly destroyed along with most of Japan, that China would convert to Christianity by the 1970s and the lost city of Atlantis would rise to the surface of the ocean in the 1980s. Hindus and their New Age supporters describe the age in which we find ourselves as “Kali Yuga” (Hindi: “dark age”) in which humanity is scheduled to be wiped away, coincidently, in December, 2012.

Many Europeans were convinced of a second Great Flood taking place in the year AD 1524 which was also a no-show. Yet others believed the world was to end in AD 1666 simply because of the last three digits was a numerological reference to Satan. The fact that the Great Fire of London occurred in that same year didn’t help assuage their fears.

Fundamentalist Evangelical Christians would point to the Bible to support their claims of imminent disaster despite the fact that the Bible says nothing about the world ending in the year 2000. Added to their error is the obvious fact that since there was no Year “0,” the 2000th anniversary of Christ’s birth took place in AD 2001. Further, scholars will point to the fact that Jesus wasn’t born in AD 1 but rather in 6 BC thus, as of Jan. 1, AD 2013, we will be enjoying the 2019th anniversary of Christ’s birth. If the Mayans were correct in their estimations, the world would have ended six years ago…so much for the wisdom of ancient “mystic” astrologers.

Modern alarmists have added to the plethora of populist, science-fiction, space-based death threats to the Earth including polar (magnetic) shifts, gamma ray bursts from nearby stars, solar flares blasts from our own sun, wandering black holes, meteorite impacts or rampaging planets careening into us. Charlatans and madmen have made hundreds of thousands of predictions of the end of the world and they have all been proven, without exception, absolutely wrong by virtue of the fact that I’m writing this article and you, kind reader, are reading it.

It might be said that my sense of assurance is after the fact—this is flatly untrue. I had predicted the world wouldn’t end on Dec. 21 but, like a “reverse” Cassandra, doomed to always bring good news which would never be believed, no one convinced of the 2012 Doomsday accepted my prediction. It might be argued that I couldn’t be certain the 2012 prediction was false. This is, again, flatly untrue. There have been many hundreds of thousands of dire warnings which similarly failed to materialize over the past few millennia as is evidenced, again, by the fact that you, kind reader, are reading this article. Doesn’t anyone recall the 1950s end-of-the-world scenario involving a Soviet/communist takeover of the Free World? How about the 1960s warning about planetary ecological collapse? Most people have forgotten about the 1970s “overdue” ice age due to the Global Cooling Theory which was supposed to seal the earth’s fate. The proposed invasion of killer “Africanized” bees was supposed to have taken over the entire world by the year 2000…or so the fearmongers in the 1970s assured us. The 1970s also produced apocalyptic theories involving Comet Kohoutek (C/1973 E1). David Berg, founder of the Children of God cult, claimed Kohoutek’s appearance signaled a colossal doomsday would occur in January, 1974. It didn’t.

The appearance of the Hale-Bopp Comet (C/1995 O1) was a signal for the Heaven’s Gate cult to schedule a mass suicide for their adherents in March, 1997. This was done in anticipation of being “beamed up” a la Star Trek to a spaceship supposedly tailing the comet in order to escape the inevitable destruction of our planet. Nancy Lieder, a UFO enthusiast and famed con artist, claimed aliens had implanted a communication chip in her brain when she was a child and is in constant contact with them. She insisted the world would end in May, 2003 with the arrival of Hale-Bopp Comet. It didn’t. Then Lieder changed her mind saying the world would end in December, 2012. She’s two for two.

The Bible Student Movement made multiple mistakes over a protracted period of time continually frustrated that God wouldn’t comply with their faulty predictions. Jeanne Dixon insisted the world would end on Feb. 4, 1962. She later revised the Earth’s expiration date to be “sometime between 2020-2037.” Jim “Kool-Aid” Jones claimed the world would end sometime between 1967-1969. Charles Manson engineered the Tate-LaBianca murders in an attempt to instigate a race war in 1969 which would precipitate the end of the world. John Gribbin and Stephen Plagermann, co-authors of The Jupiter Effect, assured us that a rare alignment of the planets from Mercury to Jupiter would destroy our planet on March 10, 1982. Louis Farrakhan and Saddam Hussein both predicted the First Gulf War in 1991 would instigate Armageddon. “Psychic” Sheldon Nidle predicted the world would end with the arrival of 16 million space ships backed up by a host of angels riding shotgun on Dec. 17, 1996. Radio evangelist Harold Camping made five incorrect predictions including May 21, 2011 and later, Oct. 21, 2011. By last count, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists have, together, produced 70 failed attempts at predicting when the world was to end. This is despite the fact that Christ Himself admits even He doesn’t know when the world will end:

Most people simply have a short memory for failed end-of-the-world prophesies and fall into the error of presuming that if everyone’s talking about it, it must be true. One would think most people would recall the fearsome warnings of global thermonuclear war in the 1980s—but they don’t. Oddly, no one remembers the 1990s and the thousands of millennialist apocalypse warnings or the Year 2000 Y2K bug which was supposed to bring down airplanes in midflight and set off thousands of nuclear missiles which mistakenly “thought” it was AD 1900. None of those things ultimately happened including in African and Asian nations that couldn’t spend the tens of billions of dollars we did to make their computers “Y2K compliant.” A few years ago, people rallied angrily against the Bern Super Collider saying that it “might” create a micro black hole which would suck us all into oblivion. And now, of course, talk of global warming, drowning polar bears and shrinking glaciers is all the rage. That is, until the next supposed horror horrifies us. Every time there’s a planetary alignment, which generally happens a few times a decade, someone ignorant of basic astronomy starts yelling about the end of the world. Conspiracy theories always follow the same predictable pattern: 1) a great supra-governmental conspiracy involving millions of elected officials and scientists around the world, including our nation’s enemies, who have managed somehow to maintain a secret without anyone finding out; 2) millions have been imprisoned, exiled and/or killed by power-mad officials anxious to make sure the general public is kept happily-oblivious to the “truth” and 3) oddly, despite the obvious danger this knowledge represents, the teller of this conspiracy tale has managed to keep a low enough profile to remain under the government’s radar and spreads word of this hard-fought secret with obvious and oblivious impunity.

The same pattern of ideas is repeated to explain a host of other conspiratorial mysteries such as the existence of Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster, UFO abductions, yeti, chupacabra, “mind-control” machines, time travel, psionics, crashed interstellar alien spacecraft, the City of Atlantis, the Continent of Mu and many, many other forms of general twaddle. These theories are mostly pseudo science incongruously and clumsily interlaced with an ill-fitting pseudo mysticism and held together with a specious pseudologic all of which have apparently been found to be false again and again. Part of the attraction is the exoticism inherent in it—the false satisfaction that comes with saying “I-know-something-you-don’t.” It’s supposedly “ancient wisdom.” It’s both titillating and intoxicating to believe in something that no credible, sane and sober scientist would ever publically admit to. To be “smarter” than the smartest people in our society, even if only falsely. But there’s no wisdom in what you believe if it’s constantly shown to be false, you need to constantly “rethink and recalculate” your ideas or if your ideas have produced no positive effect on humanity.

And with each new cockamamie prediction or exoticism comes armies of charlatans and tartuffes looking for cash cows to milk. They will write shameless, incomprehensible potboilers promising to reveal great, untold secrets whispered to them by angels, prophets, space aliens, dead Aztec shaman ghosts, unicorns and the occasional crystal skull. Everyone admits the world will end at some time either because of rapid expansion of the sun in 5 billion years or because of a massive collision with the Andromeda Galaxy in 4 billion years or Cosmic Heat Death in a googolplex (10100) years but, at this point, one would think the educated, adult population of the Western World would be a bit more “circumspect” in what they chose to believe. This interest in wild and exotic pseudo science and pseudo mysticism supposedly replete with ancient wisdom and dire warnings never ends well—they’re an hysterical substitute for religion and are symptomatic of a pagan emptiness towards the vast and basically uncontrollable forces of nature in a post-Christian culture. Such is the empty spiritual poverty of modernism and a defeat for rational thought—a pathology of reason if you will.

It’s odd in the extreme that those who make extraordinary claims do not, in the words of Marcello Truzzi, the Father of the Modern Zetetic movement, offer extraordinary proof of those extraordinary claims. They inevitably become furious when questioned as to their pronouncements and beliefs. They demand obsequious nattering and worship rather than logic and facts. Like many modern movements, they’ve produced precious few philanthropists, saints, heroes, altruists, peacemakers and scholars. Considering how highly they think of themselves, it’s odd they’ve confused themselves into thinking they’ve done so much to benefit humanity. If they can actually turn lead into gold, I’d like to witness it. I’m eager to see their cures for cancer, AIDS and mental illness. If they can fly, with or without the assistance of a broom, I’m curious to know why no one has stepped forward to demonstrate their awesome powers.

This frenetic and harried exoticism speaks volumes of the tremendous spiritual need present in all humans. It speaks of the need for humans to be connected to something greater than themselves.

Angelo Stagnaro is an author, journalist and a stage magician who has served as editor in chief of the online magicians’ monthly electronic magazine Smoke & Mirrors

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  • nkri401

    The world will end at some time in the future…

    Having said that, what does “world” mean? Just because humans went extinct does not mean the world ended, me thinks.

  • Emeth

    The author of this article cant back up his claims with facts… Jehovah’s Witnesses and Adventists set over 70 dates????

  • ThomasBaum

    Is this a spoof?

  • ThomasBaum

    The “world” ends every day for quite a few people and the “world” begins every day for others, the Big Surprise will come when it comes and how it comes.

  • Curmudgeon10

    “It’s amazing to think anyone could believe the world would come to an ignoble end on Dec. 21, 2012 on the word of some poorly translated, uninformed gossip from a long-dead empire.”

    Democrats have a word for these people: they are called “low information” voters.

  • SimonTemplar

    A good article.

  • SimonTemplar

    JW’s have indeed predicted the end many times. A simple google search can give numerous examples.

  • SimonTemplar

    70 dates? I don’t know about that. But they have predicted the end many times and have always been wrong.

  • Rongoklunk

    Basically, people in primitive societies, or backward communities are more superstitious than those raised in a better educated world. Yeah I can buy that.
    There are no gods, devils, demons, elves, fairies or goblins in real life. And there is no supernatural dimension to reality. I can live with that.

  • kh52

    Just because the world didn’t end doesn’t mean nothing happened. Many people have had a different interpretation of this time, which is that it is the end of an age and the beginning of a new, better, golden age. That could still be true.

  • dancingmantis

    I find it offensive that the author includes the scientifically recognized phenomenon of global warming along with his list of superstitious causes for the end of the world. He might as well have included AIDS.

    No one claims that global warming is going to cause the “end of the world”. Scientists, however, have evidence that it will make things very uncomfortable for a lot of people, and that there are measures that we can take to mitigate these outcomes.

    In this case, it is the ignorant and superstitious who deny the reality of global warming… and there are just as many examples of how this sort of denial of reality results in harm as there are examples of people believing in the unreal: AIDS is not caused by a virus, industrial pollution does not lead to cancer, guns make people safer, etc.

  • Secular1

    Kh52, this is silly of you. Any day or any second can be earmarked arbitrarily as the end of an era and the beginning of another era. Just teh same way January 1st as the beginning of year is just arbitrary. Only thing is it is de facto accepted as the start of a year, all over the world for business and scientific purposes. Does not mean a thing scientifically speaking – and of course that i sthe only way to speak.

    Mayan end of an era and all that is nonsense. It is teh new agers penchant for make mountain of a mole hill, as far as any of the sillynesses coming from the ancient ignorants. Just as any of teh three water closets in my home are as holy as the kaaba in Saudi. BTW, MO first used to promote the temple mound in Ilia (better know as Yerusalem). Until teh Jew os Yathrib (jewish name of Medina) told him F himself,as he was a rerun of something they saw some 700 years ago, an itinerant jewish preacher man called yeshiva.

    This is as much an unadulterated BS as any of the judaic or x’tian fairy tales.

  • WmarkW

    The December 21 and Harold Camping prophesies were mostly greeted with a lot more guffaws than end-of-life planning. But there is a non-trivial segment of our population that believes in eminent End Time prophesies, and actually uses it to motivate their political behavior.

    “Family” bookstores carry numerous titles that can paraphrased “The Current State of the Middle East in Biblical Prophesy,” and they mostly carry the message that Armageddon will ensue from the next major war involving Israel. They support a belligerent American involvement in the region, believing that nuclear war WOULD BE A GOOD THING, bringing on the Second Coming. To the extent that their political beliefs actually influence their voting behavior, and hence our foreign policy, this might actually be the most dangerous religious belief in America today. I’m surprised On Faith doesn’t write about it ever.

  • trysometruth

    I felt this article was great in many aspects but it was a bit too respectful of Christianity, as if somehow that should be kept on the “truth” side of the column: i.e. apparently the real idiots are “…symptomatic of a pagan emptiness towards the vast and basically uncontrollable forces of nature in a post-Christian culture…”. The quotes from the Bible and statements like “…scholars will point to the fact that Jesus wasn’t born in AD 1 but rather in 6 BC…” ring hollow since, in fact, scholars are in doubt as to whether a historical Jesus of Nazareth ever existed. An article like this shouldn’t elevate one sort of belief based on no evidence over another.

  • mbeck1

    As a tangent to this article on all the idiots who believe in eschatological prophesies and conspiracy theories, one interesting point is how susceptible human beings are to magical thinking. Humans are not just susceptible to magic thinking, but have a strong predisposition for it. As Mark Lilla proposed, we are a theotropic species. We assign agency to all sorts of phenomena, inanimate and animate alike. Although we like to think of ourselves as inherently reasonable, reason is at a far remove from our natural cognitive predilection for unsupported belief. We are forever in the sway of our animal spirits. One would logically predict that reason would win out simply because it has brought us such visibly benefits, but it doesn’t. Even very well educated people are often as susceptible to certain fantasies as the uneducated savages of our modern polity.

    The question is why? How can such fantastical thinking that inherently leads us away from reality not only survive, but thrive? We may not be burning witches at the stake anymore, but it is hard to imagine that the crazy beliefs of many people who harvest the fruits of a modern society not only persist but flourish.

    This observation has caused a great deal of debate among philosophers, evolutionary biologists and psychologists, and neuroscientists. One explanation is the meme world of ideas spreading like a fire through a society’s collective mind. In fact, the basis for Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” is the idea of the parasitic meme copying and propagating itself much like a disease that is transmitted throughout a population’s inhabitants. If the idea is potent enough it leaves more copies of itself than competing memes, persisting even if it is deleterious and maladaptive to its owner, comparable to an infection that kills the host, but not before infecting a new host. Of course, great ideas disseminate the same way, hence the spread of science and technology in the modern world.


    It is far easier to await an alleged “end of the world” compacently than to work hard to make things better.

    “After the last tree is felled, Christ will come back.” James Watt, Secretary of the Interior under Reagan.

  • shanti2

    I do not know the exact date, but I do know this world will end on the day I die. How do I know this? Because it started the day I was born.

  • AgapeWord

    trysometruth, Many have encountered the God of the universe and His Son, Jesus. I have. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt they exist and the Holy Spirit is our Helper. I hope you have an encounter too that removes all doubt. He lives in my heart…call out to Him and ask if He exists. He’s a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

  • DrWaffles

    Why would any rational person predict the end of the world? (Madmen get a free pass for the obvious reasons.) Either you’re wrong or you’re dead, and both scenarios aren’t all that pleasant. Playing with peoples minds is the only thing I can think of, but there are ways to do that without making a public fool of yourself.