The whole ‘end of the world’ thing has turned out to be a bit of a non-event. Really, whoever was organising Doomsday might want to pull their finger out. Accurate prophecy is clearly much harder to predict than predicted.
The end of the world isn’t new. It’s been around ever since Adam and Eve rolled up some pretty powerful Garden of Eden greens and then started freaking out of their tiny nuts about being nude. One of them even heard God talking to them about apples.
There have always been crazy religious predictions about our demise. I often wonder if we’re the only species that does this. Is there some killjoy in the herd of Black Rhino pitching extinction dates?
In the scope of the enormousness of existence we humans get anxious and ask: What happens if the sun snuffs? If an asteroid hit us? If Donald Trump becomes president? These are things you shouldn’t think about when you are stoned. (Especially Donald Trump and his weird little gerbil head. I can’t stop thinking of Richard Gere trying to put him up his bum. Trump’s solution to border control was to build a wall, I suggest that they do build one, just around Donald Trump. Then we’re all safe.)
When you really drill down, I guess life just doesn’t seem possible and the probability of our demise is possibly more probable than our existence. Crazy blokes have been predicting the end of time since the very beginning. Why, there was Hilary of Poitiers who bet his bishop’s hat that the end of the world was nigh back in 340 AD. Sadly the Hammer of the Arians (as he was known to his friends) died in 368 without ever seeing his prophecy come to fruition.
It seems that the Catholic bishops were mad for Doomsday, with Martin of Tours predicting the world would end before 400 AD. He said in a rather Monty Pythonesque rant, ‘There is no doubt that the Antichrist has already been born. Firmly established already in his early years, he will, after reaching maturing, achieve supreme power.’ There is no doubt? How very embarrassing.
You’d think if you were going to predict the end of the world or the appearance of the antichrist it would be for a date long after your death. This saves the certain onset of Doomsday Predictor Public Humiliation Disorder. Nostradamus had this one nailed.
There was a Spanish monk who got so excited during a public address he prophesied the second coming of Christ and the end of the world on that same day. I’d say he got a bit socially overwhelmed and told a big-fish story to a malleable mob. You can’t just predict the end of the world and go home like nothing happened.
No, Beatus of Liebana (yep, that was his name) had to put out a book, a lesser known title Commentry on the Apocalypse. One can only wonder how Beatus managed to commentate on an event that never happened. I guess it was the world’s first prequel.
From about 799 to 848 AD there was a pretty continuous run of end of-the-world predictions. It’s like the Catholic Church had their own end-of the-world bookies – everyone was taking dibs on a date. Second-century Christian historian and traveller, Sextus Julius Africanus (makes Saint West look downright plain), went for the long shot of 800; I guess the odds were good, but still it was a bookie’s race.
Remember the Y2K fiasco? Well, we weren’t the first people to freak about the moving into a new millennium. Pope Slyvester (Stallone) had January 1, 1000, pegged for certain death. To his humiliation, January 2, 1000 followed quickly behind with no comets, antichrists or raging wrath of giant three-headed dragons. Human survival must have been such a strange disappointment. There he was, down on his knees praying for at the very least a tsunami. Or flesh-eating zombies.
Around this time astrologers got in on the game previously dominated by Catholics and had a crack, predicting that in February 1524 the world would end by a flood starting in London. That must have been just before they debunked the belief that the world is shaped like a bathtub, with London as the plug.
Of course 1666 was an auspicious date and with the Bubonic Plague in full tilt it certainly must have felt like the end of time. But we endured.
Where astrologers and Catholics failed, it was time for maths to the rescue. Mathematician John Napier predicted the end of the world based on calculations from the Book of Revelations. He came up with 1688. Another disappointment.
But mathematicians don’t give up. Jacob Bernouli predicted a comet would hit the earth on April 5, 1719. Somewhere a few doors down a bloke dropped some gunpowder on his burning wick and inadvertently invented the sparkler. I guess if you held it above your head and ran down a hill it could be mistaken for a comet. Although probably not a giant one.
One of my favourite prophecies is by evangelist Wilbur Glenn Voliva who predicted that the world would go puff and we’d disappear in September 1935. That was before CGI; I don’t think even God had nailed those kind of special effects back then. Sure he could do destruction, but it generally involved lava and earthquakes, fire and flood. He’d never done puff!
Then there’s Jones, and Manson doomsday innovators who got devotees to fully commit by killing themselves… or others. It’s hard to say ‘Jim, you were wrong’ when you’re dead.
Ronald Weinland guessed September 29, 2011. When that didn’t happen he had a shot at May 27, 2012. I mean, stop being so exacting if you are going to predict the end of the world; don’t be so bloody specific.
There are future predictions for 2020 where Jesus makes an impressive comeback to take on the trinity of Antichrist, Satan and the False Prophet. I certainly hope Spielberg directs this one. Jesus is going to kick some antichrist butt.
We have another asteroid prediction in 2026. Chances are one in 300,000, so it will be like Planet Earth bought a lotto ticket. Let’s hope we don’t win that intergalactic gamble.
Ironically the real end of the world is possibly closer than we think, with climate change delivering a slow but definite demise – it’s rather anti-climactic, more like dying on simmer, rather than something impressively cataclysmic like being hit by a comet or being nuked into extinction.
Climate change is like getting cancer; the apocalypse however is like being mowed down by a car. Let’s hope the Paris agreement is the beginning of the end of the real end of the world. Not antichrists or comets – us.