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Apocalypse Soon?

Judgment Day will occur on May 21, 2011, at least according to Harold Camping. No, he's not a movie exec promoting another blu-ray release of Terminator 2 (the Double Secret Skynet Edition). He is a broadcaster and president of Family Radio, a religious broadcasting network with over 150 outlets around the United States, and his "tireless" study of the Bible has led Camping to predict that Judgment Day will take place next Saturday. So confident are Mr. Camping and his supporters that they have bought billboards around the country containing not only the prediction, but also a promise that "the Bible guarantees it!" (The billboards do not mention getting your money back.) Most people, as usual, have scoffed at these claims, not least because Camping previously predicted Judgment Day would fall in 1994. (Camping says "at that time [I] had not gone through the Book of Jeremiah," which seems like a bit of an oversight.) But millenialists like Camping are not alone in believing that apocalypse is not that far away.

Last year, to celebrate its fortieth anniversary, the Pew Research Center released a poll of what Americans expect to happen in the next forty years. Overall, 41% of Americans said they expect Jesus Christ probably will return, while 46% said Jesus definitely would not. But on a slightly less religious note, 58% of Americans said a world war was definite or probable before 2050, including 48% of college graduates (only 19% of whom thought a second coming imminent). 18-29 year olds were the most pessimistic, with 68% expecting a world war. Other findings include: 69% think income inequality will grow, 66% believe the world will get warmer, 53% predict freshwater shortages, and 53% anticipate a terrorist attack on the US using nuclear weapons. Yet in spite of these expectations, Americans aren't down about life in 2050: 64% are optimistic about their future.