The Washington Post

Is May 21, 2011 the end of the world?

A Family Radio radio billboard proclaiming that May 21, 2011, is Judgment Day. (Screengrab from )

But before you start selling off your belongings, you might want to check your math. The real earth ending won’t arrive for another five billion years from now, when the sun runs out of hydrogen, evolutionary biologist and author Richard Dawkins claims.

In On Faith, our forum for news and opinion on religion and politics, Dawkins and others roundly debunk the May 21 end date, which was calculated by Family Radio evangelist Harold Camping.

Dawkins writes:

Science knows approximately how, and when, our Earth will end. In about five billion years the sun will run out of hydrogen, which will upset its self-regulating equilibrium; in its death-throes it will swell, and this planet will vaporise.... In the nearer future, it is pretty likely that human life will become extinct — the fate of almost all species that have ever lived.

Washington Post reporter Elizabeth Tenety points out that Camping previously (and wrongly) predicted the rapture would occur “between September 15 and 27, 1994.”

Even if Camping is right, Fuller Theological Seminar President Richard Mouw clarifies that May 21 is Rapture Day — the day Christians, dead and alive will meet Jesus in the sky. According to Camping, the world won’t end until Oct. 21, 2011.

Rabbi David Wolpe said we believe Camping because we like endings:

The critic Frank Kermode pointed out that we assume clocks go “tick-tock” but they do not. They go “tick-tick” but we supply the “tock” in our minds because we feel the need to have an ending. Every song, every story, every life, has an ending — so must the world.

Washington Post columnist John Kelly writes about the downside and upside of the end of the world. Downside: A missed Red Sox game on the 22nd. Upside: No more “Jersey Shore.”

Of course, Doomsday was also supposed to come April 19, 2011, when Skynet became self aware.

Or you can stick with the Mayan end of the world, slated for 2012. This countdown calculator will tell you how many days you have left on Earth according to their deadline. Enjoy them while you can!

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
Most Read


Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Close video player
Now Playing