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Meditation 1014
No End in sight.

by: John Tyrrell

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I noticed a some criticism from fellow non-believers of a Roman Catholic bishop who suggested that those who believed in the so-called Mayan prophecy[1] could give their assets to the Catholic Church. Bishop Bernardo Bastres Florence of Punta Arenas, Chile said in an interview:

“If there are many who believe the world will end on Dec. 21, as the Church, we have no problem with them naming us as the beneficiaries of their possessions in their wills. Because I am sure that we will all be alive after that date. If they wish to pass on, they could do enormous good by donating their properties to the Church.”

The criticism seemed to suggest that through this suggestion he was taking advantage of those of believed the end was coming on 21 December.

Yet, a little over three years ago, when Penn & Teller broadcast their debunking of this apocalyptic prediction[2], they closed the show with an offer to buy the houses of those who still believed the nonsense for $1000[3] - cash up front, with free occupancy until 21 December when Penn & Teller would take ownership. I didn't see non-believers criticizing them for this offer.

As in the Bishop's suggestion, it was just a suggestion to make a point. If you really believed this nonsense, you might actually follow up on the suggestion. After all, you would not expect to be around on the 22nd to regret the loss of your assets. And I see the Bishop's suggestion as in the same vein as in Penn & Teller's offer - it's just a simple lesson.

Surveys show that about 10% worldwide say they actually expect something cosmically significant to occur on 21 December - split between those who expect an apocalyptic end to the world, and those who expect some kind of mystical regeneration into a new and better world. If surveys can be believed, over half a billion people buy into this nonsense, but there is little indication anyone is actually acting on this belief.

There's a couple of arks been built at great personal expense in China on the assumption the end will be a flood. Peter Gersten is still planning on going up on Bell Rock[4]. But generally, very few of those who say they believe are doing anything drastic. Which suggests that the overwhelming majority of those who say they take it seriously really do not. They are not acting on what they say they believe.

I suspect that this is because there is no organized belief system involved here. There is no central agency or single individual promoting the belief. There is just a bunch of New Age charlatans who have latched onto a way of making money selling books, CDs and DVDS. And there is no consistent vision between them.

Contrast this with some of the more effective Christian apocalyptic prophets. Some of them have actually got their followers to sell everything to be ready for the end. Only four years ago, a Russian apocalyptic cult spent six months living in a cave to wait out end times, and only ended their seclusion when it was the cave that collapsed, not the world. More recently a number of Harold Camping's followers did just that to finance spreading the word, though Camping himself wisely did not.

A cult with a clear message can get its followers to act on their beliefs. Thankfully, there does not seem to be any charismatic enough leader promoting 21 December 2012.

Unfortunately, we can expect the lessons of next week's failed apocalypse like every other failed apocalypse in the past will not be learned. The credulous will be ever ready to jump on the next end time date.



  1. Which of course is neither Mayan nor prophecy, but simply New Age gobbledygook.
  2. See Meditation 786
  3. I'm writing from memory here - the actual sum might have been different.
  4. See discussion 3 & 4 to Meditation 786