December 21st may not be the end of the world as we know it, but if next week’s predicted apocalypse falls through, America’s many doomsday prophets will invariably choose a new date, says Stuart Charme, a Rutgers-Camden professor of religion. The basis for the latest End Times date is the Mayan calendar,
which stops on 12/21/2012. Although the Mayans themselves didn’t really
forecast an apocalypse, explains Charme, some have interpreted the date
to be a sign that life on Earth will be snuffed out next Friday.
Scenarios of the world’s end have a strong tradition in United
States. From the Book of Revelation to the present day
explosion of zombie films and TV shows, apocalyptic thinking has always
been with us. According to polls, at least 40 percent of Americans believe Jesus
will return to Earth by 2050. Twelve percent believe the Mayan calendar
is correct and the world will end on December 21, says Charme, who
teaches a class called "End of the World.''
Although it’s easy for skeptics to dismiss the predictions as
crackpot theories, Charme says they’re not all that outrageous. “Just
because some people have some unrealistic ideas shouldn’t distract us
from the fact that there are challenges that humanity is going to have
to confront. Whether it’s climate change or fossil fuel running out or
the world’s population straining resources, humans are going to have to
change their attitudes and behavior.”
Rutgers Today: Why is there such a focus on the Mayan calendar as signifying the end of the world?
Rutgers Today: How is the idea of the apocalypse manifested in pop culture?
Media Contact: Carre Stetler