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Religious Tolerance logo


Concerns about the end of the
world happening on 2012-DEC-21

Overview. Acceptance by
the public. Our prediction.

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For centuries, people of various religions (and none) have invested major efforts attempting to predict when and how the end of the world will happen. Within Christianity, many of these prophecies were based on various interpretations of passages from Daniel, a book in the Hebrew Scriptures (a.k.a. Old Testament), and from Revelation, a book in the Christian Scriptures (a.k.a. New Testament):

This web site lists many dozens of prophecies that predicted the end of the world would occur at various dates in our past. They have one factor in common: all of them have totally failed.

A new date for The End Of The World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI) for 2012-DEC-21 -- or DEC-23 -- seems to have first arrived on the scene in the 1960s when Michael Coe wrote that the end of the 13th bak'tun in the Mayan calendar could trigger a transition of some sort. A bak'tun is a time interval of 144,000 days equal to almost 400 years. The first bak'tun started in 3114 BCE in our Gregorian calendar. Other authors jumped on the bandwagon by predicting Armageddon -- a biblical-scale disaster -- to cleanse humanity. Since then, the Internet, books, magazines, TV specials etc. have caused the myth to snowball.

The exact prophecy for "the end" have not been consistent. Most prominent were predictions of some natural disaster: a solar coronal mass ejection, collision of the Earth and an asteroid, a worldwide plague, reversal of the Earth's magnetic field, reversal of the Earth's rotation, the solar system being swallowed up by a black hole at the center of our galaxy, etc.

An alternative prediction was for some form of rapid spiritual development -- a type of re-birth of human societies. There was no obvious spiritual development on the night before the solstice as Congress members abandoned their posts for a long Christmas vacation instead of seeking a solution to avoid the fiscal cliff.

The exact timing for the transition or disaster varied. Almost all suggested 2012-DEC-21 at 11:11 GMT, which is the actual time of the solstice. Others suggested either sunrise or midnight on DEC-21, which of course varied across the world with each time zone. A few authors suggested DEC-23.

Modern Mexican descendents of the ancient Maya have rejected the idea of an impending disaster. In spite of this, they are benefiting from a tourism bloom in Mexico. Jose May, a tourism official of Maya descent in Merid, the capital of Yucatan State said:

"If people who believe in this joke want to come, let them. Nobody here believes that. Those people were sold an idea." 4

The ancient Mayans looked upon DEC-21 as a simple end to one calendar interval and the start of the next. The date was recorded on only two of the many thousands of Mayan glyphs (messages typically carved in stone). For no obvious reason, this date was viewed by many western authors as the date of the end of the world, Many books have been written in support of this idea. They are easy to spot in bookstores or online because their title usually contains the number "2012." To get a list, you can go to a self-service kiosk in a Barnes & Noble bookstore in the U.S. or Chapters in Canada and do a search for "2012".

The Mayan calendar prophecy was similar to that experienced:

  • Before 2001-JAN-01 when the "Y2K" end of the millennium approached. Massive computer failures causing a paralysis of the economic system were predicted. It never happened.

  • During 2011 when evangelical Christian leader Harold Camping predicted that the Rapture would occur on MAY-21, followed by the end of the world some five months later in October. It didn't happen either.

Hopefully, these failures plus the failure of the Mayan prophecy will cause people to not be so gullible about future predictions.

The 2012 prophecies may produce an even greater panic than previous TEOTWAWKIs because they have been so widely advertised.

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Signs of public acceptance of the Mayan calendar disaster:

Some ominous signs of this widespread belief:

  • A 2012-JAN national survey conducted by Kelton Research for National Geographic to be used on the latter's program Doomsday Preppers found that 27% of U.S. adults believed that the Mayan calendar's prediction about a calamitous event in December 2012 was likely to happen. (margin of error: ±3.1 percentage points). 1

  • A worldwide Ipsos poll prepared for Reuters news agency found that 10% of the Earth's population believed that "a major catastrophic event on 2012-DEC-21" was at least "somewhat true." An additional 8% say that they have experienced fear or anxiety over the possibility of this event happening. 2

  • Lu Zhenghai, a resident of northwest China, has allegedly spent $160,000 to build a type of ark to protect him from the destruction that he believed is coming. 3 Hopefully, he will now be able to convert it to a tourist attraction and make a profit, thus recovering his investment.

  • Police in southern France set up plans to block access to the base of a mountain in the Pyrenees that some believers were convinced housed space aliens. The aliens were thought to be waiting for the apocalypse to be over before leaving Earth and taking a few humans with them.

Unfortunately, among the 1.3 billion people in the world who expected the end or who feared the end in late December, there may be millions who were emotionally unstable, and perhaps hundreds of thousands who had suicidal ideation. Previous doomsday predictions have triggered a few completed suicides. We fear that many people will have taken their life needlessly on or before DEC-21, because they don't want to die during a catastrophe. They preferred to exit life at a time and method of their own choosing. ... all because of a get-rich-quick scheme on the part of some authors of apocalyptic books and Internet web sites. The latter will have a lot of innocent blood on their hands.

If you know anyone who seems to be obsessed with a future doomsday prophecy, please try to persuade them to seek counseling. If none can be arranged, you might urge them to call a telephone listening service, These are often called distress centers, crisis centers, suicide prevention lines, etc. Their telephone number can often be found in the inside front cover of telephone directories.

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Our predictions for the future:

We made the following predictions before 2012-DEC-21:

There will be no worldwide cataclysm. The Winter Solstice and Christmas in 2012 will arrive reasonably uneventfully, There will be the usual number of preventable deaths such as an average of:

  • 8 children per day slaughtered in the U.S. by guns, 5

  • Perhaps a similar total number of women murdered each day by close relatives to preserve family "honor" in countries such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Great Britain, Brazil, Canada, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Pakistan, Morocco, Sweden, Turkey, and Uganda, 7

  • 125 people per day in the U.S. being allowed to die by neglect because of the lack of a universal health-care system. 6

  • On the order of 300 Christians worldwide assassinated per day because their faith is different from the country's majority faith, 8

  • etc.

These deaths will be observed as personal disasters by family and friends of the people who have needlessly died. But the rest of the population will not suffer a personal loss and will probably continue not caring enough to advocate for gun control, universal health care, gender equality, religious tolerance, etc.

In the future, as new doomsday predictions surface, there will be people motivated to commit suicide in order to terminate their life on their own terms before the anticipated cataclysm that isn't going to happen. It may be one person or many thousands. There is no way to estimate their number in advance. We have to wait and count the number of bodies after the date passes.

We don't have a precise idea when the next predicted date for TEOTWAWKI will be after this one fizzles out. Quite a few authors will undoubtedly have prophecy books ready to publish by early 2013. Some folks have recognized that a lot of money can be made by keeping the population's fear level high. A culture in fear is much easier to control and motivate to buy books.

The new target date will probably be somewhere about 2020. In order to maximize profit, it has to be close enough so that people will fear its imminent arrival, and yet far enough away so that book sales will have risen, peaked, and dropped to a low value by the time the date passes. Otherwise the revenue generated by the next hoax will not have been maximized. [We apologize for our cynicism.]

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Doomsday Preppers Survey," National Geographic, data collected 2012-JAN-3 to 10, at: This is a PDF file.
  2. "The End of the world," THE END fact or fiction magazine, Media Source magazine, Page 5.
  3. Nicola Menzie, "Mayan Apocalypse 2012: Chinese Man Uses Life Savings to Build Ark, Christian Post, 3023-DEC-07, at:
  4. Gabriel Stargardter, "December 21 Mayan Apocalypse Observances Fueled By Mysticism And Internet," Huffington Post, 2012-DEC-19, at:
  5. "Overview: Protect children not guns 2012,", at:
  6. Andrew P. Wilper, MD, et al., "Abstract: Health Insurance and Mortality in US Adults," American Journal of Public Health, 209-DEC, at:
  7. Hillary Mayell, "Thousands of women killed for family 'Honor'," National Geographic, 2012-FEB-12, at:
  8. Michael De Groote, "Christian killed every 5 minutes," Deseret News, 2011-SEP-02, at:

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Copyright © 1997 to 2019 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2019-JAN-07, and all's well, or at least normal.
Author: B.A. Robinson

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