According to the 2001 census, only 2.3 per cent of Indians are Christians. So we can safely assume that most Indians heard of Harold Camping only when his doomsday prediction failed, making him a target of jokes.
Camping is an 89-year-old preacher and devout Christian who runs Family Radio, a religious network. A retired civil engineer, Camping was in the news recently because of his prediction that the world would start to crumble on 21 May 2011.
Specifically, 21 May was to witness the Rapture, when believers would be zapped to heaven. Their less pious fellow beings would suffer on earth, which would perish on 21 October after a series of natural disasters.
This is the second time Camping has got it wrong. He had also predicted Doomsday in 1994.
When 21 May passed off quietly, the Camping cult looked as sheepish as someone whose proudly constructed rocket fails to take off before an audience. The jokes flew in fast. There were photos on the internet of items of clothing, arranged in shirt-to-shoe sequence, as if the humans inside the clothes had been Raptured to heaven. A day before the rumoured end, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg took a dig at the prophecy as well as the New York Knicks, the city’s perennially struggling basketball team. “The world cannot end tomorrow,” Bloomberg said. “You know why? Because it can’t end at least until the Knicks win a championship again. We’ve got a long time to go.”
Camping said he was flabbergasted that the Rapture did not happen, annoying many. Critics say he is not some lovable old fool, but a man who has made a fortune off his theories and misguided people. A case in point is his follower Robert Fitzpatrick, who became so brainwashed that he spent all his savings, worth $140,000, on Doomsday ads.