When the world didn’t end this last December as the Mayans allegedly predicted with their calendar (or lack thereof), we typed out tweets of relief and and resilience. Take that, Mayans! Think you can wipe us out so easily with your mystic numbers? December 21 inspired gaudy parties, drinking games and probably a decent amount of reckless abandon, including shopping sprees and emotionally charged confessions. It was, after all, the last night of existence. However, the next morning, the only things that were obliterated were our livers and maybe our egos.
This isn’t the first time people have presented the world with evidence of our impending doom. Historically, we have been endlessly fascinated by the possibility and entertained it with warnings and wide-spread panic. The apocalypse has been predicted by religious zealots, philosophers and physicists, psychic readers, and alien advocates since the dawn of time. People have relied on religion, astronomy, the economy and aliens to back up their reasoning behind the hypothesized end of the world. Pop culture has made millions of dollars off of the idea. Writers can’t stop coming up with all these scenarios where earth gets taken over by space creatures, or societies collapse into dust (2012, Knowing, The Road, Dr. Strangelove, etc.). And why exactly are we so naturally fascinated with the apocalypse? Is it because of our innate fear of death? Are we so afraid to die alone that we yearn for united death? Let’s look into a very much condensed timeline (there were doomsday predictions almost every single year, even before Jesus came into the picture) that depicts when and why the world was supposed to end, but didn’t.
2800 B.C. – An ancient Assyrian clay tablet was found, and it allegedly predicted the end of the world that year by stating, “Bribery and corruption are rampant. Children no longer obey their parents. Every man wants to write a book. The end of the world is approaching.” Sounds like every cranky grandma and grandpa in the world, ever.
634 B.C. – The Romans feared their city would be destroyed in the 120th year of its founding. This concern was due to a myth concerning 12 mystical eagles that represented the lifetime of Rome; early Romans hypothesized that each eagle represented ten years. Unfortunately for Rome, the empire did indeed decline, but the eagles had nothing to do with it.
1st Century - Baby Jesus was born and eventually stated, “Verily I say unto you, there be some standing here which shall not taste of death ’til they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” (Matthew 16:28) Essentially, he implied that the Second Coming would be an event held sometime soon.
1284 – Pope Innocent III predicted a Second Coming this year, exactly 666 years after the rise of Islam!
1524 - A planetary alignment in Pisces was seen as a sign of the millennium, and therefore a flood, because why not?
1600 - Martin Luther, an important religious figure in history, believed that the end of the world would occur no later than 1600.
The world stayed intact, more or less. Let’s jump to modern times.
1973 - David Berg (aka Moses David) guru of The Children of God, predicted that the United States would be destroyed by Comet Kohoutek in 1973.
1980 - Leland Jenses, founder of Bahais, predicted a nuclear holocaust. When that didn’t happen, he rationalized that this date was merely the beginning of the Tribulation. In 1987, he then decided it would be Haley’s comet that would take us all out. That didn’t happen either.
It was around this time, that prophets began selling their books on the end(s) of the world because apocalypses sell, apparently.
1997 - Heaven’s Gate, a religious cult based in San Diego, believed Comet Hale-Bopp was going to destroy the earth. Convinced that alien spaceships were tailing right behind the comet, 39 members committed suicide in order to escape the reign of alien terror and destruction of human life.