Predicting the End of the World: Background information when reading Amity & Sorrow

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Amity & Sorrow

by Peggy Riley

Amity & Sorrow by Peggy Riley X
Amity & Sorrow by Peggy Riley
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2013, 320 pages

    Feb 2014, 336 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Sharry Wright
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About this Book

Predicting the End of the World

This article relates to Amity & Sorrow

Print Review

The end is nigh!

Or so has been the claim for many years. And despite a success rate of zero, people continue to make passionate end of the world predictions, looking for the Apocalypse in just about every major turn of events from Y2K to Weapons of Mass Destruction to the ending of the Mayan Calendar. In fact, according to a survey taken in 2001 by the Barna Research Group, forty percent of Americans at that point believed that supernatural intervention would lead to the eventual end of the world.

The first recorded end of the world prediction came in 634 BCE. Over subsequent years, there have been many, many more. What follows is just a sampling.

  • In 365 CE, a man named Hilary of Poitiers announced that the world would end that year. On April 6th, 793, a Spanish monk called Beatus of Liebaba announced to a crowd that the world would be ending that day. Oops. Historians Sextus Julius Africanus, and Gregory of Tours made a number of predictions, recalculating after each non-event.
  • Christopher Columbus somehow came up with the idea that the world was created in 5343 BCE, would last 7000 years so would come to an end in 1658. A slight miscalculation somewhere along the way.
  • When the sky turned dark on May 19, 1780 (most likely due to a combination of forest fire smoke, fog and cloud cover) members of the Connecticut General Assembly declared it was a sign of the end of time.
  • Even in the twentieth century, predictions continued to come at regular intervals. French astronomer Camille Flammarion's 1910 prediction claimed that the appearance of Halley's Comet that year "would impregnate the atmosphere and possibly snuff out all life on the planet." A lucrative return was made from the sale of "comet pills" reported to protect a person from the toxic gases that would be released.
  • In 1935, evangelist Wilbur Glenn Volva announced that "the world is going to go 'puff' and disappear" that September.
  • Dorothy Martin, the leader of a UFO cult called Brotherhood of the Seven Rays announced that the world would be destroyed by a flood on December 21, 1954. The failure of this prediction lead to the writing and publication in 1956 of the book When Prophecy Fails.
  • The psychic Jeane Dixon predicted that a planetary alignment on February 4, 1962, would lead to the destruction of the world.
  • And then there is Harold Camping who has continually revised his predictions after each date failed to produce The Rapture; his most recent date was May 21, 2011.
  • Most recently in December 2012, there were many people who believed that the end of the Mayan Calendar was going to bring the destruction of the world. Mayan calendar A group of "Preppers" in Boston stored food and came together on a website meet-up page to share survival tips. A retailer in Russia sold "Apocalypse Kits" that included a bottle of vodka. Authorities in France, fearing a mass exit, shut down a road leading to a site in the Pyrenees that had been said to be a good place to go when disaster struck.

Most scientists tell us that yes, the world will end eventually—years from now when the sun burns itself out or the universe is torn apart by its continual expansion. And it is quite likely that humans will be long extinct by then, having made our planet uninhabitable through our own folly. But as long as we are still here, I suppose there will continue to be predictions of total destruction and people will prepare themselves for the imminent end of time.

Filed under Cultural Curiosities

Article by Sharry Wright

This "beyond the book article" relates to Amity & Sorrow. It originally ran in April 2013 and has been updated for the February 2014 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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