By Justin Berton / Source: SF Gate
Harold Camping lets out a hearty chuckle when he considers the people who believe the world will end in 2012.
"That date has not one stitch of biblical authority," Camping says from the Oakland office where he runs Family Radio, an evangelical station that reaches listeners around the world. "It's like a fairy tale."
The real date for the end of times, he says, is in 2011.
The Mayans and the recent Hollywood movie "2012" have put the apocalypse in the popular mind this year, but Camping has been at this business for a long time. And while Armageddon is pop science or big-screen entertainment to many, Camping has followers from the Bay Area to China.
Camping, 88, has scrutinized the Bible for almost 70 years and says he has developed a mathematical system to interpret prophecies hidden within the Good Book. One night a few years ago, Camping, a civil engineer by trade, crunched the numbers and was stunned at what he'd found: The world will end May 21, 2011.
[Watch an ABC News Report about this here...]
This is not the first time Camping has made a bold prediction about Judgment Day.
On Sept. 6, 1994, dozens of Camping's believers gathered inside Alameda's Veterans Memorial Building to await the return of Christ, an event Camping had promised for two years. Followers dressed children in their Sunday best and held Bibles open-faced toward heaven.
But the world did not end. Camping allowed that he may have made a mathematical error. He spent the next decade running new calculations, as well as overseeing a media company that has grown significantly in size and reach.
"We are now translated into 48 languages and have been transmitting into China on an AM station without getting jammed once," Camping said. "How can that happen without God's mercy?"
His office is flanked by satellite dishes in the parking lot that transmit his talk show, "Open Forum." In the Bay Area, he's heard on 610 AM, KEAR. Camping says his company owns about 55 stations in the United States alone, and that his message arrives on every continent.
Employees at the Oakland office run printing presses that publish Camping's pamphlets and books, and some wear T-shirts that read, "May 21, 2011." They're happy to talk about the day they believe their souls will be retrieved by Christ.
"I'm looking forward to it," said Ted Solomon, 60, who started listening to Camping in 1997. He's worked at Family Radio since 2004, making sure international translators properly dictate Camping's sermons.
Edited by: Lawyer Asad