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Biblical Soothsayer Predicting World's Demise, But Americans Scoffing

Harold Camping, 89, the California evangelical broadcaster, who predicts that Judgment Day will come on May 21, 2011, is seen in this still image from video during an interview at Family Stations Inc. offices in Oakland, California, May 16, 2011

An obscure self-taught Biblical soothsayer in the U.S. is predicting the beginning of the end of the world on Saturday, but Americans are mostly having a good laugh at his expense.

For months now, Harold Camping, an 89-year-old one-time civil engineer, has been telling listeners on his Family Radio network of Christian-themed broadcasts that by his calculations of numerical references in the Christian holy book, the Bible, that May 21 will be the first day of Judgment. He says that will lead up to the ultimate doomsday and destruction of the world five months later, on October 21.

Camping earlier predicted the end of the world would come in 1994, but later said he'd miscalculated. This time, he says there's going to be a "huge earthquake that's going to make the big earthquake in Japan seem like a Sunday school picnic." He said the end will start cascading around the globe at 6 p.m. local time everywhere, although no seismic events have been reported in the first time zones to hit 6 p.m.

While a small number of Camping's followers in the U.S. handed out leaflets this week warning of the world's demise, the vast majority have scoffed at Camping, including mainstream Christian religious leaders.

Other people have planned parties to celebrate surviving the purported end of the world. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg joked that his city's residents would not have to pay their parking tickets or return library books if the world comes to an end.

By some accounts, there have been more than 100 predictions of the end of the world in the last century and they all have had one thing in common - they have been wrong.

For those looking ahead, the ancient Mayans said that the end of civilization is coming next year - on December 21, 2012 - as astronomical events converge.