The World Ends Tomorrow?

05/20/11 Rob Lorei
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Good morning, welcome to Radioactivity. I'm Rob Lorei. Coming up we'll hear a prediction for the end of the world and we'll hear from a skeptic. This Saturday an influential Christian radio broadcaster is predicting the world will end. The New York Times reports that:

"This Saturday, May 21, is the apocalypse, according to the ministry’s charismatic leader, “brother” Harold Camping.

“I’m so glad that God’s in charge,” Mr. Camping, 89, said, looking gleeful.

Mr. Camping, a 1942 graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, who started out in Christian broadcasting in 1958 with one San Francisco AM radio station that eventually became a broadcast empire, proclaimed the doomsday date in 2008.

Since then, the ministry has unleashed a giant effort to spread the word. The message has gone out over the ministry’s 216 AM, FM and low-power radio stations, plus two TV channels in the United States. And, there’s been an international effort with shortwave radio, satellite broadcasts, a Web site, 5,500 billboards (400 in India; 2,200 across the United States, including many around the Bay Area), and 100 million pamphlets in 61 languages, according to the ministry.

Mr. Camping oversees about 100 staff members and volunteers, a mix of ages and races, at the ministry’s unkempt Oakland headquarters, situated between a custom auto shop and a psychic near the Oakland airport.

The ministry’s finances, however, are anything but downscale: an annual budget of $36.7 million in 2009, according to the organization’s most recent IRS financial disclosure filings. As a nonprofit, commercial-free broadcasting operation, the ministry is supported by listener donations — $18.3 million in 2009 alone.

The IRS records revealed $34 million in investments, $56 million in assets and $29 million in mortgages. Mr. Camping received no salary in 2009 — in fact, he loaned the ministry $175,516 that year. On Monday he said he was draining ministry reserves to pay for the May 21 campaign.

Tom Evans, a ministry spokesman, wouldn’t make the budget available, but said it was in the “tens of millions” of dollars."

Our guest today is MICHAEL SHERMER the author of Why People Believe Weird Things, The Science of Good and Evil, and eight other books on the evolution of human beliefs and conduct. He is the founding publisher of Skeptic magazine, the editor of Skeptic.com, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, and an adjunct professor at Claremont Graduate University. he's written a new book called "The Believing Brain" and he joins us now.

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