Doomsday: Believers could be left behind, Bay Area preacher says 

If Oakland radio preacher Harold Camping is correct, today will be the last tolerable day on planet Earth. On Saturday, Camping’s global forecast calls for a flurry of massive earthquakes and a 100 percent chance of the biblical rapture, in which he said people not chosen for salvation will be “dying like flies.”

Afraid you won’t be among the lucky few snatched up into the bright white glory of the hereafter? You should be.

Steeped in the Calvinist brand of Christianity, 89-year-old Camping says even if you’re squared away with the man upstairs, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve been prechosen for salvation.

That means after Saturday’s rapture, even some of the most devout believers will be left behind, right there alongside the heathens, enduring five months of untold earthly cataclysm. The holy wrath will end in late October, when the entire world is finally obliterated and forgotten forever.

“I just tell people today, there is no way to know if you’re one of God’s elect,” Camping said in a phone interview. “Cry out to him and beg for mercy.”

Camping said it’s “God’s business” who ends up passing through the pearly gates, but he’s confident he will be among those raptured.

“God must have saved me as a little child, because I have just had this feeling, all my life,” he said.

In 1959, Camping founded Family Radio, a nonprofit evangelical broadcasting network that now reaches listeners worldwide in 75 languages and can be heard locally on 610 AM.

Family Stations Inc., the nonprofit that runs the Family Radio network, reported total net assets of $72.4 million on its 2009 tax returns. But Camping lives modestly with his wife in Alameda and he has publicly boasted about not taking a single dime in salary from the station.

Camping’s end-time prediction has been advertised on thousands of billboards all over the country, which has helped him attract widespread media attention — and derision from nonbelievers. Skeptics eagerly point out that Camping incorrectly divined that the apocalypse would come on Sept. 5, 1994.

The prediction was  mocked in the comic strip “Doonesbury” and has inspired “Rapture parties” to celebrate what hosts expect will be the failure of the world to come to an end.

A Facebook page titled “Post rapture looting” offers this invitation: “When everyone is gone and god’s not looking, we need to pick up some sweet stereo equipment and maybe some new furniture for the mansion we’re going to squat in.” By Wednesday afternoon, more than 175,000 people indicated they would be “attending” the “public event.”

Larry Hicok, California director of the American Atheists, said his organization is planning a “rapture party” in Oakland this weekend, but it’s only meant to have a little fun, not to rub it in.

“I admire in him in some ways, I really do … I think he’s a man of principle,” Hicok said. “But the sad thing is that when these predictions fail, people’s conviction that the end is coming soon gets even stronger than it was before. They just change the date.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Final moments

Assuming radio preacher Harold Camping is correct about Saturday being the last tolerable day on Earth, what are your plans?

“Find and hook up with my ex-girlfriends.” Corey Grant, 30, San Francisco

“Drain my bank account.”Remy Merritt, 18, San Francisco

“Take a massive amount of drugs and go skydiving.”Hailey Bedford, 26, San Francisco

“Say my prayers, and try to be of some help to another person, and be happy … or go get loaded.” Jim O’Leary, 54, San Francisco

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