If Oakland preacher Harold Camping's doomsday prediction comes true on May 21, 2011, what is left on the terra firma will be a handful of dust and splinters of bones.

The apocalypse will unfold with a fierce earthquake in New Zealand at 6 P.M. local time, which will continue across the Earth at such a rate that every Richter scale in the world and every news organization in the world will have no doubt - Judgment Day is here, as Camping puts it.

Here's what Harold Camping says about it, as quoted in a CNN blog: We cannot say emphatically that it’s 6 pm. There’s a lot of information that looks at the probability of 6 pm in any city in the world–when that great earthquake will occur. It could be that it might be just one great earthquake, but there is enough evidence in the Bible that says it will begin at one point in the world, and it could be at 6 pm—that’s a great possibility. Then as it gets to be May 21 in any other country—there will be a great earthquake there.

But the moot question is, how FAR from truth is the musings of the 88-year-old minister?

Harold Camping bases his strange, convoluted and idiosyncratic theory of apocalyptical flood on Bible, but it is obvious that he picks and chooses anecdotes, verses and Biblical stories conveniently so he can stitch together the theory of a flood that will happen in his own lifetime.

And he indeed tried it once before. He had predicted earlier that the great flood will occur in 1994. The prediction bombed and he came up with a lame excuse that he had hurriedly made the prediction. Some more calculations and number crunching later, Camping has obviously come up with another date. It looks like he is hell bent on seeing the world have a death by water in his own lifetime.

There are lots of people who still think it might happen. And then there are people who bother not to pay bills in anticipation of the end of the world! And then there are also those who spend all their life's savings to spread word around about the impending disaster.
However, strangely, for those who think this will happen, this is not exactly a disaster. Camping calls the mighty shake up around the corner as 'Rapture.'

By rapture, which he says will take place on May 21, 2011, Camping means the Biblical belief that Jesus Christ will arrive in a Second Coming to carry the believers up to to heaven. According to Paul's epistle to Thessalonians, these are people who are dead in Christ.

The verse from the epistle reads like this: ... and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

One dictionary meaning of 'rapture' is the carrying of a person to another place or sphere of existence.

The great Biblical flood of Noah's times is the basis of Camping's theory. He makes some calculations to arrive at the date of that flood. He says the flood that decimated the population of the world sans Noah and whoever got on board on his vessel, took place in 4990 B.C. But where is the proof of this? Many scholars have given vastly varying dates.

Now that camping has the accurate date on which he benchmarks his weird prediction, he goes ahead and formulates a theory that says the next catastrophe will take place in this millennium, this decade. More precisely he says it will take place hours from now!

How he does make this superhuman finding is interesting: In the Bible, it is said that Noah had been given 7 days to prepare for the flood. He was alerted that the flood will wipe out anyone and everyone who was not on board his vessel, animals and human beings included.

Likewise, Camping says the '7-day warning notice' has been in place and he has actually decoded it precisely. Camping says though, that instead of a 7-day warning, it's really been a 7,000-year-warning.

And he banks on the vastness, or the mere incomprehensibility, of the cosmic time that God deals in. He says that according to 2 Peter 3:8, With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.

Seven thousand years after 4990 B.C. (the year of the Flood) is the year 2011 A.D. (our calendar), he says in his website. 4990 + 2011 – 1 = 7,000, he calculates. One year must be subtracted in going from an Old Testament B.C. calendar date to a New Testament A.D. calendar date because the calendar does not have a year zero.

And here's how he arrived exactly at the date: 'Amazingly, May 21, 2011 is the 17th day of the 2nd month of the Biblical calendar of our day. Remember, the flood waters also began on the 17th day of the 2nd month, in the year 4990 B.C.

Is this any more than simply picking up a suitable quote and inserting it in his weird doomsday script?

And then, according to Camping, there is a reason why the apocalypse happens. It is the promised Second Coming of Jesus when, according to Biblical beliefs, the righteous of the world will be separated from the sinful. This is the time when the sinners will be sent to the hell fire and the good souls start enjoying beatific peace in God's presence.

And Camping says on May 21, 2011, the good ones of the world will be swept up and saved while those that don’t make the grade will languish on terra firma, only to undergo an agonizing six-month period of trials, tribulations, torture and catastrophe before they got sucked up in the vortex of all-ending calamity.

So this judgment day is going to unfold in two neatly planned phases; and more importantly the quake/flood juggernaut will selectively destroy/save those who come in its path.

Is this any more than puerile imagination?

But there are people who believe in this theory and do utterly strange things. Take the case of Robert Fitzpatrick, a 60-year-old ex-MTA employee who burnt up all his life's savings just t advertise the impending 'rapture.'

I'm trying to warn people about what's coming ... People who have an understanding [of end times] have an obligation to warn everyone, he told the Daily News even as he spent $140,000 on subway placards and bill boards.

The American atheist fraternity is waiting to celebrate when the Oakland preacher's prediction of the world's end is proved a dud. We're confident we'll still be here, Larry Hicok, the California director of the American Atheists, said, according to SF Gate.

And, when the prediction fizzles out, the faith of Camping's followers will have experienced the true apocalypse, as if it were. Because, according to his theory, those who remain alive after May 21 will be the sinners whose turn of destruction will come six months later, in October.