May 21: Judgment Day or party time?

Depending on your beliefs, tomorrow will either be the beginning of what some Christians call "The Rapture" or prime time for mockery.

Man who started it all has no doubt end of world is nigh

Those who see May 21, 2011 as Judgment Day - the day of rapture when Jesus Christ returns to earth to rescue the souls of believers and vanquish the rest - rally in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Depending on your beliefs, Saturday, May 21 is Judgment Day or party time.

For those in the repent camp, it is the day of "The Rapture," when Jesus Christ will return to earth to rescue the souls of believers and vanquish the rest.

"The Bible guarantees it!" says Family Radio, a California-based evangelical Christian radio network founded by Harold Camping, a retired civil engineer.

The non-profit network of dozens of evangelical radio stations has posted 3,000 billboards about Judgment Day across the world, including 85 in Canada.

End-of-the-world films: a sampling

Things To Come  (1936)

When Worlds Collide  (1951)

On the Beach  (1959)

Deep Impact  (1998)

Left Behind: The Movie  (2001)

The Day After Tomorrow  (2004)

Last Night   (1998)

Knowing  (2009)

2012  (2009)

Camping said an informed reading of biblical texts indicates that a giant earthquake on Saturday will mark the start of the world's destruction, and that by October 21, all non-believers will be dead.

He predicted an apocalypse once before, in 1994, though followers now say that only referred to an intermediary stage.

Satire springs eternal

Non-believers, however, are taking a more light-hearted approach.

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 late Wednesday, more than 300,000 people had signed up to take part.

Then there is the 31-year-old Toronto man who posted an ad on Craigslist Thursday to find a partner to satisfy his lust for the last time.

The ad read: "FINAL HOOK-UP BEFORE THE RAPTURE" and requested: "Please respond with a photo. God dislikes anonymity."

The man added: "I love sex and don't want to die without another kick at the can."

The prediction is also being mocked in the comic strip "Doonesbury" and has also inspired "Rapture parties" to celebrate what hosts expect will be the failure of the world to come to an end.

The Rapture After Party in Fayetteville, North Carolina, billed as "the best damned party in N.C." is a two-day event organised by the Central North Carolina Atheists and Humanists.

Post-apocalyptic films: a sampling

Planet of the Apes  (1968)

The Omega Man  (1971) 

Mad Max  (1979) 

The Terminator  (1984) 

Waterworld  (1995) 

I Am Legend  (2007) 

The Road  (2009)

Zombieland  (2009)

"Though the absurdity of this claim is obvious to the majority of the world, it's a great opportunity to highlight some of the most bizarre beliefs often put forth by religious fundamentalists and raise awareness of the need for reason," said a posting about the party on the group's website.

Events are also planned in Houston, Florida and California and Washington state.

Opportunity knocks

Others see an opportunity to cash in on The Rapture.

An atheist and entrepreneur from North Hampshire set up a service to look after the pets of those who believe they will be raptured. He has more than 250 clients who are paying up to $135 to have their pets picked up and cared for after disaster strikes.

They would be disappointed twice, he told the Wall Street Journal. "Once because they weren't raptured and again because I don't do refunds."

Meanwhile Camping, who has been criticised by more mainstream Christians, said he knows "without any shadow of a doubt" that "Judgment Day" is arriving.

He told Reuters he will spend Saturday with his wife, close to a TV or radio.

"I'll be interested in what's happening on the other side of the world as this begins," he said. "There is no Plan B."