Harold Camping
© wikimedia commonsHarold Camping
All of the talk about the world ending on May 21 comes from one organization run by one man: Harold Camping's Family Radio.

At first glance it would seem that 89-year-old Camping is running the biggest scam the world has ever seen -- racking up donations from terrified believers around the world right up until 6 PM on May 21 when... the world doesn't end... and Camping and all of those donations vanish into thin air.

But here's the surprising thing.

Most of Family Radio's revenue -- generated almost entirely by donations -- is put back into advertising and broadcasting costs.

Although Family Radio is valued at $72 million in its latest financial statements the company claims to have around $1.5 million in cash, according to an profile by CNN. It pays $56 million just in FCC broadcasting licenses.

If this is a scam, then it's far more clever than your average fire-and-brimstone hotline. Or maybe Camping really believes the world will end.

There's nothing scammy about the website.

Except for a small "Donate Online" button in the corner of the screen, the site is focused entirely on educating you about the coming apocalypse. There's even a FAQ on the site where Camping responds to lots of big questions, like "Doesn't the Bible say no man will know the end of times"? and "Didn't you predict the end of the world in 1994?"

What happens if May 21 ends and nothing occurs? Camping doesn't acknowledge this possibility:

The Biblical evidence is too overwhelming and specific to be wrong. Christ's people can look with great confidence to this date because God promises His "beloved" He will not come upon them as a thief in the night. God in His mercy has revealed the vital information needed to know the day. Judgment Day on May 21, 2011 will occur because the bible declares it. Anyone whom God has not saved will arrive at that day with no hope for salvation. God warns simply the "door will be shut."

And then there's the letter Camping wrote bidding his employees farewell and telling them to "steadfastly continue to stand with us to proclaim the Gospel through Family Radio." Whatever happens, it sounds like Camping is on his way out.

So what will happen on May 21?

We wouldn't be surprised if Camping disappears, but leaves the money behind. Family Radio will carry on after demonstrating some Biblical loophole or, better yet, claiming a victory that the rest of you are too blind to see -- say, "The Beginning Of The End Of Times has officially started" or perhaps "The Antichrist has been born today and will destroy the world in a few years."