US atheists are to hold parties in response to an evangelical broadcaster's prediction that Saturday will be "judgement day". According to the BBC, the Rapture After Party in North Carolina - "the best damned party in NC" - is among the planned events. Harold Camping, 89, predicts that Jesus Christ will return to earth on Saturday and true believers will be swept up, or "raptured", to heaven. He has used broadcasts and billboards to publicise his ideas. He says biblical texts indicate 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. Camping has predicted an apocalypse once before, in 1994, though followers now say that only referred to an intermediary stage.
"We learn from the Bible that Holy God plans to rescue about 200 million people," says a text on the website of Camping's network, Family Radio Worldwide. "On the first day of the Day of Judgment (May 21, 2011) they will be caught up (raptured) into Heaven because God had great mercy for them. "The Rapture After Party in Fayetteville, North Carolina, is a two-day event organised by the Central North Carolina Atheists and Humanists. "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. Atheists in Tacoma, Washington, have headed their celebration "countdown to back-pedalling". Events are also planned in Houston, Florida and California.