Harold Camping of Family Radio Network says the world will end this Saturday.

For the last three weeks or so, I have been getting a bunch of emails from folks telling me that the world will end on Saturday, May 21 “because over the past 4 decades serious Bible students have been given understanding of the Biblical Calendar of History as recorded in the geneologies of Genesis 5 and 11.” (That quote comes from the latest email, signed by “Len.” But they have all said basically — if not exactly — the same thing.)

Len goes on to warn: “Given the Bible’s Calendar, May 21, 2011 is the 7000th anniversary (to the very day) of Noah’s flood and the Door of Salvation in the ark, a picture of Christ Jesus, was shut. (Genesis 7:11 and 2 peter 3:3-10). There are other proofs within the Holy Bible that assures us Christ’s return will come to pass on May 21 when God will catch up His people and with a catastrophic earthquake commence the final 153 days of the earth and on October 21 the universe will be annihilated.”

Len — and apparently others — is praying that I will “carefully review and investigate this fast approaching event,” but since they seem pretty steadfast in their belief that this is what will happen, I am not sure what they want me to do about it. Am I supposed to help them to warn others to get right with Jesus om the next three days? Or do they just want me to know — for sure — that I am about to burn for eternity?

For weeks, I have been just deleting these Chicken Little (“The sky is falling!”) emails as soon as I realize what they are. But today, after getting yet another one, I decided I wanted to figure out where all this “end-of-the-world” hype is coming from. I mean, we all know the world will actually end in December 2012; the Mayans said so.

A quick Internet search answered my question: It’s all coming from Oakland, Calif. preacher Harold Camping who, according to this article on the website for the U.K. newspaper The Independent, came to his conclusions using mathematics to decode prophesies hidden in the Bible. Preacher Camping says that May 21 this year will be 722,500 days from April 1, 33 A.D., which is the day Christ was crucified. He came up with the sum 722,500 by multiplying three holy numbers — 5, 10 and 17 — together. Twice.

The sudden realization of that holy equation, Camping says, “blew my mind.”

Camping also says that a slew of recent natural disasters — like earthquakes in New Zealand, Haiti and Japan — are unmistakeable signs of the end times, along with changing social values: “All the stealing, and the lying, and the wickedness and the sexual perversion that is going on in society is telling us something. So too is the gay Pride movement. It was sent by God as a sign of the end.”

Did you catch that last part? The part where he says that the gay Pride movement was “sent by God as a sign of the end”? Yep, that’s right. It’s our fault. If we gays were so dang prideful and didn’t insist on demanding equal rights, God might be willing to let us slide and not end the world until, say, Aug. 8 or something.

(And by the way, Preacher Camping does not believe in evolution and thinks all abortions should be banned. I bet you’re all surprised by that, right?)

So anyway, Preacher Camping has added up his holy numbers, come up with May 21 as the end of the world, and is now spending the considerable assets of his Family Radio Network to make sure everyone knows what’s about to happen. They have more than 2,000 billboards across the country, and he has even convinced people to drive around in camper vans emblazoned with “The World Is Ending” logos to spread the word.

Adam Larsen, a 32-year-old from Kansas, actually quit his job and gave up his favorite pastime of raccoon hunting to drive around in one of those camper vans to warn everyone the world is ending. Wonder how Adam’s going to feel when he wakes on the morning of May 22 and the world is still here?

Because see, here’s the good part: This isn’t the first time Harold Camping has gone around telling everyone the world would end on a specific date. Back on Sept. 6, 1994, he gathered hundreds of his followers together in an auditorium in Alameda, Calif., and they all sat around watching for Jesus to return. Guess what: No Jesus.

Preacher Camping has an answer for that, of course: Back then, he hadn’t actually researched the whole Bible. Now, he’s sure he’s right: “We’ve had the chance to do just an enormous amount of additional study and God has given us outstanding proofs that it really is going to happen.”

OK, yeah. Right. See you on Sunday, preacher.