Doomsday predictions seem as regular as the tides. UFO cults and evangelical preachers alike have claimed to know the true date of the end of the world. But the Mayan apocalypse is unlike most any doomsday to come before.
That’s because the Mayan apocalypse is an entirely grassroots doomsday, religion experts say. Most apocalyptic groups center around an apocalyptic leader, who passes along predictions, often claiming divine inspiration. The belief that the world will end on Dec. 21, 2012, on the other hand, has popped up almost entirely online, giving rise to a plethora of dueling predictions.
“This was almost an evolutionary process, in that certain ideas seem to stick for some reason, and many didn’t, but what you ended up with is the current 2012 phenomenon,” said Stephen Kent, a sociologist at the of Alberta who studies new religious movements.