Something about the number 666 brings out the worry, the hope and even the humor in people, said the Rev. Felix Just, a professor of theology at the University of San Francisco. A Jesuit priest, Just has taught both apocalyptic theory and mathematics and maintains a ''666-Numbers of the Beast'' Web site that contains history, theology, math and precisely 66 one-line jokes about 666.This has to be my favorite part of the article, though:
''Many people avoid the number; they're afraid of it almost and there's absolutely no reason to be afraid of it,'' Just said. ''It is not a prediction of future events. It is not supposed to be taken as a timetable for when the world is going to end.''
But for some more apocalyptic theologians, the end of times is coming, even if not specifically on Tuesday. The evangelical Raptureready.com Web site puts its ''rapture index'' at 156, calling that ''fasten your seatbelts'' time. [There are Rapture seatbelts? Are there Rapture airbags as well? Where can I go to learn more about proper Rapture safety procedures?]
It's not the date June 6 that's worrisome, but the signs in our society of the approach of the 666 antichrist, said the Rev. Tim LaHaye, founder of a self-named ministry and co-author of the best-selling ''Left Behind'' series of apocalyptic novels. And even though LaHaye said Tuesday isn't the date of the apocalypse, his Left Behind Web site promotes his new book ''The Rapture'' with an ominous ''06.06.06 Will You Be Ready.''
''I don't think that people understand that 666 is not a good time,'' LaHaye said. He said he sees signs of an upcoming ''tribulation period'' that leads to the Antichrist's arrival in a movement toward one-world government, a single economic system and single religion.
You can even make sport of it, betting online whether the apocalypse will happen on that date. The good news is that one online oddsmaker has made the world a 100,000-to-1 favorite to survive Tuesday....WHO WOULD MAKE THAT BET???
(On the other hand, if I bet $100 billion that the world wouldn't end...)