In 2011, hell was a hot topic, from Hollywood to New York Times best-sellers. In fact, this year has seen an incendiary debate about the existence and contents of hell.

The year began with an epic battle between a priest and Satan, with Anthony Hopkins playing a demon-possessed priest in the movie The Rite. The Hollywood glimpse of the underworld came and went without much notice by moviegoers. But then, another form of hell on Earth grabbed the headlines. Judgment Day would soon be upon us.

“It will be a horror story beyond measure,” predicted Harold Camping, the doomsday prophet and founder of Family Radio, in early May.

Camping had read between the lines of the Bible and proclaimed that on May 21, an earthquake would convulse the entire world, time zone by time zone. Christian believers would fly up into the air to meet Jesus. As for those left behind, Camping announced, “There will be weeping and wailing because everybody will realize: This is it. Judgment Day has come.”

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