What if the end came not with a bang or a boom or a trumpet blast, the seventh trumpet of Revelations that is, heralding the final woe of the Apocalypse.
No, what if the end were self-inflicted?
What if all it took was a breakdown of the political system we all take for granted to trigger the ultimate collapse of civil society? A collapse significant enough to cause a run on the bank and the gas pumps and the grocery store shelves.
That's a doomsday scenario. And that's the lens through which doomsday preppers view what's been going on in Washington this week.
“The economy is by far No. 1. I would say 80 to 90 percent of the people that I deal with are concerned about where the country is heading economically,” said Scott Hunt. “They are worried about their future jobs. Or they're worried about their children, their grandchildren, where they're gonna get their jobs from.”
Hunt is a prepper who runs a doomsday academy of sorts in South Carolina, training people to be self-sufficient in the end of days. His company Practical Preppers is a one-stop shop for survival. The last few weeks, he says, business has been booming.
He’s also a consultant for the National Geographic Channel show "Doomsday Preppers."
To preppers, it doesn't matter if anarchy is brought on by natural or man-made disaster. Doesn't matter whether it's encouraged by left-wing activists angry at big corporations. Or right-wing activists angry at big government. Either way, the result they see is the same. In the future they see, it's every man -- and every woman -- for themselves.
Curt is one of the stars of the new season of "Doomsday Preppers" and says he’s preparing for an economic collapse.
“The government has been infiltrated,” he said. “It's been infiltrated by corporations, banks, financial institutions, labor unions, and a lot of special interests.”
What scares him the most is the crushing burden of U.S. debt. Yes, even the deficit means doomsday to some people.
“When our $16 trillion becomes due, we would be in big trouble and the government will be shut down basically,” said Curt.
Christine and Zoltan Hites don't necessarily look like survivalists. She's a stay-at-home mom. He's a tennis instructor. They recently spent $800 each and a 3-day weekend learning how to escape if you're handcuffed in the trunk of a car.
“Something's on the rumble,” said Christine Hites. “And I think most people are anxious. Most people can feel it. Who knows what it's going to be or where it's going to be. But I'd like to be prepared. I worry about my girls and myself. And if something were to happen to [my husband] I want to learn how to take care of myself just as easily.”
Their survival instructor Kevin Reeve -- who used to market software for Apple -- says increasingly the people he trains are white collar folks like the Hites.
“I'm getting a lot more citizens,” said Reeve. “Just normal everyday civilian American citizens who say, ‘You know what? Things are not going so good.’”
These folks are not crazy. In fact, you could argue that concern about the future of humanity is part of what makes us human. Over the centuries, the collective response to those existential concerns has given rise to the world's great religions. Faith -- of any sort -- may well be the ultimate manifestation of survivalism. A bulwark against humanity's extinction.
In the modern era, technology has given us new things to fear and new ideas how to survive. Baby-boomers grew up with it. So it's hardly surprising so many should turn to it now. They fall into two basic camps.
There are the preppers. People like Tim Ralston, stockpiling for the inevitable with a garage crammed with canned food and water purification systems. And weapons. Lots of weapons and ammo. He's planning to bury his cache in a container deep in the desert. And he's training his sons to defend it.
At the other extreme there are people who take a less aggressive approach. Not the preppers, but the wilderness survivalists.
People like Tom Brown who runs a school where he trains people to live off the land. They see the preppers as potential victims of their own preparation.
“Looking at that approach to survival, you are in prison,” said Brown. “You're in prison by your structure, you're in prison by your supplies, your ammunition, your guns. In fact there are maps on the Internet that tell you where these bunkers are. I don't wanna be in one of those bunkers, because it's called a supermarket.”
As of last night, both the preppers and the survivalists can breathe a bit easier. The fact that in Washington doomsday didn't come this time doesn't convince them they were wrong to fear it. As they see it, they now have a bit more time to get ready.