January 1, 2000…The biggest birthday any of us will ever live through,” trumpeted the New York Times in announcing the Millennium Series in its Sunday magazine. Newspapers predict that as many as 1.5 million people will crowd Times Square at midnight, December 31, 1999, watched by an estimated television audience of more than 1 billion. A search of the Internet yields more than 460,000 Web sites that mention either “year 2000” or “millennium.”
Books are getting in on the action, too. John Updike’s recent novel, set in 2020, is appropriately titled Toward the End of Time. Last year Robert Stone published Damascus Gate, a novel about a self-proclaimed messiah and his followers, who plan to bring on the End by bombing the Muslim Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Stephen Jay Gould’s Questioning the Millennium: A Rationalist’s Guide and Damian Thompson’s The End of Time: Faith and Fear in the Shadow of the Millennium provide nonfictional analyses of the end-time phenomenon.