Hence, there is a turn to spirituality. We want to make sure that we're in good with the god of our choice just in case it ends up being the end of the world. Toss in some bad weather and suddenly, we're looking at the end days and lo and behold, we even have a date for it just 8 years away.
So, why the devil are we thinking that the end of the world is nigh? Because most adults grew up like I did, with the thread of all out nuclear holocaust looming over our heads and movies like "The Day After" blasting on television. We've grown up with "duck and cover" (like that'd work, lol) and a number of adults know what radiation sickness is. Growing up like this primed us to think our race is going to fail and probably in our lifetimes. We've got the doomed mentality, we've got a horrific event that stimulates a war with madmen (on both sides), and toss in some adverse weather. We are ready for anything to make us go boom.
Of course, the unknown is absolutely terrifying. So, we all need some sort of reassurance. 2012 is 8 years away and heck, that's when the Maya said we were going to go down. So, we have 8 years left until it all unravels. That eliminates any necessity to fear of a pre-mature humanity failure on a daily basis. 2012 is the comfort date. It allows us to defer the worry until later on.
That's my guess at least.