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May 23rd, 2011
05:04 PM ET

Preacher now says end of the world will happen in 5 months

By Kim Hutcherson and Dan Gilgoff, CNN

(CNN) – Harold Camping is sticking to his apocalyptic guns.

In his first radio broadcast since his doomsday prediction failed to pan out in a spectacularly public fashion, the California preacher insisted his was an error of interpretation, not fact.

What's more, he has another calculation for the day the world will end - October 21, 2011.

Camping had kept a low-profile since Saturday, the day he had forecast for the return of Jesus Christ to Earth. He and his devoted followers have been warning for months that on May 21, a select 2% to 3% of the world's population would be taken to heaven. Those left behind would face months of tribulation before perishing in the Earth's destruction, which Camping said would happen on October 21.

This is the basis for his new prediction, which Camping claims is not new at all. He told listeners on his Family Radio broadcast Monday that God is "loving and merciful," and had decided not to punish the humanity with five months of destruction.

But he maintains that the end of the world is still coming.

"We've always said October 21 was the day," Camping said during his show. "The only thing we didn't understand was the spirituality of May 21. We're seeing this as a spiritual thing happening rather than a physical thing happening. The timing, the structure, the proofs, none of that has changed at all."

However, Camping said his group would not be mounting another advertising push. In the months leading up to May 21, Family Radio billboards popped up across the country, warning that the end was near.

"We're not going to be passing out tracts," Camping said. "We're not going to put up any more billboards. We're not going to be advertising in any way. The world has been warned. We did our little share and the media picked it up. But now the world has been told, it's under judgment."

Fred Store, who led one of four RV caravans that toured the country in recent months to spread the word about judgment day, said he and other followers heard Camping's broadcast "and we were quite happy - it will be interesting to see what the next couple of months will bring."

"It appears as though this whole [rapture] thing happened in a spiritual, rather than a physical way," said Store, 66. The retired electrician said that he and the other nine members of his five-RV caravan were still at an RV park where they waited for the rapture to arrive on Saturday.

He said the park was within 100 miles of Boston, Massachusetts, but didn't want to disclose the specific location. He said the caravan was waiting for word from Camping's ministry, Family Radio, about arranging the return of the vehicles to the broadcaster's Oakland, California, headquarters.

Store said he and the others in his caravan were not disappointed that the dramatic events associated with the rapture had not come to pass.

"We think that judgment day did happen," he said. "It didn’t result in an earthquake, and there were a number of things that weren't exactly the way we said they would be, but we were only reading from the Bible.  We’ve been humbled by the whole experience."

Camping founded Family Radio, a nonprofit Christian radio network with about 65 stations across the country, in 1958. It received $80 million in contributions between 2005 and 2009.

He first inaccurately predicted the world would end in 1994. Despite his poor track record, he has gathered many followers. Some gave up their homes, entire life savings and jobs because they believed the world was ending.

Reporters who were allowed to ask questions during the broadcast Monday pressed Camping on this issue, but he would not admit that he bore any blame for his followers' predicaments.

"I don't have any responsibility," Camping said. "I'm only teaching the Bible. I'm telling ... this is what the Bible says. I don't have spiritual rule over anybody ... except my wife as the head of the household."

Experts in apocalyptic movements said that reinterpretations like Camping's are not uncommon in the wake of failed doomsday predictions.

“Historically, failed prophecies tend to result in disillusionment, with members deserting the group, or, more typically, a faith-saving (and face-saving) statement to the effect that while divine revelation remains infallible, human calculation is not,” said Lorenzo DiTommaso, author of the forthcoming book “The Architecture of Apocalypticism” and an associate professor of religion at Concordia University in Montréal, Canada. 

“In short: The math was off, and it’s back to the drawing board,” he said. “If the logic seems a bit self-serving, recall that in the apocalyptic mindset, faith precedes theory, and theory informs the evidence."

–CNN's Jessica Ravitz contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • End times

soundoff (4,998 Responses)
  1. Bob

    Someone needs to stick this con artist in jail. He's been wrong twice, yet has conned people out of more than $70m, along with some who have given away everything... Why does he accept donations if the end of the world is near? Money would be useless then...

    May 24, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • joe-s

      Where does it stop most if not all organized religions ask for money and return fantasy

      May 24, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
  2. Cleta

    Someone needs to help this old coot find the rapture since he is looking so hard for it.

    May 24, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
  3. Foxglove

    Who in the hell would send this old crock money is a little off their rocker. He needs someone to supervise him and get him on his meds...........use your money on something positive like help feed the unemployed and animal shelters. Do something constructive rather than all this con artist movement.

    May 24, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
  4. sami

    I'm sure I'm not the first of these 4,000 some posts to say enough already. Let the end be a surprise.

    May 24, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
  5. Dolt

    The sad thing is that Americans will sue a brain surgeon if his best efforts couldn't save a man from brain tumor, but they blindly give up their life savings to charlatans like Camping who has the audacity to repeat the same bluff over and over...

    May 24, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
    • donn

      Just the Americans?! I doubt that. Check out the Raelians among other groups. Sorry, it is not just Americans that follow these cults.

      May 24, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
  6. Kevin K in TX

    wow, the bible was too descriptive... why did it just not say that the rapture was purely spiritual.. I made and iron umbrella to help block out the brimstone..

    May 24, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
    • Normon

      Iron Umbrella, Nice!
      I have some asbestos underwear that I won't be needing for awhile. Ebay I guess.

      May 24, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • Normon

      Oh yes! Asbestos Snuggies! Order now for guaranteed delivery by 10/20/2011. B)

      May 24, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
  7. Adam

    For a country that boasts "the brightest minds" in science and technology, yet you people still believe in the biggest scam of all: ReLIEgion. L. Ron Hubbard put it best: "Want to get rich quick? Start a religion!". The scary part is, the people who believe all these lies have the right to vote for the most powerful man in the world (hopefully not for much longer, as the USA is going down the toilet)! All religions/cults are started by man, and used by man to manipulate stupid people. Oh and again I repeat, we already know when the world will end: 5 billion years when the sun dies out, or of course earlier if man chooses through mutually assured destruction, pollution, voting republican, etc.

    May 24, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
    • Bob

      Add voting democrat to that and I agree. Both parties are repulsive.

      May 24, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • Adam

      @ Bob

      I agree, they both are terrible, but hey whatcha gonna do, 2 party systems are fail

      May 24, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
  8. truth is in the bible

    But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son,[f] but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.

    May 24, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
    • joe-s

      Your just as nuty as that guy

      May 24, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
    • E

      He certainly exemplifies the sin of pride, doesn't he. "Not even the angels nor the son of man know..." But Harold Camping? Yep, he knows. Why any true believer would follow this guy beats me.

      May 24, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
    • Adam

      LOL truth and the bible should not be used in the same sentence, they contradict each other!

      May 24, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
    • Pssst

      You forgot the, "Once upon a time...."

      – and –

      "And they all lived happily ever after. Amen"

      May 24, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
    • Normon

      Of course, the evidence shows overwhelmingly that Noah's world wide flood never happened, so i'm not so sure about the rest of it either.

      May 24, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • jheron

      The Noah story didn't happen. Any more "truths" in the bible?

      May 24, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • IamTenWillYouBeMyCuddleBuddy?

      I hate to use the 'S' word in front of a 'true believer' like you, but SCIENCE has already proven that all the animals in the world could not all fit into an ark described in the bible. So either the story can't be taken literally or whoever wrote it was telling porkies.

      May 24, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
  9. cathy

    this sick old fool needs to keep his mouth shut.....he is causing stress to many people..........

    May 24, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
  10. MyName

    What's worse, is that the man probably can use the bathroom himself, and ppl are listening to his crap

    May 24, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  11. Daniel Haszard

    Harold Camping sounds like he plagiarized Jehovah's Witnesses
    Jehovah Witnesses are a spin-off of the second Adventist which all came from the Millerite movement.American war of 1812 army captain William Miller is ground zero for Jehovah's Witnesses.
    Yes,the "great disappointment" of Oct 22 1844 has never died out... it lives on in the Jehovah's Witnesses.
    The central CORE doctrine of the Watchtower,yes the reason the Watchtower came into existence was to declare Jesus second coming in 1914.When the prophecy (derived from William Miller of 1842) failed they said that he came "invisibly".
    -
    Danny Haszard been there

    May 24, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
    • MidwstrnGrl

      i take it you were once one of them then?

      May 24, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
    • MyName

      good point, and if you read the part about the great flood and Noah's arc, God said he'd never do that again. there is a real lack of common sense in the world today, ppl are so gullible, it's disturbing

      May 24, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • MidwstrnGrl

      all the bible stuff stupid. we spend so much time waiting for god to tell us what to do, that we are doing nothing to fix the things that might actually destroy us.

      May 24, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
  12. Corban

    You must realize that this guy is ONE: old and TWO: a mental nut case! The Bible says that NO ONE will know the day of the rapture. THEREFORE, if a MAN claims to predict it, it WILL NOT be on that day! People can be so immature these days. The Bible warns us about FALSE PROPHETS!

    May 24, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
    • joe-s

      So he is crazy for saying an exact date, but your not for saying it will happen but you dont know ?

      Take your med's man

      May 24, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • Chris

      Immature? Aren't you a little old for fairy tales yourself?

      May 24, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
    • Normon

      Immature because his interpretation is different than your interpretation?

      May 24, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
  13. GOD hit the SNOOZE button?

    The old man needs a nursing home.

    May 24, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
  14. Doug

    I would have found the CNN report more interesting if it fully reported on Camping news conference he held on his regular Family Radio program. He faced questions from reporters around the world. His justification for his revelation that the date is now Oct 21st was based on a letter he received from one of his simple-minded followers. He had no regrets for his followers who sold everything they had and left their families; believing that their new challenges would make them stronger. He expressed relief, and a bit of surprise, to find out that the reports of a woman killing her two children was wrong. The reports asked all the questions you would expect. As always, he was smiling and showed amazing grace under fire. He ended by thanking reporters for not asking the the tough questions he was expecting. It would be interesting to find out what tough questions he was expecting.

    May 24, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
  15. KLL

    Oh, Mr. Camping, maybe you need to enter an assisted living facility or retirement community with 24 hour care. You cannot keep doing this to people. You have followers, unfortunately, and they seem to want to believe you – why not stop this nonsense and HELP people instead of harming them.

    May 24, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
  16. JustPlainJoe

    Psychotic ramblings.

    May 24, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
  17. Schreiber

    he is retarded. But what is more scary is the people that actually follow him.......seriously.

    May 24, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
  18. O. Brother

    I predict ol' Harold will kick the bucket July 17. Then what? We'll never know when the world's not gonna end...

    May 24, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
  19. MyName

    first he said 1994 then May 21, neither of the previously predicted came true, the world is definately not gonna end October 21st

    May 24, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
  20. Lois Lame

    Hahahahahahahaha. Oh, that Camping guy is a real commedian!

    May 24, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.