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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 • Faith Now

soundoff (4,998 Responses)
  1. fergus

    God gave us all freewill. It's a freaking cop out statement so people who actually believe this garbage continue to believe

    May 24, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
  2. BlackMamba

    I'll preach this,"You're old, so just retire and leave the end of the world predictions to some other wacko."

    May 24, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
  3. Colin in Florida

    If I were the District Attorney where this crook lived, he could make all the predictions he wants from inside the nearest prison-I would charge him with elder abuse-many people have cashed in their life savings and given them to this charlatan.

    May 24, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
  4. David Johnson

    Was it not Jesus, in His Sermon on the Mount, who proclaimed: "Brethen, there is one born every minute!"?

    Over 4000 comments, mostly all attacking a guy who is no more dishonest, no more crazy, than the rest of the believers.

    Benny Hinn and Richard Roberts and all the televangelists are far more dangerous. They lie, steal and promote concepts like "seed faith" and the "prosperity gospel". Believers, being fundamentally simple, trot to the barn for their own fleecing. Baaaa!

    The Religious Right would take over our nation, creating a theocracy, with an imaginary Messiah as Head of State. Now, that is scary. That is crazy. An empty chair will represent Jesus at the leadership table. All business will be addressed by speaking in tongues. Rolling on the floor will be optional. OMG!

    None of the believers, No, Not One, is superior to,, more rational than, or more believable than Camping. A nut is a nut. All believers are idiots. I refuse to acknowledge different levels of idiocy.

    Mothers, don't let your children grow up to be believers! Spend the time you would spend on brainwashing, on teaching them to read and to love math and science. Our kids will be competing with the rest of the world. Dragging a security blanket behind them, like Linus, will make it much harder to swim. The rest of the world is leaving fantasy behind.

    There is no god. No Santa. No baby Jesus. There is not a shed of evidence, that the statement I just made is not true. None of you would argue with me, that Santa is a myth. But, god is no more likely than Santa.

    Cheers!

    May 24, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
    • don p

      amen to that....very well said and very true.

      May 24, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      *Pat's davey on the back* There , There kid, feel better that you got that all out? Right now you are caught in that period that everyone in society comes to every now and then. Democrats get it when a Republican gets caught and try to say that "all"Republicans are the same as the one that failed. Republicans do the same thing when Democrats fall. You see that maybe if you can tie the rest in with the fallen maybe the rest will fall as well.

      Sadly for you it won't happen with this guy because in with the Athiest I saw quite a lot of Christians questioning this guy's predictions. You Atheist tried with Westburo and with Terry, the Koran burning, Norris. Each time what has always caused you all to fail is that the majority of Christians feel that these guys are wrong.

      CNN keeps this forum running, and filled with stories of guys like this, nothing about churches in the cities feeding people or missionaries in third world countries. Nope, if its a Christian story and you see it on CNN bielf blog then you know almost 95% of the time it will be negative. We have gotten used to it and still laugh about our Athiestic believers here.

      Much love and espect Davey. Better luck next story. :)

      May 24, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Mark from Middle River

      Damn, dude! You got my eyes all full of tears.

      You said: "CNN keeps this forum running, and filled with stories of guys like this, nothing about churches in the cities feeding people or missionaries in third world countries. Nope, if its a Christian story and you see it on CNN bielf blog then you know almost 95% of the time it will be negative."

      Most of the churches involved in feeding and missionary work, do not wear masks so as not to be recognized. Even in Jesus land, there is no free lunch. Frequently, there be proselytizing. Selling of the baby J, in exchange for soup,that they should be darn thankful to get. The hungry are always more attentive, don't you think? LOL!

      There are many non-Christian groups who are doing good for humanity, no strings attached: SHARE, UNICEF, United Way et. al. I give to these.

      Cheers!

      May 24, 2011 at 9:17 pm |
  5. God wants you to send me some money

    I will not put up any more advertising, no billboards, no nothing...cuz that cost money...and as long as you idiots keep sending me donations, I will get a nice nest egg in 5 months...Thanks S*ckers. I will collect your money, then move to the Vatican and smoke a joint, and molest some children with the Pope. Amen

    May 24, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
  6. Salty Bob

    Wow can he say lawsuit

    May 24, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
  7. meleloup

    What a bunch of BS!! "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." Easy to say that after some people gave up EVERYTHING they had! He better not try to put up any more billboards. He should pay those poor people back!

    May 24, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
  8. SB

    I've done a calculation of my own, and it shows that anyone who listens to this fool or those like him deserves all the ridicule they get. In the short blip of time since the human race came along and invented religion, many creation & destruction myths have come and gone. Naturally, none of them has had any effect whatsoever on the real, actual universe. Why does that simple fact fail to ring true in so many heads?

    May 24, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
  9. BioHzrd

    Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    May 24, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
  10. JJ

    Ahhh...over/under of 5 months...now I get it.

    May 24, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
  11. Jim

    Dude... two end of the world parties in one year?
    Could I be dreaming?

    May 24, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
  12. J.B.B.

    Some people will do ANYthing for their 15 minutes of fame. This guy needs to get a life ... BEFORE the world comes to the end
    that he keeps on predicting!!

    May 24, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
  13. marco1257

    This guy is after money, period. End of story.

    May 24, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
  14. Jeff

    This guy's obviously just giving himself as many extensions as he can before the deadline–his deadline that is. He'll keep bilking people until he's dead.

    May 24, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
  15. fergus

    God is not real! wake up people...Jesus was a regular man, a prophet, a teacher. That's it! Someone wrote a book about him that was a fantasy.....

    May 24, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
    • J.B.B.

      Bite your heathen tongue!!!

      May 24, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
    • GE

      You must be on of Harold Camping's followers

      May 24, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
    • wisdom4u2

      Actually, you're the one that's not real!!!!

      May 25, 2011 at 1:20 am |
  16. Charlie:D

    Please kill yourself Harold Camping!

    May 24, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
  17. Paul Ronco

    The only thing predictable is that they would revise the story to say that it did in fact happen, but in a different way than they expected. CNN, I just saw Jesus Christ in my toast. Maybe you could shift some of your attention from this moderately important story to my really important one. Thank you for doing your jobs.

    May 24, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
  18. SG

    Stop giving this guy any attention. IF he believed in the Bible, then he would understand Matthew 24:36. What is his real motive?

    May 24, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
  19. system you

    the sad thing is, these people want the end to come.....

    May 24, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
  20. Nola

    the rapture just need to take him already, im tired of reading about his stupid prophets. Theres more important things going on in the world then this old buzzard!!!!!

    May 24, 2011 at 5:56 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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.