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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. mic

    I think he's predicting is own death not the end of the world. I mean look at him for Christ sake he's got one foot in the coffin already.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:59 pm |
  2. Chery Bailey

    Think this guy needs to get a new gig. You're fired!!!
    One thing is for sure his days are getting numbered because he is old. Maby it would be a good idea to do something constructive with the rest of your life instead of being an idiot. Wonder why so many others are so stunned as to give him money when there is so many worth while causes out there.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
  3. SJL

    Only 2%-3% get to go to heaven? Bummer. I guess I was under the impression that the number of people who would make it to heaven would be a lot higher than that. BTW-Where does it say that percentage in the Bible?

    May 24, 2011 at 11:30 pm |
    • meemee

      NO, NO< NO The Rapture DID happen. It is just that no one qualified to go. Guess where everyone is going to end up? Well, what if it already all happened and we're already here?

      May 24, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @meemee

      I can't tell if you are kidding or serious here...? Are you being philosophically 'sarcastic'...? Or... philosophically 'serious' in your...'what if' scenarios...?

      Peace...

      Peace...

      May 25, 2011 at 1:19 am |
  4. Reality

    Camping is insane as was JC. JC's family and friends had it right 2000 years ago ( Mark 3: 21 "And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself."

    Said passage is one of the few judged to be authentic by most contemporary NT scholars. e.g. See Professor Ludemann's conclusion in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 24 and p. 694.

    Or did P, M, M, L and J simply make him into a first century magic-man via their epistles and gospels of semi-fiction? Most contemporary NT experts after thorough analyses of all the scriptures go with the latter magic-man conclusion with J's gospels being mostly fiction.

    Obviously, today's followers of Paul et al's "magic-man" are also a bit on the odd side believing in all the Christian mumbo jumbo about bodies resurrecting, and exorcisms, and miracles, and "magic-man atonement, and infallible, old, European, white men, and 24/7 body/blood sacrifices followed by consumption of said sacrifices.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:18 pm |
    • meemee

      Your post smacks of anti-white racism, which is on the rise and been noticed. The time is coming when anti-white comments like yours will be just as un PC as if I said that all blacks should work in cotton fields and live in shacks and be home by dusk and stay there.

      May 24, 2011 at 11:52 pm |
    • Bucky Ball

      Everyone is ent-i-tled to their opinion, and in mine there is nothing racist about that post. It would be interesting to hear, specifically, exactly, what she finds racist. Actually everything he's saying is accurate, and been stated before by others, including eminently regarded scholars, as he states. M,M,L,J and P, did all have their "points of view" as every writer of every human text ever written, and clearly they did present the traditions which they were heir to, in light of their personal views, and to promote the interests of their literary objectives. That much is completely noncontroversial in scholarly circles. I agree also about the old European white men comment. Just look at EWTN, almost any weekend, or even most of the services from the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. It's ALL men, and they are overwhelmingly white, (on the altar anyway), and most are of European heritage. Every time I see it, I have to ask, "Where are the women?". It is not racist necessarily, but it IS misogynistic. The objectives of the itinerant apocalyptic were taken and severely changed by the various communities of his early followers, who were involved in serious disputes about the meanings and directions they each had for the path of their separate groups.

      May 25, 2011 at 12:20 am |
  5. Sha' Boy

    Harold Camping was almost right about 21 May 2011. This exclusive footage shows why he was wrong and what happened. Unfortunately Camping didn't account for "A Friend" saving Earth in his math.
    Now realizing he was wrong, Camping issues this response, and admittance of being wrong.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
  6. PRISM 1234

    The media wouldn't have given this thing such attention if it was not in their aim to make spectacle out of Christianity.

    Why did they focus on one weird old guy's predictions with a handful of followers, and magnified them, as if it were the belief of all Christians...? You can clearly see what they were aiming to do!

    According to the articles CNN keeps writing for their "religion blogs" they are proving over and over that they are no more then tabloid scandal hunters! Way to go, American Media...It looks like just like everything else that's been hatching in this country lately ! ...that will get us a real good reputation in the eyes of the rest of the world! LOL!

    May 24, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
    • ExB

      Prism, the reason CNN or anyone else took issue with this particular man was because he is the head of an enormous Christian radio station that can be heard all over the country. If this had been your typical run of the mill Christian nut job, no one would have heard about it. This man, while still a Christian nut job, has the means to spout his nonsense over the airwaves. That is why CNN and everyone else made such a fuss. Maybe Camping should quit with the end time conspiracies and maybe you should quit with the "CNN hates Christians" conspiracies. They have gotten boring...

      May 24, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
    • athensguy*

      While I think you ate wrong in your assertion about the media's motivations, I still ask what is wrong with poking fun of Christianity?

      May 24, 2011 at 11:05 pm |
    • civiloutside

      I suspect that the fact that they spent a few hundred thousand dollars putting up billboards all across the country proclaiming May 21st as Judgment Day, while sponsoring caravans of people to travel the country giving the same message, might have contributed to the media attention as well.

      They are a spectacle because they made a spectacle of themselves, not because CNN conspired to make them into one.

      May 24, 2011 at 11:18 pm |
    • jon

      Ah yes, why did the media cover this, all those signs on the side of the highways, the caravans, the demands for attention on a global scale, its a evil media trying to make Christians look silly.
      The truth is that one group who believes essentially the same thing, is calling the other group crazy because they thought they could pin down a date.
      Pot calling kettle black.
      This puts a mirror up to the face of Christians, this is your belief as well.
      Take the worst dictators in history and none of them attempted to kill and torture 97 percent of the people under their control,
      did Hitler or Stalin attempt to kill those kind of numbers?
      On a daily basis look around you and tell yourself 97 percent of the people that you see deserve to die horribly, all because of get this, are you ready?
      Our great great great ......grandmother ate an apple offered to her by a TALKING SNAKE.
      Are you ffn kidding me?
      Christians this is your faith too, embrace it.

      May 24, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
  7. A MS

    Did it every occur to this man that Jesus did come and he was one of those left behind?

    May 24, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
  8. bob

    Sure and while I wait for October to roll around I'll win the powerball every Weds. and Sat.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
  9. yttrium8

    I have piled up all the pounds thinking the world would end. Now I have to visit the gym to loss them all.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
  10. Facts

    To be intellectually honest, this article and others on Harold Camping should mention he is a fringe Evangelical Fundamentalist, which is hardly representative of the vast majority of Christian thought (the Evangelical movement itself is a fraction of one faction of the Protestant movement). The Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist and other mainline Protestant denominations generally do not accept the Evangelical concept of "the Rapture," which is based on one line in the Bible. Whether you believe is irrelevant when discussing this particular man's views. The fact remains he represents a miniscule group and his views have probably received far more attention than they deserve.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Facts

      And... your posting still doesn't 'negate' that the overwhelming majority of Christians from virtually 'all' denominations...'truly believe' that Jesus (is) coming back. It's just a matter of when, is it not...?

      Curious...

      Peace...

      May 25, 2011 at 1:16 am |
  11. Gary

    Jim Jones revisted part deux.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
  12. Truth Teller

    This Guy is making everyone complacent. Hes bring out all the scoffers and jeerers. The end of the world is seriuis business. Now when you tell someone the end of the world really is near, the bible never says excactly when.

    You will get sneered. The devil knows what hes doing, when it comes to deceiving. This fellow is being used by Satan.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
  13. counting crows

    I feel sorry for these folks. No brains at all in their heads. Just sheer stupidity.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
  14. Spidey-Man

    oh PLEASE do NOT let these ridiculous stories stop... I LOVE it when these religious freak nutjobs get it wrong...

    and PLEASE be sure to do a followup with his flunkies that followed him blindly like a bunch of lemmings and gave up their houses and jobs and life savings to follow this absolute efing stupidity.

    Please do another caravan and this time come through Manassas, Virginia and let me sit with you on October 21st while we wait for the end.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:32 pm |
    • Spidey-Man

      btw... is the time still 6:00?

      May 24, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
    • SJL

      Then we could point and laugh at them when it doesn't happen.

      May 24, 2011 at 11:34 pm |
  15. Fireguy

    Only time will tell when the world will end. When God is ready for us, he'll take us! It will be the end for us all someday. We will all be is his hands!

    May 24, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
  16. OLD MAN

    only god knows the time and the date and this man is crazy and old.......the day has came and passed and oct 21 will come and past......that guy is just to old this is the 2nd time this man has been wrong all this old hog what is money so sad he needs to grow up..............

    May 24, 2011 at 9:25 pm |
  17. vince

    His followers are now in a world of hurt financially and yet he claims no responsibilty....hmmm. Does he sound like a rich politician looking down his nose at these people or is the green.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
  18. Sideliner

    Harry C., we all had a good laugh at your expense, but your fifteen minutes of fame are up. Please, let's all get on with our lives and let not the media renew this clown for a second season this fall.

    Oh, and one more thing, Harry. Regardless of how metaphysical you now deem the May 21st Rapture date to have been, the fact remains that neither you nor any of the people you feel are true believers were "taken up" on Saturday. No, we're still stuck with you. By your own reckoning, then, isn't your (and their) fate now the same as that of the other doomed masses come October 21st?

    May 24, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
  19. Mott the Hoople

    Thank goodness the world is ending in October! I'm going to tell the IRS and the debt collectors that they can all kiss my pimply behind.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:14 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Its going to mess with Fall semester.

      ...naaah , I know my college... the professors will be there at the gates of Heaven looking for the assignments they gave out on the 2oth of October.

      I can see the sylabus...." The Rapture will not be a ligitimate excuse for not turning in the assignments." :)

      May 24, 2011 at 9:17 pm |
    • SJL

      That's hilarious! Good one! :)

      May 24, 2011 at 11:36 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Mark from Middle River

      LOL...!!! Excellent...!! :-)

      Peace...

      May 25, 2011 at 12:29 am |
  20. Peggy B

    It's time for Harold Camping to get over himself. Yes, the world might end, if not in my lifetime, then in someone else's lifetime. Harold, NO MAN KNOWS THE HOUR.

    To say to people, especially the younger members of our society that the the world will end at 9PM on a random Tuesday or Friday or Saturday, is fear mongering, nothing more. The world will end when it does and NOT BEFORE.

    We don't need to know the date!

    May 24, 2011 at 9:11 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.