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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. leave people alone mr camping

    there are people all over the country right now suffering the devastating loss of their homes and loved ones due to natural disaster and its really messed up to keep talking about all this BS. There are REAL things going on. I have no problem with you wanting to believe this but there are more important things right now...oh...like why dont you take your MILLIONS and use it to HELP survivors of these devastating floods and tornadoes????????????????? The bible also teaches sir, that you are to take your fortune and use it for good does it not? No I don't memorize biblical verses so I couldn't tell you exactly what it says but I'm pretty sure that's a pretty obvious thing. I am here tearing up wishing I had some power to help these people suffering in joplin, and in other parts of the country right now. you are a selfish loser.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:38 am |
    • VegasRage

      You kidding? That old crotch is going to try and push it out until he dies so he doesn't have to face any of those who gave up their live savings to follow his stupidness.

      May 24, 2011 at 2:05 am |
  2. Ben

    You're a moron, Camping. Go take your obnoxious, meddlesome prophecies somewhere else and stop trying to scare the children and imbeciles of the world. When those Millerites also learned their initial prediction failed, they too switched to the corresponding date in October and when THAT too passed, they TOO hedged their bets by claiming the event was "spiritual" and not "physical." Not even your third attempt - and an irrefutable "spiritual" prediction at that - can help you save face.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:37 am |
  3. zoundsman

    I couldn't stop grinning for a while when I heard about his adjustment.
    It's just nice to know there are a lots of sillier people then me.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:37 am |
    • Mike in PA

      He's an old guy who was formerly an engineer. I wouldn't be surprised to find that he still uses a slide rule instead of a calculator.

      May 24, 2011 at 3:56 am |
  4. VegasRage

    Yeah baby! Double down that crazy bet! Now that's balls!

    May 24, 2011 at 1:35 am |
    • VegasRage

      Come to think of it, he might be dead in 5 months, he is after all 89 years old.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:36 am |
  5. Mike

    Maybe the rapture happened and he and his flock were left behind! That will be the penance for the rest of us!

    May 24, 2011 at 1:35 am |
  6. Anson

    Men like Camping have a simple creed:

    There is no god but the Almighty Dollar

    And Dow-Jones is his prophet. "

    May 24, 2011 at 1:34 am |
  7. jellylee20202

    The old monkey says "blah blah blah October 21, 2011 blah blah blah" and a bunch of monkey follows.....Moral of the story? Monkeys are stupid.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:31 am |
  8. Joey123

    Ok, enough is enough Camping! Lawsuit time! You bilked people out of millions, you're a con artist and a senile old man. This last minute save for 5 months allows for him to think of the next excuse as to why nothing happened the 21st of October. He was definite..he was absolutely sure..he had no doubts... Time to STFU and crawl away until the subpoena comes to your door. FOR CRYING OUT LOUD..RETARDS!

    May 24, 2011 at 1:30 am |
    • Winston5

      oh, I'm sure a lawsuit is out of the question, as they were religious contributions. -P.T. Barnum

      May 24, 2011 at 1:41 am |
    • Tony

      If a lawsuit comes out of this it will be the most disturbing thing about this whole story. If people are dumb enough to believe this guy then they should lose their money. Lawsuits are intended to help people who were wronged, not help those who are too stupid to realize they gave money to an idiot. Those who gave money to this guy and want it back should look in the mirror and ask themselves why they are smoking so much meth that they would believe this non sense. The bible says that none of us will know when the end of days will come. For this moron to tell people that in 5 months its all over is stupid 5 months can't reverse an entire life of misdeeds...just a thought from a somewhat sane person.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:51 am |
  9. Ben

    I do believe it's been covered that script eliminates that possibility of naming a date. But we should all be observing our Lord's teachings in the joyful hope of his return. Amen come Lord Jesus

    May 24, 2011 at 1:29 am |
    • UncleM

      Your desire to see the world end (with the assumption that you crazy a$$ gets lifted up to heaven) is arrogant, sick and deluded.

      May 24, 2011 at 11:56 am |
  10. RWH

    Abraham Lincoln purportedly said “You may fool all the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time." All Camping needs, apparently, is some of the people for another 100 million or so. Who's the lunatic now?

    May 24, 2011 at 1:28 am |
  11. Chicken Little

    He must have another boat payment in 5 months.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:26 am |
  12. Michael

    "I don't have spiritual rule over anybody ... except my wife as the head of the household."
    Beautiful, Christianity at its best, telling their woman what to do.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:24 am |
    • darren

      That isn't Christianity if he means that he owns her because the bible doesn't mean that at all. It basically means that a husband (as head of household) should respect his wife and she should also be willing to lovingly support her husband as he should lovingly support his wife. :) If that is the case, he misinterprets the bible.

      May 24, 2011 at 4:57 am |
    • Frogist

      @darren: You say he misinterprets the Bible. But that's your opinion which sadly is just as valid as Camping's. I'm sure he would say you misinterpret the Bible too.

      May 24, 2011 at 11:30 am |
  13. Dave Lewerenz

    The 'end of the physical world" in not talked about in the Bible at all... what was talked about was the end of the Old Covenant World or Age which would happen when the temple and Jerusalem were destroyed (Matthew 24), which happened in AD70.

    Unfortunately, most Christians don't do in-depth study of the Bibles, they listen to human teachers and these human teachers learn what they do from seminaries which hand down these teachings from one generation to the next. The few Christians who actually do study the Bible and pray about these things, who come to different conclusions then what the majority believe, are branded as Heretics and in many cases are cast out of the church system.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:06 am |
    • Epidi

      My guess is it's the end of thier world as they know it. But I agree with you 100% in that the Bible does not say the end of the world.

      May 24, 2011 at 2:28 am |
    • kent

      the bibles wrong. it's stories, nothing more. end of story

      May 24, 2011 at 11:28 am |
  14. tallulah13

    Oh brother. If anyone still actually believes in this charlatan they deserve to lose everything.

    May 24, 2011 at 12:43 am |
  15. Sassan

    Honestly, for this to be news demonstrates how primitive our human species still is and how backwards and uneducated our country remains. Instead of talking about scientific advancements and achievements we focus on reality shows and end-of-the world garbage. We must all start to think with our own brains and let go of the slavery than encompasses religion and realize the only way to liberate ourselves and advance our nation and the human existence is to give up the irrational fairy stories we have been fed as children.

    May 24, 2011 at 12:30 am |
  16. Sassan

    Religion, please go away.

    May 24, 2011 at 12:19 am |
    • darren

      All I can say is that I will be praying for you. I hope that one day, you will find the joy and hope that God can bring to your life!

      May 24, 2011 at 5:00 am |
    • UncleM

      Pray away Darren. Nobody's listening.

      May 24, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • LetsThink123

      @darren
      All i can say is that you can't find inherent happiness in your life, so u need some invisible/unprovable bring to do that for u. This is true for u Darren because ur emotions r tied to ur god because u have been indoctrinated from childhood and haven't realized it yet.

      May 30, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
  17. lan

    We laugh at Camping but don't forget that we have numerous Republican presidential candidates who believe in the rapture.

    If elected they would encourage war and turmoil in the middle east because it has been prophesized as a harbinger to the return of Jesus.

    May 24, 2011 at 12:01 am |
    • PraiseTheLard

      I wouldn't be surprised if Obama also believed in this particular fairy tale...

      May 24, 2011 at 12:04 am |
    • writ

      Really? Name 1 Republican politician on record who believes in the Rapture as Harold Camping does on these dates.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:24 am |
    • beelzebubba

      Is it a coincidence that the two lousiest presidents for decades (Jimmy Carter and George W Bush) were "eeeeeevangelical born-a'gin" christians? I'm no Obama fan, but I think his election was a sign that the public has wised up and no longer buys the "jeeeeeeezus is my co-pilot argument. Yee haw. We evolve.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:42 am |
    • lan

      @writ – Can you read?

      I wrote they believe the rapture will occur.... not that they believe it would occur on May 21st.

      Therefore I question their critical thinking skills.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:44 am |
    • really people?

      @PraiseTheLard
      First you people say hes Muslim and now you say that he believes in christian raptures
      please explain the logic behind that one

      May 24, 2011 at 1:49 am |
  18. Reality

    Camping as was Jesus is insane.

    May 23, 2011 at 11:59 pm |
  19. Free

    This guy offered a guarantee that the world would end, didn't he? So, is there any avenue for bringing a class action against him? I mean, if there is any way to get an American to stop making these kinds of false predictions suing is it, right?

    May 23, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
    • Joel

      No, it isn't illegal to be wrong. Now, if you can demonstrate that he didn't personally think that his prediction would be accurate AND he profited by it (it seems that he certainly did), then you have a fraud lawsuit.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:25 am |
    • beelzebubba

      You can defraud people if you claim it is for your invisible friend, but that's as far as the invisible friend excuse can go. Thankfully society has at least drawn the line there, otherwise other worse crimes would be ok. Isn't it funny how there isn't a commandment not to commit religious fraud? My cult, however, offers an eeeeeeeeeeeeternal guarantee of satisfaction. No member who has died has ever demanded a refund. That is all the proof my followers need. Can I hear an aymennn? Yes, I PREY daily.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:59 am |
  20. OH YEAH!

    I want to be the first to thank Macho Man Randy Sav-age for stopping the Rapture Satuday!

    "LOOK HERE JESUS MAN I GOT YOU FOR 3 MINUTES ... 3 MINUTES OF PLAYTIME!!! OOOOOHHHH YEEAAAAHHH!!!"

    http://www.rad-dudes.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/241335_10150195206269742_151746964741_6748922_1885222_o.jpg

    May 23, 2011 at 11:44 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.