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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. Rex

    I wonder how religious fraud isn't fraud in the eyes of the law.

    May 24, 2011 at 8:48 am |
    • The Guy

      I was thinking the same thing recently. How does no one sue Camping for fraud? Hundreds of people have given this a hole money for his complete b.s. "predictions".

      The greatest irony is that the Bible says "God" will send false prophets to hell for doing so yet he does it anyway.

      May 24, 2011 at 8:52 am |
  2. w7rkd

    He forgot to inform his followers about the Jonestown cool aide party and the arrival time of the space ships.

    May 24, 2011 at 8:48 am |
  3. jayindenver

    Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.

    May 24, 2011 at 8:48 am |
    • Teeph

      I find your lack of faith disturbing . . . ; )

      May 24, 2011 at 9:00 am |
  4. RockwoodON

    Well I hope the next one is better 'cause the last one was the worst apocalypse ever!

    Seriously though, what great news. We can have another 'Countdown to back-pedaling' and 'The World Did Not End' party. Lets hope he keeps this up.

    We have Draw Mohammed Day, why not make May 21st a regular, annual "Apocalypse Day" and invite all religions to use this if they feel the need to plan an end-of-the-world. Enterprising individuals could lease out signs with this date (just don't put on a year), and all those whole spent their entire net worth on Campings' initial May 21st might be able to sell the signs on eBay for some small return. Just an idea.

    May 24, 2011 at 8:48 am |
  5. Tonya

    He's making traditional evangelical Christians look bad. The bible clearly states in Matthew that NO ONE KNOWS THE DATE OR TIME of Christ's coming. How do these people get around that?

    May 24, 2011 at 8:47 am |
    • w7rkd

      Making the evangelical christians look bad is not hard to do.

      May 24, 2011 at 8:51 am |
    • Tonya

      It's a crying shame, isn't it? The church has lost her direction and purpose – and has become a target for people who want their sin to be justified and TRUTH to be what they believe, not TRUTH. If someone kills another person, and you BELIEVE they are innocent – that doesn't change the truth that they killed someone, does it?

      May 24, 2011 at 8:55 am |
    • w7rkd

      Christianity is not the only religion or way of life affected by people who take their religious writings and exaggerate them for personal gain, profit, or demise of another way of believing (spirituality), Islam has it's problems too with these wack job Imams taking their scripture and warping it. Yes it's sad.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:02 am |
    • w7rkd

      This twisting of faith is the main reason I have abandoned the church and will never go to another one because of all the underlying hypocracy I find there. God was not found in a church, so who needs them!

      May 24, 2011 at 9:06 am |
  6. doc doc

    Ignor him, please. no more press!

    May 24, 2011 at 8:47 am |
  7. BR

    The man is a public relations genius. The fact that he continues to rename a new date of destruction in the future and people still send him money proves it! Any advertiser in this world wishes they could be as effective as this P.T. Barnum.

    May 24, 2011 at 8:47 am |
  8. tom jones

    this guy needs a gun to his head

    May 24, 2011 at 8:46 am |
  9. Truefax

    Does that mean I have to start wearing condoms again? damn it!

    May 24, 2011 at 8:45 am |
  10. cygo

    Is there nothing to be done about this loon?

    May 24, 2011 at 8:45 am |
  11. oldjezuzfreak

    For those of you who actually know the scripture. There are a series of things that need to happen before the return of Christ. Most notably the embodiment of the AntiChrist. Some may link the AntiChrist to Obama but I beleive that he is just the predicessor to the AntiChrist. God wanted us to follow him relentlessly and with out being swayed to do so. In doing that he would reward us with taking us to Heaven. To think that he would lay out the eact date, mathematically or not, is contradictary to the following relentlessly without sway. There are things that could point to the fact that the second coming is near but, to say that we could nail it down to an exact date is ludacris. If that were the case, people would live thier lives as cavilier as possible and then become all rightous in the final days. I beleive he will come, I do not, nor do I care when. All I know is that I am ready anytime, anyplace. I don't need nor do I want a date.

    May 24, 2011 at 8:45 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Umm, isn't "everyone" technically a precursor to the anti-Christ? What's special about Obama? I know a lot of people in this country believe a black president must be a sign that the end is near. But aside from that, what makes him special?

      May 24, 2011 at 8:48 am |
    • Grammar Police

      In the same sense, choosing who you believe to be the antichrist is just as silly. I'm not a fan of Obama either, but I'm quite sure the same was said about Bush, Clinton, etc.

      Illiteracy seems to be a problem for you though. Work on it.

      May 24, 2011 at 8:51 am |
    • Rodney in Dallas

      If you think Obama is the antichrist then you are dumber than I thought. We've got Fidel Castro, Kim Jong Il, Osama Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein......all of whom were the most evil men in the world and you pick Obama? You really are stupid!

      May 24, 2011 at 8:53 am |
    • ladybug

      the anti christ is any person or organization that is against christ, it isn't a person, you are not getting your info from the bible.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:00 am |
    • RockwoodON

      Just to add to your excellent post – there are three things that need to happen before the return of Christ:

      1. Jesus has to be a real person, not just a mythological character made up and edited by enthusiasts over 1900 years.

      2. A deity whose greatest characteristic is to be invisible, leaving no observable trace in the universe or world, but who can nevertheless be extremely active right up to the invention of photography and sound recording.

      3. god then sets up some interesting rules: create humans in which every detail of their life is known in advance, but create them with 'original sin' nevertheless, and tell them that they have to fix themselves; tell them to act like misogynist, slave-owning, genocidal, animal-burning, raping, child-killing barbarians; become one of them, sacrifice yourself to yourself, so you can forgive the original sin, but not really a sacrifice, since you dont actually die but come back after 48 hrs; leave no trace whatsoever, so no other historical text mentions any of this; have the instructions written down much later, but not so late that your Will could be recorded accurately, but have it written by committee so that everything contradicts, and no one later on can agree on anything; then finally set up the rules – that no one knows – so that people have to fix themselves (by behaving contrary to your hateful, misogynist, slave-owning brutal example) and love you, forget the hateful, evil stuff, instead face the threat of being thrown into an eternal torture chamber that you created, so they can spend eternity praising you for setting this up in the first place.

      Did I miss anything out?

      May 24, 2011 at 9:24 am |
  12. cdOGG

    huh, end of days is on my b-day...u old fart? Great.. I'm sure I've got a lot of ex girlfriends that will be happy knowing that.

    So, no rapture? Just total descruction....

    May 24, 2011 at 8:45 am |
  13. lavoris

    Matthew24:36.... now concerning that day and hour no one knows- neither the angels in heaven, nor the son except the father only.37... as the days of noah were, so the coming of the son of manwill be

    May 24, 2011 at 8:44 am |
  14. ladybug

    He's proven to be a false prophet...hopefully his followers will move on and not give any credibility to anything else he says.

    May 24, 2011 at 8:44 am |
  15. jessie

    false prophets of all colors are out there.... so just read your Bible and be ready at anytime not when some so called prophet or new tell you he is coming. Be ready anytime... and you will be ok...

    May 24, 2011 at 8:44 am |
  16. barbara

    I guess he hasn't gotten enough money from his followers..... so if you're not broke yet by giving all your money.... mortgaging your home to him.... better do it now! And who knows.... maybe you'll be one of the lucky few to be saved. Honestly.... someone lock this man up and prevent him from taking peoples' money.

    May 24, 2011 at 8:44 am |
  17. Indeed

    Now, if there's a major nest of earthquakes anywhere in the world over the next five months, this freak is going to take credit, say Jesus returned, and make up some excuse as to why he and his followers are still here. And, he's still taking donations, of course.

    May 24, 2011 at 8:44 am |
  18. David

    Mr. Camping , can you please push the date for after my birthdate ?

    May 24, 2011 at 8:44 am |
  19. Heather

    The guy is a freak nut case. His followers are brain washed. The end.

    May 24, 2011 at 8:43 am |
  20. Lilybeth

    And here I was looking forward to being debt free LOL

    May 24, 2011 at 8:43 am |
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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.