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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. Aaron

    Please stop reporting on this. It is not news and only erodes the reputation and credibility of the media.

    May 24, 2011 at 8:56 am |
  2. Madame Rue

    I just love the way the population of "Atheists R Us" generalizes that every person who is a Christian or follows a religion must be a follower of this peson. You must know, if you stop to use the logic you claim to possess so much of, that this is not the case.

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

      I for one, know it is not the case. However, it is ironic that the Bible that one uses as a cornerstone of their faith, is interpreted so differently by so many people.

      May 24, 2011 at 8:57 am |
    • SB

      The argument isn't that all Christians believe what Harold Camping believes. If anyone has said that then they're flat out wrong. The argument (at least my argument) is that, because biblical interpretation is prone to variation due to the ambiguity of scripture, that it is irrational and illogical to use the alleged inerrancy of one's own interpretation to prove the errancy of another interpretation. It is literary rhetoric at its finest.. and its worst. There is no epistemic history to either interpretation so you have no foundation upon which to make an assertion one way or another. All interpretations are equally bogus.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:03 am |
    • The Real Tom Paine

      No, we conclude you suffer from the same sort of problem, which is a need to have a ready, pat answer from a book that you claim is the true spoken word of the Almighty, when you know has been re-written and re-edited countless times by men. Oh, btw, love how you demean atheists with the " atheists r us" reference. Whatever moral high ground you claim is diminished with that kind of snarky comment. We just have fun with the fact that so-called believers continue to make absolute statements like this and rarely, if ever, get it right. Not every believer is like that, of course, but it amazes me you won't condemn this nut for being a prophet in his spare time. Seems to me like he's applying an engineer's mentality to the Bible, and is trying to devise a perfect system, which, if you talk to any good engineers, is impossible.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:06 am |
  3. Jerry Kings

    I wonder what the "Jehovah Witness" are saying about this...any flashbacks?

    May 24, 2011 at 8:55 am |
  4. Kara

    This guy is a joke. Did he not do the exact same thing last time?? Oops sorry, my mistake. He is a fraud...But feel free to donate up until October 21st...last time I checked the bible does not preach about bleeding your followers dry financially. Maybe he has a different version.

    May 24, 2011 at 8:54 am |
  5. SuperMonkeyOverLord

    At some point, doesn't somebody on a local or national level have a responsibility to step in and stop this guy? He is not a religious leader, he is a huckster. The people that would follow this man and donate money to him, need protection. If it was a legitimate religious situation, I could understand 1st ammendment protection. This seems instead to be more of an issue where a salesman has promised a result for a situation and it has not occurred. No pun intended, but Harold Camping is operating in bad faith.

    May 24, 2011 at 8:54 am |
  6. BR

    Why does everyone agree that Bernie Madoff is a thief who we can't wait to prosecute for fraud and this guy has no repercussions for his fraud?

    May 24, 2011 at 8:54 am |
    • Michael

      That is the first thing I asked myself when I saw this guy on TV. Bernie Madoff took greedy dumb folks for a ride; Camping, spiritual dumb folks.

      May 24, 2011 at 8:57 am |
  7. Pete

    Biggest IDIOT ever. Until the next one...He's a thief, swindler, liar, false prophet and a lunatic. If you're dumb enough to listen to one word from this 900 year old moron, you deserve everything you get. Sheep et slaughtered. Baaaaaaaaaa

    May 24, 2011 at 8:53 am |
  8. Bible Clown

    Anyone who'd believe this would also believe a virgin had a baby or a man came back from the dead, or that the purple Teletubby and Spongebob have a 'thing.'

    May 24, 2011 at 8:53 am |
  9. terry

    In the meantime he use that 80 million to help the people in the flood zones.

    May 24, 2011 at 8:53 am |
  10. DD

    Hey doomsdayers. STFU.

    May 24, 2011 at 8:53 am |
  11. KEMC

    This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the foolish[a] prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing!
    Ezekiel 13:3

    May 24, 2011 at 8:53 am |
  12. Youdaho

    He's clearly off his rocker.

    May 24, 2011 at 8:52 am |
  13. dollar

    This guy is so off i guess he never read what they do to false prophets and Bible clearly states that nobody knows when the in will be no Angels only the Father ONLY!

    May 24, 2011 at 8:52 am |
    • Kim

      A made up, acid trip book says that. The world will end when the sun burns out or when an asteroid hits it. Humans will kill themselves off long before then, probably in the name of religion.

      May 24, 2011 at 8:54 am |
  14. John

    He's a great salesman. That's all he is, I mean if I could get people to send me 80 million dollars over the span of a few years I might just be inclined to predict the end of the world to. I do not associate with any religion per say but I am spiritual in my own way. I think the people that class all Christians in with him and his group of, erm, "extremists" are no better than said "extremists". We as a people have to learn to think for ourselves, and learn that people are crazy, not religions.

    May 24, 2011 at 8:52 am |
    • je$u$$ave$

      People are definitely crazy... but people also invented religion, so where does that leave religion? Learn the history of christianity... you'd be amazed. It was a wonderful strategic move for the Roman Empire in the 4th century C.E.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:00 am |
  15. Pleo

    This man is a conman and a fraud. That's all he is. He should be arrested and thrown into federal prison.

    May 24, 2011 at 8:51 am |
    • 900-foot-tall Jesus

      It is not against the law in this country to tell people an invisible man in the sky will kill the world if they don't send money.

      May 24, 2011 at 8:56 am |
    • Pleo

      @900-foot-tall-Jesus, it's not illegal to tell people that. But he's conned people out of millions of dollars in the process. The guy is no better than Bernie Madoff.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:01 am |
  16. Atheism is beautiful!

    "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 their jobs because they believe the world is ending."

    LOL, YOU PEOPLE WHO "BELIEVE" THIS IDIOT ARE DUMB AND THE REST OF US FEEL SORRY FOR YOU.

    Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me 3 times, I must be a religious idiot. Someone please pass me the cyanide koolaid so I can rid the world of my utter stupidity.

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

      Why would you even be fooled once by this guy? But I agree with your main message, atheism is indeed beautiful. I am proudly religion and deity free.

      May 24, 2011 at 8:54 am |
    • 900-foot-tall Jesus

      I don't believe in gravity.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:09 am |
  17. Chris

    Sad thing is people will still believe this guy. If this isn't enough to show you moderate religious people how insane any belief is I dont know what would.

    May 24, 2011 at 8:50 am |
    • Atheism is beautiful!

      Ain't that the truth brother! AMEN! lol

      May 24, 2011 at 8:51 am |
  18. Jowicr

    This is what happens when Christians do math. They've been trying to do morality for years now.

    May 24, 2011 at 8:49 am |
    • SB

      They can't get either right.

      May 24, 2011 at 8:51 am |
  19. mightaswellbe

    Camping needs to do some good works. feed the hungry, clothe the naked (if they want it), house the homeless (if they want it) and comfort the ill (you can't cure with prayer)

    He is trying to make predictions from a book of mythology. What a twit.

    May 24, 2011 at 8:49 am |
    • Christian America

      Are you doing any of that? (Hypocrisy degrades credibility)

      May 24, 2011 at 8:56 am |
    • je$u$$ave$

      "mightaswellbe" is probably not collecting $80million from the gullible sheep while threatening them with revenge from the bogeyman... so I think maybe Camping would be the hypocrite in this case. Kind of like how the catholic church has to stop molesting children if they want to tell people about morals.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:04 am |
    • mightaswellbe

      Actually I'm helping out our local animal shelter. Fostering puppys and running adoption events and donating money to help run the place.
      Dogs never lie about love. Can you say that about people?

      Oh yea, I give to the local food bank. And over two hundred units to the red cross.

      How about you, Christian America?

      And Thank you Je$u$$ave$. I appreciate that comment.

      May 24, 2011 at 11:14 am |
  20. louis

    What a nutcase let's see how many loonies sell everything quit their jobs to follow this nutcase this time...

    May 24, 2011 at 8:48 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.