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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. HPNIII

    Technically he was not totally wrong, at least for the 6,815 people who die each day on average in the United States.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:05 am |
  2. Chris

    Someone sedate this guy and take away hi calcowheel

    May 24, 2011 at 9:05 am |
  3. wpnssgt

    hopefully this will give way to more people sticking to facts and scientific proof rather than another 2000 years of "any day now" I put this guy in the same category as the pastor leading the Westboro Baptist Church, religous extremists.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:05 am |
    • brad

      I'm all for scientific fact. But when the world ends, will anyone be left to scientifically observe it? When everything began, was it observable? Anyway, these predictions are what private interpretation lead us to. Any thinking idiot will think idiotic thoughts. Any idiot will have idiotic interpretations of Scripture.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:11 am |
  4. Menza

    God is "loving and merciful," and had decided not to punish the humanity with five months of destruction. – So he's going to destroy us all in one day instead – geee thanks God.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:05 am |
  5. Pleo

    He says, "I don't have spiritual rule over anybody ... except my wife as the head of the household."
    Yeah. Sounds like a piece of work. I bet he slaps his wife around too when she doesn't have dinner ready on time. I'm not a Christian, but if I were, I'd believe there has to be a special place in hell for Harold Camping.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:03 am |
  6. Chuck Steak

    The sky is falling, the sky is falling!

    May 24, 2011 at 9:03 am |
    • SB

      ".. oh wait, that's just my pants. I'm old." – Harold Camping

      May 24, 2011 at 9:05 am |
  7. Rose

    well...camping is quite elderly...his world is coming to an end...he could be right, as far as he's concerned. I just wish he would use Jesus' name for his stupidity. It's hard to believe so many people are gullible. They spend so much time waiting for the end of the world and the Second coming when they could spend time instead in loving people..and loving Christ NOW.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:03 am |
    • Rose

      sorry...I mean't to say he should not use Jesus' name...

      May 24, 2011 at 9:04 am |
  8. Bob N

    Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs

    May 24, 2011 at 9:02 am |
  9. dang

    this guy may be right because this is the most difficult news for people to believe. and surely it will come as a surprise.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:02 am |
  10. Loreo

    Why is anyone still listening to this psychotic man? I can't believe he has a wife. Honey, if you're listening...RUN.
    Please people, open a book...preferably a science one.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:02 am |
  11. Jerry

    Someone needs to either lock him up, put him in a psychiatric ward or take his ass to court and sue him for all that money that was wasted. He's a fraud who seems to be off his meds. Freak

    May 24, 2011 at 9:02 am |
  12. richunix

    I love the term "Your going to Hell" considering that 2/3rd of the religious world either have a differnet version or don't even outright believe in it (more than half). The Christian concept of hell is more akin to and communicated by the Greek concept of Tartarus, a deep, gloomy part of hades used as a dungeon of torment and suffering. The plot thickens....Like most of use have come to realize.....It a book.....more fiction than fact.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:01 am |
    • Nocordoba

      If you are referring to what I said then you are wrong I never said you are going to hell only warning you of it. I know of the Greeks Tartarus it is nothing like this. Hell simply put you burn forever. You have been warned. I give you reason to beleive and you don't. You are an arrogant fool and I pray you will see your error before it is to late.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:08 am |
    • shivy1

      Harold Camping may be wrong with his escatogical view. However, please don't dismiss the concept of hell merely as a Greek invention. Jesus Christ who did rise from the dead-a historical fact-cautioned numerous times about not believing in Him. Please do not merely dismiss this. There are many good books on the topic but I would recommend :"The Case for a Creator" and "The Case for Christ" by Lee Strobel. Keep an open mind. God bless you.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:16 am |
    • Phil

      @ Nocordoba....so judgemental!!!!Think you need to read your bible some more. The message you are putting out there is perverted. Don't judge less ye be judged himself.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:18 am |
  13. dniq

    Will somebody, please, make this guy start taking his meds again?

    May 24, 2011 at 9:01 am |
  14. ruester

    THIS PREACHER AND HIS FOLLOWERS NEED TO READ: MATTHEW 24:36-42. IF YOU DO NOT BELIEVE IN JESUS, THERE IS NO NEED TO READ THIS, BUT IF YOU ARE A BELIEVER, THEN BY ALL MEANS READ THIS. IT IS FROM JESUS' OWN MOUTH AND IF YOU DO BELIEVE THEN IT IS SO... THANKS MAY GOD CONTINUE TO BLESS AMERICA DESPITE OUR POLITICAL ESTABLISHMENT.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:01 am |
    • Phil

      I assume you were there to hear this come out of Jesus's mouth since you claim with certainty that it came from his mouth.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:15 am |
  15. David

    Thanks again Harold Camping your Prediction caused thousands of Hmong Christians to come out of hiding because of their faith in Christian religion and their belief your prediction of the rapture, and all they got for it was the Laotian government killing scores of them. I hope you can live with that

    May 24, 2011 at 9:00 am |
  16. Wolf in Sheeps Clothing

    This person obviously suffers from some medical condition, or simply mental illness. The bible does refer to the end of days on earth, but only the father knows when that will take place. Not his son...not the angels...and certainly not this mortal whack job! Personally I think he should be held accountable for his actions. I know that his followers acted on their own, but this guy is taking advantage over weak minded individuals and is causing some real damage here. What difference is there between this piece of work and Bernie Madoff? Well hopefully this guy has cryed wolf enough times for these people to open their eyes, and get on with their lives. Life is too short anyway to be wasting one second of it worrying about the end, and especially from an old coot with one foot in grave himself.

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

      You don't see it as ironic that you criticize them for being delusional and weak minded and then speak of angels and "the father" in heaven? What's next, pixies and fairies?

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

      I agree with you but God gave us all minds and the Bible to read so we would all know these fake preachers.I just hope all those who believe him will learn that he is leading them to hell before its to late.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:08 am |
    • Phil

      Preachers take advantage of weak minded people every week on Sunday and take their money also.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:12 am |
  17. Sy

    Now, according to his re-calculation, the doomsday will come to him only. His followers are dumping him!

    May 24, 2011 at 9:00 am |
  18. The General

    God is merciful and great...but he basically told Harold Camping that he's an idiot and a fraud.

    May 24, 2011 at 8:59 am |
  19. KS

    Well, he just can't take a hint can he? I pity the people that follow him. Sheeple.

    May 24, 2011 at 8:59 am |
  20. Joe

    Serious are people still going to be giving this guy more money? I hope you people are not that stupid.

    May 24, 2011 at 8:59 am |
    • Hmmm

      They were stupid the first time they gave him money. They were stupid the second time. And you can be assured, the stupid will follow for a third time.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:07 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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.