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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. teepee

    obviously he is not rich enough...time to get more money from america's fools...

    May 24, 2011 at 9:22 am |
  2. Phil Wood

    Why is it that news networks insist on giving nuts like this air-time and as a result 'creating' a story?

    May 24, 2011 at 9:21 am |
  3. Chas

    The Word of God tells us that we must be ready, but one knows the day or hour, not even the angles in heaven, only the Father knows. Matt 24.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:21 am |
    • MikeyNYC

      I forget how ridiculously arrogant Christians can be when totally and entirely ignoring every other faith on the planet while at the same time assuming that only their faith and their god could be the "right" one. There is no better advertisement for atheism than evangelical Christianity and we saw yet another complete and utter moron make yet another doomsday prediction and be wrong. If the world had ended for every time a priest, minister, pastor or pope had supposedly predicted, the world would had ended thousands of times. People should believe whatever they wish, as long as those beliefs don't cause them to demean, degrade, insult or commit violence against others and Christianity certainly doesn't pass that test, does it?

      May 24, 2011 at 9:27 am |
    • Cupping hand over face

      Pretty sensible MikeyNYC. Religion is brainwashing with a tax exempt status. It's also caused millions more deaths than atheism.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:36 am |
  4. carolae

    Only GOD knows when our last days will be.....not this so-called prophet of doom. By predicting that these are our last days, hundreds of thousands of followers are selling off everything only to find that they are still here.....without a penny and nothing all because this man predicted the end days. Anyone that is stupid enough to believe this, deserves to lose everything.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:21 am |
    • Truth

      Nobody deserves to lose everything, the need to be introduced to the truth.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:24 am |
    • MikeyNYC

      Introduced to the truth? You have no truth, you have an opinion about what that supposed truth may be. That is not the same as knowing or having truth – please learn the difference.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:29 am |
  5. Fidei Coticula Crux

    The Boy Who Cried Wolf

    There was a Shepherd Boy who tended his sheep at the foot of a mountain near a dark forest. It was lonely for him, so he devised a plan to get a little company. He rushed down towards the village calling out "Wolf, Wolf," and the villagers came out to meet him. This pleased the boy so much that a few days after he tried the same trick, and again the villagers came to his help. Shortly after this a Wolf actually did come out from the forest. The boy cried out "Wolf, Wolf," still louder than before. But this time the villagers, who had been fooled twice before, thought the boy was again lying, and nobody came to his aid. So the Wolf made a good meal off the boy's flock.

    The tale concerns a shepherd boy who tricks nearby villagers into thinking a wolf is attacking his flock. He repeats this so many times that when the sheep are actually confronted by a wolf, the villagers do not believe his cries for help and the flock is destroyed. The moral at the end is that 'the story shows that this is how liars are rewarded: even if they tell the truth, no one believes them.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:21 am |
    • Bucky Ball

      And there were one or two of the villagers who were smart enough to have learned to think for themselves in the first place, and never believed him the first time.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:35 am |
  6. NCV

    Can someone run this guy over with the RV's that he sponsored? PLEASE!?

    May 24, 2011 at 9:20 am |
  7. Aaron

    I would really like to see a review of his financials...

    May 24, 2011 at 9:20 am |
  8. jorge washinsen

    We have had more press over this than O'Bama's trip.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:19 am |
  9. Cupping hand over face

    How's the collection plate treating you now, jacko's? I'd love to personally know someone who was stupid enough to believe all of this, oh wait, it's everyone who believes in the Easter Bunny, oh wait, dragons, oh wait genies, oh wait.... ready for it ...... God.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:19 am |
  10. Jethro Bodine

    Mr. Camping done hired me to help with the ciphering this time, so now you know it's right.
    One more summer of swimming in the c-ment pond before the world ends.....

    May 24, 2011 at 9:19 am |
  11. Miklan

    the media isnt doing anyone any favors by running these stories...

    May 24, 2011 at 9:19 am |
  12. Jubril

    Religion is a disease that has caused more harm than good. because we have fear of the unknown or after life. Don't get me wrong there is God , and there is right and wrong. But religion has become a means to brainwash people, religion has been a means for some crook to get rich. Religion has been used most times for evil (Suicide Bombers). eradicate religions and the world will be a better place

    May 24, 2011 at 9:19 am |
    • teepee

      eradicate hateful white people and the world will be a MUCH better place...

      May 24, 2011 at 9:20 am |
    • Dude

      Wrong. It only takes a few religious zealots to destroy what is actually a good thing to many people and entice those who really have no clue to smack down that to which they are ignorant.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:24 am |
    • Josh

      Couldn't. Agree. More.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:24 am |
    • TXmom

      Your post is just a blanket statement which has no merit to those who practice a particular Faith and try to live Godly lives.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:26 am |
  13. teepee

    He'll be dead by Oct 21 and won't have to worry about looking like a fool...again...

    May 24, 2011 at 9:19 am |
  14. Nonissue

    If you get thrills by folks like this or get worried – don't. This man has Ichabod written over his head. Jesus clearly taught that no one knows when he will return. He insisted people who follow him not get caught up in trying to know the date of his return, but to get on with helping people (the business of the moment). It's like going to work each day and trying to predict when you will win the lottery instead of actually being productive for your employer!

    May 24, 2011 at 9:18 am |
  15. zen monkey

    It's unfortunate that this group has invited so much ridicule to Christianity, when the religion contains so many good people. They should be looked at like any other fringe group, and not considered to be representative of the majority.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:18 am |
    • chefdugan

      Christianity deserves to be ridiculed, in spade! This guy might be playing with half a deck but so are all the other Christians who believe in the second coming and all that rapture junk. Give Jesus a break. Do you think, after the warm welcome he got the first time that he would be inclined to repeat the performance? And, after viewing this fruitcake and his followers would you invite them into your home?

      May 24, 2011 at 9:24 am |
  16. A Christian and Master's student

    Please,

    Don't let this man's warped Christianity detract from your view of Christ himself, or what the church is supposed to be.

    Christianity is not just about getting to Heaven, which is what Harold Camping and some sects seem to believe. Christianity is about feeding the poor, bringing peace to Earth, loving and forgiving all, and trying to create God's ideal on Earth. Christianity is about Jesus Christ saving us from our addictions and heartache, and enabling us to live good lives here on Earth FIRST, then for eternity with Him when our time here is finished.

    There are whole sections of the Bible for Christians to use to identify radicals like Harold Camping, and the danger that they pose to the faith by giving people false notions about Christ. Just tune him and his radio station out, and ask any Christian in person to tell you why Harold Camping is wrong about the May 21 and October 21.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:17 am |
    • SB

      Couple of problems. One problem is that your beliefs and his beliefs are based on the same book with the same ambiguous phrases prone to interpretation. Another problem is that people do everything you're talking about.. feeding the poor, bringing peace, being loving and forgiving, etc.. without God. And they do it every day. So what then is the value of God here on Earth? It seems to me that religion, especially Christianity and Islam, are nothing without the promise of salvation and threat of eternal suffering.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:27 am |
    • yep

      Nicely said.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:27 am |
    • cdgfla

      Lets see...the New Testament is based largely on propoganda texts written centuries after the death of Christ, then picked over and amassed in one text by the Catholic Church post Constantine, which has since been subject to revisions and many many translations from Latin, to Italian, to Middle English, to Modern English, etc. Yet you and other supplicants still believe that this book has any validity or truth to it, and represents the unchanged "word of Jesus".

      I guess then if you are willing to assert that one book from this period (i.e. the Bible) is an historically accurate text and accounting of those times, then you must also accept that Iliad, the Aeneid, Ovid, the Oddessey, etc are all accurate and true accountings of thier eras as well, and were subject to no changes, errors in translation, or politically motivated manipulations over the centuries? Right? So that means that the Egyptian, Greek, and Roman Pantheons would supercede your Jesus right? How is it that the Bible is right and those religions are wrong? They have texts that supercede the Bible (which borrowed heavily from Egyptian and Mesopotamian Myth and lore).

      Its just an utter crock, and I cannot understand how anyone with a brain believes this garbage.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:28 am |
    • Mark 13: 33

      Very well said........

      May 24, 2011 at 9:39 am |
    • A Christian and Master's student

      SB,

      Every Christian at one point or another struggles to give meaning to their faith. I know I have. I've been addicted to more things than I care to remember, and have seen more deaths in person than I want to think about.

      In a way, you're right about religion being worthless without the promise of salvation. I've lived without that promise, and I hated every day of it. Maybe me telling you this is irrelevant to the story of Harald Camping, and alot of CNN users will knock me for wasting time and space. But I know that the only thing that makes religion worthwhile, and enables me to care about the sick and the poor, about keeping the peace and preventing war, and about educating kids in my high school classes, is that there is a real, living God, and He knows us. No matter how crazy or mystical it sounds, Jesus Christ gave me salvation, a reason to not die, and the desire to try for the good of mankind.

      Yes, many people definitely do those things on their own. But, I know I couldn't have without God. Maybe that's His value.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:53 am |
    • Bucky Ball

      Interesting point you raise. Thanks. But it's not necessarily a settled point. The "Kingdom of God", the "Kingdom of Heaven", the "Kingdom of the Lord" , etc., etc., and whether that term refers to a political ent-ity, (or the restoration of the kingdom of Israel), either present or in the future, or as an earthly or heavenly state, is a much discussed concept by those who study eschatology, it's origins, and many various different manifestations.

      Luke 17:21
      "nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you."

      Seems to me mostly we believe the kingdom exists here, today, in Beverly Hills.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:05 am |
    • A Christian and Master's student

      cdgfla,

      I'm not much of a Bible scholar, so other people would be better at answering, but the Bible is mostly derived from ancient manuscripts in Hebrew and Greek, of which more exist than do original copies of the classic literature like the Odyssey or Aeneid.

      It's true, sometimes the Bible can be a bit ambiguous, which is why I try to read the Bible in as many different translations as possible. My favorite is the French translation, Louis Segond. I've read alot of poetry, and none of it speaks more bluntly or is more comforting than the Psalms. When my Dad died, it was the Psalms that kept me going. The other thing is, that as a history teacher, I can say that the Bible was never meant to be a history or a science text book. It's a storybook, telling the story of God and mankind, of which the point is to comfort us and teach us about God.

      If you want to talk about it, I could send you my email address.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:07 am |
  17. PR

    Also, look up all of the other failed predictions of the end of the world. There is no math to it, just crazy old men who want to say they made a guess and did something before they died.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:17 am |
  18. JeffG

    In OT times, God's people would have stoned a false prophet like Mr Camping. Believers everywhere should simply ignore this false prophet, along with any others who would claim to know the day or hour of his coming. Mr. Camping will have to answer to Jesus for this stunt. Folllowers of Jesus should steer clear of this guy and persevere in Christ great commission to bring the "GOOD NEWS" of Jesus Christ around the world and to teach others what Jesus taught us.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:17 am |
    • teepee

      let's go for it...couldn't hurt much...except his head...

      May 24, 2011 at 9:20 am |
  19. teepee

    I THINK THIS GUY IS GOING FOR THE TIME MAGAZINE MAN OF THE YEAR HONOR...

    May 24, 2011 at 9:17 am |
  20. Amanda

    Will this guy please give up?

    May 24, 2011 at 9:17 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.