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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. Waiting and Watching...

    This man is a false prophet and should be treated as one...shunned! He does not, in now way shape or form, represent what it means to be a Christian.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:26 am |
  2. TOM

    Where are all the bible beaters now that normally rush in with all their Jesus crap the second a religous article is posted?

    May 24, 2011 at 9:26 am |
  3. Marie

    This man needs to understand that noone knows when that day will come. He needs to just preach the WORD and just stick to it, not add his own ideas. The WORD of GOD can stand on its own, it does not need anyones interpretation, it has its own.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:26 am |
    • jaysunstar

      "The WORD of GOD can stand on its own, it does not need anyones interpretation"....That in itself is a logical contradiction. No such thing as having its OWN interpretation. Yet so many Christians buy into that hogwash.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:30 am |
  4. Jeepers

    Don't we get enough being "under judgment" from each other?

    May 24, 2011 at 9:26 am |
  5. Montrose

    This guy should give up predictions and read his Bible. Matthew 24:36 "No Man knows the day or hour, no not the angels of heaven, but my Father only." Sounds pretty clear that he shouldnt be making predictions, he'll be wrong every time. Give it up!

    May 24, 2011 at 9:25 am |
    • jaysunstar

      People keep bringing this verse up as if this group were too stupid to notice the passage. Go to their website and you will find they made a rebuttal and re-interpretation of that passage. So it does no good to bring it up as they have already twisted its meaning.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:34 am |
  6. Mike

    May I remind everybody, to read in their Bible.., Matthew, Chapter 24, verse 36. Go ahead, for fun, pick up your Bible and read the verse, and if you have a study Bible, what does the verse mean to everyone. Believe me, Pastor or Preacher Harold Camping is NO prophet or God. This is almost turning into a religious cult or false prophet. Preacher Harold Camping, is the one that we should be afraid of, besides Satan himself. Mike in Montana

    May 24, 2011 at 9:25 am |
  7. Mark

    On October 21, 2011, I would encourage everyone to buy as many blow up dolls as you can, fill them with helium and then at the hour announced release them into the sky.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:25 am |
  8. ms.concerned

    THIS OLD FOOL SHOULD GO SOMEWHERE AND SIT DOWN AND STOP PLAYING (GOD) AND ALL OF YOU ALL THAT'S FOLLOWING HIM IS JUST AS STUPID AND CRAZY AS HE IS

    May 24, 2011 at 9:25 am |
  9. Nagrad

    He's a nut, end of story. People need to just ignore him – he thrives on the attention.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:24 am |
  10. biorsel

    Just wonder what kind of food this freak and his followers eat?

    May 24, 2011 at 9:24 am |
    • NOT MY CHAIR

      i was hoping they would have drank the punch by now

      May 24, 2011 at 9:29 am |
  11. Toon

    This man is a crook and a fraud! Why give religious nuts even a tiny fraction of news coverage?

    May 24, 2011 at 9:23 am |
  12. NOT MY CHAIR

    get real people the problem is not this guy its religion and the stupidity of people

    May 24, 2011 at 9:23 am |
  13. A

    In case any Christians/Muslims/etc wonder how people can possibly be atheist or agnostic, take a good long look at this whole end-of-the-world debacle and you can see why.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:23 am |
    • jaysunstar

      Sound more like you are an anti-theist rather than a true atheist.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:36 am |
  14. MLasso

    Enough already! You crazy fool. You're a common thief, fleecing frail humans with fantastic stories of rapture and the destruction of humanity. Shame on you. And double shame on any fools that follow him henceforth. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:23 am |
  15. ClarasBeau

    I'm afraid that when, as a news agency, you continue to cover what this crackpot says, you empower him. REALLY bad call, news media.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:23 am |
    • seraphim0

      Enpowering? It's hilarious, actually. I guess the third time's the charm for this guy and predictions.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:26 am |
  16. shane1171

    Work that thing Mr. Camping. If these dumbie want to continue to throw millions of tax free dollars at you. Work it. That is the American way. Heck, you can now afford to buy all of your followers some cool Members Only jackets. lmao!

    May 24, 2011 at 9:22 am |
  17. brad

    Here's something else we can laugh at:
    For thirty years there has been a mystery extant that microbes found on cameras from the Apollo missions were brought back from the moon. Turns out, the microbes are from earth itself.
    Even the scientific community has a hard time interpreting it's own data.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:22 am |
    • NOT MY CHAIR

      at least science uses data and not what some guy wrote in a book hundreds of years ago

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

      Yet in the end, it was science that discovered the truth about the microbes. God didn't explain anything.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:38 am |
    • tallulah13

      Better to look for real answers than to accept what you see at face value, no matter how long it takes. (And what an amazing thing it was, that humanity walked on the surface of a "world" that was not our own. Go science!)

      May 24, 2011 at 9:52 am |
  18. Nilda

    I think its really sad how a man is predicting the end of times. He was wrong twice. No one can predict the end but God and only God, this man is not God. He made over $80 million on contributions. Why not put that money on the poor or towards schools for our children. God will come in the thief of the night, it can happen today, tomorrow, next week, 100 years from now, no one knows. This is all false on Harold Camping, he only has God to answer to.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:22 am |
    • NOT MY CHAIR

      nice religious view point. " he only has god to answer to" forget all the people that believed him. but i guess we do need to start leaving the dumb behind.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:26 am |
  19. Derek

    I hate it when I forget to carry the 5! The Bible is clear on what happens to false prophets, besides all the verses on no one knows the day or the hour he seemes to be skipping over the false prophet ones too.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:22 am |
  20. Enough Already!

    CNN..... The National Enquirers replacement!

    May 24, 2011 at 9:22 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.