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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. razzi

    Non one knows when He is coming back...I gurantee it won't be any dates he picks! Besides it IS his fault as the bible has been pretty consistent so far.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:35 am |
  2. Bob

    No prophet in history has ever made prophesies concerning events thousands of years in the future. The prophecies in the Bible were meant to be relevant for the times in which they were made. Jesus predicted a future cataclysm that would happen within a generation of his time, but cautioned that you cannot know exactly the day or the hour. The Bible does not contain any prophecies which concern times thousands of years in the future from the time the prophesy was made.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:35 am |
  3. Ed

    I am so glad I am an athiest.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:35 am |
  4. TOM

    Hopefully he will be sued but unfortunately freedom of speech laws will protect him no matter how much others are harmed by it. It's unthinkable that he actually said "I don't have any responsibility" for the people who lost everything. He is completely responsible and should be held accountable.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:35 am |
    • Stupidity

      As stupid as he is, the people who gave up their life savings are 100% at fault. You choose to follow him or you don't. I don't see him holding a gun to people's heads, folks. This is the problem with America...people are always looking for someone else to blame for their mistakes.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:39 am |
  5. Nikki

    Okay first of all NOBODY knows when the world will end, except GOD.Second of all in the BIBLE it says that NOBODY knows when the world will end except GOD!!!. Third of all people have predicted the world will end in the past, but did it NOOOO, so my advice, QUIT GUESSING PEOPLE, you are already wrong!

    May 24, 2011 at 9:34 am |
    • je$u$$aves

      Your second point cancelled your first. Yes it says that in "the bible." No that doesn't make it real, or even likely. It's just one of many fables the human race has put to paper.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:52 am |
  6. Red Giant

    Good news and bad news. First the bad news: In about a billion years, the sun will begin turning into a red giant, causing it to expand and envelope the earth. This is the first stage towards the sun's death. (Think global warming is bad now?) Now for the good news: When this all happens, we won't have to deal with these idiots like Harold Camping, and the media will be too busy with covering the sun to write stupid articles.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:34 am |
  7. Joshua Ludd

    It wasn't so much an error of interpretation as it was a failure to actually read the bible in the first place, as it tells you right there that no one will know when the rapture is coming. The old fool was wrong twice before, and now he is wrong yet again.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:34 am |
  8. HiddenShadows

    Will someone shut this group down already.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:34 am |
  9. Unruellie

    "I don't have spiritual rule over anybody ... except my wife as the head of the household." I feel bad for his wife

    May 24, 2011 at 9:34 am |
    • Etrigan

      Yeah, I thought that part was special

      May 24, 2011 at 9:35 am |
  10. Madtown

    .............and, when Oct. 21st comes and goes he'll make another recalculation. What an embarrassment to the human race this guy is.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:34 am |
  11. irritated1

    people get arrested all the time for inducing mass panic and hysteria, which is exactly what this man is doing to a lot of people. enough is enough; how many time has he predicted the world is coming to an end? it's obviously never happened; he just loves being the center of attention and creating chaos and fear in others. i wonder how many of his followers or those who bought into this notion committed suicide or something like that because they felt they wouldn't be saved and didn't want to deal with 5 months of torture? plain and simple, he's a cult leader who needs to be held legally respsonsible for the mess he's created for thousands of people.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:33 am |
    • Lu

      I totally agree. If I walk into a building and yell "FIRE is coming" you bet I'd be in a lot of trouble. Yet people like him make these predictions that have honestly destroyed families both financially and emotionally and they get away with it. Their are plenty of articles online that talk about the emotional damage this has caused between parents and children, brothers and sisters, and I can't even imagine the psychological trauma to children that are old enough to have SOME understanding yet still blindly follow their parents.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:40 am |
    • Stupidity

      The guy is a complete idiot. But it takes two to tango. You act as though these followers are victims, but why did they choose to get entangled in this mess?

      May 24, 2011 at 9:43 am |
  12. OARFNY

    PT Barnum was right.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:33 am |
  13. beelzebubba

    RE: "A Christian who does not put my faith and trust in man..."
    But an invisible friend, that's a friend you can trust with ten percent of your income...

    May 24, 2011 at 9:33 am |
  14. Etrigan

    Even if there was a 'judgement day' i'm relatively certain you would get judged on the whole of your life, how much you have turned things around and how much love you have given to others. I very seriously doubt that sending money to the church and crying 'uncle' 5 seconds before it all ends doesn't erase the fact the you lived like a human sponge, sucking life for what it's worth and giving nothing back to those around you.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:32 am |
  15. Senor Ed

    Confucius say: When making doomsday predictions, always have back up date.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:32 am |
  16. r.ortiz

    It is stated in the bible, for you know not the day when christ will return,let alone the end of the world. Jesus will be with us till the end of time.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:32 am |
  17. habakak

    Religion and God is afigment of human imagination. Just like people believe in the imaginative gods of ancient Greece, today people believe in a imaginary God. Back then people created Gods to help explain the things they couldn't understand. The God of modern day Christianity or any other religion for that matter is the same. An imaginary being assigned incredible powers so that his existence can explain the things we don't yet (and might never) understand. Imaginary believes are very destructive. Look at all the trouble the Egyptians went through to make sure their Pharoah had a safe passage into the afterlife. All for what? People seriously believed their Pharoah will take care of them in their passage into the after life. So do people today believe in some imaginary being to do that. The difference being today that people have enough experience from the past and a little too smart/educated to believe in a human who can do this, so they created an all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful invisible 'God' that can see all, hear all, do all. He's here, but he's also going to return. Wow. I take back what I said about people being 'smarter' or 'more educated' today.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:31 am |
  18. chefdugan

    Please stop this Christian bashing! Leave the poor souls alone to believe the bible is God's word and that every thing in their is what He says and wants of us. Their screwy beliefs keep them busy, especially on Sunday so the rest of us can shop in peace, it gives the right wing Republicans a something to say and they are entertaining as hell. Just think of all those non-thinkers turned loose on the world with too much time on their hands. No thanks. They live with a litany of disillusioin and they seem to be happy so please don't disturb them.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:31 am |
  19. Cal

    Perhaps the pastor should open his bible and read Matt 25:34 "no man knows the day, nor hour. not the angles in heaven. Not me, only my father" – so unless he is calling Jesus a liar. He is a full-on crack Pot

    May 24, 2011 at 9:31 am |
    • DK

      amen.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:35 am |
    • SB

      Camping is full of excuses for Mat 24:36 as well as other passages. Google his arguments on the topic. It's a wonder to me why you Christians, who obviously read your Bibles, wouldn't think that another Christian with slightly different beliefs than yours, wouldn't also be reading his Bible.

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

      *angels

      May 24, 2011 at 9:39 am |
    • UncleM

      And you're a crack-pot for believing bible stories. Not a lot saner than Camping.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:52 am |
  20. GUStavo

    If he was doing what he is doing under the Mosaic law in the old testament, he would surely been stone to death already.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:30 am |
    • Judicial Law

      Yes, it truly is a shame that we adopted our current judicial system in favor of the system of laws devised by the old testament christian god. For once in my life I actually like his solution for dealing with opposition...DEATH!

      May 24, 2011 at 9:49 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.