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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. WiscGirl

    If there are people out there stupid enough to believe this scam artist, give away their life savings and quit their jobs, they deserve to have nothing left. Stop being gullible, he is clearly running away with your money. See this for what it is, a HUGE SCAM!

    May 24, 2011 at 9:59 am |
  2. one world

    hmm, strange, that's cutting close w/ mayan prediction. maybe there's something in that.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:58 am |
  3. David

    I wish him and all his followers had disappeared on 21 May. I guess I can hold out hope for October. He should get the Madoff treatment and be sued by some smart attorney for fraud.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:58 am |
  4. B-man

    I am not sure who I feel worse for the idiots who believe this garbage or the delusional old man with the predictions. Honestly I cant imagine how these people could hold onto jobs before they all quit due to the supposed end of the world....I hear McDonalds is hireling.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:58 am |
    • Madtown

      I feel bad for the children that are caught up in this nonsense through no fault of their own.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:03 am |
  5. Ev

    Maybe the rapture did happen but we were not in the @2% OR 3% INCLUDING THIS GUY!

    May 24, 2011 at 9:57 am |
  6. Alexander Chorkawyj

    Shut up old man. Go predict what you're going to have for dinner tomorrow. Better yet, you're best off trying to remember what you had for lunch yesterday. Hope it was a Mayan dish.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:57 am |
  7. Sane

    This will never stop. Every time the deadline comes and goes, this guy is just going to say he miscalculated and come up with a new date that will come and go. It's a vicious, never-ending cycle.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:56 am |
  8. Deborah Rosen

    Really, CNN...when are you going to stop coverage of this lunacy? It's irresponsible journalism, if one can even call it jouornalism. You're getting too FOX-like for my liking.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:56 am |
  9. Mike

    "I don't have any responsibility. I'm only teaching the Bible."

    NO, Harold, you're NOT teaching the Bible. Here's why:

    You obviously haven't read:
    Matthew 24:36

    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew%2024:36&version=NIV

    Matthew 24:42

    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew%2024:42&version=NIV

    or Matthew 24:44

    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew%2024:44&version=NIV

    So far the only prediction you're fulfilling is Matthew 24:23-26, the part about false prophets.

    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew%2024:23-26&version=NIV

    Oh, and you might wan to read the verse after it, Matthew 24:27.

    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew%2024:27&version=NIV

    Can you predict the time and place of a bolt of lightning? This isn't "Back to the Future" you know.

    You also haven't bothered to pay much attention to Revelation 6:1-11.

    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=rev%206:1-11&version=NIV

    There are 5 seals of destruction and turmoil that need to be fulfilled before your great earthquake (sixth seal in Rev 6:12).

    And you should pay really, REALLY close attention to Revelation 22:18-19.

    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=rev%2022:18-19&version=NIV

    You DO have responsibility. And you're NOT teaching the Bible.

    You're not exactly ending your time on a very good note there, Harold.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:56 am |
    • Mandee

      absolutely correct!

      May 24, 2011 at 10:03 am |
  10. Bruce

    Why is it that, in spite of the exaggerated example of Camping and how this "read the bible for yourself and see what I'm saying is true" technique failed both him and his followers, many Christians still insist that the answer to everything is precisely this technique?

    Guess what: you are probably not qualified to do theology. Simply sitting down with your bible and your opinions and your "open mind" is not sufficient qualifications to make the right calls when it comes to thinking through theological ideas. Theology is not democratic. It is, at the end of the day, a fairly complicated endeavor to be performed by people who have the proper skills and education. While it is certainly not the same kind of education you need to do physics, it is also not as simple as being able to read a certain book and opine on what you think you see in there.

    Moreover, this heterodoxy that you all are proposing is the exact opposite of death to self, and it stems from personal intellectual pride ("I am capable of knowing all of this if I just read the bible" is just a short putt away from "I am capable of knowing the day and the hour of the return of the Christ"), from a lack of humility that acknowledges your own limitations.

    Just as it is unlikely that you are capable of doing the mathematics required to fully understand quantum mechanics, it is unlikely that you are capable of participating in the best of the hermeneutical traditions to even begin to properly understand and apply scripture. Camping should be a warning to you. Instead you preach exactly what Camping preaches and pretend that somehow you are different.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:55 am |
    • D

      Absolutely!
      Just like how Glenn Beck isn't a 'historian' because he read a few books and 'figured things out for himself'.
      Deep understanding comes from teaching. Teachers should be paid like CEOs.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:02 am |
    • civiloutside

      Yes... What the bible needs is a special class of elites who alone are qualified to tell you what it "really means," and why its "true meaning" is different from what a plain reading of the text would suggest to a person of reasonable reading comprehension skills. Hmmm... What should we call these special people...?

      May 24, 2011 at 11:13 am |
  11. shane1171

    I sure do wish this old dude was my grandpa. He obviously drinks the bong water. I bet he would be a hoot at all of the parties. Party on Geezer dude!!!!!!

    May 24, 2011 at 9:55 am |
  12. whatevers

    I think this guy needs to take a math course...

    May 24, 2011 at 9:55 am |
    • Bruce

      Why, did you notice an error in his math?

      May 24, 2011 at 10:14 am |
  13. alsmeer1

    it is sad that this man claims he is a christian. and with his track record that many still follow him.
    The Word warns us about people like him. we need to keep our eyes on Jesus only and stop listening to man.
    The Lord's return (the rapture & 2nd Coming) will happen. But Jesus gave us the info to look for that day. it isnt yet,
    though it is close. but not all prophecy has been fulfillled yet. The time is not yet. oh He could come back sooner, but
    the Lord said "when these things happen" and not all has happened. God is Faithful and His time will arrive, for some –
    maybe too soon. He calls us to be ready, yet not to dwell on the time. people need to get into His Word and read for
    themselves what God would say and stop listening to "preachers" who are leading us astray.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:55 am |
  14. TheRealist

    "To be fair, it's no no more crazy to believe the end of the world is coming on a set day than it is to believe in some guy up in the sky who helps people win Survivor but let babies die of starvation. Is it?"

    This ^

    Religious people are desperately clinging to some hope that they are right, even if it means destruction of all non-believers. That is not love, that is malice and you wouldn't get into "heaven" for that kind of thinking anyhow...
    The plain and honest truth is that religion is a primitive leftover from which we have yet to evolve.
    There is no big man in the sky. In fact, the truth is something far greater than we can even comprehend. We are connected to the entire infinite universe in a truly mind-boggling way.
    Religion serves no purpose other than to cheapen this reality and cause people to fight over details which are completely irrelevant.
    It is time to evolve people... Stop being monkeys and start being the creatures we were destined to be. Religion only holds us back.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:55 am |
    • Cagey Rabbit

      Religion does serve a purpose though: to control others. Religion is used again and again in all societies and in all ages to keep the masses in their place so that the elite can prosper.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:04 am |
    • David Johnson

      @TheRealist

      Well said my friend.

      I read, with much chuckles in my belly, all the bible quotes from the fellow Mike, showing how Camping was wrong. Camping was wrong, because it is all b.s. What a waste of time.

      Cheers!

      May 24, 2011 at 10:18 am |
  15. Jaymit

    This is so dumb

    May 24, 2011 at 9:54 am |
  16. Joe

    Third times the charm I guess...

    May 24, 2011 at 9:54 am |
  17. jay

    ron paul 2012

    May 24, 2011 at 9:54 am |
  18. Bring in the Sheep

    This guy should be locked away for lunacy or at the very least, for inducing panic.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:53 am |
    • Jennifer

      i absolutly agree with you...this man is sick and his followers are even worse!!!

      May 24, 2011 at 9:59 am |
  19. bluegrassmama

    You know....... the world ends everyday for lots of people....... It amazes me that all our lives we are told "don't believe everything you read or hear" and yet this one book is exempt? Why? It's not even a complete book..... There are books that the "College of Cardinals", a group of mere mortals, excluded from print and have hidden in the "secret archives" of the vatican..... So those of you that put every ounce of belief and faith in this one collection of books, are you sure you are getting the whole story?? And why do you accept that this group of people had the right to decide how much of the bible you could read..... What are they hiding? Why are they hiding it? What aren't you being told? There's more to this story than any of us alive today know........
    Now as for this nutcase....... It's obvious his judgement day is coming soon...........

    May 24, 2011 at 9:53 am |
  20. Mike

    Idiots. What did you expect by putting all your eggs in the "end of the world" basket? Really, if that was your plan a.) you're insane and b.) insane people shouldn't be handling money. Way I see it, this lunatic is indirectly weeding out the weaker part of the gene pool by crippling them financially. It's a start.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:53 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.