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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. Kyle

    I really love the people that are attacking this pathetic moron because they claim he nor any other man cannot predict when judgment day will occur according to the bible. NEWS FLASH – If you believe your imaginary friend is returning to judge the living and destroy the earth at any undetermined date in the future you are a brainwashed lunatic equal to Harold Camping.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:23 am |
  2. donny

    This man could easily be falsified : All you need to do is ask him to bet all the wealth he has that the world will end by that date in front of all the media,

    see how quickly he preaches a different story ;)

    No living person knows when God will return PERIOD.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:23 am |
  3. b

    I bring you 15 Commandments! ... I mean 10! 10 Commandments!

    May 24, 2011 at 10:22 am |
  4. Rick

    Personally, I will be glad when I am able to ready his obituary...

    May 24, 2011 at 10:22 am |
  5. Boytjie

    He is 0 for 2 – my bet is that he will strike out.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:22 am |
  6. General Sandman

    This guy is definitely covering the false prophets part of the bible. The more attention he gets, the more un-believers are created. Dude! Stop!! No one knows but God.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:21 am |
  7. Mike

    Too funny.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:21 am |
    • K, Turner

      To each his own but his followers need not whine about giving up everything they own and their jobs, its their own stupidity for following a man. People are so gullible and stupid look at the followers of Charles Manson, they thought they were right too!

      May 24, 2011 at 10:31 am |
  8. DRTSAT

    I don't care that people are religious. Great, if it works for you. What is getting is that this guy clearly does not read the bible or he'd realize that it says "no man knows neither the day nor the hour." This whole prediction thing is arrogant presumption on his part. Next he'll say he expects Christ to stand before him at the position of attention so he can inspect the wounds in his hand or his side and also to make sure that his fingernails are clean. This guy is stupid.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:21 am |
  9. geauxLSUtigers

    I can't believe that he is a preacher and he's actually saying this stuff. Anyone who studies the Bible knows that only God knows when it will be. He may be wise in years but it seems he may be becoming a little senile as well.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:21 am |
    • Horus

      No, you don't "know", you believe...there is a difference. One requires evidence.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:24 am |
    • Bruce

      @geaxLSUtigers: 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?

      May 24, 2011 at 10:25 am |
    • geauxLSUtigers

      I'm not trying to convince either of you. My belief is the Bible. The Bible says that we can not and should not even try to understand the works of God. It also says in Mark 13:31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. 32 But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.

      You can criticize me for my beliefs all you want. You can call me bad names, be rude and ugly and hateful towards me.... but there is one thing you can never take, which is my faith in Jesus Christ. God bless you...

      May 24, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • geauxLSUtigers

      @Bruce – the difference is that you aren't supposed to be selective about the Bible. He apparently forgot about that part. You should always take everything that the Bible claims into account and not just make it into what you want it to be or leave out the parts that you don't/do like, etc. God Bless!

      May 24, 2011 at 10:43 am |
  10. Stevie7

    I dunno – the guy has made many millions by swindling others out of their money. Can't be that bad of a lifestyle she's leading.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:20 am |
  11. Ray

    This fella is just "not smarter than a 5th grader." I just hope he's not getting a subsidy to do these calculations.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  12. tuntin

    ....Well...just look at the dude....you tell me: doomsday for him or for the world...which will come first....idiot

    May 24, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  13. Really?

    If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try again. Catch you in 6 months again Mr Camping, when – guess what – you're gonna be wrong again!

    May 24, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  14. Jo

    This evil, wicked old man should shut up. The rapture is a fairy tale. He is causing pain and grief to so many people, he should be arrested to public mischief.

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

    His followers, poor misguided souls, gave all they had to support him and his "mission'. But I notice he did not give up all his wealth to promote this blasphemy. Wonder why he thought he would still need his money after the 21st? Either he knew he was stupid and it wouldn't happen or he knew he wasn't going to Heaven.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:18 am |
  16. SaneThought

    this is redciculous, going to use reuters as a news source from now on

    May 24, 2011 at 10:18 am |
    • ThaGerm

      Riiiiight, lemme guess, it's the ol" "this isn't news" argument. Why include this in your coverage? I mean, it's the TOP trending article on the entire site, but hey, because you don't like it, it isn't news.

      bye bye

      May 24, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  17. CommonSense

    >>God is "loving and merciful," and had decided not to punish the humanity with five months of destruction.

    What's really pathetic is that the people who are continuously fooled by these nonsense comments, just can't admit that they have been made fools by the oldest con-game in human history, organized religion.
    Come on people, let's say a few prayers for Satan. Because without the "big guy downstairs", the religious con-game falls apart.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:18 am |
    • DC from NJ

      Thank you CommonSense. All I can say is "Amen"!!

      May 24, 2011 at 10:21 am |
    • ThaGerm

      I view this man much the same as people speeding past me on the freeway. They tend to attract the attention of undesirables and keep them busy... Cops in the case of the freeway, idiot nutbags in this case.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:32 am |
  18. mkjp

    As much as I would like to see this man held legally responsible for the actions of his followers who now have no jobs or homes or money or what have you, it really does speak to the stupidity of these individuals that this guy was wrong once already, and they still believed him enough this time to destroy their lives over his predictions. If the world is ending, why on earth does it matter whether you are employed and have money at the time? why get rid of everything? this behavior makes no sense to me.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:18 am |
  19. Free

    Homer: “The Book of Revelation has 404 verses. Add the number of people at the Last Supper. Multiply by whatever complex mathematical formulas you can find. Minus the number of Filipinos in the Bible, and you get–”

    Marge: “Three million, one hundred and–”

    Homer: “No! You get 3[insert colon]15,05[insert slash]18…3:15 p.m on May 18! That’s when the Rapture will begin!”

    Marge: “May 18? That’s one week from today!”

    Homer: “A week? Uh, that’s [scribble, scribble, calculate]…seven days from now!!”

    The Simpsons, "Thank God, It’s Doomsday"

    I guess Camping must have remembered that Jesus was at the Last Supper just like Homer did before he made his second calculation.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:18 am |
  20. Dan

    This is a cop out, I can predict the end just as well as this guy. If there is a God and all of this is going to happen we'll be the last to know about it

    May 24, 2011 at 10:18 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.