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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. Come On

    In the meantime, are you going to sacrifice your whole life savings and send it to him so that in 5 months you can realize you made a mistake!

    May 24, 2011 at 10:32 am |
  2. Jen

    Nut case...

    May 24, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • Simon

      Posted on Beautiful and professionally eeucetxd photographs! I enjoy black&white style a lot and like the mystic feel of the first photo. Nice job!

      March 2, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  3. Hannah

    Oh, for Pete's sake. Why does anyone listen to this doomsday drivel?

    May 24, 2011 at 10:32 am |
  4. Kelley

    It just takes one false prophecy to make you a FALSE PROPHET.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:32 am |
  5. ObvUsername

    "I don't have spiritual rule over anybody ... except my wife as the head of the household"
    Dude. Seriously?

    May 24, 2011 at 10:31 am |
  6. r

    Not sure what state he lives in, but in FL they can committ you for 3 days of observation if you exhibit insane or erratic behavior.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:31 am |
  7. ronna

    80 million in contributions between 2005 and 2009. He gets that by saying that the end of the world is near. Heck I am in the wrong business..

    May 24, 2011 at 10:30 am |
  8. Voltairine

    OMMFG! REALLY!? The U.S. Attorney F***ING General should do something useful and SUE these yahoos for PUBLIC FRAUD!

    May 24, 2011 at 10:30 am |
  9. Phil

    Please stop giving this guy press. Makes Americans look dumb.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:30 am |
    • La Moto

      Religion doesn't make you look dumb. It's a symptom of being dumb.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • Abby

      I concur! It is inexcusable that the media outlets keep giving space/coverage to these vapidly stupid stories.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:38 am |
  10. sanjosemike

    Umm...where was your god at Auschwitz and Babi Yar? Asleep at the switch? Complicit? Sleeping? Dead? Never existed iin the first place?

    May 24, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  11. God

    ROFL. Sucker!

    May 24, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  12. KATE

    if this guy was truly a follower of Christ he would trust in the Bible which clearly states that no man, not even the angels in heaven will know what day Christ will come. Plain and simple. He needs to look it up and read it so he can stop making an ass out of himself. Matthew 24:36

    May 24, 2011 at 10:29 am |
    • God

      Oh please, these pat answers are barf inspiring.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:30 am |
    • Stevie7

      For everyone pointing out Matthew 24:36, did skip over Matthew 24:34 Mark 13:30 and Luke 21:32? That seems pretty clear. Maybe Jesus needs to redefine his own predictions.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • Lisa

      Amen!!! He is disillusioned. He said, "I don't have any responsibility. 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." Teaching the Bible? Nowhere in the Bible does it say the date the world will end, but the Bible does say, beware of false prophets!

      May 24, 2011 at 10:42 am |
  13. R Harris

    And this is on CNN.com because...?

    May 24, 2011 at 10:29 am |
    • Lurker

      Because he's a dang conman, fooling weak sheep to pay into this crap. Hopefully stories like this helps others who might be blindly following other conmen like him to realize they're being duped.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:37 am |
  14. MeMyselfAndI

    Televangelists... God's way of keeping stupid people poor...

    May 24, 2011 at 10:29 am |
    • alb

      Televangelists and Wal-Mart. hahaha.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:33 am |
  15. pa10sion

    I love how so many "believers" are dismissing Camping's claim about judgment day and using the bible to back them up: "...no man knows...only god knows..." You sound as ridiculous as Harold SCAMping! Idiots, the bible is a book!!! Written by people who had no other form of entertainment than scrolls to scribble on! Hello! Wake up!!

    May 24, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  16. prankster

    Now what was it P.T. Barnum said?

    May 24, 2011 at 10:29 am |
    • God

      Dunno, can I give you a dollar for you to tell me.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:31 am |
    • A

      There is a sucker in every bunch:)

      May 24, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  17. Randy

    I would like to know in what book of the bible does it state "The world will end on October 21, 2011"? Maybe I bought a bible with those pages torn out. Listen, every day is judgement day for a lot of people. It is called Death.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  18. NorCalMojo

    ......recalculating..........

    May 24, 2011 at 10:28 am |
  19. pinecone

    Take away his tax exempt status! This has gone far enough!

    May 24, 2011 at 10:28 am |
    • NOTW

      Amen!

      May 24, 2011 at 10:35 am |
  20. Stephen

    LOL! Is he really this shameless? I know fellow academics who, if they made a minor error at a minor academic conference (something no one would ever hear of) they would have a hard time showing their face! This is religion, though, so I should not be surprised. Being wrong, desperately needing to be more critical in one's thinking, and having no evidence means nothing to religious people. Funny, sad, outrageous.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:28 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.