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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. CLW2

    Here we go again. I believe that no man knows the hour when Jesus will return. As a Christian we know Christ will return and we must live life the right way. This guy is using anything to convince the people. We have to be careful about what we let into our minds and hearts. People like Camping will confuse you and cause you to doubt the Bible. No way he knows the day or the hour. He is only setting himself up for a big surprise. And he is leading people to a bad end!

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

      Keep deluding yourself. Doomsday will happen in about 5 billion years when the sun goes supernova, or of course humans could make that date much sooner with mutually assured destruction, rampant pollution, etc. But a second coming of Jesus? You have been duped by organized reLIEgions, havent you?

      May 24, 2011 at 10:59 am |
    • hehe101

      My dear, it's not super nova. The sun will have expanded to where mars is now. Not even vampire's will survive, of course no species has lasted that long anyway.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:32 pm |
  2. Sheeze

    If he was a true believer he would have given up his multimillion dollar operation just prior to Saturday just as his followers gave up everything. What a piece of trash!

    May 24, 2011 at 10:39 am |
  3. Make HisDay

    Come on folks! Don't just sit there reading this story! Doesn't it just motivate you and make you want to take out your wallet and write him the BIGGEST check you can and send it to him so that it will make this poor old man's day?

    May 24, 2011 at 10:39 am |
  4. Liz

    CNN, PLEASE QUIT GIVING THESE PEOPLE FREE ADVERTISING! NO ONE CAN PREDICT THE END OF THE WORLD DATE OR, MUCH LESS, IF THERE EVEN IS ONE, SO LET THEM FADE AWAY PLEASE. SAME FOR WESTBORO, NO MORE STORIES ABOUT THEM EITHER.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:39 am |
  5. Jessica

    He also has a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn

    May 24, 2011 at 10:39 am |
  6. Scott

    Why anyone in their right mind would spend their life savings or give up their homes for something based on religion is complete stupidity. Folks, the bible wasnt written by god, it was written by man. So much of it has been supressed by the the church its ridiculous. Men wrote and rewrote the bible to suit their ideas of how they felt people should live at the time. Are there some good lessons in there? You bet. What a great way to teach people to respect one another... by putting the fear of a supreme being in them. You better do this and believe this or you wont get to go to heaven. Give me a break. To all of you religious nut jobs out there, if you blew your wad listening to this guy, you deserve what you got.. nothing.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:39 am |
  7. I AM

    what a lizzard

    May 24, 2011 at 10:39 am |
  8. MadMan

    You've got to be kidding me with this guy. Arrest him. Madoff got in trouble for taking people's money and lying to them – same thing this guy is doing. Can we please get a camera on him for October 21st to see is reaction this time around??? Again, it would be priceless television. Let's make it interactive, too. So we can all laugh at him as we enter into October 22nd!!! Guy should be ashamed of himself – taking people's money and convincing them to change everything about their lives... Sick.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:39 am |
  9. Adam

    Not responsible eh? He could have told his followers not to do that. Could have refused the money, etc. Did he? Nope. Kinda makes him responsible.

    And way to move the goalposts on your prediction too buddy. Oh, I wasn't wrong, I'm just going to redefine the question completely so that it looks like I was right.

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

    This is why religious organizations should not be automatically tax exempt. The distinction should be for charities only – this guy clearly ran a business. Who besides his family and his ego benefited from his prophecy?

    Tax the mother. Tax them all. If they can't show in an audit that every penny went to benefiting society, they should pay like everyone else.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:38 am |
    • Alyssa

      Define "benefitting society."

      May 24, 2011 at 10:41 am |
    • Smell the Flowers

      All Mighty Preacher Harold, please don't forget to pass around the Kool Aid this time. The rest of the sane world will be a lot happier knowing that you and your loon followers are no longer here to monopolize so much of the media's time with your lunacy. Good riddance.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:45 am |
  11. alb

    I think if people are stupid enough to give their money to Camping then they are stupid enough not to have any money. I didn't shell out a cent for this (and I never would) because I am not an idiot follower who believes such nonsense. And I am not alone. "Give me your money because the world is going to end and if you don't you will go to hell" does not work in my world. Ever.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:38 am |
  12. Bernie

    I predict the world will end 10/20/11. Now give me a million dollars

    May 24, 2011 at 10:38 am |
    • John Richardson

      Just one million? Man, you are little league ...

      May 24, 2011 at 10:39 am |
  13. Carla

    Maybe he can keep putting off the date till it coincides with the end of the world on 12/21/12 - per the Mayan Calendar. LOL

    May 24, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • hehe101

      Has it occured to anyone that the Mayans probably gave up on the calender? Some priests probably had this conversation:

      (Priest 1) Why are we making this calender?

      ( Priest 2)So we have an idea on what is waiting for us.

      (P1)Really? Don't you think we've gotten far enough?

      (P2)Know what? You're right.

      (A boy comes running up the steps)

      (boy) The spanish are coming the spanish coming!

      (priest 1) Oh, $#@!.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
  14. BalancedFair

    Wow, this guy is ARROGANT. Maybe we should start to predict the end of HIS world and all others who persist in trying to scare us into submission (I'm looking at you, Republicans).

    I am still amazed that in this day and age of marvelous human accomplishment, we have to tolerate this ridiculous backward thinking. I would like to see his "calculations". I am sure they are written in crayon.

    They put this garbage on billboards! I guess this really shows the standards of many Americans. Shameful. Anything for a buck, including misleading and fear-mongering half-truths.

    We continue to text (and lie to others) as America burns.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:37 am |
  15. ThaGerm

    I say hooray for this man! He has help weed out the workplace of exactly the kinds of idiots I try to avoid. In the process they have opened up job opportunities for more deserving people. Because lets face it, it isn't this guys fault that idiots quit jobs and walked away from homes and families, nope, that is all on them.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:37 am |
  16. davey

    "missed it by that much"

    Maxwell Smart

    May 24, 2011 at 10:37 am |
  17. Soporifix

    Time to stop giving news time to insane people.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:37 am |
  18. The Wash

    He's nearly 90 years old! Doesn't this mean anything to his followers? He's senile!

    May 24, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • The Wash

      HIS world will end on October 21st.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:38 am |
  19. Joe

    Actually by printing this, making it big, CNN is saying this.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:36 am |
  20. mrlgh

    On the bright side....I think we just found our nutbar for the Republicans 2012!

    May 24, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • You're Right

      I think you're right! Just think of the Phenomenal amount of money he could raise for the GOP! They'd win the election hands down!!

      May 24, 2011 at 10:45 am |
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About this blog

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.