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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. Colin

    Good thing this guy and his group dont have their hands on some nukes because they would set them off just to be right about their silly predictions

    May 24, 2011 at 10:45 am |
  2. Other Human

    If he could just go ahead and make sure that date is his own, personal doomsday, that would be fantastic.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:44 am |
  3. Fed-up

    Mr. Camping, can you please stop this craziness. You are scaring young kids, you are singlehandedly destroying religion and the church. The Bible clearly states that no one knows the time or the hour that the Son of Man cometh. For the people that believe that there is a God, they should be ready at any time for his return. Scaring people into making their hearts right for one particular day is wrong in every sense. You need to give this up. You keep crying wolf as if you are the one scared. Let God do that which he believes he needs to do. Stop giving God a time table, your timetable. The fact that you have been wrong so many times should open your eyes to the fact that God is in control and not you. Stay out of the business of being the scheduler of God. He has it under control.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:44 am |
    • Steevo

      I'm sorry Fed-up, but "He" does not exist and "It" will never happen. There is no one pulling on puppet strings up in the clouds somewhere making us do things.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:56 am |
  4. Gern

    I'm not a religious man at all but doesn't the Bible say man will NOT know the date of the Rapture or the second coming???

    May 24, 2011 at 10:44 am |
    • LinCA

      @ Gern. Maybe not religious, but definitely gullible. You seem to think there are facts to be found in the bible.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:46 am |
    • John Richardson

      Yes, Jesus said that even he doesn't know, thereby refuting the silly notion of the trinity.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:47 am |
    • No Rapture

      No the bible does not mention rapture at all. Rapture is a made up concept by christian leaders who need to reassure followers that god is merciful and that if they love jesus he will not make them endure the tribulation. They needed this rapture because to many people question how a loving and merciful god could make his followers endure the tribulation so rapture was born of some obscure passages that were twisted to fit.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:50 am |
    • Paul

      Gern: I am with you...I'm not an overly religious man, but the Bible DOES in fact say that none but the Father knows when the end of the world will come, not even Christ his son. The Reverend Camping needs to stop scaring people or causing his believers to quit their jobs and stop living their lives waiting for the return. He is really hurting a lot of people with his assinine predictions. I hate it that even some of my family believe this man's rantings.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:51 am |
    • areukiddingme

      yes it does gern, hummm, even someone who isnt religious can see this is obserd. very interesting

      May 24, 2011 at 10:51 am |
  5. PaternoForever

    So why doesn't the media treat Al Gore and the climate change crackpots the same when their doomsday predictions turn out wrong. The UN says there will be 50 million climate refugees by 2010...it doesn't happen...oh wait...we mean 2020! The people who believe Al Gore are every bit as idiotic as the people who believe this guy. The media is so hypocritical.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:43 am |
    • Steevo

      After all the freak weather occurences related to climate change, and all of the statistics that support the conclusion that our atmosphere is warming because of CO2 and other pollutants we are putting into it, you have the stupidity to still be in denial?

      May 24, 2011 at 10:49 am |
    • wzrd1

      Interesting, Paterno. You and your ilk are the ONLY PEOPLE ON THE ENTIRE PLANET to dispute the entire planet is warming. Period. The ONLY ONES!
      But, yes, you are right. The Earth isn't warming, even though every other planet is warming too. We're special.
      The Earth is currently 0.75 degrees warmer than it was a century ago. That is a LOT of added energy into a global environmental system. But, you are right, ALL SCIENTISTS IN THE WORLD are wrong. All themometers are wrong, you are right.
      I'm sure my grandchildren will be cursing your name.

      May 24, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
  6. T

    dude...the world will end when we, as the human crap race we are, have destroyed the world enough and we cant live in it anymore. there isnt a god or some being thats gonna do it..just us. and thats unfortunate for all the animals and everything else on earth....

    May 24, 2011 at 10:43 am |
  7. PghMomma

    Why do crazy people like this even get on the news?? He was wrong, let's move on and forget about this guy. I feel bad for all the people that followed him and quit their jobs, spent their savings, etc., but that was their choice. Now can we PLEASE get some real news up here, good or bad, I don't care. All news stations are doing is giving this guy (and other's like him) free marketing! Please ignore him and hopefully he will go away!

    May 24, 2011 at 10:43 am |
    • cindy

      Amen! Enough time has been given to this crack pot. Oct 21 will come and go just like May 21 did.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:46 am |
    • Bruce

      Almost 2000 responses to this article, including yours. That is why CNN will continue to cover this story.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:46 am |
  8. george in texas

    should i sell all my stocks?

    May 24, 2011 at 10:42 am |
  9. nick

    this guy needs to be beaten with a bat, what ia worthless pos. This guy robbed people of there money and scared people, this guy needs to be hurt.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:42 am |
  10. CH

    "Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, declares the LORD, and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them. So they do not profit this people at all, declares the LORD. When one of this people, or a prophet or a priest asks you, What is the burden of the LORD? you shall say to them, You are the burden, and I will cast you off, declares the LORD." (Jeremiah 23:32-33)

    May 24, 2011 at 10:42 am |
    • TLB

      Amen!

      May 24, 2011 at 10:47 am |
    • sanjosemike

      CH, I know that you believe your bible is truth. Many people posting here don't believe in your bible and think it's nonsense, myself included. Reading bible nonsense posts is tiring. Most people here don't read them. If you have something to say, just say it. Leave that cr*p out.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:51 am |
  11. Steevo

    Given his track record on end of the world predictions, I think he'd better have a couple more dates well beyond October 21 as "provisionals". That way he can keep the money rolling in longer.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:42 am |
    • wzrd1

      Hey, he has ONE unique distinction with his predictions. A 100% failure rate.
      Even when randomly predicting events of one type or another, one is bound to get ONE right, it's probability 101.
      So, if you want to know what will NOT happen, ask him. If he predicts it will, it 100% will not.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:45 am |
  12. Actuary X

    Well, he was right, in that everyone that is going to heaven was raptured.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:41 am |
  13. Jeff

    "Balls" – Geoff Peterson

    May 24, 2011 at 10:41 am |
  14. sanjosemike

    You have to give this guy credit: He used the media go generate (according to our local papers) about 100 million dollars in donations. He has been massively successful in a money sense. Now he has a "loan" from his church to live on.

    Most of us have had to work really hard for our living, those of us with jobs. People posting here are without jobs, behind on their payments, have huge credit card debt. Some may not even have enough to feed their kids. It seems like this money Camping has could be put to better use than to be a windfall for billboard owners. I'm glad he's taking them down. I'm still waiting for him to donate his money to some of you who actually need it. I guess you folks will have to wait a very long time....

    May 24, 2011 at 10:41 am |
    • Halim

      Posted on Thank you for your blog post. Velupe and I are saving for just a new guide on this issue and your short lctirae has

      March 2, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
  15. Glenn

    Perhaps God has decided no one is worthy.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:41 am |
    • sanjosemike

      Glenn, your god must be a pretty tough judge...perhaps a psychopath himself?

      May 24, 2011 at 10:43 am |
  16. Antonio

    Okay, I think it's time the federal Government step in and put a end to this false phophet, he has people donating and giving away all of their belongings very likely to him (which I doubt he's paying taxes on). He's probably a worse crook than Madoff. Step up and bring this criminal to trial Uncle Sam.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:41 am |
    • sanjosemike

      Sorry Antonio, won't happen. Other religions will hire their own attorneys to step in to protect him.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:45 am |
    • SurelyUjest

      Should the government get in the business of deciphering who's religious message is just a con and who's is not? I say no the government has more important things to do than protecting people from themselves. For instance the governement should TAX big businesses and Churches a like!! Let's educate our people and provide health care for those who need it and update our national energy and transportation infastructure.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:47 am |
    • Ella

      The federal government needs to stay out of this. The last thing we want is for ANY government to take care of us. If none of his followers file charges keep the dang government out of it. They are already too deep into our lives!

      May 24, 2011 at 10:48 am |
  17. mcore

    I've got a news flash for ya: The world will still be here in 5 months, in 5 years, in 5 millennia, and in 5 billion years. Biblical revelation isn't worth the paper its printed on.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:41 am |
    • The Woof

      Are you sure of that?

      May 24, 2011 at 10:43 am |
    • Scott

      For your info, this is not Biblical revelation. The Bible says nobody knows except God when the end is. Anyone who claims to know is a liar.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:44 am |
    • LinCA

      @Scott. And anybody that thinks there are facts to be found in the bible is deluded.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:50 am |
  18. jah jah

    This guy needs to kill himself already

    May 24, 2011 at 10:40 am |
  19. Thomas

    When this one doesn't pan out either I wonder what his next calculation will be.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:40 am |
  20. Heywood_Jablowme

    I hope that there's a special place in hell for this POS...

    May 24, 2011 at 10:40 am |
    • Andreea

      Posted on Dude, please tell me that youre diehang to create more. I notice you havent written another weblog for a while (Im just catching up myself). Your blog is just too important to become missed. Youve acquired so significantly to say, such knowledge about this topic it would be a shame to see this blog disappear. The internet needs you, man!

      March 3, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
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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.