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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. Mary

    Why is this in CNN and other major news media? Is this "new prediction" serious news? This is ridiculus! obviuosly he is crazy or just a afraud. If it was not because he has received so much free publicity, only a bunch of ignorants would be listening to him... A true Christian must know he is a false prophet. Now his number one fans are the atheists: this guy is their new weapon against religion/faith... when most mainstream churches have ignored or denounce him, the atheist are the ones paying attention, how ironic!

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

      Well, this story is in the Belief Blog – the part of CNN that deals with religeon. And we are reading it. Seems like that is why CNN is printing it.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:53 am |
    • news?

      Amen!

      May 24, 2011 at 11:00 am |
    • LinCA

      @Mary. Sorry to break it to you. Anyone that believes the nonsense from the bible or any other "holy" book is in the same boat as Camping. Same delusion.

      May 24, 2011 at 11:01 am |
  2. Roger

    sorry Christians

    May 24, 2011 at 10:50 am |
  3. BobZemko

    Oh, that's great. I have another 5 months. Good thing I didn't give away all my worldly possessions last week.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:50 am |
  4. Roger

    This man need to stop, the bible tell us that no man shall know the hour or the day, there is nothing to interpret the bible tell us plainly I tired of this guy please stop printing stories about him he a false prophet and the bible tell us beware false prophets. And most christens know this I don’t know why this is even news.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:49 am |
  5. IrishYank

    How convenient! So will he also keep changing the date of when he will reimburse all of the people he's scammed over the years? What a snake.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:49 am |
  6. Rationalize

    This is why people need to have some common sense and not blindly follow one person, group, or organization.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:49 am |
  7. prp

    Why doesn't the media leave this pathetic delusional old man alone? He's an embarrassment to himself, his family, and people of religion everywhere.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:48 am |
  8. Katie

    Better this man just tries to live a kind and loving life. No doubt that would make him a better human being and he'd be more prepared for Judgment Day, whenever it should come.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:48 am |
  9. madge

    you pay him the donations and believe him its your fault.....the world will still be here.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:48 am |
  10. Kent

    I bear no judgement against this man but the people who take him seriously are friggin' dingbats.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:48 am |
  11. Yul Strokheet' Al-Wauch

    This is too funny. Isn't it time to end tax exempt status for ALL churches? When they foster the kind of insanity this nutcase did it should have the screaming man inside you screaming louder then loud.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:48 am |
  12. skarphace

    Third time is the charm.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:47 am |
  13. Bus2

    This guy is brilliant! By hyping up the 21 May "event", he's received over $14 million in tax-free contributions from his gullible followers. If I had to venture a guess, I'd say he stands to rake in a few million more with his subsequent 21 October prediction.

    I really should consider quitting my day job and becoming a doomsday prophet. Apparently THAT'S where the big bucks are!

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

      He doesn't even need to lobby for deregulation or tax cuts. He's a GOP hero!

      He employs a number of people, too. This is the answer to our jobs problem!

      May 24, 2011 at 10:49 am |
  14. Cob

    Dude is like 90 years old... his world probably WILL end by October.

    If you can make millions of dollars by making stupid people believe stupid crap – I say more power to you.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:47 am |
  15. news?

    CNN – why is this news?

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

      Why did you comment to this article, like about 2000 other comments to this article?

      That's why it's news.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:48 am |
    • news?

      I comment because this is NOT news. It is just some freak getting free press.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:59 am |
  16. eyes

    This is what gives christianity a bad image....the bible warns about false prophets!

    May 24, 2011 at 10:47 am |
    • Yul Strokheet' Al-Wauch

      Hypocrisy & pedophilia are what give them a bad name.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:49 am |
    • John Richardson

      The bible is FULL of false prophets. But yeah, they don't like competi-tion.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:50 am |
  17. Jeff

    To seek to define and schedule the second coming of Christ is a sin of human pride and arrogance. We seek to satisfy our own need for answers by convincing ourselves that we are smart enough to find 'proof' to base our beliefs on. Faith ceases to be pure faith when you look for concrete proof to base your faith on. Faith does not live and die by the existence of proof. It is based on love and trust. If that trust is weak, then we grasp for anything we can to solidify our convictions.

    I am saddened by Camping's utter arrogance and reluctance to apologize to those who he has affected by elevating himself to the level of 'prophet.' He is hiding behind the holy word of God instead of admitting his own sin and asking God and his followers for forgiveness. We all are given one life to live and now the lives of some of his followers have been irrevocably altered.

    Believers around the world need to focus their attention on helping those who were fooled by this man, rather than feeding into his lies. If you are providing Camping with funds for his radio program, find a better use of those funds. Help his victims become whole again.

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

      To believe that you are saved while billions of others are doomed is the larger example of sinful pride. Picking a date on which it is to happen is merely silly.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • Pete

      That was so beautifully stated and made my morning

      May 24, 2011 at 10:58 am |
    • Sorry

      "Faith ceases to be pure faith when you look for concrete proof to base your faith on".

      Hebrews 11:1 Faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld.

      May 24, 2011 at 11:08 am |
    • Jeff

      I look at nature and creation and it validates my faith, but I cannot provide you with one, single, tangible scrap of physical proof that it was created by God. I base my faith solely on what the Bible teaches me and my ability to understand the world around me in the context of those teachings.

      Hebrews 11:1 does not say that true faith requires tangible, physical proof. I have faith that the second coming will happen. That is solely based on the teaching of scripture, not on an earthly, mathematical equation. How convenient it would be if God was restricted by the rules of this world. But he is not, and Camper lost sight of that when he applied a worldly rule to reduce an almighty God into a being who is ruled by time and abides by a 'schedule.'

      May 24, 2011 at 11:25 am |
  18. dudicus14

    "im only teaching the bible" bs. pretty sure it doesnt say the world will end in 2011. but it does say that no one will know.
    nowonder people have such a bleak outlook on religion with lunatics like this in the news

    May 24, 2011 at 10:46 am |
  19. Chris

    I would like to know whether this guy has a will, and if so, whether it's been changed recently to account for his newfound fortune.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:45 am |
  20. toxictown

    Keep digging Harold. What a bonehead.

    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.