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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. Cliff Gardner

    He also said his wife is an excellent wife and he doesn't really have that much spiritual rule over her. That made the press chuckle. When you cut things from the story for those who didn't hear or read you do them a disservice by skewing the message. Live every day like it's your last everyone and help as many people as you can! Much love to you all! October 21 in Camping's eyes will be the events that he missed on May 21 and the events that he believes will occur–or not (it's your choice to freely think) on Oct 21, no math was changed–no dates were tweaked, he manned up and said he was reading the context of what he got out of the Bible for May 21 too literally. Some of his followers thought the same thing evidently beforehand but he disagreed. Sounds like he should have listen to them!

    May 24, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • Mark

      Thanks Cliff for the info!

      May 24, 2011 at 11:13 am |
  2. Physicist

    Ever notice how you never see the headline "PSYCHIC WINS LOTTERY"? The real story here is how anyone could be credulous enough to take end-of-the-world predictions seriously after all these years of failed ones.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:09 am |
  3. Clark38571

    AAAHHHHHH HAHAHAHAHA!!!!!! I bet George Carlin would be having a field day with all this crap if he was still alive. This is so amusing lol

    May 24, 2011 at 11:09 am |
  4. Midloo

    Whoa! Just look at this guy! I think doomsday happened a few years ago for him and his body just forgot to go into the ground and die. What a zombie.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:09 am |
  5. Robin Bray

    A fraud who can't do math. Oh wait, the whole thing of religion is a fraud so the math does not matter.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • Bruce

      Did you identify an error in his mathematics? Please do share.

      May 24, 2011 at 11:11 am |
    • Jonathan

      ummm yeah Bruce...I would say that the fact that it didnt happen was a pretty big flaw in his math...not to mention his "math was off" back in 1994...oh wait, maybe he is just a 90 year old kook that has no idea what he is talking about...moron

      May 24, 2011 at 11:37 am |
  6. Carol

    Giving Camping money would be just as foolish as giving to Palin.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:09 am |
  7. Mark

    I do believe that this will be the death of him, one way or another.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:09 am |
  8. Lola

    LOL

    May 24, 2011 at 11:08 am |
  9. John Blackadder

    Let us prey!

    May 24, 2011 at 11:08 am |
  10. Rick Santorum

    Stories like these prove that you don't have to be smart to take advantage of other people. In the world of 6 billion people, there are always lots of people even dumber than you. You just have to find them and reach out to them. That's how religions work.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:08 am |
  11. alanjay1

    Why are we hearing so much about this clown? He doesn't speak for the vast, vast majority of Christians. Enough already.

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

      I just feel sorry for him at this point- sort of.

      May 24, 2011 at 11:09 am |
  12. tct

    In his defense no man knows the hour or the day and his refusal to admit he's talking what he should flush proves he's no man.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:07 am |
  13. Joe

    I rule over no one... except my wife. LOL!

    May 24, 2011 at 11:07 am |
  14. MrsMcJoynt8480

    Will someone please put this man away in a mental hospital. It's like the boy who cried wolf. Eventually one day he will be right out of trial and error. He is so annoying.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:07 am |
  15. A Follower of Jesus Christ

    The man is a "False Prophet" and a clown. Jesus said himself that no one but God the Father knows the day and the hour. If Christians would read their Bibles for themselves and then mark the man or woman that has" prophisied" a lie then they are not speaking for Jehovah God or His Son, Jesus Christ. It is nut jobs like this guy that make true Christianity to be nothing but a joke in the eyes of non-believers. Wake Up! Read your Bible dear Christian. Do you know who you are following? Is it Jesus Christ or a mere mortal? God said He would not share His glory with anyone. When you follow a false prophet you are then guilty of idolatry.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:06 am |
    • Ohmybuddha

      You say nobody knows the day. Even you don't know the day.
      You can't know Oct 21st is not the day.

      May 24, 2011 at 11:23 am |
  16. Buffalosix

    He can say what he wants, and you can believe what you want. But DO NOT give this man money! Let me say it again – DO NOT GIVE THIS MAN ANY MORE MONEY!!!!! Family Radio is laughing all the way to the bank.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:06 am |
  17. Brathead

    This guy is an idiot. If any of you believe him you will wind up getting rid of all of your worldly possessions and donating all of your money to this cult leader and come October 22, 2011 when we are all still here, he will have some other excuse and some other date. People wake up, this guy doesn't know when the world will end. No one on this earth knows when that will happen. I don't care how convincing people may sound, god does not talk to anyone here on earth directly. There is no modern day prophet who has direct communication with god. This guy seems to think that the gays are the reason this is all happening. The bible is all in how it is interpreted by each person. He is a self proclaimed pastor, he never went to seminary or anything, so who does he think he is? You people that are lost and looking for guidance, don't look to these idiots. They will take you for everything you have and never even flinch! They are cults. The bible plainly states that you shall not judge others. Only god can judge people. Sothis guy that blames all the gays, what is he doing?

    May 24, 2011 at 11:06 am |
    • MrsMcJoynt8480

      "I just came for the punch" -Mary Jo Billy Bob

      May 24, 2011 at 11:10 am |
  18. bdgfn

    And there will be idiots who will fall for this one, too.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:06 am |
  19. sunflower

    LUKE 17:22,23

    Then he said to the disciples: “Days will come when YOU will desire to see one of the days of the Son of man but YOU will not see [it].  And people will say to YOU, ‘See there!’ or, ‘See here!’ Do not go out or chase after [them]

    May 24, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • J

      This has been happening since the days of Yeshua (aka Jesus). It's like predicting that the sun will come up tomorrow morning.

      May 24, 2011 at 11:10 am |
    • Bruce

      "Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all." Luke 17:26-27

      Wow, this is happening right now! People are eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage this very day! It could happen any time.... :P

      May 24, 2011 at 11:15 am |
  20. Good Atheist

    I think someone needs to put more meds in grandpa's applesauce so he quits trying to scare people with his funny stories.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • MrsMcJoynt8480

      HAHAHAA best comment ever

      May 24, 2011 at 11:07 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.