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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. Mike

    Is this really happening in the USA?? When are we finally going to realize that ALL religions make NO sense.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:15 am |
  2. Joe

    Seriously...can we stop giving this guy attention?

    May 24, 2011 at 11:15 am |
  3. Doomguy

    Religion. The only profession where you can lie and scam people out of money and it is not only legal, but tax exempt.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:14 am |
    • bronie4life

      politics? oh wait.. even they have to pay taxes...

      May 24, 2011 at 11:16 am |
  4. Alan

    I think it is his end that is near. Until then...."There is a sucker born every minute" PT Barnum...

    May 24, 2011 at 11:14 am |
  5. nerve9

    Does anyone notice that this guy basically built in an exit strategy to his doomsday prophecy? By telling people that the ACTUAL last day for the Earth would be October 21st and not May 21st, while spending all the time leading up to May 21st going on and on about the rapture and earthquakes that will occur on that day, he basically built in an excuse for when nothing happened on May 21st. Now he says that God spared the Earth, but October 21st is really the last day...and, Oh yeah, we're not going to say anything anymore. Basically, he can now slink away and hope that everyone forgets about him by October 21st. When, again, nothing will happen.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:14 am |
  6. Money

    Why is this even news?!

    May 24, 2011 at 11:14 am |
  7. Nathan

    Why not just call it December 21, 2012? That should satisfy most Armageddon believers..

    May 24, 2011 at 11:13 am |
  8. Eamonn

    Can the news media stop reporting on this man? He's just a simple, unintelligent, confused old man who doesn't know anything. What is the story? Confused senile old people say crazy things all the time. This man is wrong, and hopefully he dies soon.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:12 am |
  9. Paul

    Q: What's the motivation for Camping making his latest prediction? A: At 89 years old Camping may be dead by Oct. 21. If some people send him money he can increase his assets allowing him to pass more money on to his relatives or to crackpot causes he believes in.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:12 am |
  10. Andy

    Anyone ever read the delusional nut-job who cried wolf?

    May 24, 2011 at 11:11 am |
  11. bobsar

    All religions are nonsense, he's just on TV

    May 24, 2011 at 11:11 am |
  12. Robert McGee

    Calculate this.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:11 am |
  13. Garrett

    The fact that people still beleive in this man's prediction shows how foolish they are. This man is a false prophet for saying that he is teaching the what the Bible says. If he was a real scholar he would know that in Matthew 24:36 "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."
    The Bible is truth so if he goes against God's word he is considered a false prophet. End of story.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:11 am |
    • Peace2All

      @Garrett

      There really is no difference between Mr. Camping and his followers and the christians who actually believe that there will be a 'rapture.'

      It's all a matter of 'when' for you guys. The only difference really is that Mr. Camping picked a date... and you true bible believing christians just 'know' the bible is 'truth'... and it 'will' happen someday, "just a matter of time."

      Again, you guys are two sides to the same coin in reality.

      Peace...

      May 24, 2011 at 11:24 am |
  14. John

    I am so sick of this guy. I wish CNN had planted cameras in their church so the world could see their expressions when the clock hit 6:00:01 PM this past Saturday and they realized they were following in the path of a lunatic. But of course how dare I question this brilliant man's thinking, right? I know where I come from we always take the ramblings of senile old men as absolute truth too. I guess if there is one positive that came out of this, its the $140,000 Camping and his followers pumped into our economy on those billboards...

    May 24, 2011 at 11:11 am |
  15. starz

    What a yahoo! Why does the media waste so much time on this?

    May 24, 2011 at 11:10 am |
  16. Rain

    So every time the "Doomsday" doesn't happen he'll just predict a new date? How long or how many false predictions are needed before his followers realize that no man can predict such things? It's even said that the rapture is going to happen but nobody knows when, why are there people still follow this nonsense?!

    May 24, 2011 at 11:10 am |
  17. ChiRomagnon

    Remember, there are still millions of mindless human cattle who believe this nonsense as irrefutable truth.

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

      Actually, there are a couple of billion...

      May 24, 2011 at 11:15 am |
  18. pccoder

    I'm going to party like a rock star between now and then. I have a front row seat at the end of the world! yea boyeee!!!

    oh, and someone please kick this guy in the nuts.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:10 am |
  19. Jay Swaminathan

    He is not a false prophet. He was proved right. 100million collected from 401k and other life savings, all they will now rot in hell forever. Camping bought loads of pot with that money... and is in pot-heaven!

    May 24, 2011 at 11:10 am |
  20. Cruzader

    Stupidity is the sign of the times.sign

    May 24, 2011 at 11:09 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.