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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. Steve

    HOW TO TELL IF A PROPHET IS FALSE ?

    It doesnt get easier, if we only heed Gods Counsel, It is Written : If they speak not to the Law or the testimony, there is NO LIGHT in them. ISA. 8: 20

    There goes the whole zoo.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:56 am |
  2. Darrin

    The end of the world will only happen when man makes it happen. I firmly believe there will be an enormous war between the "West" Christian/Jewish nations and the Islamic/non-Christian nations and will center in the Middle-East. Muslims will never accept or wholey support Israel and will one day fiercly attack with and the U.S., U.K. will wholey support Israel and defend her, as we should, and that will be the end of the world as we know it. Harold Camping is an idiot and no man knows the day of the return of Christ or the end of the world but the signs will be as obvious as when Fall arrives and turns the leaves golden and orange.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:55 am |
  3. nhjs

    I'd love to see this math.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:55 am |
  4. Glenda Beck

    If there is an all-powerful, all-knowing god, why does he have to come back? Such a god would have done the job right the first time. I'm just sayin'...

    May 24, 2011 at 11:55 am |
  5. Zia

    only 5 months till he fails again! yay!

    May 24, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • HotLips

      In the meantime lets see how many fools send him more money. What a bunch of clowns. Like a true politician, takes your money and craps all over you.

      May 24, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
  6. Ed

    LOOSER LOOSER PANTS ON FIRE! or LIER LIEDR PANTS ON FIRE! You cried wolf too many times. Just shut up old man you got your 15 minutes of fame. That your crap and the book and shove it up where the light don't shine.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:55 am |
  7. george

    I'm going out right now to sell all of my posessions and donate the money to this great man. (Tongue firmly planted in cheek.)

    May 24, 2011 at 11:55 am |
  8. cyn507

    I just got a looksy at this freak. he looks like he'll be dead by the end of the week! what is he, about 160? that's years, not pounds. when will people learn.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:54 am |
  9. geekgirl42

    Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • LinCA

      You were fooled even once?

      May 24, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
  10. Evil Independent

    JUST. GO. AWAY.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:54 am |
  11. Yunki

    Mr Campins is prove that indeed the end is near. False prophets and false Christs!. More like him to come announcing false prophecies.
    So, if this is news worthy, be prepared for more fools like this guy to show in the future.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:54 am |
  12. Rob

    Harold, you and your followers are cheering and hoping that billions of people will suffer horribly and then die, and you wonder why you haven't been taken into heaven yet?

    May 24, 2011 at 11:54 am |
  13. JOHN DOE

    Jesus said he was coming soon , he said that some of them who followed him wouldn't die until they saw him come in his glory, but he did admit that he didn't know when he was coming back and that only God knows when he will come back, but I thought Jesus was God. This is so confusing , when Jesus is God he knows everything , when he isn't God he knows most things but not things like who was the high priest when David and his men made bread on the Sabbath and that the mustard seed isn't the smallest seed. When he says he is coming soon that means a long time to us, a short time to him. I wonder why Jesus did not write anything down , God did , remember the 10 COMMANDMENTS . Apparently either God has jokes or the joke is on the believers.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • Hillcrester

      I believe . . .

      that the most likely account of what happened in Jesus' time is captured in the rock-opera "Jesus Christ Superstar." Give it a look!

      May 24, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
  14. Barb

    Since the beginning of time, man has been misinterpreting God's word, but that doesn't mean God is a liar. It just means man tries to make Him say what they want Him to say. That is fallible man's fault, not infallible God's fault. GET IT RIGHT! These false prophets do great harm to the body of Christ, but that does not nullify God or His word. People write and say things that get twisted and misinterpreted every single day! What does that prove other than human beings are not perfect!? That's certainly nothing new under the sun! Another day, another human error!

    May 24, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • Hillcrester

      The mistake is to believe that your "Holy Bible" is anything more than historical fiction, written across decades by men (no women allowed) who were trying to make sense of a confusing worls thousands of years ago. Gods in trees didn't work; the sun rising and setting because it was the Sun God was not doing much for them; so they settled on this generally-pleasing mixture of myth, oral history, and wishful thinking.

      All of that is still in the Bible today. Live a good, neighborly life because it makes sense to do so, not for an afterlife or whatever.

      May 24, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • Peace2All

      @Barb

      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." You know, as you said..."It doesn't mean that God is a liar."

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

      Peace...

      May 24, 2011 at 11:59 am |
  15. DeJesus

    Geesh, what is this guy, like 112? Maybe the world WILL end on 10/21 – for him! He should just stop talking, but at his age he probably has no idea what a huge idiot he's making himself look like. I predict that he'll see how close to Jonestown he can get on 10/22 when he's proven wrong again. *smh*

    May 24, 2011 at 11:53 am |
  16. Anonymous

    gah... go get a life or get to work and stop thinking about stupid things....

    May 24, 2011 at 11:53 am |
  17. Zosen

    Religion is fake! The government knows! They dont want to confirm that it is fake because they would take away hope. The world would go crazy if they told us the truth! You say i'm the doing the devil's work by saying it's fake? Well i dont believe in that S*** face either!

    May 24, 2011 at 11:53 am |
  18. gutsycall@hotmail.com

    Whew, what a relief. For a minute, I thought we all did something wrong when the world didn't end the first time he said so.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:52 am |
  19. Casey Burns

    Now if this guy was a scientist talking about Global Climate Change or Evolution, nobody would take him seriously. Or the large corporations and a significant chunk of the media would do all they can to discredit him.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:52 am |
  20. Mike Sosnin

    call 1-800-GET-HELP!

    May 24, 2011 at 11:52 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.