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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. Andy

    I exactly predicted that they would come back with a new date. Am I a prophet or what?

    May 24, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • Goose42

      That was awesome.....predict something else....You should totaly have your own radio show!!

      May 24, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
  2. gary lanham

    fjrst three prophets shall be killed,left in the streets,on the third day they will rise and teach the word agin. there will be two in the field one will be taken one left,,,,pray very much you are the one left, this the start of the new hevan and new earth ,as we know it. for when he returns he will not leave agin. read in the book or rev. read it over ,over over over ,then ,you will start to understand it........read

    May 24, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
  3. Sheila

    What does he mean he was incorrect. According to my calculations, he was right. And the reason he is here still is because he is one of us evil do-ers.

    May 24, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
  4. pam

    This guy is a "false prophet" and as such, pretends to be God. It states in Matthew 24 that only God knows the time and the hour, therefore, if this guy says he knows, he is basically stating he has the same knowledge God has, which then would make him...God. He is evil, not to be trusted, and is one of those terrible factors that unfortunately turn people off to "organized religion". Faith is blind and this individual obviously bases his religion on his own twisted interpretations. Please, people, don't listen to him, send him one dime of your hard earned money and live life in faith and service to the one, true and only God. He will take care of the details.

    May 24, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • Brett

      Most religions are interpreted falsely. Throughout history this has happened to justify murder by the catholic church. If I remember correctly the pope took a hit out on Queen Elizabeth I, then told people they would be forgiven by God...hmmm sounds fishy to me.

      I would think god would rather have us enjoy the life we have, treat people well and help others where we can.

      May 24, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • Nationof786

      You're right Pam. As a Muslim, it also states in the Quran that no one knows the hour but Allah (GOD).

      May 24, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  5. Follow the money

    This is all about the $80 million in contributions. The latest fiasco will probably increase contributions. Just when I think we can't get any dumber, we do.

    May 24, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
  6. Parev

    Actually this guy is a genius. His followers are the idiots.

    May 24, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
  7. Jdoggy8484

    And all of these people that gave up everything, because they were gullible. This smacks of a Ponzi scheme. Madoff is in jail...who is going to hold this idiot responsible?

    May 24, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
  8. Nicole

    If these followers believe everything else that Jesus says in the Bible, then why don't they believe Him when he says NO ONE will know the day or the hour of his coming??? Just a thought!

    May 24, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
  9. Tim Teller

    That's right folks. By popular demand... we've extended Rapture for five months. So if you haven't sent in your money to us, there is still plenty of time. Don't miss out though – this once in a lifetime extension won't happen again.....

    May 24, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
  10. TampaMan

    People sometimes tend to follow a man without thinking for themselves. (It happens in Washington all the time.)

    How often have we all heard Jesus' claim, that no one would know the day or the hour of His return? We have heard this so often and so much it's like a broken record, yet those who follow Mr. Camping refuse to consider it's meaning.

    As a result, the whole thing becomes a circus act. Surely Mr. Camping has better things to do with his time. He has so little of it left to squander on such frivolity. I suggest a vigorous game of shuffleboard, or bridge or perhaps stamp collecting instead. Leave theology to those who know what they're talking about and how to think clearly.

    May 24, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
  11. Denise

    Before I read the whole article, I thought that as long as the guy wasn't being enriched in any way with his prediction, then let him rant; then I saw the 80M in contributions. PEOPLE, read your own Bible. This guy has his own agenda.

    May 24, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • TampaMan

      Well said. Agenda, indeed.

      May 24, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • Jennifer

      I agree with Denise. Read your own Bible....stop listening to these phony "prophets"...Jesus warned about them. He said "no man will know the day, the hour...."

      May 24, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
    • frink

      Or you could read a GOOD work of fiction instead of the moronic ramblings of long dead goat herders. Or you could try non-fiction.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
  12. logikbuys

    Actually I have read one of the tracts. What it said was the Judgement day would indeed be on 21 may 2011, and that the would would end altogether on 21 Oct 2011. We (the left behind) should be experiencing the tribulations. I think what this dude can reconcile is that he was not saved,.... so he has to make up excuses for himself and his parishioners that they were saved in a spiritual way, while leaving the physical body behind. I wonder what his excuse is going to be when we are all laughing at him again on 22 Oct 2011...

    May 24, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
  13. Mike

    Camping says he misunderstood the math of the rapture, and that it now will occur in October.
    Translation: I've concocted a new way to extract devotion and, more importantly, money, from my naive, sheep-like, ignorant, and addled followers. Both demagogues and fools are born evey day,and they both end up getting what they deserve.

    May 24, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
  14. MeatyPortion

    "I don't have any responsibility. 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."

    Old dingbat has dementia.

    May 24, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
  15. But

    This guy is old, and older people tend to miss it some times. However, all these negative comments about whether God exist or not do not change the fact that God is real, and that there is life after death. If all that is in the world today is what we enjoy for life and then die off, then we are all miserable. What a shame! Jesus promised to go prepare a place for those who believe in Him. If other great men and women of this faith lived and died in this fath believe this, I want to be a part instead of living for unaccountability. People simply do not want to believe God because of the fear of accoutability.

    May 24, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • Butbut

      Prove it.

      May 24, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • Shirley

      Hmmm an interesting statement because I feel people cling to religion out of fear. Lordy knows most religion is fear based to keep their minions in line. How presumptious is man to presume they know what the hereafter is, it is for us all the last great unknown. I think so many will be surprised how wrong they had it when they get to the other side. This life is not about being controlled so you feel safe, I believe we have many lessons to learn and they are not always pretty or beautiful, yet the experience is what makes us grow and learn. Fear not the end times that may or may not be approaching, enjoy the now, do what is right in your heart and try not to hurt anyone along the way. Good luck to us all. ; )

      May 24, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • SactoBrett

      "However, all these negative comments about whether God exist or not do not change the fact that God is real, and that there is life after death."

      What fact? You should pick up a dictionary. You have a belief based on a number of assumptions that "God is real." Facts are based on objective evidence which can be verified and reproduced. You have no facts.

      May 24, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • BamPow

      Not beliving in God does not automatically mean living a life of "unaccounability." Many non-believers still belive in karma and/or moral codes. There is not only one path to follow and not subscribing to your belief system does not diminish the worth of somebody else's life.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • Chicken Little

      When you decide to come off that, there are some pills you can take to make it easier for you.

      PS. There's this new thingy, called a "spell check":

      May 24, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  16. Jim

    And in 5 months he'll revise it again.
    The sad part is people will still follow.

    May 24, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • FrankWest

      They orginally said that Oct 21, 2011 will be the complete destruction of the universe. May 21 was only the rapture date.
      Note Oct 21 is not a new prediction.

      May 24, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
  17. Shirley

    This is embarrassing for you Christians...'No man knoweth the day nor hour, that Jesus returns.' There is also some good info in the ole good book about false prophets....

    May 24, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • For What It's Worth

      With all due respect Shirley, the only person that can embarrass me, is me.

      May 24, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
    • No

      Really sad when we feel embarrassed for other people because they are too stupid to be embarrassed themselves.

      May 24, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
  18. For What It's Worth

    We use to burn women at the stake because we thought they were witches. We use to think the world was flat. Land on the moon? Nonsense. Drill a hole in someones head to treat mental disorders. And I've not even touched on religion. We have a history of this behavior people. Get use to it.

    May 24, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
  19. Ben

    Give it a rest old timer...It's over.

    May 24, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
  20. zzzzz

    The world's biggests nuts and fraudsters can be found in the USA. God has really blessed America.

    May 24, 2011 at 12:42 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.