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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. Pleo

    Harold Camping should be arrested and thrown into a federal pound me in the ass prison for fraud. He's a conman. Nothing more. He's a conman who hides behind separation of church and state to avoid being prosecuted for defrauding people out of their money.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • Jake

      By that logic all religious leaders would have to be thrown into jail.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
  2. Andrew

    He wasn't wrong, exactly, sort of; for many people, it WAS their last day on Earth.

    Every day is.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • beelzebubba

      hilarious...very clever...

      May 24, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
  3. Robert from Kentucky

    As I was watching him on Sunday I kept thinking to myself: "Yep...I remember when I had my first beer!"

    May 24, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
  4. Kosub

    The part that aggravates me, since his ignorance with this whole apocalypse fiasco is apparent, is the part where he says he spiritually rules his wife. NO ONE CAN BE SPIRITUALLY RULED. To all women: you are your own! You don't need a man to be a buffer between you and what you believe is God. Why do females degrade themselves this way, allowing a book that persecutes women to keep them from personally investigating God and practicing their OWN faith? Scripture claims that the church is no place for a woman to speak or voice an opinion. It calims that any questions about God are to be left to your husbands. It claims that any convanent a woman has with her God can be revoked by her husband. YOU ARE NOT CATTLE!! Think for yourselves, please...

    May 24, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • Belarius Marek

      No.. They are not cattle, but most people are sheep.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • Pleo

      He probably beats his wife too when she doesn't have his dinner ready on time. This man sounds like a real piece of human excrement.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
  5. RDS

    Oooops.....I need a "do-over" he said.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
  6. Allah

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rX7wtNOkuHo&w=640&h=390]

    May 24, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
  7. Johnna

    Harold probably has the right date in October that the world will end, but he's just got it wrong as far as for whom the world will end "himself". C'mon, I say this old f@rt will be lucky to live long enough to make it to October 2011.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
  8. God

    He made an honest mistake.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
  9. PZ

    WHY EVEN GIVE THIS GOOF A MENTION IN THE NEWS? HE IS JUST TUGGING ON SOME POOR LOST SOULS' LACK OF SELF-ESTEEM. PEOPLE STAND UP AND IGNORE THIS IDIOT.

    HE IS AN ENGINEER...AND HE CAN'T DO MATH..I WOULD HATE TO HAVE HIM WORK ON MY PROJECTS....

    ONLY GOD KNOWS THE TIME.... OURS IS JUST TO BE READY...

    May 24, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
  10. wilson

    I'm glad to see that he "fixed" his math. When the EVENT didn't happen, I was wondering what happened. Now I'm relieved to know it was just due to a simple math error. Looking forward to watching the floating people this coming October... or maybe February, or perhaps next June?

    May 24, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
  11. VectorX

    It is human nature to believe the end time will happen, when they are alive. Predictions have occurred since the dawn of man, this is nothing new.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
  12. Bob Leary

    All religion is phony bologna. There is no almighty god. It's just a fairy tail to make people feel secure thinking about when they die. The truth is nothing happens. We all just rot away. So here's a novel idea make the best of your life while you're here on Earth. Cause that's all there is.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
  13. Belarius Marek

    What if Jesus actually came on Sat and he thought no one was worth saving? Hmmmmm........

    May 24, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
  14. Mohammed

    Here's a clue. There's no invisible man in the sky. The world will end in the year 4,500,000,000 when the sun runs out of fuel and expands into a red giant and incinerates the Earth.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • wilson

      Or, more precisely... the same year my student loans get paid off.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • Noigiler

      @Mohammed

      First, you are in big trouble for using that name...isn't that blasphemous?

      Second, although the world will indeed end in about 4.5B years, I wonder (hope?) if by then we or our evolutionary progeny have outgrown the silliness of doomsday prophesizing...

      May 24, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • Mohammed

      No supernatural beings were offended by my post. Only simpletons who believe in supernatural beings.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
  15. Mark

    Maybe he will push the date to the 31st on Halloween and we can go trick or treating and someone will gives us the Keys to their Cars and house!

    May 24, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
  16. ThereIsNoGod

    Does the term "Self-Fulfilling Prophecy" mean anything to you people. Just because current events may have some resemblance to what the bible says does not make the bible true or god real. After all there have been many many periods throughout history when events described in the bible have occurred; WW1, WW2, The black plague, etc...
    Besides...according to your bible the end should have been within the generation that was alive during Jesus' life. (Matthew 24:34) " Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fullfilled."
    It doesn't say "That generation" or "the generation of those days". It says "This generation" as of the one alive when Jesus was alive.
    The fastest way to become an atheist is to read the bible.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • wilson

      Another quick way to become an atheist is to use a bit of common sense instead of living with outdated beliefs and fears put on you by manipulative people.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
  17. RUMAD

    I am going to get a 5 month reverse mortgage.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
    • buck the canuck

      lock up the mental case. Stealing money from other religious nuts. He should be shot

      May 24, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
  18. Ryan

    Cookoo! Cookoo! Pre-Trib rapture is old school. Pre-Wrath is the clear biblical teaching. Either way, get right w/ God though a personal relationship w/ Yeshua ha mashiach, Jesus. To my friends, the elect, whom only God knows, we will see the signs of the times when they are upon us. Do not worry, rely on the great "I AM" No fuzzy math can caculate a har date, beware of false prophets, they only seek to desensitize the world of the judgement to come.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
    • wilson

      Reading your reply, you come off as a bit cookoo yourself.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
  19. sunnydays

    Barnum was so right....there are fools born every minute. Religious and political wing nuts are all the same...brain dead.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • Nunya

      Barnum did not say that. Please look it up.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
  20. Kenneth

    This man shouldnt be trying to figure out God using math. God does not run on maths terms he runs on his own terms. This man should not be blamed for people spending their life savings and selling their houses, they did that themselfs. However this man should feel guilty that because of his influence on people, people have lost everything. Nobody but God and the Devil know when the end is (this includes the myans, sorry everybody 2012 is a good movie but it isnt going to happen). This man has a gift as a man with great influence, he should use it for things that could be useful to society.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • Belarius Marek

      Wait a tick.... What do you mean 2012 isn't going to happen? Hollywood said will, so.. That is that... THEY PROVED IT! I have my freeze dried Ramens and everything!!!!!!!

      May 24, 2011 at 1:16 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.