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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 • Faith Now

soundoff (4,998 Responses)
  1. Patricia Redstone

    I'm boycotting any news source that reports on Harold Camping, his church, his prophecies, his hiccups or his bowel movements. Join me.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  2. dan

    this guy is another idiot that makes money off of people, just like those fools on tv at 1 am telling you to buy real holly water that will cure absolutely everything. all these guys are nothing but scammers or rapists its one or the other. if there is a hell well they will be the first not he list.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  3. bruce6va

    And . . . CNN, please stop giving these fringe halfwits media coverage and find other, more newsworthy stories to cover.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  4. Steve Derebey

    This guy is a mentally ill, delusional moron. Why does the media waste electrons on this drivel?

    May 24, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  5. Tomorrow

    Hey Harold! We'll see you on the morning of October 22nd 2011!!!

    May 24, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
  6. princemwh

    As a true Christian who reads his bible this guy is a total clown. It says right there in Matthew that noone will know when the world ends. I love how one nut case gives all of Christianity a bad name. I promise we're not all morons.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
    • Noigiler

      Sorry, princemwh. To believe that something as grand as global catastrophe will occur based on the whim of some mythological sky fairy makes you just as moronic as Camping.

      May 24, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • Lee Bartholomew

      Good one though. one nut called UBL gave Muslim's a bad name. :(

      May 24, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
    • Lee Bartholomew

      more to Noigiler who's one heck of a closed minded person. Your the sick one. Comparing people to Camping. Crap like that and you'll be in the ban religion crowd. Didn't know Hitler was still around. We'll be put in camps and locked up for religion. Bleh. This is America okay. no banning of religion. (course that would mean atheists would be banned. but still I ain't that low.

      May 24, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
  7. Dirtychin

    This man is one fricking idiot. I despise people like this, when all he is doing is taking his trying to scare everyone into giving him their hard earned money; and I'm sure there are plenty of idiots out there willing to give everything to this creep. He is nothing more then another phony preacher praying on the weak. He needs to be in a nut house for life.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
  8. Vic of New York

    What a rube! He disclaims any responsibility for those followers who sold their homes to fund his billboards, while this Christian piece of crap has $17 million sutffed in bank accounts?

    Sounds a lot like that other Christian gigolo, in Florida, who set off riots and killings in the Middle East after deciding to burn a copy of the Koran.

    Hey, maybe Christ is coming in a flying saucer, you pack of Jesus wacks!

    Here is where you screwed up, preacher: You forgot to factor in the Leap Years. So if you take 2011 and divide by 4, you have roughly 502 days unaccounted for. Add that to today's date and the end of the world is around December 2012! Now, that coincides with the Myan calendar end of the earth! Factor in that all the republican candidates have 6's in their birthdays and if yiou flip the "9" in Newt Gigrich's birthdate he's got "666" for imbedded in his birithday. That must mean that Newt is the anti-Christ! So if Newt gets elected in November 2012, that means that his ascendance to President of the USA will set off a nuclear war with IRAN (Persia) that will lead to a nuclear confligration with China and Russia. Therefore the end of the world will happen sometime between November 2012 and February 2013. Note that this coincides with the number "13". And so it all aligns!

    GOT THAT?

    May 24, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
    • raj

      your math makes more sense than camping... :P but dont start radio stations tho...

      May 24, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
  9. van

    I empathise with these people, for most of them were indeed sincere. The only lesson we can all learn from it, is to stick to Jesus' words "NO MAN KNOW NOT THE HOUR, EVEN THE SON OF MAN." It's easy to poke fun at these people, but what we need to do is pray for them, that they will not dispare but hold on and pray that God reveal to them the truth. For Christ said, I AM THE WAY, THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE....and indeed in Christ is the truth. We really need to read our bibles and see how Christ's return will be for sure.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
  10. John Schwendler

    Why won't you media folks just drop this? Stop reporting on this guy. Not sure what is worse: him, the media following him, or the idiots who donate to him. What's he sitting on, $130m? There's one born every minute.....

    May 24, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
  11. Bob

    No one knows the day nor the hour. Do not let yourself be deceived by the preachers who are giving a date and a time for the second coming of Jesus. Go read Matthew 24 and you will be surprised that his return will be soon. But no one can put a date and a time stamp on it. How is your life today? On which side will you be when he comes back?

    May 24, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
  12. Observer

    He'll look just as ignorant on October 22. He's just delaying his embarassment.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • Eric

      This is not news. It is tabloid material. At 1st it was so ignorant it was funny. At this point any decent news agency should stop giving this clown attention.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
    • Observer

      In fairness, the October 21st date is not something new. He did talk about it in his original statements.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
  13. Summer819

    Interesting that he threw in he didn't have any spiritual rule over anyone...except his wife. And I'm sure the people who have given up their homes and life savings all thought to do that on their own without any subliminal message by him at all. A typical offering at a church service doesn't seem to add up to $80 million in 4 years.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
  14. lol

    I guess he needs to trade in his 16th century abacus for a Texas Instruments Scientific Calcualtor, huh?

    May 24, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
  15. Rustybeatz

    I grew up going to church – Sunday morning service, Sunday evening service, youth group on Wednesday nights, my parents were the head of the singles group. The older I get and the more I educate myself, the clearer things seem to get. I understand the reason for religion – people need an explanation for things they can't explain. We need a reason why someone is taken from us "before their time." We need an explanation for what's going to happen when we die. We need an explanation for things that happen that we can't (yet) understand. Has anybody ever seen the movie "The Gods Must Be Crazy"? The coke bottle fell from the sky so it must have been from the gods. It seems like religion is always changing it's tune when science proves something to be fact (or more correctly, eliminates all that is false until you are left with what is true). I'm happier now than I ever have been and it's without God. I have an awesome marriage with a woman that I love very much and can't wait to spend the rest of my life with, and that's without God (not newly-weds, been together 12 years). So I'm feeling like everything I was told as a child has been a lie, basically. "Those without Jesus can't TRULY love anybody" – that one's my favorite. And I know some on here will type something to the tune of "I feel so bad for you since you have lost your way." The truth is I feel like I'm just finding it. Life is definitely good. So I have two reactions when I read something like this; at first I laugh, and then when I really think about it this saddens me a little. This guy was able to persuade all these people to spend life savings, etc. When will people learn?

    May 24, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
    • Polaris431

      And then Rusty died and appeared before the Judgement seat of God...

      May 24, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • John Schwendler

      Pretty succinct comments. Many people do feel the need to have faith in something larger than themselves, however. It does help to explain the unexplainable. What I don't understand is peoples' need to give money to charlatans.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • Su

      I agree with you 100%. I, too, was raised in a fairly religious home and certainly have the upbringing and background in religion. But about 5 years ago, I started REALLY thinking about all this God business and about 99% of it didn't jive with me. So much of religion is based on rumour, and hearsay, and stories handed down from hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago. You would think that somewhere along the way, the interpretation and wordage would have gotten mangled and misconstrued. So now, I don't believe in a god, but to me, it's alright if others believe in a god. I just really, really have a problem with people who use religion as a crutch or a means of scamming or taking advantage of other people., like this guy who keeps predicting the end of the world.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • Su

      I meant to say that I agree 100% with Rustybeatz. You said–in a nutshell–what I feel. Thank you.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • airwx

      @ Rusty... Just remember that when science eliminates all that is false....does not nessesarily leave you with a truth...but a group of unfalsified postulations. Truth comes when they can replicate what is postulated without contradictory evidence being found. You would be surprised how many "truthes" are really still postulations.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • princemwh

      This is interesting and I'm happy your life is going great. What I find interesting is the more I educate myself, the less clear things seem to get. Science itself cannot answer my questions and based on scientific laws, never will be able to answer my questions. I found it too difficult to prove God didn't exist and finally realized maybe he did. I'm not saying I'm right whatsoever though. I will warn you though, when things get tough, your views may change. My life headed toward catastrophe till I attended a Christian workshop. I found myself and accepted Jesus and truth be told, my life has never been better. I saved my marriage, my job, and a lot of things. I just want to tell this because many times people only see one side, so this is my Christian side. I don't think we'll ever know who is right till that day comes and I'm very happy that your life is good now.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
    • Tarayn

      I watched that movie when I was young. I always though it was hilarious. Oh, and I'm glad you are happy.

      May 24, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
  16. Mark

    Bruce

    Did anyone notice that Camping correctly predicted the spiritual "earthquake" on May 21st, 2011, though even he did not understand that the earthquake was spiritual and not physical. How many people on this planet had their eyes focused on New Zealand, turned on the news at 2:00-3:00a.m. Saturday morning on the east coast to see if there was an actual devastating earthquake (of the physical variety) there? How many people–both believer and unbeliever alike–thought about the end times and God and the return of Jesus and all that rot at some point on that very day?

    Now the question is, what is the "spiritual" equivalent of what happens over the next 5 months? Given his success at "predicting" the May 21st event, how will he declare the world actually ended, in a "spiritual" sense, the day after October 21, 2011?

    Bruce are you a Camping follower?

    May 24, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • Mark

      Where is Bruce? You wrote the text above right? Will you answer me? Are you a Camping follower?

      May 24, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
    • Bruce

      No I am not, just an interested spectator. I don't believe a word of it, but I do know enough of it to know when people are accusing Camping of the wrong things.

      There is plenty wrong with Camping's predictions, but don't go accusing the man of ignoring verses like Matthew 24:36 without doing just the tiniest bit of research first.

      (I also responded to you below...)

      May 24, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • Mark

      Bruce can you please tell me...where is the link on his site where he talks about the scripture of nobody knowing the end?

      May 24, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  17. bruce6va

    Someone please tell this geezer to pipe down and find a good nursing home.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
  18. Glenn

    oops

    May 24, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
  19. Johhny B

    I am shocked and very disappointed this nonsense gets any media attention as with any other religious crap.. Its time for people to start believing in the here, the now and themselves. Enough with the 'God is great, merciful and loves his children'... really ?? What a complete load of bull.. Its so disappointing to know so man still believe their is an invisible man that lives in the sky..

    May 24, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
  20. Mark

    Bruce, Are you a Camping follower?

    May 24, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • Bruce

      No I am not, just an interested spectator. I don't believe a word of it, but I do know enough of it to know when people are accusing Camping of the wrong things.

      There is plenty wrong with Camping's predictions, but don't go accusing the man of ignoring verses like Matthew 24:36 without doing just the tiniest bit of research first.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
    • Mark

      Bruce where is the link on his site where he talks about the scripture of nobody knowing the end?

      May 24, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • Bruce

      Mark, I've already told you where it is: www dot wecanknow dot com

      May 24, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
    • Mark

      Sorry Bruce I must of missed it before. Thanks!

      May 24, 2011 at 2:01 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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.