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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. Larry.

    God doesn't exist.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
    • PDX_Atheist

      Amen.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • Abraham

      If we're wrong – well, whoop de do! If you're wrong... have a nice eternity burning in hell!

      May 24, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
  2. Scott

    This guy gives Christians a bad reputation. He's a nut. Also, is CNN really that desparate for content. This is bottom of the bucket reporting.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
    • ScottK

      Lot's of Christian's have given Christianity a bad name, he's just the most recent nut who happens to be getting all the attention.

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

      This idiot isn't giving christians a bad rep. He exemplifies what they (you I am guessing) believe. Christians deserve the bad rep by failing to reconsider ALL of their beliefs in the light of modern day knowledge. There is no god and Jesus never existed. Therefore he isn't EVER coming back and there will be no "rapture" deal with it.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
  3. Susie802

    Yes, the world is ending, but not because of God, but rather because we were too stupid to take care of our natural resources and mother earth herself will destruct.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
  4. Dianna

    Tell that man to shut the hell up and find something else to do. I F he read his Bible and not a fairytale, he would have seen that no man knows the day nor the hour! Not even the angels in heaven know when the last day will be. Sit down somewhere and leave well enough alone!

    May 24, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
    • PDX_Atheist

      There is no god or jesus. Believing AT ALL is just as bad as buying into the ideas of this nutcase.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
  5. caliguy59

    Well, this proves beyond doubt that this charlatan is a lunatic suffering from some deep seated mental illness. The same can be said about any of his foolish followers that once again believe he knows something they don't know. I mean where do these people think this maniac gets his information – directly from God. If so, they are sicker than I now believe them to be. Of course, anyone who believes in an invisible creature existing somewhere in the universe needs to have their heads examined. This is especially so, if they worship this invisible creature.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
    • PDX_Atheist

      Amen. :)

      May 24, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
  6. Newyorker

    Con artists like this one have been predicting the apocalypse since the beginning of time. The end of the world will occur one day, but not for another few billion years.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
  7. jeff

    I used to say that religon was for dumb people.
    Now I say that "no religon" is for smart people.
    All the dumb people on earth need something.
    An imaginary friend is perfect for the dumb people.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
  8. Mr Cuddles

    God help the 16 year old daughters of any families that joined this cult... he'll get arrested for tax fraud or worse eventually... just wait

    May 24, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
  9. Polaris431

    Mmm, I just punched in the letters of his name with the formula he used:
    H+a+r+o+l+d+C+a+m+p+i+n+g = Idiot

    May 24, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
  10. Bruce

    Camping is looking more and more like a friggin' genius every time I think about this. Just look what he accomplished with his insane over-the-top bravado and confidence: how many people around the world were thinking about his predictions on Saturday? Just look at the comment traffic on this article.

    He's playing his world audience like a well-tuned fiddle. I'm looking forward to seeing how this evolves over the next 5 months. How much more music will he pull out of the entire world, atheist and believer alike, between now and October?

    May 24, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
  11. Jeanne

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

    May 24, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
    • LinCA

      You were fooled, even once?

      May 24, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
  12. Dan

    I'm a Christian, and this guy is just plain nuts

    May 24, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • ScottK

      Sounds a little like you are saying "I may be a little crazy, but this guy is insane!"

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

      Dan said: "I'm a Christian, and this guy is just plain nuts"

      From where I'm standing it looks like both of you added 2 and 2 together. Camping got "Friday" as the result (after carefully rechecking his math, since he found "Saturday" before), while you seem to get a "divide by zero" error.

      Whether or not you pick a date or not is, as they say, a distinction without a difference.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
  13. AIZEN

    OLD IMBECIL...THIS MAN SHOULD BE ARRESTED AND HIS MONEY TAKEN AWAY...HIS FOLLOWERS MUST ALL BE PUT IN PSYCH UNIT IN HOSPITALS

    May 24, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
  14. Amanpreet Singh

    I am not Christian. But i do believe that this guy is making fun of one of world greatest religion. His best punishment. Shun him. He is pubilicity hungry. without publicity his personal doomsday will come. He is kind of vulture who prey on weak and thier own followers.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
  15. Edicar

    Shame on media for giving this lunatic preacher an audience to pollute the air with his lies. For anyone hurt or depressed with this nonsense, the pastor and his church must be sued to serve as warning to others preaching bad sermons. I think that his world must be end since he has lived a quality life of a wealthy person. But he would like many people to commit suicide just like some have done in the past. Perhaps his prediction was really about his life as an old man only. He has the right to do just that.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
  16. Betty

    Camping is a liar and swindler. I don't ordinarily advocate for resolution of this type of matter in the courts but in this case I do hope that he is sued by those exploited by his fearmongering. It's easy to say "people cope" when you're a millionaire huckster – unless you're hit where it hurts, the pocketbook.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
  17. DonDillinger

    @Skeptical Analysis

    Well I don't know about 1850, but the rapture wasn't discovered or originate in that time.. Sir the Bible has been around many many ceturies before that.. I'm sure people have predicted the end of the world many times and been wrong.. Although it is certain that the rapture and Jesus return will happen... Just not wise to put a date on it..

    The rapture is in the Bible.. It's just this preacher is putting dates on Gods work and it is written that NO man knows the day or the hour.. NOT EVEN THE ANGELS OR JESUS.. so how would this preacher know?

    I will not go as far as to call him a false prophet, but ironically he is saying what will happen in the future and it's not happening.. technically that is a false prophet..

    I went to his website and checked his math on the May 21st thing.. and with his formula.. (This formula he came up with) is what I used and his calculations where off so.. If these people knew simple math they would have knew something was wrong.. Besides that ... the scripture says no man knows.. that's the point, no man/woman knows the time.. Secondly, his formula is not even substantial..

    Further, iwhy be concerned with dates? If you are ready, just stay ready..

    And yes in the times people like you and your belief will run rampant and control the world, but what can a man profit if he controls the world but looses his own soul? People will be punished for having, reading or believing in the bible.. So you are on target, but I don't want you to be one of those people..

    I want you to go to heaven.. We are all sinners saved by grace.. God is always waiting for any and all to come to him, their is no time limit on salvation.. Just becasue the rapture happens and you are not taken, doesn't mean that you still cannot be saved.. It's just wise to not have to endure the years of Tribulation that those left will face, but if you are, God will still except you and love you.. Just have faith..

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

      "The rapture is in the Bible.. It's just this preacher is putting dates on Gods work and it is written that NO man knows the day or the hour.. NOT EVEN THE ANGELS OR JESUS.. so how would this preacher know?"

      The word rapture is not in a single sentence in the bible. Once again, you christians are making outrageous claims for your religion that aren't even close to being correct.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
    • Eric G

      "Although it is certain that the rapture and Jesus return will happen... Just not wise to put a date on it."

      "Certain" is a very strong word. What evidence do you have to support your claim of certainty? If you have no evidence to support your claim, you are being dishonest by using the word "certain".

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

      PTAH. If you're going to argue intelligently you need to develop better arguments. In Christian eschatology (study of last things), the Rapture refers to a future time when Christians will be caught up to meet Jesus upon His return for His followers and is referred to in the biblical passage of 1 Thessalonians 4:17. Rapture is a term used to describe the concept just described. Technically you can say none of our English words appear in the bible either because the bible was written primarily in Hebrew and Greek.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • Finger Puppet

      1. Prophesy is not about "telling the future". It's about "telling truth to power". The crystal ball thing is a Hollywood invention.
      2. You are right, the "eschatology" involved in these cults is a very old and complicated, but interesting story.
      3. If Jesus is God, for him not to know, is a bit problematic, no ?
      4. How do you know what God wants, and when did he tell you, you can speak for him ?

      May 24, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
    • Ptah

      JohnM:

      As I wrote before, the word Rapture isn't in a single sentence in the entire bible. It is a made up term that came out around the early 1900's.

      Once again, you christians are trying to rationalize something to make it say what you want it to say, and not what it actually says.

      Get it yet?

      May 24, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
  18. Jon

    This old man and his blather are so unimportant and all that the publicity seems to do is to stir up those who believe in God and those who don't. SSDD. Come on CNN, drop this guy from your reports.....he's obviously delusional and doesn't deserve any coverage.

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

    He's funny 'cause he's dumb.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
  20. Tom

    I place no large amount of blame at the feet of Mr. Camping. He's just another con man who is looking for people who cannot or will not think and reason for themselves. He's not holding a gun to anybody's head and making threats of violence against them in order to obtain their submission. I place 99.9% of the blame at the doorstep of those who have abandoned their individual responsibility to think, to reason and to act based upon their own ability to tell fact from fiction. Perhaps they never had the ability or inclination to develop their own intellect past the age of 8. I use "8" as a yardstick here because I think anyone with an intellect beyond the age of 8 should be able to come to the conclusion that this man is simply another con man, trying his best (and doing a very good job) to hoodwink as many people as possible. Ghosts, goblins and spirits and his followers are of such intellectual weakness that they actually believe him. They do have the right to believe as they wish; meaning that they have the right to remain as ignorant as they choose to be if living with such ignorance actually brings them some measure of happiness. When a normal thinking human being applies their intellect, such men as Mr. Camping are left without victims.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • Ejere Bursuna

      am happy the fear of his predictions are making people allover the world repent, here in Kenya i set my mobile phone alarm quarter to the predicted time and repented when it rang, i was sure as death i was going to heaven should it have "occured",but people lets repent always and avoid evil whatever religion we belong to or even whether Atheistic lets hold our values right.Thank you CNN

      May 24, 2011 at 1:50 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.