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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. College dude

    the bible never says the world is gonna end on a specific date. Jesus said in Mathew that there are many signs that the end is near, but most of those signs have not even happened yet. Read chapter 24 if you wanna know more. It even says in Mathew that many will come to earth in my name (Jesus), and if anyone says there is Christ, or here he is, do not beleive it. and like everyone else has been saying, it does say that no man, not even the angles in heaven know the date nor the hour but God himself, which Jesus said Himself, so i beleive what Jesus said not Harold Camping.

    May 24, 2011 at 4:20 am |
    • Over It

      Why would you believe anything in the Bible?

      May 24, 2011 at 4:23 am |
    • darren

      amen! why can't people read that verse and believe it is true?! lol.

      May 24, 2011 at 4:28 am |
    • Know What

      college dude: "i beleive what Jesus said..."

      Actually you believe what someone (or ones) who wrote under the name, Matthew, *said* that their Jesus figure said.

      May 24, 2011 at 4:34 am |
    • MQ

      Dear Know What... Jesus DID speak in the book on Matthew (and in many other books not named JESUS). Seriously, please don't come to a conclusion before doing at least some research.

      May 24, 2011 at 6:01 am |
  2. David

    Wow...what's next, rapture safety kits for $500? This guy is a joke

    May 24, 2011 at 4:15 am |
    • ophu

      Maybe someone can market an anti-rapture suppository. Harold needs at least two of them now.

      May 24, 2011 at 4:19 am |
    • Jenn

      Well if you are going on the fact of how many times he has predicted the end of the world then he woul need 4. He predicted this back in September of 94 then moved the date to October of 94 then it was May 2011 now it is October 2011, just push his butt into a padded cell by himself and let him predict away.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
  3. Shinytoys

    Yup, missed it again, maybe you need one of those tricky Texas Instrument calculators...try a TI-83, you might have better luck...what a bazoo

    May 24, 2011 at 4:14 am |
  4. Oprah

    The world will end when Oprah trips and falls and causes a seismic event of biblical proportions on a global scale! If at that time she releases a toxic gas the symptoms will be burning eyes and when inhaled, total organ failure! God help us!!

    May 24, 2011 at 4:08 am |
    • ophu

      Never could understand why some people have it in for Oprah. What did she ever do to them?

      May 24, 2011 at 4:14 am |
    • Nick

      Some people should really get a life.

      May 24, 2011 at 4:28 am |
    • MQ

      Never could understand why some people have it in for Jesus. What did He ever do to them?

      May 24, 2011 at 5:55 am |
    • anonymous

      you can't have it in for someone who doesn't exist

      May 24, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
  5. Ben

    Classic example of preying on the gullable masses. Not really exciting news considering this happens every day in the world every single day. This guy will keep changing his prediction date over and over again. Albert Einstein once defined insanity as repeating the same action over and over again then expecting a different result.

    May 24, 2011 at 4:02 am |
    • David

      Masses? What masses? It's only a couple hundred people that believe him.

      May 24, 2011 at 4:08 am |
    • Ben

      David,
      Where did you read that he only has a few hundred?

      May 24, 2011 at 4:21 am |
  6. Jenn

    He can keep on saying what he wants, but his "math" is always going to be off. Aside from the fact that no man, NOT EVEN JESUS HIMSELF, knows the day of the Rapture/beginning of the end, the Tribulation happens over a period of years and not months, anyway.

    May 24, 2011 at 4:02 am |
  7. Forrest

    Well that didn't take long, almost like he had that excuse planned and waiting for the inevitable failure of his prediction. Doesn't sound like the man has much faith in his own claims.

    May 24, 2011 at 4:01 am |
  8. buckup

    >>It received $80 million in contributions between 2005 and 2009.

    The $80 million could have done greater things to benefit people, improve safety & health.

    But compared to Jim & Tammy Baker. Jerry Falwell, and Pat Robertson, his money run is small potatoes.

    May 24, 2011 at 3:59 am |
  9. Chris

    Does this guy ever quit?

    May 24, 2011 at 3:58 am |
  10. Jarno

    Looking forward to October 22nd.

    He'll REALLY need to get creative with his backpedaling then!

    May 24, 2011 at 3:56 am |
    • buckup

      Call it "Keno End Game", house gets 100%, lazy fools nothing
      new numbers every day when he gets his operational details worked out.

      May 24, 2011 at 4:06 am |
  11. Cat

    Hard to believe this man even knows the Bible at all. I mean, who can put a date on God? Since Jesus said No man knoweth the day or hour of his coming. Only God knows that. So how come this man is making Christians out to look like idiots when most Christians know what the BIble says. Truth is not setting dates. He is a false prophet. He needs to retire.

    May 24, 2011 at 3:51 am |
    • acrawmer

      I agree with you and find it sad that he appears to have no remorse regarding the lives he has disrupted. I also feel sorry for him. His apparent need for attention has hurt a lot of people.

      May 24, 2011 at 4:03 am |
    • buckup

      but think of all the money and power he amassed.

      Being self righteous and wealthy is the obvious goal here.

      May 24, 2011 at 4:08 am |
    • Mike in PA

      He's not really a false prophet, as he never claimed to speak for God. His interpretation of what he reads is wrong, so that just makes him an errant bible teacher. This is the danger of what can happen when someone, even someone who means well, isolates him or herself from the larger church community to study and interpret scripture solely in private. You can make faulty assumptions that start you down a wrong path, with nobody around to help you get back on course.

      May 24, 2011 at 4:21 am |
    • Jenn

      He is a preacher there for he is supposed to be teaching the word of God which would make him a false prophet. We should just go ahead and stone him or lock him in a padded cell with no questions asked

      May 24, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
  12. Pauluss ll

    Send him and all his followers to North Korea and they will see their real doom.

    May 24, 2011 at 3:47 am |
  13. RedTeam

    This guy needs repeated punches to the brain.

    May 24, 2011 at 3:44 am |
  14. adam

    you are an idiot, u know nothing about the bible

    May 24, 2011 at 3:44 am |
  15. dan

    the end is closer now than it ever has been, relatively speaking. if you figure the universe is about 14B years old and that the sun will run out of gas in about 6B years, we are closer now than ever...and getting closer everyday to the end of life as we know it...i wonder why cnn doesn't report on this???!!!???

    May 24, 2011 at 3:42 am |
    • Really?

      Well...unlike Fox, Msnbc, and others, CNN doesnt have time for bull crap story.

      May 24, 2011 at 4:18 am |
  16. ophu

    I once dreamt I was Ganymede and got raptured by the eagle. You hear that, Harold? It must've been a sign from God!

    May 24, 2011 at 3:40 am |
  17. jellylee20202

    Apparently you can cry wolf a hundred times and there's still people stupid enough to believe you.

    May 24, 2011 at 3:40 am |
  18. Howard

    Anybody remember the TV Show Get Smart? Something like this

    The world will end May 21
    Would you believe October 21
    Would you believe December 5
    How about Feb 4

    May 24, 2011 at 3:39 am |
    • ophu

      And then he gets a call on his shoe phone: "HAROLD CAMPING, THIS IS YOUR LORD. SHUT THE HE77 UP!"

      May 24, 2011 at 3:54 am |
  19. Jesus

    What did I miss?

    May 24, 2011 at 3:38 am |
    • Benjamin

      Nothing at all. Same nutjob, different day.

      May 24, 2011 at 3:41 am |
    • buckup

      the world ended.
      Camping did not make the grade.
      We are all stuck in stuck in junior high because of him.

      May 24, 2011 at 3:45 am |
  20. jon

    True story, my coworker needs to find a qualified christian high school for her son, she calls and asks if the school she is looking at teaches the true age of the earth according to the bible, roughly 6000 years or the new fangled teachings that dinosaurs and the earth were created many millions of years before god created adam and eve.
    It cant be just any christian school, it must be one that teaches the literal word, not one that tries to co mingle science with hokus pokus.
    She needs to make sure that her son understands that humans and dinosaurs coexisted and the earth is very new, forget that carbon dating and fossil record nonsense.
    Many times people embellish stories, but this is not one of them, this is the human brain in the clutches of religion.

    May 24, 2011 at 3:38 am |
    • Faithofanatheist

      I wish I had your faith. To believe that all the amazing order we see around us each day was created by chance. Oh, by the way, you should really do some research into fossil records, carbon dating, and such. Truth be told – evolution is also a religion – I for one just don't have that great of faith.

      May 24, 2011 at 3:58 am |
    • ObjectiveScience

      Evolution is like the lottery, you'd never expect to win but it happens...and it happens many times. It is NOT a religion, its a theory. Difference is one has way more concrete OBJECTIVE evidence over the other. Main reason it remains a theory is because it takes such a long time to occur. It has been proven on a smaller scale with plants and more recently mammals, but skeptics continue to argue the fact.

      May 24, 2011 at 4:12 am |
    • Chris

      A madrassa would be perfect, where the kid will learn to recite the Qur'an in Arabic, without understanding the meaning and getting unnecessarily confused.

      May 24, 2011 at 4:15 am |
    • 20%and growing

      You realize faithofanatheist – you have the word atheist in your name.
      Also I ask my Sunday school teacher when I was 4 'what happens to all the other children who don't believe in God" Answer they burn in hell. That was the day I stopped believing in any god that would murder billions of innocents. If we get rid of religion we might actually evolve...

      May 24, 2011 at 4:26 am |
    • Stathis Dimopoulos

      @objective science Microbial resistance to antibiotics is a clear sign of evolution in the microscopic scale. The only difference is that macroscopic life has a large life cycle compared to the microbes and the effects of the evolutionary process are not easily visible.

      May 24, 2011 at 4:28 am |
    • concerned scientist

      @Faithofanatheist: 4.5 billion years is a really long time to wrap your brain around but once you realize just how long that really is, you understand that it is perfectly plausible that the order you see around you could happen in that time.

      There are too many lines of evidence that speak against a 6000 year old Earth, and absolutely no evidence that confirms it. Think it's in the Bible? Think again. The 6000 year date was calculated by some Bishop based on genealogical guesses hinted at by the Bible.

      I see the "read up on carbon dating" argument a lot, usually with no supporting evidence. Your comment is no different. There's nothing wrong with carbon dating, certainly within a 6000 year window. The underlying physics is not really that hard to learn (you don't have to get into the details of quantum physics to understand decay products). Anyway you wouldn't use carbon dating for dating things like dinosaur fossils due to the relatively short half-life.

      I recommend reading books for your research instead of following internet links until you find a page that corroborates your ideas.

      May 24, 2011 at 4:40 am |
    • SB

      @Faithofanatheist: You complain about the "faith of atheists" yet you believe that the universe was poofed into existence by a magical sky daddy which is patently impossible. How can you complain about the improbability of a demonstrable natural process like biological evolution when your beliefs are so much more ridiculous? Not only does this make you a hypocrite, but also an idiot for not recognizing such an obvious contradiction in your argument. As far as your understanding of evolution goes, you obviously get your information from creationist websites instead of academic sources. No doubt you believe that there is some sort of grand conspiracy in academia keeping the truth out of science. The "created by chance" canard reveals quite plainly that you do not understand how evolution works. There are random elements to evolution (random mutation and genetic drift) but natural selection, by definition, is a non-random process. Selection is a process of attrition. Evolution is a ratchet, not a tornado. Figure this out and next time you speak on the subject you may not sound like such an idiot.

      May 24, 2011 at 4:50 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.