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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. Martha

    I also waited for 6:00 to come on May 21 believing that nothing was going to happen. I am a born again christian and I know what the Bible says about false prophets and who will know when Jesus is coming back. But as I sat at 5:00 that day thinking about this I wondered how many people would take this opportunity to exam their life and contemplate what Christ would find me doing at that hour. Would he find some in a bar drinking there life away, snorting cocaine up their noses, dressed in a skimpy outfit, Sassing back their parents, to name just a few things. Or would they find one in their prayer closet praying for the souls of men or would they be found reading their bible or teaching their children about the great God who sent his only son to die for our sins. Would he find us talking to a neighbor or witnessing to some one in need. I found that it was a good time to reflect on my own behavior and my commitment to god and found that I was ashamed at my lack of concern about a world in need of Gods love.. May the next time a warning comes that it will find me in a pleasing manner to not shame me or my savior!

    May 24, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
  2. Michael

    Please comment on my cool post below dudes

    May 24, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
  3. Nubs

    Give it up man, you lost. Go away with some dignity at least & stop making yourself look like an @$$ over & over again.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
  4. Daniel Troppy

    If this guy isn't your typical Republican spewing lies, fear & hatred then I don't know what is.....

    http://www.thethrifters.net

    May 24, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
  5. justin

    He is a con man just like jesus was. coning people into giving up their possesions with the promiss of better things but with no proof what-so-ever!!!!!

    May 24, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
  6. Brian

    Why is the media still paying attention to this jerk? He ruined enough lives and procured enough ill-gotten money the first time around. Oh, make that the second time around; there was a "mathematical error" some years ago.

    Here's an idea for Harold Camping: How about spending some of those millions of dollars that your sheep gave you on taking a remedial math class at your local community college? Or, better yet, go away! Permanently!

    May 24, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
  7. Eugene FRANK MD

    The absurdity is not this elderly man's delusional ramblings, the absurdity is that CNN that has made his pathetic, incoherent musings into a news worthy event, distracting from the serious business of disseminating important, topical information. If English tabloids are scandalous in their content to attract readers, CNN is scandalous in it's means, methods and topics to do the same. In doing so, CNN casts doubt on the quality and choice of all of its articles: what a perverse sense of importance CNN demonstrates.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
  8. Bruce

    Look, people, just in case you didn't notice, Camping has pulled out the ultimate "get out of jail free" card by dropping the term, "spiritual" into the mix, and contrasting it with "physical."

    This is where it always ends up. On October 22, 2011, if he's still alive to tell us, he will use that term again to explain to all of us that all of his predictions have come true 100% as-predicted, and he won't recant one single word.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • Bruce

      And one more thing, I'm less and less convinced that this guy is insane and more and more convinced he had this "spiritual" move planned from day one of his campaign.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
  9. Jim Doyle

    No, we won't be advertising this time. We've already collected our money. See you October 22nd!

    May 24, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
  10. nick

    Hey cnn why are you giving time for this bullchit. no one cares and it scares kids and people with this bs. This guy needs to be arested or beat with a bat

    May 24, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
  11. Jesus of Nazareth

    Any self respecting cult like this should take their own lives so they can make it to heaven. These guys are half assing it.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
  12. Hatch

    "...We're not going to be advertising in any way..." (Excuse me ...(chuckle)...Reverend? Doesn't that mean you will have nothing to say on your 65 radio stations and TV show?) Help! I'm a walking, talking corpse and I'm passive-agressively seeking attention! Maybe, I can find a bunch of chumps....errr....people...that can easily be whipped into frenzied paranoia by quoting some obscure doomsday scripture. I can already see the cash rolling in, baby!

    May 24, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
  13. Andrew

    I look just like the face of Jesus from the History Channel computer graphics but no one believes me. Wait, people say I look like Jesus Christ and now I know I look just like the face of Jesus from the History Channel computer graphics from the cloth that Jesus was covered in. I do not know when the world will end only the Father knows and he will not tell me. Well, I am the lord so this means I have already returned. I am real and he is fake but you will follow him and give him 80 million. This makes me sad. Google search it face of Jesus from history channel and email me andrewthomas97@gmail.com and I will send you a picture of me I look just like it and a few people agree with me. In John it states Another Counselor will come whom is sent in the name of the lord, whom is sent by the Father, whom is the Holy Spirit whom will stay forever.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
  14. jerry

    Too bad, I was looking forward to the bible thumpers taking of into the sky

    May 24, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • Carlos

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      March 3, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
  15. Michael

    Please comment on my cool post

    May 24, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • Laughing

      hey, cool post

      May 24, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
    • bg

      Hey, this is a nice post. Good work.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
  16. Massiel

    the world is only ending for him...he is prob like 300yrs old!

    May 24, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
  17. Marty in MA

    Jesus isn't coming again. Either is Elvis. Cased closed. Get a life you crazies.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • Chris

      Either? Moron.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
  18. uos_spo6

    Nothing like collectively romanticized stupidity. It's amazing how consenus emboldens people to accept wild fantasies as truths. People will believe whatever they're trained to, and from then on anything that falls in line with that indoctrination or whatever will allow them to reach a point of desired thought and feeling.

    Trust no one, especially preachers and self-vindicating "Holy Books"

    May 24, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • thomas bodetti

      one thing about it if they are wrong, then the most likely outcome will be of little consequence to them however if they are right and you are wrong, then the consequences of your unbelief will be a high price to pay. Seems to me that you have the most to loose.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
    • Ol' Yeller

      Barnum knew this and made a fortune. There is a sucker born every minute (or is it born again?).

      May 24, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • LinCA

      @ thomas bodetti.

      Pascal's wager again.

      This only holds true if ALL of the following assumptions are correct, or have at least a better than 50% combined chance of being correct:
      1) There is a god
      2) This is the only god
      3) This one god is the christian god
      4) This christian god is as you describe him/her/it
      5) Your god doesn't care if you "fake it" and gives full credit for pretending to believe

      May 24, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  19. Lettuce Prey

    I don't feel the least bit of pity for Camper's followers who gave him money, sold their homes, quit their jobs on this swindler's say-so. Anyone who continues to believe this guy is a complete moron.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
  20. Atheist_Free_Thinker

    Well considering there is no god or afterlife, is it really hard to understand why this rapture BS never happened? Grown ups believing in these fairy tales and invisible friends... it'll be the end of us all.

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

      I'm a Christian but believe this guy is nuts. CNN shouldn't be putting this as an important story – or a story at all. It also allows the atheists a forum for spewing their know it all ideas. Believe what you want. Just don't tell me that you're right.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
    • Ol' Yeller

      @Joe.... If you would be so kind as to not going around 'spewing your know it all ideas'; you may also believe what you want/ Just don't tell me you are right.

      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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.