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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. rodsiltor

    Of course he got the math wrong, he learned from the bible the value of Pi is only 3 and not 3.14159....

    May 24, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
  2. Shan

    MATTHEW 24 - especially verse 36, which states: But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.

    Amazing that followers of the bible would take the word of this man, when the words in their own book state no one will know when the end will come.

    May 24, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • Denis

      amen brother

      May 24, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • Bruce

      OMG, maybe you should email that verse to Camping so he can see the error of his ways. I'm sure he's never encountered that verse before, nor has he addressed it, nor has anyone ever challenged him with it before this very moment!

      May 24, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
  3. Sam

    CRY WOLF!!!! Preparing for when the real wolf comes, no one will believe, =)

    May 24, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • Mark

      He is a wolf, and a false prophet.

      May 24, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Sam

      Depends on your perspective, he could be the boy tending sheep or the wolf =D

      May 24, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
  4. preach

    On behalf of all the non-Crazy Christians in the world, please let me apologize for this idiot...he in no way shape or form represents the Jesus that I call Lord and Savior...

    May 24, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • Sam

      Christians = Follower of Christ. Do you honestly call him Christian now?

      May 24, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • derp

      The only difference between him and you, is that he has actually picked a day. You both believe in the same thing, he just thinks he knows when it will happen.

      May 24, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • Sam

      derp and the sameness between you and Camping is that you both talk about things you don't know about.

      May 24, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
  5. Matthew A.

    I hope this guy and his followers develop a "special" kool-aid and drink it all.

    May 24, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
  6. Matty B

    Stop encouraging them with all this press!

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

      Exactly.

      May 24, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • WhiteSox56

      Exactly.

      May 24, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • Bruce

      Stop encouraging the press with all these comments!

      oops...

      May 24, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
  7. bitnar

    He says "I'm only teaching the bible." Doesn't the bible say that no one knows the day or the hour?

    May 24, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
  8. Michael

    My girlfriend Chalee is a Buddhist from Thailand, she wants to know how she is supposed to believe any of these Christians? She says she has a crazy brother who says the same junk all the time. She wants to know? Any of you weirdos care to comment?

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

      Little Baby Jesus – take me away from these super crazy pedophile priests who are trying to probe me. Please comment on my post

      May 24, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • schmikel

      Frankly, I find the discussion of pedophile priests tending to Little Baby Jesus in the afer-here-after to be among the oddest expressions of religious devotion I have ever encountered. Disturbing and beautiful.

      May 24, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • Sam

      her question doesn't need an answer, her question isn't to "seek answer" it is just to express how crazy she thinks Christian are, so it's useless actually trying to answer her. Tell her "you are right, they are wrong". 'cause that's what she wants to hear and to her that would be the 'right answer".

      May 24, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
  9. LogicSaysSo

    So what about all the ones who claim they "KNOW", or "have a scholarly reasonable explanation" to the BEGINNING of the world. As opposed to this lunatics END of the world, or claims to know rapture.

    I'd say those who claim they know how everything started AND their followers are just as insane as this guy.

    May 24, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
  10. j

    put this idiot in jail already.all these people should GO next week not 5 months

    May 24, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
  11. Jon

    Heh. It's the Millerites all over again, isn't it.

    May 24, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • Joy

      Yes, it is, but Camping's crowd will think you're talking about beer! What a sad group.

      May 24, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
  12. bluemax77

    THAT’S JUST GREAT, A DOOMS DAY PROPHET WHO CAN’T COUNT...!!

    May 24, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
  13. anitah

    maybe the rapture did happen - but Camping and his followers were left behind like the rest of us.

    May 24, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • bitnar

      Maybe.

      May 24, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • Roger

      Great – we're in Hell – thanks for making my Tuesday!

      May 24, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
  14. WhiteSox56

    Dear media outlets: Okay, we had our "May 21 = Doomsday" fun. Therefore, I respectfully ask you to stop covering this issue. It's not important, and any predictions that Camping or anyone else has for the end of the world are nonsense. I really hope we're not bombarded with coverage of this idiocy in October. It would be an insult to the intelligence of most of your readers.

    May 24, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
  15. Norse Pagan

    I know for a fact the world isn't ending anytime soon. None of the essential pieces have been set in motion. The world shall end like this: In the beginning, there shall be a three year long winter, followed by the great wolf, Fenrir, breaking his chains. Loki shall break away from his bonds, the great toenail ship Narglfar shall set sail with the great army of the undead. The giants of Musplhiem and Nifelhiem shall march to Asgard. Hiemdal shall sound the end with the Gallahorn. The Gods and Einherjar will ride to face there enemies, and thus Ragnorok shall commence.

    Needless to say, it's still quite warm here, so no one should worry.

    On a more serious note, these "Doomsday" prophets are idiots. And worse, their followers are bigger idiots. But then again who's worse? The Liar or those who believe him? I'm not exactly the most knowledgeable when it comes to Christian mythology, but I do believe I read something somewhere that according to the Bible the End of Days shall happen when NOBODY EXPECTS IT!!! So even if you do believe this garbage, you shoot yourself in the foot for announcing it that it's going to happen. If any one person expects it, it's not going to happen.

    May 24, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
  16. Loki

    Put the horns on this guy, and make him wear a cape and carry a pitchfork, and what does he look like?

    May 24, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
  17. Amanda

    This guy can't be a preacher, or he would know that it says in the bible, that the angels in heaven will not no the time of the end of the world, this guy is a fraud, don't listen to him, just get right with god, and all is good!

    May 24, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • Mark

      I agree. Anybody who says they know the time is a fraud. But "Thanks for calling and sharing"

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

    This guy is a criminal at best and the people who finance him are fools. IRS should start an inquiry of this guy and his "operation"

    May 24, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • Chris

      His earnings and his churche's money are tax exempt. So the IRS isn't going to investigate him.

      May 24, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
  19. Brian

    Maybe if we get all of these fairy tale believers to tell their God they are no longer believers than he will go waway and bother one of his other planets they think he created.

    May 24, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
  20. carlos

    According to Matthew 16:28, Jesus told his followers that he would return during their lifetime: Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom. (King James Version, slight differences in other translations). If Jesus could be wrong, I don't see why Camping isn't allowed to be wrong as well. Hahaha!!

    May 24, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • Bruce

      Unless he was right, and everything he was predicting happened before the end of the first century. He did (so the story is told) come back during their lifetime after he was killed. The Romans sacked Jerusalem, which was the end of a lot of people, the end of an era, the end of a lot of fairly important things–to his audience, it would look a lot like the end times.

      What people seem to miss is the fact that the gospels were written by people in the wake of those historical events–that is, after the events being allegedly predicted by Jesus some 40 years prior actually occurred, at least as was understood by the authors of the gospels. They were not writing prophecies of future times, but rather putting a religious spin on their understanding of history.

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

      Hey – I am glad that he gave us until Oct 21st. What a guy! You know, He is as old as God and makes for fun nights of making fun of him. See you all in October...and beyond!

      May 24, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • Anon

      Except Jesus also said his kingdom was not of this world but in Heaven. So they did see him enter his kingdom when he rose from dead and ascended into Heaven. They did not taste death b/c they did not have to experence hell.
      Either way Camping is a self righteous fraud.

      May 24, 2011 at 2:22 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.