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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. Mauricio

    The end of the world is coming for him, and perhaps before that date.

    May 24, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
  2. bellestarrr

    he's just a very rich religious charlaton...they have been many and varied over the years and are ear and eye candy for the gullible...they transfer your wealth out of your pocket into their pocket..a real miracle..they become rich at it because of the stupid ignorant christian rednecks that comprise this country as well as other countries too...only the ignorant believe this stuff..those of us that are intelligent know that god will decide when the end will come...not this foolish old man.

    May 24, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
  3. daleok

    Why would anyone give a crap what this guy predicts? It could happen in 5 minutes, 5 hours, 5 days, and on and on and on. And it probably will go on and on as long as there is some small percentage of people that still believe this charlatan. For any of those diehards that believed him about his 5/21 prediction and spent all of their money or quit their jobs, I truly feel sorry for them. I hope they learned their lesson. Never trust anyone and always be skeptical.

    May 24, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
  4. DanteX

    SECURITY !

    May 24, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
  5. Shifter

    False prophecy = ID10T ERROR

    May 24, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
  6. SS

    Then the GOD is so unfair that he would only take christians to heaven and non-christians to perish. Did he not create us too?

    May 24, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • Geoffrey

      So what? It's bogus math.

      May 24, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
  7. Kool Aid

    The only shame here is that this isn't a suicide cult...darn, that means the gene pool will most likely be polluted with more of these drooling morons :-(

    May 24, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • Moron_land

      The best reply ever, you are right, Im afraid of those idiots who stayed, I tell ya.... if this moron was able to put all those mor and ons together for this mission soon we will have TONS of little morons spreading the message, that's the saddest part.

      May 24, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
  8. marykate

    Big surprise. Instead of admitting he made (another) mistake, he doubled down. I feel very sorry for his followers but at the same time, they made their choice and now have to live with the consequences (well, at least until 10/21). I can't wait to hear what he says on October 22 - assuming we're still here, of course! Wow, $80 million. Imagine how much food, clean water, vaccines, mosquito netting, etc. that could have bought for the poor in hundreds of countries around the world.

    May 24, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • Janet

      The Preacher might not even be around then. He has one foot in the grave. LOL

      May 24, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
  9. Karen

    This guy is off his rocker!!! Who does he think he is? He expects people to believe that he knows what God has "decided". Horrifying that people have been scammed out of their life savings promoting his insanity!!

    May 24, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • Geoffrey

      He thinks he is getting rich from idiots who believe him.

      May 24, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
  10. ctbecky

    Are we sure the date wasn't moved back due to budget cuts? This wasn't a shovel-ready project was it? LMAO!

    May 24, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
  11. anony

    yes and then he said it was always going to be May 21...

    May 24, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
  12. Donna

    Pay the taxes on the $73 million you scammed from believers who are easily swayed! Just pay up, go away, and stop scamming people!!!!!

    May 24, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • PirateJohn

      Pay the taxes? How about just paying the whole thing back in full?

      May 24, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
  13. frey

    This guy needs to go away. Far away. No one is going to be able to predict when the end of the world happens. Thats stated in the bible.

    May 24, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
  14. Mark

    I HOPE WHEN THE WORLD DOES COME TO END I HOPE THIS OLD GEEZER AND FALSE PROPHET AND ALL OF HIS CRONIES WILL BE THE FIRST ONES IN LINE TO GO TO TO HELL

    May 24, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • Bruce

      No, the front of that particular line is reserved for people who abuse the caps lock key.

      May 24, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • Nightwyn

      Bruce –

      lmao

      May 24, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • Horus

      @Bruce – good one....actually laughed at that.

      May 24, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  15. HNL

    I can't believe there are people so dump and outright idiots that would listen to this man's garbage.

    May 24, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • meriska

      there are a lot of dummies out there.

      May 24, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • IHM

      People listen to Rush too...

      May 24, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
  16. Noigiler

    It is interesting that so many "proper" other Christians scoff at–or feel sorry for–the silliness of Camping's failed predictions. Yet they remain absolutely sure that their loving and merciful god will soon destroy the earth and billions of people whenever he is so moved. Why can't they–many of them educated, thoughtful people–pause and ponder the fact that their proposition is no less wacky than Camping's? The only difference with Camping is that he's tried to date stamp the silliness.

    May 24, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • Burger King

      Someone needs to educate themselves on Christian teachings before they spout off to try and sound smart.

      May 24, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • Keh

      Agreed. (Noigiler)

      May 24, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • Noigiler

      Please. Enlighten me. Unlike the faithful, I am actually quite open to reason.

      May 24, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  17. TJ223

    A few more months for Mr. Camping to take in some more millions. The tax filings of this "church" are very eye-opening. Write your Congressmen and ask for an investigation.

    May 24, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
  18. haley

    him coming back is not merciless... its to reward the people who believe and follow him with eternal life in paradise, and to punsih those who had all the chance in the world to believe, worship, and talk about im but decided not to... and mocked him and laughed in his face... praise the lord

    May 24, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
  19. SS

    I am a good guy, never harmed anyone in my life, but I am not a Christian. Would I be able to go to heaven or perish in this earth on october 21st?

    May 24, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • haley

      u would perish on this Earth.

      May 24, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • JustJosh

      As far as Christians are concerned – being a 'good' person doesn't mean anything unless you 'accept Jesus'. BUT, ask them where "good" comes from, and they'll most likely tell you "God". So, "God makes good", but "good is useless" when it comes to going to heaven... kind of pointless, but then again so is Christianity in general. If you believe a law abiding citizen – who politely rejects the notion of talking snakes, unicorns, and giants – will go to hell, but a mass murderer can get into heaven with a deathbed conversion... we have nothing more to talk about.

      May 24, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • Rev. Rick

      @ S S – Don't worry. The sin/salvation, heaven/hell theology is a myth, just as "the rapture" is a myth. God did not create us, just to use us like lab rats in some sick lab experiment. Heaven or hell is what we make of our life here and now, in the present moment. We can either love, help and respect each other, or we can divide ourselves up into different religious camps that bicker, quarrel and make war. God gave us the choice. It's up to us to either make it work, or to foolishly squander it and blow it all up.

      May 24, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  20. sharedgum

    Can we please arrest this man for being a fraud?

    May 24, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • DaveR

      Wouldn't we have to arrest all religious leaders? (good idea in my opinion) They're all selling a fantasy. HC got caught up in his own delusion and actually claimed something would happen on a specific date. Most religious leaders know better than that.

      May 24, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • LinCA

      Considering that "Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.", arresting any religious leader would probably go against the best interests of the rulers.

      And, unlike many voters, rulers typically don't act against their own interests. They don't stay rulers that for very long, if they did.

      May 24, 2011 at 3:28 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.