Doomsdays throughout time
March 6th, 2011
12:01 AM ET

A look at the ways the world could end

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

Think you’ve got a prediction for when and how the world will end? Get in line.

A caravan of RVs is now touring the country to warn people about the end of the world (they say it will happen May 21), but they're hardly the first ones to embark on such a mission.

Throughout time, and across continents and belief systems, humankind has dished out enough end dates to fill a doomsday menu.

The backgrounds of the people who serve them up may differ, as might the details of what will unfold, but the general apocalyptic worldview is nothing original, says Lorenzo DiTommaso, an associate professor of religion at Concordia University in Montréal, Quebec and author of the forthcoming book, “The Architecture of Apocalypticism.”

“It’s a philosophy that explains time, space and human existence,” DiTommaso says. And by buying into this sort of outlook, a person can find comfort in a “comprehensive answer.”

Having studied apocalyptic movements for nearly 12 years, DiTommaso has strong opinions. He calls the apocalyptic worldview “adolescent” because it’s “a simplistic response to complex problems” and one that “places responsibility for solving these problems with someone else or somewhere else.”

As a result, there are dangers to this thinking, he says. Why care about protecting the environment, curing cancer or stopping poverty and violence against women, for example, if you believe it’s all going to end soon anyway?

The imminent doomsday date that’s gotten the most attention in recent years is the December 21, 2012, prediction gleaned from the Mayan “Long Count” calendar.

But not to be outdone by those pesky Mayans, there are some Christians who claim the Bible teaches that Judgment Day will come on May 21 of this year. They say those who are not saved in the Rapture will endure great suffering up until October 21, 2011, when the world will be kaput.

“There’s competition,” DiTommaso says. The Mayan calendar prediction “has gone global, and in the ecology of apocalypticism that’s the big tree right now. So the 2011 prediction has to fight for a bit of the sun. And the supreme irony is no matter how big the tree, it always gets cut down.”

Both predicted ends “will come and go – quote me on that,” DiTommaso says. “Unless the apocalypse we’re bringing on ourselves happens first, it’s not going to happen.”

Author and professor Lorenzo DiTommaso has studied apocalyptic movements for more than a decade.

Those who’ve dedicated the next few months to warning people about the May 21 date, however, hold that they understand what others – including, for instance, DiTommaso – fail to see. They accept the Bible as the undisputed word of God, and they find within the carefully studied scripture “infallible proofs” that the end is not only near but firmly scheduled, says Harold Camping, the force behind the Christian broadcasting ministry Family Radio and the biggest proponent of this doomsday date.

“What happens if nothing happens on May 21? I’m asked that question again and again,” Camping says. “It’s a question I don’t even entertain because it is going to happen. It is going to happen.”

So how do staunch believers, including those who quit jobs, bail on families and give away possessions in preparation for the end, bounce back if these fateful dates they think will bring massive destruction amount to just another ho-hum day?

Surprisingly, they don’t all feel duped, DiTommaso says. Some may fall away or slink off to something new, but when your worldview is apocalyptic in nature, a failed doomsday doesn’t leave you easily shaken, he says.

Instead, what religious people generally do, he says, is write off the end-that-wasn’t as an interpretation hiccup. With deeper study and prayer, they’ll be lucky enough to find another doomsday around the corner.

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Belief • Bible • Christianity • Death • End times • Faith • Jesus

soundoff (666 Responses)
  1. amandagreene

    Only god knows when he will sound that trumpiet and call his children home. .

    May 20, 2011 at 9:11 pm |
  2. H_Sutherland17

    God would know when the time has come for the world the cease to exist. If I were those people who had been saying that the world will end on May 21,2011,Oct.21,2011 or Dec.21,2012 you need to stop filling all that end of the world nonsense in people heads. If You don't have any scientific proof to back it up then don't say anything. we're all not jesus nor scientist we have no proof nor any scientific evidence that we no longer going to be on earth anymore. So enough is enough all ready.

    May 20, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
  3. James

    My friends, the happening's probability is halfe.Just get prepared.

    May 20, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
  4. Amos

    let us prepare our spirit, soul and body. 'Cos no one knows the time

    May 20, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
  5. Odunlami bernard

    Can we believe Lorenzo DiTommaso this time? When even the bible made us to understand that even the son of man does not know the time or hour.

    May 20, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
  6. Chika Ogbonna

    A lot of people and even more will claim evidence to certain truths that is why its a world. The bible is God's word & the ONLY TRUTH FROM THE CREATOR OF ALL THINGS and God cannot keep us in the dark and he is not confused when man is confused.HE IS FAMILIAR WITH HIS WORLD AND HIS CREATION.IN HIS WORD HE PREDICTED THAT SO MANY WILL PREDICT CHRIST AND HIS SECOND COMING WRONGLY. Yes, this imperfect world will come to an end for a perfect one to come. And That some folks don't believe it won't stop it. BIBLE says the time and hour for jesus christ return nobody but God the father,JEHOVAH knows.But his coming is to take his saints then the source of all evil-Satan, is let out through world government to oppress unfaithful beings for a time,few will endure& believe God & be saved from satan by Jehovah God. Then after this,will THE PREDICTED END COME,WHERE SATAN,HIS DEMONS & UNFAITHFUL HUMANS WILL BE BANISHED FOREVER! A new world begins, JEHOVAH GOD MAKES HOME WITH HUMAN-SAINTS,NOW FOUND LIKE GOD HIMSELF. In that world,there will be no more night,no more death,pain,weeping,sickness,no evil-A WORLD OF RIGHTNESS & PERFECTION,WITHOUT AN END. All Found in the Bible-Matthew24,Revelation.chapters6,7,9,13:verses11-18,chapters21 and 22.

    May 20, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • OK

      Wow! You forgot one minor detail.....it's all fiction!

      May 20, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
  7. Anthony Og

    Well, scientifically speaking, this predictions so called prophecy is baseless.
    Bibilically, the analysis about Judgment made us to know that:"...No man knoweth the hour, not even the son of man, but only the father..." If Jesus the son of God dosn't know the date, I leave you guys to decide weather it will be mortals like... that will know the date.

    May 20, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
  8. mariem

    As per the New Testament and Matthew chapter 24 , verses 36-42 from the New international version ,reads : " No one knows about that day or hour , not even the angels in heaven , nor the Son , but only the Father...............! Now do Christians really read , study , the Holy Writings ( correct name of what we call the Holy Bible .) or just read through it ! All the answers to all the questions are right there . My personal opinion is live your life with a clean heart , follow in the steps of Jesus and when ever the end of the world is going to come , it will come ! How do any of us know if when " our end of the wold will be ? ) I can die by tonight ! Is it any different ? Especially after twelve years of suffering ? What's the diffrence ? So just explore the Holy Writings . Understand what God wants us to do , and live , laugh , and LOVE ! and when the time comes .........let it come. Peace ! Mariem

    May 20, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  9. Michael oguntolu

    Let's wait and see, but i strongly believe that God did't promise anybody when he is coming back

    May 20, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
  10. christabel

    dats a whole bunch of false prophesies.. Who's doing this?

    May 20, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
  11. Jibril Bakari Rann

    Subhanallah! Be it apocalypse or professor or whatever you call yourself. You are a huge liar. You shouldn't be illitrate, but go and learn 'The Qur'an' about the last day!

    May 20, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
  12. Omomo Lawrence

    Let's wait and see, but the guy should go an hurg electric transformer first.

    May 20, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
  13. ranga dumbuka

    guys the end is not yet near.dont let thoe people fool you.if god didnt reveal the date to his only begoten son, what would made him change his mind and tel these poor fellows.they are prophets of doom.on sunday 22may i wl b praising the lord and they will b put to shame

    May 20, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
  14. Michael Davis


    May 20, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
  15. Agbo paul

    That the world will end on may 21,2011 is not biblical. "For no one knows the hour or the day the son of man will come".beware of false doctrine.

    May 20, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
  16. Chidi Larry

    Which one r we gonna beleive, may 21, 2011 or december 21, 2011?

    May 20, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
    • MARLO


      May 20, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • Spencer

      Neither, it's 2012 because of the Mayan calendar and Nostradamus.

      May 20, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
  17. Aliyu

    the writeup was posted by a fool and only fools will believe

    May 20, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
  18. bolu

    its awsome and very hard to belief. Lets wait and see but i hope it did'nt happen.

    May 20, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
  19. John

    I had a dream of a white stone with a new name on it Jesus


    Monday, December 6, 2010DNA=The number of Man
    For one to receive the mark of the beast

    Encoded in ones DNA is a list of your forefathers. This list would have your fathers name your grandfathers name your great grandfathers and so on the list goes back generations until you get to the foundation of life. This foundation is the original twelve tribal couples that were created at the beginning of time. At the root above the 12 tribes God the father is listed as the father of all including the father of the 24 elders. The Lambs name is also at the root

    To receive the mark of the beast it involves a genetic hack that replaces God the fathers name encoded in ones DNA with the beasts name on specific gene locus on specific cells in the brain. The beast and the false prophet are claiming that the Lamb Jesus is the beast and his witnesses were the false prophet. They get people to get the mark by claiming that they were chosen by God and to protect them from being vexed by the locus they need to be sealed on there forehead. Some of the holiest of peoples were actually deceived and took the mark. Just because you took the mark does not necessarily mean you are doomed. If you look around at others you must have noticed that the most wicked of peoples will seem to be blind and would not even contemplate the possibility that they were somehow wrong. God has hardened the harts of the most wicked and they are simply not allowed to believe because of there wicket ways in the past. These peoples I believe will not make it to the book of life. If you are running scared it may be that your garments will be made clean through the blood of the lamb. It is never too late to repent and change your ways. He is a merciful God.

    Revelations chapter 9 verse 17 to 21 talk of a group of horseman. These people think they were the chosen ones. This group will actually kill others in the name of God. God of the earth sets up a spiritual Babylon. God of the earth is fighting God the omnipotent God of the earth is using DNA hacks to get his way. God of the earth has actually condemned 2 Tribes to the pit. The witnesses represent these 2 tribes that were excluded from getting a kingdom this was actually a theft The Jews were given the land from these 2 tribes. Its seems that he went ahead and had the witnesses killed despite my warning. These witnesses represents olive branches. He killed the olive branches. This may be it for him

    The number of genotype combinations for each family is the product of the number of possible genotypes for each member of the family. If all independent individuals of the pedigree (the parents) are present in the sample, the total number of genotype combinations will be rather small and will depend mainly on the number of double heterozygotes in the sample. However, if some members of the parental generation are not sampled, then the number of possible genotype combinations may be very large, and this number will depend on the number of alleles (k) at each locus. For instance, consider the case in which k=5 among the sampled individuals. For each locus, we have to allow for the presence of a sixth allele that may be present among the unsampled individuals of the pedigree but that would have escaped detection because it would not have segregated, by chance, in one of the offspring. In this case, there are 6×6=36 potential two-locus haplotypes and 36×37/2=666 potential different genotypes for each unsampled individual. Therefore, in a family in which only full sibs are sampled, 666×667/2=222,111 distinct parental genotype combinations are possible, and the compatibility of all of them must be tested against the offspring's genotypes. In practice, a great many parental genotypes may be eliminated by a prior examination of single-locus incompatibilities between parental and offspring genotypes (e.g., for a description of a simple algorithm, see Lange and Boehnke 1983). Thus, since the complexity of the problem increases with approximately the eighth power of k, we have restricted ourselves to moderately low levels of polymorphism at each locus, with k≤5

    May 19, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
  20. K

    Dang.... i have a car service planned this saturday

    May 19, 2011 at 5:32 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.