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May 18th, 2011
05:00 AM ET

Tick tock goes the doomsday clock

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

(CNN) - For months they’ve been spreading the word, answering the biblical call of Ezekiel 33 to sound the alarm and warn the people.

Their message, which they say the Bible guarantees, is simple: The end of the world is near.

And now, it’s suddenly really near - so near that if these folks are right, you should probably pass on buying green bananas.

Perhaps you’ve already noticed, what with the billboards and signs dotting the landscape, the pamphlets blowing in the wind and the RVs plastered with Judgment Day warnings weaving through cities. Or maybe, as the birds chirped outside and you sipped your morning coffee, a full-page newspaper ad for the upcoming mass destruction caught your eye.

May 21, 2011, according to loyal listeners of Family Radio, a Christian broadcasting network based in Oakland, California, will mark the Day of Rapture and the start of Judgment Day (which, they say, will last five months). Those who are saved will be taken up to heaven, and those who aren’t will endure unspeakable suffering. Dead bodies will be strewn about as earthquakes ravage the Earth, they say. And come October 21, they’ll tell you, the entire world will be kaput.

It’s the kind of belief that riles up churchgoers who insist no one can know when Judgment Day will come, and the sort that many say does a disservice to Christianity. And it’s the kind of message that delights the types who are planning tongue-in-cheek End of the World parties and are responding to a Facebook invitation to attend a post-rapture looting. Rapture events, including one at a tiki bar in Fort Lauderdale, are being hosted by American Atheists. News outlets, comedians and even Doonesbury can’t seem to resist a good end-of-the-world prophecy.

Billboard battle over Judgment Day

Earlier this year, CNN traveled with a team of believers - all of whom had walked away from friends, families and jobs - as they set out to share this serious message aboard a caravan of Judgment Day RVs. These ambassadors or co-laborers in God’s work, as they see themselves, let us into their world. Along the way we met other supporters, as well as a sea of skeptics, many of them drunken pirates gathered for an annual festival in Florida.

Read about that journey and the roots of this doomsday message

With only days to go, we wanted to know how the ambassadors are feeling now. Are they making special plans and saying goodbyes? Have their convictions stayed strong, or have doubts crept in? Are they at peace, excited or maybe afraid?

“We’ve been a little busy, as you can imagine,” said Fred Store, the team leader on our journey.

Reached at a motor home park in Providence, Rhode Island, Store spoke of the surge of support he’s seen in recent months – the 60 like-minded people (including someone who works for Homeland Security, he boasted) who joined his small crew on the Mall in Washington, and the hundreds who gathered in Times Square in New York.

But at the same time he said resistance from those who don’t believe has grown, too. The more people heard about the May 21 warning, the more they discussed it with their pastors and came prepared to argue.

Learn about doomsdays throughout time

And the media, while they’ve helped spread the message, will be turned away in the coming days. CNN hoped to be with Store and his team on doomsday, but the members said they needed that time to focus on their relationship with God. Perhaps that’s just as well, as an official at Family Radio headquarters pointed out: “What makes you think you’ll be able to get to them? The roads will be a mess," he said, referring to the expected earthquakes. Plus, Store said, even if we got there, there would be no time to edit and publish, so what's the point?

Store’s faith remains unwavering. Come Saturday, he and his team will be in Boston, standing in a spot with heavy foot traffic, passing out their pamphlets – which they call tracts – and doing what they believe God called them to do until the very end.

No longer with the team is Darryl Keitt, who ditched his caravan on May 6. He said his time on the RV was a “gift from God,” but he decided he needed to spend the last couple of weeks focusing on his non-believing family and friends in New Jersey. It was a decision he prayed about for several weeks.

His Elizabeth, New Jersey, apartment is pretty sparse, seeing as he gave away most everything before hitting the road.

“I was able to get my old place back,” he said. “But we only have four days to go, so I don’t need much.”

He’s reaching out to old friends and hoping his family will come around and believe what he says he knows to be true.

“I have not seen any signs that they are believing the message,” he said. “But I can’t read anybody’s heart; only God can. And I’m still praying for them. All I can do is continue to share my convictions.”

Tisan Dawud may not share his older half-brother's beliefs, but he supports the positive nature of what Keitt's doing and is awestruck by his dedication.

"He's trying to spread what he believes is the word of God, and I can't knock him for that," Dawud said Tuesday evening. "I became Muslim when I was very young, and he remained Christian. But I've always had respect for his beliefs, and he always had respect for my beliefs."

And rather than criticize or ridicule his brother, who he said isn't hurting anyone, Dawud wishes people would focus on those who deserve examination and condemnation - those selling drugs, molesting children, raping women or embezzling money, for example.

Keitt spends his days in prayer, reaching out to people on Facebook, listening to Family Radio and walking around his neighborhood in his Judgment Day cap and T-shirt. He ran out of tracts some time ago, and at this point it’s too late to order any more, he said. As for where he’ll be on Saturday: “It’s a good question," and one he's still considering.

He doesn’t like goodbyes, he said, and only told two people in his caravan team of 10 that he was leaving. He gave those two men, one of them Store, a quick hug and that was it.

“Preferably we’ll meet each other again,” Keitt said, “in heaven.”

Dennis Morrell was driving through Jacksonville, Florida, pulling his Judgment Day billboard trailer, when we reached him on his cell phone. He wasn’t part of the caravan of RVs but was among the Floridians who joined in to help Store’s team when they were in the city.

Morell and his wife quit their jobs to focus on warning others, a move that’s left their four kids – ages 17 to 24 – thinking “Mom and Dad are crazy,” he said.

He still hopes God will “open their spiritual eyes,” he said. “But they’re at an age where they love their lives. They don’t want this world to come to an end.”

His faith, though, is as firm as ever, and he wishes others would open their minds and hearts to this possibility.

“Why would you wait to see if this is actually going to happen? You have that option to cry out for mercy,” he said. “I don’t want to die and go to hell. Do you?”

He plans to spend the last days praying, up until the early hours of Saturday - when he’ll both pray and wait for 16 hours.

Why 16 hours? Morrell explained that the massive doomsday earthquake will start at the International Date Line before moving west. New Zealand, he said, will get hit first – at 6 p.m. local time. And then that wave of destruction will roll around the world, wreaking havoc at 6 p.m. in each time zone.

While Morrell expects he’ll reserve Saturday for private time, Benjamin Ramrajie of Ocala, Florida, doesn’t have any special plans.

We met Ramrajie in Tampa after his 7-year-old daughter issued a doomsday warning about how the sun would “turn red like blood.” He stood by and nodded his approval as she spoke about dead bodies and her fears of dying.

“Most of my family doesn’t agree 100 percent, and I don’t blame them because it is far-fetched,” he said. “I strongly believe it’s going to happen. But I just figure I’ll relax, maybe watch TV. If that’s the day we get raptured, great. If not, we’ll move on.”

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Bible • Christianity • Culture wars • End times

soundoff (6,292 Responses)
  1. Allen

    I just bet my friend 100.00 who believes in this that he is wrong. I can't lose.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
  2. Joe Rocco

    Cults are hilarious!

    May 18, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
  3. Bill Fitzgerald

    It is a diservice to Christianity because it is not doomsday, it is the Great and Dreadful day. Great for some and dreadful for others. Some look forward to it and some dread it. Wow that sounds so simple. Everyone likely knows this already.

    May 18, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
  4. Jennifer

    The world can't end Saturday... I have Broadway show tickets.

    May 18, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
  5. UPsadSister

    Unfortunately I have a brother and his family in this cult. For most of you this is just a joke. My brother has ruined our family with all this bull. He has hurt my father so much. Harold Camping states he only believes what the Bible says but he has made up the following. 1. The church age has ended and Satan now runs the church, really Harold, what verse is that in. 2. Even though he believes in Satan, he does not believe in HELL, really Harold, how did you take Hell out of the Bible? 3. No one can be saved after May 21, really Harold, where is the verse that says that??? This cult leader is horrible and will be punished. In the mean time, many people are being destroyed by this. I have a 17 year old niece who is not planning to be her for her high school graduation and is not planning to go to college even though she got all sorts of scholarships and grants to go play soccer at a small private college. My brother and his family are so brainwashed that they speak like robots and have no emotion. My mother died in February and because we had the funeral in her church, they could not participate in the singing of hymns at her funeral. They made total asses of themselves standing and staring at the ground. They are so far gone that I consider them dead. My brother who I know and love, left a long time ago. Believe me when I tell you that Harold Camping has done an excellent job of raping them of their money and taking over their minds. It would take the biggest miracle to bring their mind back. It is hard to believe anyone can believe such crap, but it is really really hard to believe this happened to MY brother. Can't wait for May 22 and October 22 to come, what will they have to say then??

    May 18, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
    • Been-Jammin

      Just to let you know, the word Hell appears no where in the bible. Sulfur, fire, brimstone... yes, but Hell, give me a passage...

      May 18, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
    • Sunflower

      I will be praying for your family..This Harold Camping is really going to face Gods Judgement!

      May 18, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
    • Sunflower

      This is to been-jammin....Read the bible again!! Hell appears in the bible MANY times!!

      May 18, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
    • Falkentyne

      I think you just proved that Satan (if he/it exists) DOES run the Church. I had experiences when I was a kid, that proved that these "Pastors" that claim to be blessed by the "Holy Spirit" are not blessed at all. Perfect example: I used to play a game called "The Bard's Tale," and my mom and this pastor at my youth group both said that this game was Satanic and that anything having to do with wizards, dragons, warriors, any kind of magic, is satanic. I was even given a phamplet a few years later called "Dungeons and dragons: the cataclysm of the new age" or something, and they tried to defend Lord of the Rings, as literature, while claiming all other fantasy books were evil. They claimed that all the wizards in LOTR were evil, and since all the wizards are bad guys, this book can still be accepted by Christians. Obviously NONE of those low IQ bandwagoners even READ the books (I did a critical analysis of the LOTR series in 12th grade for my English class). Not only were some of the themes/events in LOTR very loosely based on some Christianity ideals, as well as World War strife (Gandalf's resurrection, the state of the world, and some precursor events described in The Silmarillion, etc), but they omitted that Gandalf, one of the protagonists, was a WIZARD, too. And one of the good guys! Oh noes! And what about Radagast? But the big clincher came many years later, when I found out that the programmer of that "Satatic" game, Bard's Tale, was a born again Christian and an evangelist! And many themes in the game were directly based on Christianity, including some of the puzzles! Now, if this "Holy Spirit" were REAL and deeply rooted in the Church, you would think that it would STOP Christians from calling other Christians Satanic, now wouldn't you??

      In the end, while I DO believe we were created by SOMETHING, and life and the universe didn't just come about randomly, by accident (DNA is just TOO incredible to have been a RANDOM collection that just happened to come together the corerct way), I do NOT know if that Creator is/was indeed the Christian God/Muslim God or anything. Maybe the North American Indians knew more than we did about the "Great Spirit." Heck, what about the Nazca Lines? And why did the Pyramids of MesoAmerica and Egypt all date to around the same time period? Oh well, maybe someday we'll have the answers...

      May 18, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
    • so sorry

      uhg..... I'm so sorry for how this has affected your family. Your right, for those of us so removed it is just comical or absurd, but you are right, it really isn't funny at all on so many levels. I read some stuff on their website just to get an idea of where they were coming from and they are about as far off as you can get. They have completely ignored all the scriptures that actually speak about the last days and the events leading up to it. For Christians there is actually pretty sound eschatological prophecy in scripture- there is no need to make any of it up.

      I hope that you are given the wisdom and words that they will need to hear in the aftermath of this and be able to put their lives back together in some way. so so sad.

      May 18, 2011 at 10:37 pm |
  6. Johhny Utah

    I think I just sharted and I like superman in that matchup

    May 18, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
  7. Messenger

    It doesn't amaze me to see how many scoffers on this post. Say if the day was wrong maybe by a week, a month, or two off. You have just fullfilled prophecy with your mockery, and the joke is on you. This day will probably come and go, but do you know, you are being set-up by satan with your mockery. After all the laughing and partying is over and the days pass, then your destruction cometh. It's no coincidence that the world falling apart. Now if you really want to be saved confess and repent of your sins. Choose life rather than death. Read your Bible for yourself, believe and obey. He will come soon!

    May 18, 2011 at 9:31 pm |
    • Sunflower

      I Agree!!!

      May 18, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
  8. SPR

    This is the most ridiculous thing I have read since the end of the world year 2K garbage.

    May 18, 2011 at 9:24 pm |
  9. Bill Carruth

    GAWD! And all along I thought the Jehovah's Witnesses had the celestial franchise on the End of Time nonsense. The
    Watchtower's 'psuedo-theologians' in Brooklyn have been bull--g their brainless followers about the 'End' since 1914. However, I had a personal conversation with Stephen Hawkings and he assured me the world will come to an end when the sun dies out .....several billion years from now.

    May 18, 2011 at 9:21 pm |
  10. Kim

    SOFA KINGDOM.

    May 18, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
  11. Kevin

    Money brings credence to eschatology. How surprising.

    May 18, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
    • Dorianmode

      Wow. Congrats. I signed on today after being gone for a while, and I had decided that if even one person used the word eschatology I would give these boards another chance.
      My only other question is how do they decide what date it is ? Are they using the Julian calendar, the Gregorian calendar, the Christian calendar, the Jewish calendar, and have they corrected for all the various changes in the solar system cycles since any of the calendars began to be used. My only request for Ms Ravitz is that she goes back next week and re-interview these people and ask some hard questions.

      May 18, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
  12. Mike

    If religion is the opiate of the masses, then these individuals forgot about the puff, puff, pass rule.

    May 18, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
  13. Ben Hutchins

    Man, what a bait-and-switch. From the headline, I thought this article was going to be about a change to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists' Doomsday Clock. You know – the one with some bearing on reality.

    May 18, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
  14. SHATONFULLAS

    TO MY FAITHFUL FOLLOWERS- LEAVE NOW AND JOURNEY IN PEACE BEING CAREFUL TO OBSERVE THE LAW OF THE FLESH. CARE NOT FOR THE WORDS OF FEAR AND CAUSE NO HARM TO ANY LIVING CREATURE EXCEPT THE ONES I DELIVER TO YOU AS HAS BEEN DONE. JOIN HANDS IN SPIRIT AT THE BORDER YOU
    KNOW AS MEXICO.

    PROCEED SOUTH UNTIL YOU REACH THE COBBLESTONE SURROUNDED BY BLUE IRIS IN A PLACE YOU KNOW AS TASCO. THERE YOU WILL SEE A SINGLE BLUE IRIS IN A SEA OF LILY AND ROSE. DO NOT HARM A SINGLE PETTLE OF EVEN THE MOST WITHERED AMONG THEM. UPON THE HILL OF HER SISTER CITY A LOUD VOICE WILL CALL FORTH ASA.

    WHEN THE PEOPLE YOU KNOW AS SAINTS APPEAR THEY WILL OFFER A BOOK AND ASK YOU TO REMOVE THE SINGLE BLUE IRIS AND PLACE IT IN THE BOOK. FOR THEY KNOW THAT THEY CANNOT THEMSELVES PLUCK THE IRIS. VERILY I SAY UNTO YOU THE POWER HIDDEN IN THE SOFTNESS IS MORE FEARSOME AND MYSTERIOUS TO THEM THAN ALL THE POWER IN THE WORLD. DO THIS AND BE NOT IN FEAR. BY DOING THIS ACT, YOU MY FAITHFUL WILL USHER IN THE GREAT DECENT.

    WHEN THE FALSE PROPHET RECEIVES THE BOOK HE WILL DECLARE THAT HE HAS THE KEYS TO MY KINGDOM
    AND PROFESS THAT ONLY THE WHITE AND DELIGHT-SOME WILL BE CALLED FORWARD TO HEAR THE SACRED
    PHRASE THAT IS GIVEN TO HIM KNOWN AS "ASA " SON OF EPHRAIM FROM THE HOUSE OF ABRAHAM.

    YOU KNOW HIM AS HE WHO MARRIED AND SET APART THE WOMAN KNOWN AS RUTH. HE WILL APPEAR WHEN ENOUGH HAVE GATHERED IN THE PRESENCE OF THE ONE BLUE IRIS.

    ALAS THE FALSE PROPHET WILL BE UNABLE TO OPEN THE VERY BOOK THAT HE CREATED. VERILY I SAY UNTO YOU THAT ONLY THE LOWEST THAT YOU CONCEIVE WILL BE ABLE TO OPEN THE BOOK AND PARTAKE OF THE IRIS. MY TRUTH CAN ONLY LIVE AMONG THE PEOPLE WHO SEEK TO EXIST AS A SINGLE VOICE. THOSE WHO HAVE ALTERED MY TRUTH TO BENEFIT THEMSELVES AND TO TURN ONE MAN AGAINST ANOTHER SHALL HEAR MY VOICE AND TREMBLE. THOSE WHO HAVE SUFFERED BUT YET HAVE QUIETLY CARRIED THE BURDENS OF THIS WORLD SHALL SEE ME IN MY TRUE FORM AND KNOW THAT ALL IS WELL AND THE VEIL THAT IS CURRENTLY OBSCURING YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF MY TRUTH WILL BE LIFTED FOREVER AND YOU WILL FINALLY UNDERSTAND WHAT IS IMPORTANT, WHERE I WISH MY FAMILY TO GO AND WHY IT MUST BE.

    ( SIERRABOCEE )

    May 18, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
    • Epimetheus

      Yeah, about that sea or roses, I killed them all. First I sprayed them with a plant killer and gasoline, (it was worth the money), then I set the fire that destroyed all of them. But that isn't all, I covered the ground with salt then took a shat. I took the iris and sold it on ebay for 50 cents, pretty good deal.

      May 18, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
  15. Vicky C

    ooooh kay now i think some ppl are going too far...i am a firm believer of instilling GOOD things in kids... not fear...."We met Ramrajie in Tampa after his 7-year-old daughter issued a doomsday warning about how the sun would “turn red like blood.” He stood by and nodded his approval as she spoke about dead bodies and her fears of dying." and for the adults, if you are firm in your beliefs then you have nothing to fear in death, please do not instill it in children...

    May 18, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
  16. Ana-Philece Greene

    Honestly, those who call themselves christians should know that this is bull. The bible says," No man knows the time nor the hour," so why are we entertaining this? I'm not even that religious and i know that. Come on people. =/

    I feel sorry for people that sold their possessions and quit their jobs. I wonder what they'll do when they realize it's fake.

    May 18, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
    • Gene W.

      I was gonna say the same thing ... Its our job to pray for them though, while the news uses them as scapegoats and lead more to completly ignore the faith ... I feel horrible for them when they wake up sunday!

      May 18, 2011 at 9:25 pm |
  17. Mina

    I have gas.

    May 18, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
    • Bob

      Tums.

      May 18, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
  18. Rasputin Red

    BTW, Superman would beat Spiderman hands down, the dude has super speed and heat vision... duh.

    May 18, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
  19. Stephen

    That's right, doomsday is coming! LOL. I momentarily forgot about this. Imagine people quitting their jobs over this asinine craziness. The rapture events being hosted by American Atheists would be pretty cool, though.

    May 18, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
  20. Rasputin Red

    This is HILARIOUS!! The first time I wacthed this little bit I nearly shot ice-tea out of my nose. I Love how Jessica Ravitz is trying so hard not to just bust out laughing, priceless. You know, when you religious types aren't busy sticking your noses into other peoples lives, or just killing them, you're all really funny. Honestly this is just comedy gold. I mean being an adult with an imaginary friend is funny enough (see Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends) but throw in all this doomsday stuff and it's just hilarity non stop, my ribs still hurt, oh that's right... I had one removed to make me a new wife after doomsday. Hahahahahaha !

    May 18, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
    • Nomi

      I believe "God" was quoted in the Bible as saying that NO ONE would know the day of reckoning. There, you have it from God that this guy is full of it.

      May 18, 2011 at 10:10 pm |
    • Joe Rocco

      I totally agree. It's hilarious. Grown men and women believing all this obvious wacked-out idiocy. Religion across the board is all crazy and unfortunately it drives most of the nuts in the world to do the worst acts in the name of their religion. People hide behind their religion to justify what has become an acceptable form of mental illness. Their fairy tales are respected on the nightly news as if it were fact. Every time the Pope makes a statement we all listen like he's got the hotline to this imaginary bearded man in the sky and somehow it's perfectly wondrous and acceptable. If a 13 year old girl were to run into the center of town proclaiming that she had been impregnated with the son of God, I guarantee you that not a single person would believe her. We'd get out the butterfly net and try to get her some help. I live for the day when society will grow up and know that this is all crazy talk. All religions are cults. It doesn't matter how big or small or well-intentioned they are. The weakest of us are always going to fall prey to the snake oil that these salespeople are selling because they're frightened and desperate. And they usually were brain-washed from birth and told what to believe so it's hard as an adult to leave all that tradition behind. It usually means that you leave your family behind or become the "weirdo" of the family. Yes, it is really funny on one level, but scary on another level because the rational people are far outnumbered by the nutbags.

      May 18, 2011 at 10:51 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.