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.”
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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.
When are you religious nut-jobs gonna get it through your heads. Anyone can write a book and predict things, even if it is a really old writing. Doesn't mean its going to come true. Damn, the end of the world again? I'm still getting over the hang over from the last end-of-the-world party.
The guy from Homeland Security believing in Rapture Saturday? Now that frightens me more than Ted Nugent on a bender.
Wow – so strange but not unbelievable...................these poor people who believe in this and have left everything, homes, jobs, family & friends.................that will definitely be an ending to their lives as they know it. I find it very sad for them. Someone needs to pray for them!
The stupidity is baffling.
On the day I finally was going on vacation the world is ending, great! Cant we delay it for a couple of weeks? 10 days maybe?
Reeeeaallyyyy CNN ???? Two days in row of having this ridiculous story on the front page. BBOOOOO !!
I guess the crazies missed the verse in the Bible which states "But concerning that day and that hour, no man knows, not the angels of the skies, but the father alone." So basically, if you think you know. You're wrong.
Everyone interprets the bible in their own way. I dont know how they are interpreting the most basic part of this. "ONLY GOD KNOWS"
Exactly, If they are really Christians or have at least read the last few books of the Bible they defiantly would have read or come across that no one will know when the world is going to end only God knows this ( "But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare."-2 Peter 3:10). I understand why this story would open the eyes of people as a probable way the world could end from the facts this guy has shown, but it has plot holes. Its missing a lot of things that the bible talks about in the book of Revelations. I understand that the Bible has hidden truths in it, but the Bible is a guide line to show us the path to heaven and explain to us what we must do during our lives in order for things to turn around from terrible to good and for us to be at peace with mind, body and soul. I don't believe that there is truth with in the truth telling when the world is going to end like the bible is some kind of codex from the Da Vinci Code. But hopefully this will maybe spread the word of god in a good way to have more peoples eyes opened to the Bible ,but it also could go down hill I hate to see what happens if things don't happen as planned for those whom gave up their jobs and houses for this cause. And if things don't turn out people may mock theses people for their miss fortune. It kind of bothers me when people believe someone else s description of what they think is the end of the world and what they think is the right way to live before they read the Bible themselves. It kind of shows a way of people being weak minded. I wonder if there was a guy saying he was Jesus tomorrow if they would follow him around just assuming he was the real savior (AKA anti Christ). I hate to see people get deceived from something like that. But I respect them for spreading the world of God in their way, and I will pray for them during their journey. God bless
At about 1:50 I just love the look of joy on that woman's face when she talks about everyone who is "not saved" enduring horrible suffering for five months. Christians worship a freaking monster.
Wow...if anyone is happy about the human suffering that will take place, THEY are a monster. There is no joy in suffering and death. God is most certainly not a monster, and those that know Him know this is true. That's what makes people like Osama binLaden so heinous...they kill and maim in the name of God, and that is sickening. bin Laden has now met his maker...if he could talk to us now he'd be quick to say how wrong he was and how sick the whole "jihad" thing really is.
Your god kills children to smite their parents. Monster. Period.
For all of you anti-Christian folks, that look for any reason to bash Christianity, just for the record: A vast majority of Christians know these people are crazy. This is a sad story that drags Christianity through the mud. It's sad the media clings to this story as something that is relevant. I can't understand why anybody gives these people any attention.
Um, they get these ideas from the same Bible that you do sir. If you're a real Christian, then you believe most of what they do... you just disagree on the date.
Joe is right.
All of the biblical books are just that...books. They were written hundreds of years after the "fact" and were used to control the people of that time. The fact that so much of the world not only believes this but bases their actions and life on these fictions is beyond scary, its deadly. You can still believe there is a greater force without shaping it into our own feeble image.
If Jesus did exist and was here today, what do you think he would say about the Vatican's wealth while so many die of starvation?
Our King would turn that place upside down. It is a tragedy.
Oh you did NOT just say that!!!
"It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to reach the Kingdom of God."
I am a little concerned about the use of the word 'believers' in the article, honestly. Even though those who believe in a man-can-tell-when-it-is, end-of-days rupture do not represent a significant (neither majority) of Christians, reading the articles might mislead people to thinking every Christians believe in something like that (although the writer should not be blamed for it, since that group of believers were the ones who chose to represent Christ that way). I am a Christian. What do I think about the rupture idea with a specific time and chain of events? It's stupid (yes, I said it- and I'm not talking about the people, but the idea), nor it is biblical by any means. If I may suggest to those who believe in this coming future event: know the Bible. Paul said that if anyone (including him) or even angels teach a different kind of gospel, we should not believe it.
Just curious...did you mean rapture?
I can assure you the world will not end on May 21st, 2011. These RELIGIOUS people who are so called spreading the world, will go into hiding and lose there believes when they wake up sunday morning and there still alive on earth. No one knows when the world will end. When humanity dies off, thats the last any off us will know of earth. Shut up already you FANTICS and go on with your daily business, and quit forcing others to believe what you believe. God must be burning with furry over these people who continue to preach what is not, and trying to force there beliefs of their own on others. It amazes me how everyone thinks there a messiah, or a profet. On Sunday morning we will watch the news, and CNN will report how nothing happened. See you on Sunday CNN!!
And just how do you know you will even be alive on Sunday?
I really am so HAPPY to see all the logical people coming and commenting on this nonsense we know as religion. Thank you guys so much, everyday I feel better and better about being an atheist, knowing that there are others out there who have chosen to use their brains.
Religion has this stranglehold on society and it's absolutely sickening and it makes me very sad. Yes literally sad. Religion and rituals have become so ingrained into society that it's hard to get rid of them. If we can slowly tear this trick of theirs apart we can defeat religion and at the same time promote free thinking.
Hi John! I know...all these ridiculous Christians really make you feel superior as an athiest! Stupid, silly people! Won't they feel silly when they die and there is no heaven? HA! Imagine their shock! HAHAHAHAHA! But wait...what if they are right? If they are right, what happens when you die? Does that mean you go straight to the fiery pits of hell? OH CRAP! But wait...that's silly. There is no god, so what is there to be frightened of? I truly wish you the best at the time you draw your very last breath, and I truly hope for your sake you are right. Because if you are wrong, there will be hell to pay...literally. Guess I'd rather be a silly Christian...at least if Christians are wrong there won't be any negative consequence. Well, one thing is for sure...we will all find out one day! We will all die, and then we will all know the truth, once and for all.
Susanne – I wrote on this napkin that I am god, and the napkin also says that it is the word of god. What makes it any less authoritative than the Bible? Therefore, I demand you worship me and submit to me money, else I will cast you into the fiery abyss.
Well, I certainly hope for their sake that the Lord does come back, because they're going to be a laughingstock on May 22.
skip the green banaana part, how abotu don't pay the bills and got out and party like its 1999, vegas baby
Gee! It sure is boring around here
Mah Boi! This Peace is what all true warriors strive for!
I just wonder what Ganon is up to?
Your Majesty! Ganon and his minions have seized the island of Koridie!
Hmm... How can we help?
It is written, only Link can defeat Ganon!
Great! I'll grab my stuff!
There is no time! Your sword is enough!
How about a kiss, for luck?
You've got to be kidding!
SQUADALA! We're Off!
I bet the Mayans are all running around mad cause these guys are stealing their doomsday! Oh wait, The Mayans aren't around anymore...Well I guess that prophecy came true early for them....Too bad IGNORANCE can't be wiped from the face of the earth . Instead, we run around du mbing the gene pool down, breeding with the neanderthals. ;P
Again I ask: why doesn't this all powerful, all loving god of yours heal amputees?
Man made prosthetic legs don't count.
Yeah! And why doesn't He cure cancer? And why doesn't he cure AIDS, malaria, MRSA, meningitis, flu, ebola...Heck, why doesn't He cure OLD AGE? The fact that people die of all these things, and the fact that someone who has had their arm amputated can't grow another arm...I guess that's proof positive that there is no god, right? Yeah...if there really were a god death would be unnecessary, wouldn't it? This planet is plenty big enough to sustain a population of humans who never die, right? Wow...thanks for freeing my thinking, atheist! You are so smart and you have really opened my eyes to the truth!
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able, and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?
I've wondered about that. But consider a world where everyone had infinite wishes. At first it might seem like paradise, but what kind of purpose would we have? What would drive us? No one likes misery, but it forces us to improve our lives and better ourselves. Put another way, if God were someone who stopped all evil on Earth, where would it stop? WIth our actions? Our intentions? Our thoughts? We'd never be allowed to think freely or do much more than what common animals do. We'd lose most of our free will in your world.
You are focusing on some of the minor benefits of your deity instead of the major price of living under such conditions.
That being said, I think most organized relegion is a pile of warm fecal matter.
Anyone who can think can also think nonsense. Some of you atheists have concocted a god who exists conditionally. "If God exists wouldn't he behave this way or that way?" Then when your made-up god doesn't perform, you reject him.
WAAACCCKKKKOOOOOSSSS! Seriously Coo-Coo if you ask me!
All Toasters Toast, TOAST
Hey! That's a long weekend for us in Canada, can't you pick a different weekend? I would really like to be hanging out with them on the 21st. "Ok, any time now, any time.........it'll happen.........did you hear that?.........oh it was just a truck...........yep any time now." And then on the 22nd "I'm still here?..........I sold evrything and spent all of my money...............ohhhhhhh i see, the date is next year, yep doom is next year...............I'd better tell everyone and re-prepare for next year."