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. enough already

    I wish I could say i was speaking for all of us who understand the genuine danger of faith. But as a reasonable and caring person I can honestly tell you that these poor fanatics and their embarrassingly idiotic claims are, to me no different than any human being who has one shred of actual faith in the bible or any supernatural 'relationship' with creator theology. The faithists, regardless of the misdirection of their belief system, must be stopped. I urge all of you to educate yourselves to the nature of belief, to the history and evolution of theology and to continue in all aspects of your life to ridicule and demean, to attack this ridiculousness at every turn. Don't sit at the table when they pray, don't bow your head in submission to any ideology. Stand up and non-violently, literally turn your back on this nonsense.
    If you are incabable of seeing the inherent danger in any theocratic dogma I urge you to go back to this article and think about that poor 7-year old girl, a child so indoctrinated that she is convinced the world will end and has been immersed in the ideas of death, destruction and suffering.
    I urge you to stand with me and fight this lunacy. No quote from any 'holy' book deserves respect, no cherry-picked, malformed ideology deserves hearing. Show respect and never harm another human being physically, but blatantly and at every turn disrespect their beliefs.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
    • DemFL

      SPOT ON!!!

      May 18, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • Tim

      Dear enough already: I stand with you to fight the lunacy. Thanks for having the courage to say it. You'll be attacked in the most viscous ways, of course, but the truth is all we have and it must endure.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
    • tstorm

      All I can say is please take all the Republicans with you !

      May 18, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
    • glarn skleebleman

      AMEN to that!!!! (see what I did there?)

      May 18, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • Shamrock6

      If people believe that the bible is God's word and they follow it blindly then they are truly idiots however – if people also believe that human consciousness and the creation of the universe is the work of 'evolution' then they are equally unintelligent and deserving of ridicule.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
    • Alex

      Thank you. I try to every day. It is very hard when one is surrounded by fanatics, but I still try. Peace

      May 18, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • Hal

      It is sad that a small group of people have been deceived. I can guarantee you the world will not end on May 21st. Most people, like yourself, have never read the Bible possible out of fear that they will be proven wrong. Those who trust in Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, will take those who believe in him to heaven. Then a period of seven years will occur call the great tribulation. After this will come the thousand year reign of Jesus on earth. Then the heaven and earth will be wiped away and a new heaven and earth will be made. This is an absolute guarantee.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • Laughing

      Sanity in its most pure form. Thanks!

      @Shamrock, enlighten me please, if you neither believe in creationism or evolution how do you think we came to be?

      May 18, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
  2. 2MinutesAway

    Hmmm drug user capital of the world mixed with religious BS. It figures. The end already came and went us darn Americians

    May 18, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
  3. Eggs Benedict

    Idiots, kooks, moron simpleton pathetic human beings. What pathetic excuse will they have on Sunday morning?

    May 18, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
    • Atheist_Free_Thinker

      Oh I'm sure they'll have some lame-ass excuse... Waaa! I can meet jeebus because I got my number calculations wrong! It's NEXT May 21st. Yeah! That's the ticket!

      May 18, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
  4. Isaac

    The great thing about folks like this is they are either definitely right or definitely wrong. And we will have our answer soon. If they are right, kudos to them. If they are wrong, then it's time for them to move on. Plain and simple.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
  5. jo jo

    Newt Gingrich screwed up the ECONoMY!!!

    May 18, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
    • WIll III

      Along with every other President since World War I. Yet why worry. A guy in a t-shiry and cap said the world ends on May 21st 2011, and he said he knows it and he's not joking. Yet I could not stop laughing.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
  6. lolita

    it's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine......R.E.M.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
  7. Dummm

    Then it happens on May 22...

    May 18, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
  8. Chuck Steak

    This is aweful; my shirts won't be ready at the cleaners until Monday!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 18, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
  9. Atheist_Free_Thinker

    I don't know which is worse: the nutbags who believe in any of this crap, or the nutbags that believe in the crap and in May 21st.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
  10. nofoldems

    CNN, please do a report in Monday about what these people have to say when their god fails, again.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
  11. Jeremy

    I was planning on buying a car.... hmmm what to do, what to do! lol

    May 18, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
  12. WIll III

    All jokes aside, if this happens it wil be TOO FUNNY. God would send me to hell purely because I couldn't stop laughing. And trust me I'm a believer.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      If this turns out to be true and I don’t go to Heaven, trust me, I'll earn my place in Hell before October.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
  13. Cupping hand over face

    I find it all quite comical. I'd love to be there amongst a group of them when their bills are due and they are out on their stunned god fearing tushies thinking he didn't choose them. Oh wait I'll be playing 36 on Sunday. Maybe Monday?

    May 18, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
  14. Lee

    "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." Massive lols. Obviously this guy has gotten the truth right from the source. I guess God has a sense of order when it comes to his destruction around man made imaginary lines that represent imaginary time. Last time I checked our calender was mostly developed by the Romans, not God. OH LOL.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
  15. Donna

    So, I guess I don't need to pay my taxes or go to work Monday, hmmmmm. 😉

    May 18, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
  16. morganasage

    My DoomsDay was January 1st, 1984 when Big Brother's Ministry of Truth took over the U.S. Government via two-way TV.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
  17. Norm

    Religion is a mental disorder. You're all crazy, all of you who believe in invisible things without a shred of proof. Especially those who force others to act for their delusions and fantasies.
    There is also something inherently evil about cheering for the end of the world and the death of everyone in it. If these psychopaths want their world to end they can go kill themselves and leave the rest of us sane people in peace.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
    • Cupping hand over face

      On a positive note they'll be freeing up a bunch of jobs and houses. A mind is a terrible thing to waste but sitting on a curb after giving everything away can really be a bummer. Ha ha. Epic Fail

      May 18, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
  18. Lucretia

    What a bunch of nutbags. No wonder religion tends to be the reason for everything wrong in this world! I say make their dreams come true with a bullet through the brain! We gotta get rid of these religious right fanatics! Maybe Palin can take out a few!

    May 18, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
  19. Randy

    You left out #3, this guy is off his rocker and seeing things in the Bible that are not really there, and #1 is still true, but no human can know when it's going to occur.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
    • Randy

      Whoops...this was supposed to be a comment to J.C.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
  20. The Jackdaw

    This is one more reason among the sea of reasons why religion should be abolished. It is time for Humanity to put on the big boy pants and take responsibility for their own actions instead of blaming a fantasy for everything. I would like to welcome everybody out of the dark ages and into the 21st century.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
    • Uniquitous

      And may God have mercy on your soul while you are ushering everyone into the age of enlightenment. You may recall many civiliizations over history believed the same way. Where are they now? If it is education you believe in, please read The Case for Christ. I think you would find it very informative from a strictly historical standpoint.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      Dear Uniquitous;

      Did you pick up your copy of “The Case for Christ” at the local pharmacy while you waited patiently for your Paxil? Did you notice that the author, an X-journalist by the way, didn’t interview any critics of his views, he just attacked them; and that he in fact, he failed to interview almost anybody other than a few key spewers of his views? The author even claims to have converted from atheism to Christianity, but he spills the beans in the first twenty pages of the text and confesses that he has always been a believer in Christ. Lying does not make for a convincing argument. All the evidence for the divine is founded in the bible, a book made by man, and is therefore a circular and faulty argument. “This book is right because this book says it is real”. And what is your bit about empires collapsing because they turned to science instead of religion? Rome what Christian when it collapsed for God’s sakes! I don’t think you could have possibly contrived a more blanket and ignorant statement. I don’t even know why I’m responding to it. Your extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. You offer none. You simply repeat the prattle you have been raised with because you are too fearful to think critically. You are simply going to have to do better than that.

      The Jackdaw

      May 18, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • Brian

      Beautiful retort, my friend.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • JonQ

      Dear Jackdaw,

      The people that Mr. Strobel chose to interview were decided upon because they were expert historians. They are the ones who have done the research, looked into history from every angle, and have reported what they found; both from Biblical and secular sources. They are all believers as a RESULT of their findings! What does that tell you? You haven't done the research, they have. Look for the truth by friend, the Lord promises you will find it.



      May 18, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      Dear JohnQ,

      Anybody that is willing to believe in the divine in this day of age has made up their mind prior to gathering any information. When they say they have “done their research”, all they are saying is that they looked at the clouds and saw the images they wanted to see. That is not convincing; nor do I believe that they began as “unbelievers” who were converted by anything, fact or otherwise. There are too many flaws in Christianity, both logical and historical. I will not enumerate them for you because anyone who immediately disagrees for the sake of “faith” is too closed minded to have an open and frank discussion. You wear your faith like a security blanket. You hide under it and use it to shield yourself from logic, facts and reality. If you need your fantasy to make your life worth living and to be a good person, then by all means, believe believe believe.


      The Jackdaw

      May 20, 2011 at 9:05 am |
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About this blog

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.