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. brian

    The only difference between this group of loonies and general Christians is that general Christians haven't pegged a specific date to their "rapture". Seriously – that's the only difference.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • Colin

      It literally is the ONLY difference. Christians don't seem to be able to get this. They are otherwsie every bit as loony as this sub-cult.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • Veritas

      Very true. They're all idiots whether they realize and/or admit it or not.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • Bruce

      That's actually a pretty big difference. One of the two groups is making a falsifiable claim...

      May 18, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • krissmith777

      So I guess you think that Christians are inherently loony?

      May 18, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
    • HEY-ZEUS

      I completely agree. Religion holds us back as a society period. Want to know how to improve America's education rate? Tell your children that if the truly wish to know about the world and the universe then they need to immerse themselves in Physics, Biology, Chemestry, and Mathematics. No fairy tales – no leap of faith required – just a good education. There will never be peace on this planet as long as there is religion.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
    • Kreutz

      So I guess were not going to make to Dec. 21 2012 now??

      May 18, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • Veritas

      @krissmith777: Yes, those who actually believe the nonsense in the bible to be true are lunatics, or at least as gullible as little children. Meanwhile, most of Europe have realized this long ago and moved on. As many others have said, if we just spent half the effort people are wasting on religion (praying, services, etc) on education and science instead we would be so much better off.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • don

      No Brian, Seriously that is not the only difference. And there are unfortunately all types of christians out there. Some are spiritual bible believers and some are not, etc. It's not a black or white group, it is much more complex, and these type of looney christians pass bad fruit, because they are the reason why non-christians hate christianity.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
  2. Walter

    Crap. The End of the World happens before the next Harry Dresden book?
    There is no god.....

    May 18, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
  3. Tripp

    These people will have to lie about their loss of jobs, because no one will hire them if they say "I quit my job for the coming rapture".

    May 18, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
  4. abby

    I would laugh but it's really actually very pathetic.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
  5. rich

    Hopefully these people do the right thing on May 22nd and drink the Kool-Aid…

    May 18, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • David Johnson


      You said: "Hopefully these people do the right thing on May 22nd and drink the Kool-Aid…"

      Yes, that is a fear. People get themselves all worked up over Jesus and heaven. It is one of the drawbacks to the lottery. People start to believe, to dream and then reality hits. They didn't pick the right numbers. No millions. No Jesus. No heaven.

      Hitting the lottery is more probable, than there being a god. The lottery exists. God is a delusion.

      I think religious faith and belief is very close to a state of madness. Let's hope these people can handle the reality of Saturday being just being another day. Or not....


      May 18, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  6. brian

    I want to stand right on the Georgia/Alabama border at the time zone boundary and see if one vertical half of my body gets "raptured" while the other half has to wait a whole hour.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  7. Elias

    For a reasonable price I will watch your house and feed your pets when you get raptured. Payments must be in full and dated before the 21st.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  8. God

    I have decided not to end the world on May 21st so stop worrying. It won't happen in anyone's lifetime who is alive now. Anyway, I'm not going to have to have a doomsday because the human beings that I created are going to destroy themselves in at most 100 years. Clue. Watch out for global warming and other ways you are destroying the only planet I created for you.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • abby

      God, you should have stopped your creation before you got to humans....

      May 18, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • God (the REAL one)

      Be quiet, usurper!

      May 18, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • Ron77

      Well, in that case, "I just figure I’ll relax, maybe watch TV. If that’s the day we get raptured, great. If not, we’ll move on."

      Best thing I've read all day.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
    • Yo

      "100 years"

      I give it less than that. The way people are dumping pollution into the oceans, killing the fish in huge numbers, fining sharks, cutting down the rain forest and making babies to over populate the planet, it's only a matter of time before the planet can't take anymore. Oh, but the Christians will twist it into their rapture, not realizing by not using birth control they were part of the problem, not the solution. You would think Christians would be raising more of a stink over what is happening to this planet their god supposedly made and charged them with taking care of it. Well guess what you are all doing a terrible job and its leading you all to hell. LOL!

      May 18, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
  9. dave


    May 18, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  10. Brad

    In case of rapture, can I have your car?

    May 18, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  11. Leo

    Only in America! Clearly we are still a young country with a lot to learn..

    May 18, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • lance corporal

      hey mr self important, this crap goes on every where including the "old" countries

      May 18, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
  12. lance corporal

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, silly christians....... when they're not raping children, stealing from the masses, beating up gays or all the other crazy HARMFUL stuff they do, they sure can be funny

    May 18, 2011 at 3:14 pm |

    What amazes me is why people don't think for themselves but would rather accept what one person tells them. They don't want to think, to hold themselves accountable but want someone else to follow or to blame. If these people are "Christians" they are being deceived by the leader of this emotional episode. I doubt they have they really know what they are doing. Very sad!

    May 18, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  14. Elizabeth

    Geez- I'm having a party that day. Ain't gonna happen.

    I think the garabandal prophecy would more likely to happen then the end of the world. Jesus isn't coming 3 times. He came 2000 yrs ago and when He does again, it will be for the last time. The left behind rapture fiction story-telling has really F'd up a lot of people.

    Anyway- get things right with Jesus regardless of this hysteria or not. Repent & accept Christ and I promise you will NOT be " left behind". God bless.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  15. Zack S

    To prove their true faith I would like to send my Paypal address to anyone that belives that the world is going to end. Send all of your money to this sinner!

    After all what good is it going to do them? If It does not end I will send 90% back to you on Monday.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  16. marie

    It can't happen on May 21st 2011 because the Westboro Baptist Church (you know the group of happy-go-lucky people who consider themselves to be the only ones who will be saved) have a picket party planned for May 22nd. Someone got their dates mixed up.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  17. Kmae

    God does not lie! When he told us in the Bible that; "NO MAN KNOWS THE DAY NOR HOUR OF HIS RETURN", he meant it!
    Why do people have to say things like this! It makes Christians look bad.
    Good grief.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • God

      Sorry, dimbulb, but you make yourselves look bad.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • David Johnson

      You said: "God does not lie! When he told us in the Bible that; "NO MAN KNOWS THE DAY NOR HOUR OF HIS RETURN", he meant it!
      Why do people have to say things like this! It makes Christians look bad.
      Good grief."

      I hear you man. It does make Christians look bad and I have never seen a group of people who were more rational and down to earth.

      Idiot Evangelicals believe in:

      God created Adam from a handful of dirt; Talking snakes; trees that bear fruit, that imparts knowledge and eternal life; a global flood, that required a pair of each organism on earth, be stuffed onto a boat; people who lived hundreds of years; a man who was swallowed by a fish, only to be spit up 3 days later, unhurt; a tower god was afraid might reach heaven; a woman who is turned into a pillar of salt; talking donkeys; unicorns; satyrs; a leviathan god creates and then does battle with; a zombie messiah, who was actually god incarnate; zombie Saints who left their graves and wandered about the town etc.

      Yep, these people are gonna make the fundies look silly.


      May 18, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  18. sjw

    Brainless bunch of idiots!

    May 18, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • lance corporal

      duh.... they're people of "faith"

      May 18, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  19. Assan

    what happens if nothing happens on that day?

    May 18, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • lance corporal

      same thing that has happened every other time.... they go on with their stoooopid lives and profess the same BS as if nothing happened

      May 18, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • Ron77

      Take it from Ramrajie, the prototypical modern Christian.

      “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.”

      May 18, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
  20. keylargo

    I'll bet 99% of them voted for George W Bush, twice!

    May 18, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
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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.