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. Neil Peart


    May 18, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
  2. Clinton

    Colin and the rest of you great scholarly Atheist geniuses of the internet, You still haven't answered my question, since you're continuously trying to slam my beliefs i figure i'll question yours... If you got all the answers then please answer me this one, If by the Physical laws of the universe no matter can be created nor destroyed, only it's state can be changed I.E. Solid to liquid to gas... How does the big bang theory work? There was nothing... then there was everything... how does that work exactly oh geniuses with all the answers. please enlighten us all

    May 18, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • God (the REAL one)

      That is not a law. That is an unproven hypothesis.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • Larry

      It would help if your question alone didn't indicate how you haven't the slightest clue of what you're talking/asking about. Read a science book instead of a bible, you'll get real answers.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • Clinton

      Come on now, Atheists try to push their ideology on me, trying to tell me that a magical big bang exploded everything into existence, despite the fact that their own laws of Physics disagrees with the idea... nobody can come up with an answer to it... because there is no answer... according to everything we know about the Universe, matter cannot be created nor destroyed... yet there's millions of atheists that believe we all came to be through a big gigantic boom... Hawking has spent years trying to figure this out... so... what's the answer guys... either Physics doesn't work... which we are able to observe... or the big bang doesn't work... which nobody can really claim happened because THERE'S NO PRESIDENCE FOR IT.... now... you go and bash me and my religion for using faith to believe in God... yet it takes more Faith to believe in the big bang theory than it does to believe in God.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • Laughing

      Hey buddy,

      Like God (the REAL one) said, it's only a theory because of the evidence of say, looking back in time with our telecopes which shows us a look at the inception of the universe when it was very very young, there's also the fact that when you look at the wavelength spectrum you see a point where all stars and galaxies are moving away from, thus the theory is there was a huge explosion away from that point. The big bang theory is just that, a theory, unlike you who believe with absolute certainy a bearded omnipotent guy in the sky said he was gonna create some stuff and he did. Since we are finding evidence to back up our theory, how about you do too, and no useing the bible!

      May 18, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • Larry

      Something to consider: Atheists don't "believe" in the big bang theory. Atheism has no creation myth. So there's no onus to explain a scientific theory as being an answer since, unlike in religion, we don't have to worry about whether or not the work of fiction upon which one's life is based is accurate or not.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • Clinton

      Larry and Laughing,
      So your answer to me about how the Universe was created without a creator is – we have no idea because none of our theories work, but we're sure we'll come up with something someday.... Nice out... interesting that you take NO stance rather than actually trying to defend your beliefs or lack thereof i suppose. I like that you told me to open a science book too, i'm a college educated person and i have opened Many science books, that's why i know there's holes in the big bang theory... just like the theory of evolution... that's why they call them theories... they are unproven and have holes... my question is... why then do you and your kind try to thrust the idea that My beliefs are wrong when you can't even stand on your own theories?

      May 18, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • We go round and round...

      "we have no idea because none of our theories work, but we're sure we'll come up with something someday.... Nice out..."

      That is hilarious coming from a Christian especially when you ask them to prove God exists they can't. They point to a fictional book, saying it was inspired by this invisible being so it makes it truth. It's not a truth, it also is a "theory" and just like what you are saying Christians are claiming this god will return "someday" to show us all. LOL! OH...Nice Out! LOL!

      May 18, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • Laughing

      Oh Clinton, you're great. Let's first say that if you actually read you might actually understand that I believe in the big bang theory because there is sceintific evidence that points to it. I'll admit I'm wrong when there is evidence to the contrary. Yes, you are in fact right that matter can't come from nothing according to our current physics, however those physics are contained within the universe. Before this universe who knows how nothing could become something. It could have happened, it might not have. I sure don't know, then again the big bang theory has more of a ring of truth to it than say, the bible. The big bang theory at this point DOES work for the most part, well at least better than the bible (which I might add has more holes than anything you could poke in evolution or the big bang theory combined). you asked, "my question is... why then do you and your kind try to thrust the idea that My beliefs are wrong when you can't even stand on your own theories?" I can abandon these theories because if proven wrong, my whole life won't fall to pieces as your might. Just answer me this, this is HYPOTHETICAL so I don't want you to assume I'm trying to force my beliefs on you, but what if one day there was literally actual proof that the bible, god, all of that stuff is a complete lie, could you abandon it or would you cling to it tighter than ever? Cognitive Dissonance says that in no way, shape or form would you ever stop believing, however as a logical and rational person, I can stop believing in a theory if it's proven completely false because I listen to reason.

      Thanks for playing

      May 18, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • freefromreligion

      How about this for an answer...I don't give a rats behind how everything was created! If that's your simplistic reason for believing in God, more power to you. That means nothing to me, the past is just that , the past, why should I care. I don't need some vision of an all powerful God (that I must believe in) molding the universe in order to live my life. Its so easy to let it all go, its hard to explain. All I can say is, for me, I feel so much better now that I am free from religion!

      May 18, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  3. Newyorker

    These people have been predicting the end of the world for centuries. They are just a bunch of pathetic people that want a little attention. Thanks for giving it to them CNN!

    May 18, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  4. DancingInPDX

    The problem with these doomsdayers is that they didn't send an Outlook invite. It's sad, I know, but if it's not in my Outlook calendar, I just won't remember it.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • boomer775

      +1 to that. The nerve of some people

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

      I got an invite to a post rapture looting party. I didn't get a Rapture invite. Works for me!

      May 18, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
  5. boomer775

    What's the Vegas line on this one?

    May 18, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  6. Alan

    Beware the beast Man, for he is the Devil's pawn. Alone among God's primates, he kills for sport or lust or greed. Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother's land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun him; drive him back into his jungle lair, for he is the harbinger of death.

    You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!

    May 18, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  7. Brian

    All those people who think the world will end on May21 should give me there cars and homes this week since they won't be needing them next week.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  8. Leo

    I'm sure this "leader" gave all his possessions away too, right?

    May 18, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  9. Lil Carlock

    am I wrong in thinking that the Bible says that the coming of Christ will be when we least expect it? I understand that all of the natural disasters going on are horrific, but it is also Earths natural cleaning cycle. As a Christian, I am saved and I am ready whenever the Lord shows up, but this is getting out of hand with all these people thinking that its gonna be Saturday or on December 21, 2012.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  10. Bill

    Can you say ... DELUSIONAL

    May 18, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  11. Atheist_Free_Thinker

    Why the FRAK is CNN giving these mentally challenged sheep so much attention?

    May 18, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • willie

      Because this is the "belief" page. Not news, not truth, belief.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
  12. Larry

    I would advise any of these persons who have given away all they own and walked away from their lives to spend the next 3 days researching Oct 22, 1844. They will be...disappointed.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  13. 1 Thessalonians 5:2-6

    Find out more here.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • Goats love Sheep not vise-versa


      May 18, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
  14. CJ

    I'm curious as to how they're not mentioned the 7 year tribulation period following the Rapture, but before the return of Christ. How are they getting around that fact?

    May 18, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  15. Dave

    I hope they're wrong, my Ipad2 is scheduled to be delivered on 5/23

    May 18, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  16. scribble

    Aww crap! I just loaded up on a week's worth of groceries AND paid all my bills. What's wrong with you CNN??? This is important stuff!!! If I had known this sooner I could have spent all my money on drugs and alcohol. Now all I can do is sit on my couch and eat Lean Cuisine. Talk about irresponsible journalism...

    May 18, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  17. nycgrl

    This is super lame for me because my birthday is ON the 21st!!!! So at 6pm when me and my friends are sitting down to dinner or drinking at some NYC bar and celebrating my turning 29 we will be in a huge earthquake? Ugh Ugh Ugh....lol. Yea ok I seriously can't wait till it doesn't happen and then they all have to suffer without any money or possessions...idiots!

    May 18, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  18. ralphinator

    Only the fool saith in his heart "There is no God" Psalms 14:1

    Lol I bet atheists hate that one, and they think believing in no God is somehow a new and intelligent idea.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • willie

      perhaps, but the honest man says it with his mouth not his heart. Only fools believe.

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

      You mean the one written by a believer? What did you expect him to write, "i'm such a fool for believing in that which does not exist."?

      May 18, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • God (the REAL one)

      That's just a clever excuse to make imbeciles like you think they are smart.

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

      More intelligent than an adult with an imaginary friend, certainly.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • Bruce

      "There is no God." Psalm 14:1

      See? I can quote scripture–wheeeeeee!

      May 18, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • freefromreligion

      Atheist's don't hate "that one", we just don't believe any of it. You would be amazed at what a wonderful feeling that is!

      May 18, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
  19. SW

    I dont mind their beliefs in the natural occurences & disasters but who picked out May 21, 2011?? Who did the calculations (including leap years) to determine that 1 day would be the beginning of the end? In Biblical time periods they didnt have 12 months or a Calendar so I find it hard to believe they have this figured out

    May 18, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  20. matt

    I am sick and tired of the childish nature of articles on CNN that make the front page. Why is this your feature story for the day? It is a complete joke and not worth reading anything into. Even Christianity itself states perfectly that man will not know the day or hour, so whether you are an athiest or a faithful Christian you can agree these people are fear-mongering lunatics. You play a part in that role and I am considering simply not visiting your website anymore or watching your television station. I'd rather deal with Fox at this point. In other words, cut the crap, fire these pathetic journalists, and do some real work for the world out there.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • Bruce

      FYI, this wasn't "the feature story of the day," and there are several dozen articles linked on CNN's home page. Also, CNN gauges interest by things like the more than two thousand comments to the article, which includes your comment.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:25 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.