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Doomsdays throughout time
May 22nd, 2011
03:07 PM ET

Life goes on: Doomsday believers on the morning after

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

(CNN) – Theirs had been an unwavering belief, the sort that inspired some to quit jobs, leave their homes and walk away from family and friends to issue a doomsday warning.

Without question, they believed May 21 would be the day that Jesus Christ would return and rapture them - and a select 2 to 3 percent of the world’s population - up to heaven.  Everyone left behind would be on a crash course to final destruction, scheduled for October 21.

But now it’s May 22.

The sun rose, birds are singing and life as we know it continues. Those anticipated earthquakes that the May 21 doomsdayers said would ravage the earth on Saturday at 6 p.m. in each of the world's time zones never came.

And the faithful believers - who said the Bible guaranteed this day - are still here, trying to make sense of it all.

“Of course there’s disappointment. There’s no getting around that,” said Tom Evans, who’d left his northern California home to spend the weekend with family and friends. “When you as a person believe that God is coming back, and you believe the evidence is very clear that he’s coming back, that is something every child of God longs for. In a moment, we’d be changed and spend eternity with God. I’m not ashamed of that at all. I’m not ashamed of wanting and hoping for it.”

But Evans did reveal some regret.

“For us to say it was absolute, I think that’s where we went wrong. That’s where we strayed, and that I would gladly apologize for,” he said. “Whether I personally have done something dishonorable, I’m still mulling it over. I was trying to be faithful.”

Evans spoke to CNN as an individual, not as a spokesperson for Family Radio, the Oakland, California, Christian broadcasting network behind the May 21 movement. 

But Evans has been a paid spokesman for the network, a job he said he expects to resume - at least in the short term - after he and Family Radio's board of directors meet with Harold Camping, the network's 89-year-old founder.

“I have not spoken to Mr. Camping about the issue of what to do next,” Evans said. “But he and his wife are fine, and our response will come in the early part of next week.”

Camping, a degreed engineer (not a pastor) who claims to have made the Bible his “university” for more than 50 years, has experience with failed prophecies. He once claimed the world would end in September 1994, later chalking that snafu up to biblical miscalculations and the need for further study. This time around, he said earlier this year, he had no doubts.

Calls to Camping's Alameda, California, home, went unanswered.

CNN reached out Sunday morning to about a dozen doomsday believers, to see how they felt after waking up. Only Evans and one other responded.

"I'm fine Jessica, really!" Darryl Keitt, of Elizabeth, New Jersey, who spent about seven months touring the country in a caravan of RVs, sharing the doomsday warning, wrote in a text message. "Just need 2 process this."

Those who’ve studied end-of-the-world movements are analyzing what happened, or didn’t happen, and forecasting what will come next.

“In the end, it was a whimper, not a bang,” said Lorenzo DiTommaso, author of the forthcoming book “The Architecture of Apocalypticism” and an associate professor of religion at Concordia University in Montréal, Canada. “The 21st of May came and went, and with it Harold Camping’s prediction of the coming of the Rapture and the day of doom.”

Based on past doomed doomsdays, much can be learned, said DiTommaso, who has studied apocalyptic worldviews for 12 years.

He shared what he meant in a written statement to CNN:

Historically, failed prophecies tend to result in disillusionment, with members deserting the group, or, more typically, a faith-saving (and face-saving) statement to the effect that while divine revelation remains infallible, human calculation is not. In short: The math was off, and it’s back to the drawing board. If the logic seems a bit self-serving, recall that in the apocalyptic mindset, faith precedes theory, and theory informs the evidence.

Not that any of this will preclude the appearance of future doomsday predictions. “Apocalypse,” Frank Kermode once observed, “can be disconfirmed without being discredited.” The massive 2012 phenomenon [based on the Mayan “Long Count” calendar] lurks just over the horizon. Even if the media and the public are over-saturated right now, the 2012 event promises to be as big as Y2K. After that, when the predicted events of the 21st of December 2012 fail to occur, a new generation of end-time prophecies will spring up. And that’s about the only sure prediction that one can make.

- CNN Writer/Producer

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

soundoff (2,964 Responses)
  1. ScrewAllReligion

    Religion is the longest scam running and there are always the stupid masses who buy into it.

    May 22, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • Sparky101

      Nah, Satan has a longer running scam.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
    • beelzebubba

      The "true believers" are like Mercedes or I-pooed owners who give high marks in owner satisfaction surveys...because they can't admit they believed a bunch of hype. Nobody wants to admit they were a fool. I'm gonna start my own cult... this last cult is worth 72 million!

      May 22, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
    • Cristian

      They do, however, drive a nice Mercedes, while you scoff at their satisfaction, possibly while (and because of) riding a bicycle...

      May 22, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
    • Bellatrixie

      RE: "Cristian – They do, however, drive a nice Mercedes..."

      If you don't 'get' analogies, there are plenty of fundamentalist literal-translation believing cults waiting for you. Be careful you don't get duped into giving them 10 percent of what you earn.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
    • Freshman College Student

      Did anyone's snarky comments give them satisfaction? No one's comment seemed to have much of a point but to hurt someone else.

      May 23, 2011 at 4:23 am |
    • bailoutsos

      Mother Nature will have the final say when the life on Earth ends. She is always blamed for the bad things and God gets credit for the good things.

      May 23, 2011 at 9:17 am |
    • bailoutsos

      Pope Benedict does not support the ordination of women. In 2007, the Vatican issued a decree saying that the attempted ordination of women would result in the automatic excommunication for the woman and the priest trying to ordain her. -– A good religion, trying to keep Woman beneath Man. But, look to the others and most, created by Man, will be the same.

      May 23, 2011 at 9:26 am |
    • Jesus

      Religious belief has been with us since the caveman. I don't know if our species is genetically programmed to believe in some form of religious nonsense or is it learned?

      May 23, 2011 at 11:01 am |
    • derp

      The only difference between the apocalypse jesus people and the other christians is that they at least have the guts to call out a date.

      How convenient that the bible says that no man can know the date of the rapture. Not knwoing the date of something that will never happen makes explaining why it never happened really easy.

      "why has the rapture never taken place?"

      "because it hasn't been the day yet"

      "well, then what day is it going to happen?"

      "we don't know"

      "how will you know it's hapening?"

      "you will know because it will be rapture day"

      "what day will be rapture day?"

      "we don't know"

      You have to love religion.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
  2. Jeff

    I believe religion is an organized cult for people who have clue whats goin on... If people would just put Faith in God and things will be ok...It doesn't make u belong to a religion if u belive in God.. I rarely go to Church and im catholic/christian... you gotta havbe that personal relationship with Jesus and read your Bible and u be fine... And for this mr Evans fellow, If he really was about God he would know that God only knows the day and hour that the world will end and Jesus' return to earth. And not believe false prophets who only want your money. With all the stuff going on in the world the world will come to an end but only time will tell when that happens.

    May 22, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • Savana

      You're an idiot. There is no point in identifying with any religion unless you follow all of the rules. This comes from an atheist. I actually like the idea of religion, but most people do exactly what you do, outline it for everyone else. Also, to think that personal faith and such is enough is wrong. Christ, if you actually believe in Christ, made Peter the Pope for a reason. To spread the gospel correctly. If you had the faintest idea of right and wrong [concerning religion] you would know this. The WORST religious people are the "outliners", which is what you are sir.

      May 22, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
    • neeeeext ..........

      We live in a world where we should take these false proifits sons a b!@#$% to court for taking moneys for their own benifits (stupid people wake up) These people don't care about anybody but themselfs & how they can be burried comfortably with family members by their side with plenty of cash to boot . Just be human people, we will eventually evolve . Imagine ...............

      May 22, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
  3. Jesus

    I am so happy these peopl are upset, serves them right for being total idiots.

    May 22, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • ScrewAllReligion

      Hypocrite.

      May 22, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
  4. Geoffrey Smith

    This is sad as these people take a literal view of the bible instead of the metaphor/parable it was meant to be.

    May 22, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • svann

      Thats not what happened here. They put their faith in a kook, not the bible.

      May 22, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • NoSoliloquy

      Like there is really a difference between a kook and the bible.

      May 22, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
    • Cristian

      Yes, there is. Science gets "kooked" all the time too. Look up scientific misconduct, the equivalent of heresy.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
    • beelzebubba

      Exactly... the bible will always be contradictory if it is taken literally and out of context. Science proves that the literal translations cannot be true (all of those animals could not fit in the ark)... But instead of those simpleton congregations admitting their beliefs are mistaken, they attack the science that exposes their misleading dogma and make ludicrous statments (dinosaurs didn't exist) when the fact is, science cannot prove god does not exist. Better to ask, what side is a church on if it thinks lying is acceptable?

      May 22, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
    • Alyssa

      "science cannot prove god does not exist"

      Science should not have to prove that god does not exist. It is impossible to prove that anything does not exist. You can't prove that dancing unicorns don't orbit Mars. But we have enough factual evidence to suggest strongly that such a thing doesn't exist. There's as much evidence for god as there is for Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny, yet we assume that they do not exist. You can't prove a negative. But in the absence of evidence it can be assumed.

      May 23, 2011 at 9:49 am |
    • derp

      "Science proves that the literal translations cannot be true (all of those animals could not fit in the ark)... "

      Wouldn't that depend on how big of an ark you built? Not that I believe in any oth that crap, but we have no way of knowing exactly how many species existed at the time. We can estimate, but again, if you built a really big ark, you might be able to fit all the animals on.

      I'm talking really big here, like several miles long and pretty wide. Granted, that would be a big chore for one guy. But if that is all you had to do for like fifty years, you might be able to pull it off.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
  5. Dana

    I find these "date the world will end!" things to be one of the most bizarre heresies in the Christian church. Why do I call it a bizarre "heresy"? Because the Bible says, repeatedly (that is, in more than one book and attributed to more than one person, including Jesus), in every available translation, that *no one knows or can know the day and time this will happen.* And there's just no possible way to misinterpret these really blunt, straightforward, non-parabled verses, the only way one can rationally reach the conclusion that they know when the apocalypse will happen (if such a thing can be reached rationally) is by ignoring not just one small, confusing verse, but by ignoring multiple blunt ones. So, Tom Evans isn't sure if he's done something dishonourable? Well, he did do something foolish that could have been easily remedied by, you know, reading the Bible. To quote the great philosopher Homestar Runner: "sewiously."

    May 22, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • Homestar Runner

      Charwicters. Tooons. Downwoeds.

      May 23, 2011 at 7:09 am |
  6. biff

    I remember taking a dump around the time the apocalypse was supposed to occur. Not much happened after that, but I did feel a increased sense of well being.

    May 22, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • Tom

      Me too and it felt like my personal end of days. And a guy twittered that he took a dump in new zealand hours before, and then a guy in hawaii tweeted he took a rapturous dump soon after. Im thinking a wave of dump taking spread across the globe yesterday. Now thats a rapture

      May 22, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
    • beelzebubba

      did you check to see if everybody else in the building vanished while you were seated at the divine throne?

      May 23, 2011 at 12:22 am |
  7. svscnn

    Funny Stuff.

    May 22, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
  8. Chris

    Really sad. For all the reasons people mention. Poisoning kids' minds. Uprooting them, scaring them, blowing their college savings, parents quitting their jobs. As awful as religion's effect on the world can be - the killing, the wars, the hatred - I also sometimes agree w/ DB...what would these nutjobs do without a simple guide to how to act? What would those who think there is no moral code w/o religion do otherwise? Mental illness is sad. I try to remember that when I want to just laugh out loud at how absolutely ridiculous these people are.

    May 22, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
  9. Scott A

    These believers are disappointed that the world hasn't ended? Weirdos. "Gee honey, guess we aren't dead by the hands of God. Would have thought the 90th prediction was the charm. Maybe next year!"

    May 22, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • Judy F

      Jesus was supposed to save you if you were a christian non-sinner. It was supposed to be Jesus' second coming and the people who were upset it didn't happen were upset because they wanted to start spending eternity with God. But no one can predict when judgement day, even in the bible it says not even Jesus nor the angels will know. So this should be a sign that our time WILL come.... But not now.

      May 22, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • Savana

      What??? @ Judy F. That last sentence was the idiot statement of the year, you should mail it to a comedian.

      May 22, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • beelzebubba

      you're assuming that the followers read unapproved 'deceptive' things like history books instead of the old testament and news sources instead of approved tracts and pamphlets.

      May 22, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
  10. Brandon T

    "Disappointed" that the world didn't end... How can such "godly" people wish such a horror on the rest of the world? If they were true Christians, they would be rejoicing the fact that they were wrong...

    May 22, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • Esu Seye

      But that's just it...I think that they were disappointed much the same would be for a kid who didn't get to go on the roller coaster because the ride shut down due to the pending thread of a lightning storm... 'They didn't get what they wanted'...

      May 22, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  11. sophie

    Organized religion is the oldest form of bullying. It is in place to control others. It is used to manipulate, to harm, to destroy.

    May 22, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • jeremy

      well since a science major by profession and used mathmatical equations to push this crap along. I guess it was science not religion that is the bully this time.

      May 22, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • Ryan

      Nice try Jeremy.....

      May 22, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • Bucky Ball

      no Jeremy, it's called senility.

      May 22, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • Dave

      jeremy, try to get a copy of the "scientific calculations" Camping performed to reach his conclusions. The file is on the familyradio.com website if it ever comes back up. There was nothing rational at all about what Camping did ... it was total jibberish and had no relationship at all to either science or religion. I'm sure even someone as clueless as you are would agree if you read it.

      May 22, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
  12. Khai

    Did you check with the PD for missing people on May 21? I'm pretty sure there'll be some names and yes they were raptured. And we are all the naughty kids here. Well that's hell of a lot of naughty kids on this planet. Including Pope Benedict XVI. And other well known good folks.

    May 22, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • KMA

      You are joking, right?

      May 22, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • Good point

      Good point
      .

      May 31, 2011 at 11:25 am |
  13. db

    I think religion is for morons but I'm also kinda glad it exists. What would these dimwits do without it? It teaches them a moral code and helps keeps them in line. Imagine these wackos running around without a set of simple instructions? It would be horrible.

    May 22, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • MyGod

      I agree with "db" completely. He coundn't have said it better!

      May 22, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • Jeepers

      Ha ha! Good point.

      May 22, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • RBZL

      Unfortunately, these people are also allowed to do things like... vote.

      May 22, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • pProf

      Ironically, your post is about as dimwitted as they come.

      May 22, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • Dave

      That's a pretty astute observation, and I agree with it entirely. It would have been better, of course, if there had only been one bit of organized nonsense to guide the clueless. Instead we have a bundle of religions that have caused countless wars and suffering in their struggles with each other.

      May 22, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • jeremy

      Yes I am sure only your kind should vote. Mean while your sister is pregnant with your 3'rd Cyclops and your an unemployed social beggar..........(your mind is a sad place)

      May 22, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • pProf

      @Dave: "astute"is relative, and if you consider his post astute, you must have the IQ of a slug.

      May 22, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • Dave

      pProf, db's comment isn't dimwitted at all. At least half the Christians I've had religious discussions with have stated that without religion they'd feel free to pretty much do anything they want since there wouldn't be any consequences. So much for personal morality.

      May 22, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • Dave

      C'mon, pProf ... let's hear your explanation for why you think db is dimwitted and why I have a low IQ. Try to make a rational point instead of simply calling names.

      May 22, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • grey

      You're speaking about morals and ethics, and you're simultaneously calling these folks (who were obviously wrong, and now disillusioned) moron's and dimwits? Religion itself has no quality of being good or bad. These "bad" qualities that you're blaming on religion, actually come from our own culture (in which we are all equal contributers) and wrong viewpoints. Its shortsighted and equally blind to think that the complexity of the worlds problems can be summed up in religion.

      May 22, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • Dave

      jeremy, you're simply proving db's point, although you apparently aren't bright enough to recognize it (which ironically further proves db's pioint). db specifically said that religion served a useful purpose for morons that couldn't understand anything else. Not banging your sister and being encouraged to work hard are cases in point. The Jewish prohibition against eating cleft footed animals falls into that same category, since eating swine tended to cause painful deaths due to trichinosis. Many other religious tenets exist to facilitate socially beneficial interactions among people who, like you, wouldn't have been able to embrace them for their own sake.

      May 22, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • Esu Seye

      ...so... these forks didn't get what they wanted.... they now have to own up to the responsibilities that they 'left behind'....they will now have something to 'doubt'... they missed out on their chance to escape...Welcome to reality people...

      May 22, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • Frogist

      I disagree, db. They say they work with a set of instructions the Bible provides but they do not. They do as they please and use the Bible as justification. People can find support for whatever horrific thing they choose to enact in the Bible – slavery, hom-ophobia, ignoring the poor, etc etc. At least, if they did not have the backing of this supposedly moral authority, people would look at them less favorably.

      May 23, 2011 at 8:45 am |
  14. Peace2All

    From the Article:

    "Of course there’s (disappointment). There’s no getting around that,” said Tom Evans, who’d left his northern California home to spend the weekend with family and friends. “When you as a person believe that God is coming back, and you believe the evidence is very clear that he’s coming back, that is something every child of God longs for. In a moment, we’d be changed and spend eternity with God. I’m not ashamed of that at all. I’m not ashamed of (wanting and hoping) for it.”

    On (one) level of analysis, I believe that Mr. Evans' sentiments sum up a total self-centered arrogance. For him to 'want' this to happen, infers that if he is correct, then that would most likely mean (given the current model of the rapture when Jesus supposedly returns), that billions of people would be sent to an eternal fiery torment in...hell.

    I guess it's oh well... you 'non-believing heathens' had your chance to believe.

    Unbelievable.

    Peace...

    May 22, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • KMA

      Good points all around. And, to what "evidence" is he referring? The fact that some whacky reverend said so?

      May 22, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • airwx

      As a believer, I must agree with your thinking. Each of us should use this as an example of how NOT to treat each other in this world. It is not anyone's place to judge while on this little blue marble! And I would also hope it brings people to truely learn whatever their religious text says for themselves.

      May 22, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • Dave

      KMA, Camping had a link on the family radio website (www.familyradio.com) to a pdf file that explained in detail the numerology that convinced him the world was ending on May 21. That website has been inaccessible since about noon yesterday, but I downloaded the file before the site was taken down. The file is an astounding example of self delusion and if you can think of a good place to put it, I'll try to upload it for others to read.

      May 22, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • hoscat

      it aint down Dave i can bring it up on google chrome browser and it brings me to http://www.familyradio.com/index2.html

      May 22, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
    • Dave

      hoscat, you're right. It's back up now. It was down all afternoon and evening yesterday. Anyway, here's the link to the "proof" that the world was going to end on May 21. Grab a beer and read the whole thing ... it's pretty entertaining in a twisted and scary way. http://www.familyradio.com/graphical/literature/proof/proof.html

      May 22, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
    • Frogist

      @P2All: Yes, it is arrogance, but what it also is, is cruel. A lot of believers ignore the cruelty and immorality of their positions through the arrogance that it is justified by the joy/correctness they are creating for themselves and other "true" believers. Evans focus is completely on the joy he would experience while the world of human beings suffers. It is a sentiment often expressed on this blog and in real life by believers when they talk about those who think differently going to hell or being doomed by their god.

      May 23, 2011 at 8:58 am |
  15. John Richardson

    Camping deserves a literal pie in the face.

    Then again, that would be a waste of a pie ...

    May 22, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
  16. Chris

    I think I'm a horrible humanbeing for haveing such immense amusement out of this. lol. What a bunch of idiots.

    May 22, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • Vic

      I, Also, feel somewhat guilty about the amusement I am deriving from this situation, but, damn! it is funny!

      May 22, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • risskia

      WooHoo schadenfreude!!!

      May 23, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
  17. TheRationale

    It's a shame what religion does to people. It's also a great way to make money if you have no moral code about you...

    May 22, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @TheRationale

      Agreed.

      Peace...

      May 22, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • KMA

      The irony is quite amusing.

      "I was Catholic until I reached the age of reason." ~George Carlin
      He always said it best. May Joe Pesci rest his soul. ☺

      May 22, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
  18. Jim

    Alternate History Blog http://may21project.blogspot.com/.

    May 22, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  19. PaulB

    As I have mentioned in several previous posts on this supposed 'doomsday prophecy", the real victims are the children of this misguided individuals. Filling a young mind with such nonsense, and worse, uprooting thier lives, subjecting them to the criticism of their peers,abandoning their futures, and in some cases, abusing them by telling them "they will not be saved", is beyond the pale and to me, boarders on child abuse. How can you stop taking care of your family, abdicating your responsibilities for your child's future by "not paying bills..." "..removing their college savings", "...quiting their jobs"? For a mother to tell her young daugher that "...she is definitely not going to be saved..." or having a father teach her 7 year old daughter that "the Sun will turn blood red and there will be thousands of bodies in the street..." is beyond comprehension. While adults have the right to believe what they will, however outlandish, it is another matter altogether to terrorize and brainwash little children. To those of you crying "but its their right!" you need only look back half a century to the Third Reich, and see how those children were lied to.

    May 22, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • Babbage13

      damn straight! Epic conclusion statement, as well. Rather than just finishing your thought you thoroughly reinforce it.

      I'm not being sarcastic. I treasure written work or spoken work of any form... well... that's if it's worth treasuring.

      May 22, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • svann

      Almost all wars in the last 200 years were secular not religious.

      May 22, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • KMA

      I couldn't agree more. Children believe what their parents tell them. It isn't until they're grown that they even realize they have a choice. To put their futures at risk and convince them that it's ok to do so because "God" told them so is irresponsible, to say the least. What lesson will these children take from this? I suppose we'll find out once they've grown.

      May 22, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
  20. thomas mc

    Religion is the seed of mental illness.

    May 22, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • WASP

      Um, genetic predisposition would be the seed of mental illness. Religious extremism is a bi-product of mental illness, though. I'll give you that.

      May 22, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • risskia

      WASP: don't forget that childhood abuse is ALSO a seed of mental illness...this poster may have a point, if not the whole concept.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:44 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.