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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. fred

    why are americans so dumb?

    May 22, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
    • Matt

      Good question...........

      May 22, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
    • Kyle

      Americans aren't dumb. People are dumb. Either you are an American unable or unwilling to take the same critical look at other countries, or you are from elsewhere and somehow just ignoring the stupid people in your country.

      If you are the latter, please teach me how to ignore the stupid people of one's country.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
    • yours truly

      I think you need to rephrase that to why are those that follow religion dumb.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
    • beelzebubba

      Most of our ignorant, gullible morons descended from euro-trash ancestors. FYI: The last 'witch' punished in the West – that happened in europe.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
  2. W

    I have a nice new car, house, bank account from a guy who believed this prediction...Thanks guy.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
  3. Dobro

    Booooooooring!

    May 22, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
  4. Matt

    “Of course there’s disappointment"??! >>>>>>SERIOUSLY?! They wanted 7 BILLION people (almost, except them of course) to be killed...

    May 22, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
    • Cristian

      Wrong. Nobody wished bad stuff upon anybody. They only wanted to be raptured by God, and simply didn't care what happened to anyone who decided not to believe...

      May 22, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
  5. JJ

    Prophecy doesn't have anything to do with emotion.
    The word beileving in the Greek, which the New Testament of the Bible was written in, means to adhere to trust in and rely on. The focus is not on what you believe but who. You have to know the one you are believing in, namely Jesus Christ, the Son of God who was crucified on the cross for your sins died and rose again from the dead and will return one day. Before He returns we can know Him however and have relationship with Him through talking to Him (prayer) and through the word of God. The foundation for the Christian faith is the word of God which is the called the Bible. If you read the Bible it clearly states that no man knows the day or the hour that Jesus Christ will return to the Earth. It's not up for discussion or conjecture. There are certain things that it says must happen before that day. One thing is the temple must be rebuilt in Jerusalem. That hasn't been done yet. Anyone basing their beliefs on something other than the Bible, which is the inspired word of God is not a Christian.

    Reality is that 100's, maybe even thousands of prophecies in the Bible have come true already. Archeology has been done further proving those things written are true. Christianity is not something for the weak. It is not a crutch. It will cost you your life. "You must lose your life in order to save it." This is speaking of your focus on yourself and just fulfilling your own desires. The life of the true believer is not for the weak, but for those who are ready to give up all they have to gain all that God has given through Christ.

    Anyone stating that they know the day or the hour Jesus will return is deceived and is making an effort to deceive others for some purpose other than their good. Perhaps it is for money, perhaps it is just a means of discrediting the truth so that others will be calloused to seeking the creator of the world. There is one who created the world and who created you. He has a purpose for your life and has much to give you. The Bible says, "He (God) who did not spare His own Son (Jesus Christ), but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not with HIm freely give us all things." Romans 8:32

    You have to give up all you think you have, but you are going to lose it anyway and what He has to give is infinitely more than you could imagine.
    The Bible says, "What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?' Mark 8:36 If you have questions, ask God in the quiet of your bedroom with a sincere heart and He will answer you.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
  6. me

    Why do Christians go against the Bible by trying to predict the Lord's return?????????? It's a hypocrasy to do so I would think.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
    • beelzebubba

      Why did god/dog create people that he despised and then destroy them with a deluge in a temper tantrum? An all-powerful all-knowing being would have made the kind of creatures he wanted the first time, unless he is a sociopath. And, didn't he "say" he would never do that again? I for one would rather opt out of an afterlife than have to spend forever with a psycho with a short fuse.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
    • Cristian

      He promised to never destroy mankind by means of water again... Twisting the facts a little, are we?
      By the way, your name/alias only makes sense if God exists. Think about it. 🙂

      May 22, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
  7. keepitsimple

    jesus said no man knows the day or the hour

    May 22, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
    • elliemae

      A text said that. We don't really know what Jesus did or did not say, given how many times those texts have been rewritten, translated, and reinterpreted. Better to leave those old books to history and develop a relationship with Christ today.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
    • beelzebubba

      My invisible friend just told me, but I promised not to tell the date or intergalactic fundamentalist alien zombie morons will invade earth. Oh, I guess I must have talked in my sleep. Sorry. My bad.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • Scott

      He also said he's return within the life times of the deciples:
      When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. (Matt. 10:23,
      For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. 28Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom. (Matt. 16:27–28)
      So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 34Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. (Matt. 24:33–34).

      May 22, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
  8. Senor Ed

    Darn, now it looks like I'll have to pay off that VISA bill I ran up over the past week.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
  9. Leonore H. Dvorkin

    My question: Why does it matter to any of you when the world as a whole is going to end - if it even is? When you die, THAT will be the end of the world for YOU. There is no God or afterlife. Get over it! Be a grownup. Quit believing in fairy tales. Just live your life as best you can, making life as good and as happy as possible for yourself and others. If you spend any time thinking about God, the Bible or other "holy" books, when the world will end, etc., you are just wasting your precious time.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
    • A Mormon

      You seem to be wasting time telling us not to waste our preciouse time...something about that seems ironic...

      May 22, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
    • Cristian

      Leonore, and you know this, because...?
      Maybe the thought that some of those people out there could be right, against your wish or belief, scares you... Think about it.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
  10. ldub

    Well, it looks like God didn't take anyone. We all must be too corrupt. Third time's a charm.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
  11. Blue

    @chris...lmao

    May 22, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  12. troy saber

    are we sure Buffy the vampire slayer didnt slip into the hell mouth and didnt avert this appoclypse for us?

    May 22, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
    • Joss Fan

      Best response I've ever EVER seen written on CNN. Thanks Troy!

      May 22, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
  13. Jimbo

    To bad these idiots didn't drink some kool-aid and off themselves. It's not too late, if you believed this just do us all a favor and put a bullet in your heads, you will still go to heaven I promise.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  14. Reality

    "For us to say it was absolute, I think that’s where we went wrong." as per Tom Evans

    What Mr. Evans failed to mention:

    As with Camping, Jesus was also a bit "touched". After all he thought he spoke to Satan, thought he changed water into wine, thought he raised Lazarus from the dead etc. In today's world, said Jesus would be declared legally insane.

    Or did P, M, M, L and J simply make him into a first century magic-man via their epistles and gospels of semi-fiction? Most contemporary NT experts after thorough analyses of all the scriptures go with the latter magic-man conclusion with J's gospels being mostly fiction.

    Obviously, today's followers of Paul et al's "magic-man" are also a bit on the odd side believing in all the Christian mumbo jumbo about rapture and bodies resurrecting, and exorcisms, and miracles, and "magic-man atonement, and infallible, old, European, white men, and 24/7 body/blood sacrifices followed by consumption of said sacrifices.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
    • airwx

      Hello Reality.....You really do need to get out more....you seem a bit obsessed with this same post....a bit "touched"

      May 22, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  15. W

    Of course i doubt that anyone would ever believe me....nobody believes the truth, I am the only one...Oh NO.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
  16. Reush

    There's a simple explanation for why it didn't happen.......it's a load of bull!

    May 22, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
  17. Mike

    Great..
    Maxed out my credit cards for nothing

    May 22, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Mike

      LOL...!

      Peace...

      May 22, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
  18. Man with a working brain

    You people are a bunch of kooks. Why don't you all stop with the ghost stories, hokus pokus and your imaginary friend in the sky? Take a new approach to life. Try reality. It really is kind of, you know, um... REAL!!!

    May 22, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
    • me

      um,..... because we're not you???

      May 22, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
    • A Mormon

      because you seem a very angry person who feels cheated out of life and if thats reality ide rather talk to my imaginary friend in the sky

      May 22, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
    • beelzebubba

      I bet you don't believe in the Alpacalypse either. When the world freezes, the chosen ones will get a herd of alpaca's to keep them warm. Or freeze your assets off unbeliever.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
    • Iris

      Exactly. Now all the brainless believers will attack you as being angry, blah blah blah ...

      May 22, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
  19. chris

    All those who believed do not need to apologize. They can not help being stupid and easily duped by whatever nonsense they hear and read.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • beelzebubba

      The true believers are like Mercedes owners (or I-pooed owners) who, though their cars are often in the shop, give them high marks in owner satisfaction surveys... nobody who has just wasted a lot of money because they believed a bunch of hype, wants to admit they were a fool.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
    • Cristian

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

      May 22, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
    • Iris

      Too bad they didn't drink the cool-aid just in case yesterday.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
  20. KlondikeBar

    Here's a prediction:
    every-1 who dies will cease to exist.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • Dobro

      Except 007, he'll live at least twice.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
    • elliemae

      and Chuck Norris.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • beelzebubba

      My invisible friend wants you to fill out his earthlings satisfaction survey...

      May 22, 2011 at 6:57 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.