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. Manfred

    Just another in a long line of failed prophecies. Even Jesus got it wrong. He said the rapture would occur before his followers died. You'd think that would clue believers to the fact that their 'savior' is full of it.

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

      Actually, Jesus was refering to some of the events in the 60-80 AD time frame that DID happen. There are other sayings that speak to yet future events. Not the same thing as you suppose.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
  2. SS

    actually it DID happen. oh... still here, sorry charlie, you're screwed.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
  3. biorsel

    Oh well, please don't get too uptight with those "nut case". After all, the money they tried too spent either on billboard or anything else to convince people that it's really going to happen would help to stimulate the economy somewhat and the job that they quit will be an opportunity for non-beleiver like us to get a job. Thanks to those retarded freak!

    May 22, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
    • Sparky101

      What kind words and a warm heart you have.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
  4. The Holy Ghost

    BOO! Fooled ya!

    May 22, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
  5. lee

    Jesus did come...he just left all of us behind.

    Anyone want to carpool to hell in October? Shotgun!

    May 22, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
  6. Bob Mann

    Stupid idiots. I wish they were all raptured so the world can be rid of them!

    May 22, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
    • Sparky101

      Hmmmm, how very tolerant you are.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
  7. NoShizSherlock

    WOW! I can't believe people actually believe the world is going to end anytime soon, I do not believe it will end on Dec. 21 20012 but on that day, the solar system is alined with a black hole, not that it will do anything. I can't believe people sold there homes and went on vacations... GEEZ

    May 22, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
  8. W

    Just kidding, i have enough morals to not take somebody's stuff, I know better.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
  9. Peter

    "Why are Americans so dumb?"

    Because we seem to have lost the ability to think critically, and, more importantly, to teach our children to question what they're told. It's all about fitting in, obeying those in authority and doing what you're told. Perhaps it's time to encourage a bit more individuality?

    May 22, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
    • matt cooke

      no thats not it, we need a larger federal government, and much much much more religion....

      May 22, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
  10. Peter in NYC

    Maybe this was all a dress rehearsal? See all the various responses below....

    May 22, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
  11. Tony

    Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. What an idiot!

    May 22, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
  12. jdn

    The Apocalypse was supposed to happen in the lifetime of the original disciples of Jesus. Look up Matthew 24:34 - it's pretty clear.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  13. Dave

    The mainstream media is the complicit partner co-opting this manipulation for profit. We can all lead better lives by taking mainstream media's corporate general m.o. with a big grain of salt...

    May 22, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  14. Jeremy

    So does this mean the bible is fake?

    May 22, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • Get A Grip


      It is just one more harsh, glaring spotlight on the falsity of the supernatural fantasies of that book.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
    • Trent


      May 22, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
    • AJ

      Let me apply the same logic to Barack Obama. I interpreted Obama's remarks about Israel and the Palestinians this way: Obama insists that every street corner in Israel must have a pork BBQ restaurant and he promised it would happen by this morning. It didn't happen, therefore Obama is a liar and he speaks perfect falsity all the time. That is following the same logic as discarding the credibility of the Bible based on the fact that events did not occur that were predicted based on a completely nonsensical interpretation of the words of the various authors of the Bible. The authors never predicted May 21, so the nonoccurrence of a rapture on May 21 proves nothing regarding the credibility of the biblical authors' words.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
    • Sparky101

      Of course not. There are scriptures that every believer should have read. It's pretty clear that we are told no one will know the hour or the day, but believers are to be ready. The real question is "what does he mean by ready"? Ready to meet your maker? I don't think so, because all believers think they are ready for that. I think being ready is to get crackin on what God put you here to do.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
    • AJ

      Sparky: exactly. Ready as in living out the values that Jesus gave us in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and all of his other teachings. That's what being ready means, not running away from the world and cowering on a mountain top so you can escape.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
    • Lu McLu

      No, it means that this guy was fake, and put a fake interpretation on the Bible.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
    • Cristian

      @Trent and @Get a Grip
      Aww, somebody skipped the logic class in school...

      May 22, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
  15. keefah

    The tragedy about this is that Camping claims to have studied the Bible for 50 years, but all he would need to do is read ONE VERSE to know that he will NEVER be able to accurately predict when the rapture will take place. In both Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32 Jesus says, "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone." Clear as day, right from the mouth of Jesus and IN THE BIBLE. I just don't get it. What do those people do with those verses?

    May 22, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
    • AJ

      Matt. 24:36 & Mark 13:32 weren't difficult for Camping to ignore because he altogether rejects any sort of normal, face-value reading of Scripture. He much prefers to allegorize EVERYTHING and tease out bizarre interpretations of little details, attaching ridiculous meaning to numbers and calculations. What would you say if you encountered someone on the street who interpreted your words the same way Camping interprets Scripture? You would surely conclude that the person is schizophrenic!

      May 22, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
    • Sharon

      They conveniently ignore them because they get in the way of their "belief"....and that's what people like Camping depend on. I think it's disgusting to prey on people like he does and use religion as a means. But I still think that the people who believed him enough to give away their possessions, their jobs, and walk away from their lives are just plain dumb.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
    • Trent

      Sure, sure.

      Reminds me of another prophet who lived in the first century.

      THIS guy took the prize. He swore that anything his believers asked for he'd grant. He then went on to say that Jesus would return to earth within that present generation (roughly 16 years in Jewish understanding of that time) and that "many present would not taste of death" until they literally SAW this event; this "parousia", or "coming judgment."

      What's more crazy than that are the works of his followers years later, every ONE of whom believed these words and expected Jesus to return at any moment. One of them wrote (of the antichrist): "Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time." That was 2000 years ago.

      The author was "John."

      And the prophet?


      It's time to move on folks. 2011 years of "soon", "any day now", "coming back" is now a tiresome, dangerous joke.

      Jesus was wrong. Your faith is a lie. But your good natures and works is not a lie. Drop one, continue the other, and things like this rapture fail, and the 2000 years of bloody Christian history, not to mention Islamic and Israeli history, could have been averted.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
  16. 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 6:29 pm |
    • airwx

      Reality... this is the second time you have posted this in 5 minutes or so..... I tell you what, I'll give you a brain teaser....

      Compute the statistical probs of human DNA forming by chance anywhere but here in the universe. Then write the number on paper without logs or exponential notation. When you're done writing, come back.....

      May 22, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
  17. Eatmorepoison

    This 'Rapture' was as boring as the last one.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
  18. pail

    Well can't fault them for believing what they believe in.... that would be like someone faulting us for ours

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

      Yeah, except their beliefs are readily falsifiable by the very book they claim predicted apocalypse in the first place.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
    • Cristian

      Wrong, they are only falsifiable by and to people who haven't read the Bible... or chose to ignore parts of it.
      Science itself is falsifiable to most people, and it's done all the time. Look up "scientific misconduct" on Wikipedia, they even have examples. The reason is, you don't have the means or resources to verify each and every statement made out there.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
  19. Steve3

    People only need to read the Bible to see that there are false profits. Even the Bibal declares that 'No Man', not even Jesus knows the hour of his coming, only God himself knows. Anyone who declares a date based on 'bible codes' or otherwise is just false.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
  20. The truth

    Maybe if all of the people who where certain the world is about to end actually did get sent off into some mystical realm the rest of us would have a better chance of actually keeping it from happening.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:28 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.