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. Steve

    Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.
    No One Knows the Day or Hour

    36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven,[a] but My Father only.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
  2. jc

    These people never heard the phrase, "don't believe anything you read." Dolts, morons, imbeciles, idiots-I have some swamp land I want to sell you. As for that old codger who has duped his admiring fools; well someone should push his face into a tub of water until he admits he is a CON MAN!

    May 22, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
  3. RAYman666


    May 22, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
  4. j

    fu..n retarded S holes.they are dissapointed??
    what the f.. k is wrong with these brainwashed idiots?all of u going to HELL !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 22, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
  5. Jim5k

    Only 2-3% make it to heaven? And the rest doomed to infinite punishment? That's just sick. I marvel at the kind of gods man has created and believed over the millennia. If that's true, then it would have been better if God never created people.

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

      Doesn't sound very logical does it? But not much about Gods revolve around logic.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
    • Jaws

      That is a figure created by the people who said Jesus was coming back a day ago, not a figure found in the Bible. As such, you have no place condemning Christianity for what others make it out to be.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
    • Jim5k

      I wasn't condemning Christianity. I was condemning religion, or more specifically blind faith (i.e. believing in something without proof). To me faith is a bad work. And the Christian God makes as much sense as the Greek Gods.

      And forget the percents. The concept of infinite punishment is sick. Isn't that what hell is? Do you believe in that? The more I think about heaven and hell, the less sense it makes. What on earth can anyone do to deserve infinite punishment? ...Or reward for that matter? Simply put, the punishment doesn't fit the crime. You can torture and kill every person on earth and an infinite punishment is still infinitely worse.

      If you know a good discussion forum on heaven & hell, please let me know. I have lots of questions.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
  6. Jeb

    This guy owes the entire christian community and apology. Many people lost everything because of this guy.

    ...as for all you 'believers'; follow your own heart and beliefs. You all have a brain in your head. USE IT!

    May 22, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
  7. CJG

    If I see another person quote Matthew 24:35-36, thinking that it logically refutes yesterday's prophecy I am going to go insane.

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

      You should read Matthew 24:35-36, it proves you're wrong and I'm right

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

      Well, for people who believe the Bible when it says Jesus is coming back, it is quite logical to point out the amount of ignorance they displayed in ignoring a passage that is very, very key to end times studies (eschatology). In that sense, it is logical to point out that reference.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
    • Get A Grip

      I hear ya' CJG.

      It's right up there with:

      – If man evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?
      – If I'm wrong, I have lost nothing...
      – A "personal relationship" with "God" or Jesus.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
  8. Doug

    One other tiny little detail that has been overlooked is that in Bibilical times false prophecies, as heresy, carried the death penalty. I'm not a big fan of capital punishment, but I have thought it would put a dent in the economist and investment advisor population, not to mention giving pause for thought to followers of Mr. Camping.

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

      It's true, we rarely ponder on how much of our daily lives are based on lies... marketing, predicions, calculations, speculations, promises, estimations, ratings, and on and on...

      May 22, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
  9. paperjihad

    I wonder if these people even bothered to read their own Book! "But of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only." (Matthew 24:36) I guess it takes a Muslim to point this out, LOL.

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

      I'm going to assume YOU haven't read your own book either since you just spouted off a passage that thousands of other brainwashed people have also quoted regarding this topic.

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


      Doomsday is mentioned in our Book, but we don't know the hour either. Nor would we ever claim to.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
    • CJG

      I KNOW what it says. I'm not refuting what it says. I'm just annoyed by tons of people quoting it as if they did the legwork and came up with that "perfect" passage that disproves yesterday's prophecy.

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


      Do you have a better one? I'd actually be interested in hearing why or why not you think this isn't an appropriate passage.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
    • CJG

      How can I possibly make myself more clear? For believers it's a perfectly fine passage. I'm just getting tired of people quoting that instead of voicing their own opinions with their own words. But I'm not going to reply to you anymore because you obviously don't read with any critical reasoning skills whatsoever.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
    • Cristian

      I don't get your anger. It's perfectly fine to use a quote from the very material used to make the wrong calculation we're all talking about. Why would people need to reword it in order for it to be an aceptable argument?

      May 22, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
  10. Darren

    Ha at the idiots who quit work.

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

      This should be an opportunity for intelligent people who lost theirs due to downsizing to replace them.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
  11. jesus rocks

    i knew right from the start that this harold camping guy was just a clown and a false prophet but im a christian and I believe jesus is coming back very soon but like many people have said no man can predict when and i believe that because its in the bible and im not trying to start nothing alot of christians are smart and knew harold was full of it so if yall dont mind how about a little bit less insults towards christians plz and thank you

    May 22, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
  12. W

    It was all a misunderstanding.....we were to be raptor'ed, I found a large lizard in my house, hanging out under the sink. the raptor's were coming.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
  13. Jacks

    “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."

    Evidence? What evidence? A book that a bunch of dudes wrote 400 years after "Jesus" lived? Fairy tales, people. Fairy tales.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
    • Sparky101

      The first books were penned much earlier, some within 10-15 years, all of Paul's books wrer penned within 40-45 years of Christ's resurrection, and John wrote all his books by the end of the century. So you appear to be 3 centuries off.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
  14. Riccraw

    For those that followed and believed this man learn don't be ashamed just learn from it.
    If you believe in the word read it and come with your own thoughts, not the thoughts and teaching of another man because he truly know less than you. You need to search and find your understanding, Seek and ye shall find.
    Truly no man knows GODS mind.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
  15. jlang

    Are these people nuts? They are disappointed the rapture didnt come? In their version 7 billion people die, is this goddly? God may have his will, but these people are sick.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
  16. PToy

    The guy who bet to cut his penis if the prediction came true was sure glad about this development.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
  17. Miguel

    NOone knows.................ONly God KNows...........when the world will end.. thank you from Miguel Quintero San Diego Ca

    May 22, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
  18. sol

    These JERKS are actually sad and disappointed that the world isn't ending? That billions of people aren't going to suffer and die? I hope someone kept tack of who these psychopaths are and where they live.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
  19. UrRight

    You are so right. I am a Christian and I acknowledge what the Bible has said about false prophets. No one will know when the 2nd coming is. Funny how some overlook these scriptures.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
  20. TS

    It is wrong and sad to say that the world will come to an end. Everyday, the worse the problem gets, we honestly try to get better is solving them. Everyday, we learn from our mistakes and try harder to overcome the hurdles. Natural disasters, diseases, terrorism, etc. etc. Energy problems, nuclear threats and so on... But we honestly know that we need to move away and solve those concerns and move towards the positive side. In my honest opinion, for each of these problems if people start giving up and say that the world is coming to an end is meaningless. We only have one world and one life, and yes if we look back a lot of us have put enormous amount of work and inventions and discoveries to make it as enjoyable as we can.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:37 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.