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. enricorosan

    I predict the end of the world will come when I won't be around to see it.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
  2. katran

    The one good thing about this farce is that it may head off at least some of the Doomsday cult hoaxes that are going to be triggered in 2012.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
  3. LoneZero

    "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"

    Man ain't that the truth. I wonder how long before Harold Camping makes that statement? From what I've read he is in hiding for now. He has a lot of explaining to do for all his followers that lost much from this experience.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
  4. Philojazz

    Okay, how about maybe switching from "The End of The World Is Near" to "Today Is The First Day of The Rest of Your Life". It might be a trite cliche, but at least it's true.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
  5. Name*Jay

    Interesting how nutjobs have selective memory of the bible...

    May 22, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
  6. Brian

    Anyone who thought the world would begin to end and a fictional character would float down from the sky or just appear somewhere and take them to heaven, are idiots.

    If you think any being other than the people around you care how crappy your life is that you need to wish for the day your life ends, you are an idiot.

    Come on people! Use your brains! There is no omnipotent being watching us! Its us and the rest of the universe. The sooner you realize that, the sooner you will learn to live your life. You do not need a book written by men about a fictional character in the sky to tell you how to be a good person. Just be.

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

      Hi Brian!

      May 22, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
    • Steve

      Oh by the way, Brian, go rent these movies: Miracle of Our lady of Fatima and Song of Bernadette. Before watching, do google research on both. I guarantee you, you will change your belief.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
    • Lenny

      And we can start by not calling each other idiots.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
    • Steve

      Lenny, Right On Brother!

      May 22, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
  7. Cole

    If he has made the Bible his "university" he would know that only God knows when the world will end.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
  8. redeem314

    Thanks God for Brother Camping’s courage in warning the world of the impending wrath of God. It is going to come whether we like it or not. Before you start casting a stone at Mr Camping, please know the man and don’t rely on news flash from the media outlets that lack any depth. Mr. Camping familyradio station has single handedly taken the Gospel to most part of the word with tracks translated to 80 languages. Please Mr. Camping is not your typical Bentley and jet loving mega church pastors; he is a humble, God fearing and faithful doúlos of God. Brother Camping we love you and we are praying for you and your family.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
    • John Richardson

      No, judgment day is not coming. There is no judge.

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

      Mr. Camping is not your typical Bentley and jet loving mega church pastors; he is a humble, God fearing and faithful doúlos of God??? lets see first what this humble man does with the 100 million dollars he pocketed from donations... just saying

      May 22, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
    • Danny

      Talking about false prophets. The Prince of Hell must be very satisfied with his students.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
    • beth

      He is a scammer and thief and liar or crazy. You are, too, if you believe what you wrote. I'm sorry. Your proof that this stuff is true is the bible. You believe it because you were brainwashed to believe it. If you had been born before the bible was written what then? You wouldn't believe in Jesus and wouldn't believe in the rapture and wouldn't believe in the bible, that's for sure. You believe in things without thinking critically. If Jesus really did exist he would be horrified that this liar and their tricked people out of millions in 'his' name. God, if god exists would not think very highly of someone who tricks stupid people out of all their money. Sorry. Not a good person. he should be in jail.

      May 22, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
  9. Doug smart

    The world did end!!! All the good people are gone!!!!!

    May 22, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
    • John Richardson

      All zero of them? You may have a point there ...

      May 22, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
  10. Supa Charger

    Halphagooser: one who practices calculating the day and the hour of the rapture.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
  11. zimzum

    .....pop goes the weasel......

    May 22, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
  12. CJG

    @Darren: I'm an atheist and I've read every single page of the bible. I know what that Matthew passage says. I'm saying it's not logical, in my opinion, because I don't believe in God or his word.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Tell it to Terence MeKenna's loopy disciples. They make Christians look reasonable.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
    • John Richardson

      whhops, my comment about McKenna's disciples was meant to be a reply to Marc F's sensible comment about 2012

      May 22, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
  13. Marc F.

    Just so everyone is clear, the Mayan Long Count Calendar doesn't predict anything. It never has. It is simply a very accurate and impressive astrological chart that happens to end on the day that the Sun is in the direct path of the center of the Milky Way. I think we're all going to be fine.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
    • Grant

      What a load of rubbish about the Mayan calendar and the Earth lining up with the centre of the galaxy. The Earth always lines up with the centre of the galaxy as does any other point in the galaxy. The Mayans had no more idea about the structure of the galaxy as they did about the email, TV's or Ben & Jerry's ice cream.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
    • Daniel

      Thank you! It wasn't the Mayans who said the end of their long count calendar would bring about the end of the world, but some outsider. Of course the world will end someday. Our sun will not shine forever; eventually it will burn out and life in this planet will completely disappear. Plants die, humans die, eventually our planet will die. There is no point in trying to figure out when that will happen. Death is part of the universe. Nothing to worry about.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Grant, they had no concept of galaxy the way we do, but they made incredibly accurate measurements of when different things and the earth, sun and the visible Milky Way, which gave our galaxy it's name but is not the same thing, do NOT always allign.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
  14. ssloan

    imagine a world without war, judgment or greed and you imagine a world free of organized religion. free yourself.

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

      Yes! I believe!

      May 22, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
  15. dan

    You people are crazy, I was transported to heaven yesterday as were several of my colleagues. Didn't you people feel the earthquake?

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

      You morron, close your mouth, or keep it moving.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
  16. ec1wardc1

    Thank god I'm an atheist!

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

      Too bad! You will never experience the miracles that I have seen. Some of them I will not reveal in my lifetime.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
  17. daggerstab

    The bible never said such a thing. Lunatics "interpret" things in crazy ways.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
  18. Steve

    I watched the movie 'Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima" last night as joyous celebration of this debacle, one quote from that movie that stood out: 'Only the fools say there is no god.' Truly, this man, Camping was a false prophet and will be dealt with accordingly by the power that abide.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
    • John Richardson

      You celebrate this debacle by watching a movie about a bogus miracle??????

      May 22, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
    • delusional

      A Hollywood movie with "actors" is proof that there is a God?

      May 23, 2011 at 11:15 am |
  19. yourmother

    Just more proof that god doesn't exist. These rapture people need some serious psychological help.... How have they not been declared legally insane?

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

      Those low-grade morons don't know how to read the Bible with and understand what Jesus really said (no one knows the day or the hour of His return). God's still here, will still return, and I'm glad my faith is in Him rather than in those idiots who don't know how to interpret simple scriptures. Ha-ha on them!

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

      I don't see how this is proof that God doesn't exist – rather it is evidence that this particular interpretation of religious doctrine is flawed. But that is far from saying there is no God at all.

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

      Don't blame God for the stupidity of men.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
    • yourmother

      my faith lies in science.... not fairy tales.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
    • Aasim Soomro

      No your wrong. All these failed prophecies are proof that Christianity is BS, and Islam is the true religion instead.

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

      There's lots of evidence that stupid men exist... there's no evidence that god – whichever one you had in mind – exists...

      May 22, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
    • Aasim Soomro


      May 22, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
    • Daniel

      How have our political leaders not been declared legally insane?

      May 22, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
    • yourmother

      there is no such thing as "true religion." all religion is based on myth, not truth. nothing that you read in the bible or the qaran can be proven, except that people that buy into these books are insane. that is the truth.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
    • Rod C. Venger

      How do you conclude that God does not exist because some humans can't read a Bible? It says that no man can know when the end will come. Even Jesus does not know, only the father. By your logic, if my wife doesn't get home from work by the expected 5:10pm, then she's not my wife, just a phantom I invented. You need to work on your issues. Maybe God can help you.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
    • yourmother

      my conclusion about the non existence of god came about when i learned how to use my brain. furthermore, if you believe that a person can come back to life after dying, can walk on water, and can turn that water into wine, then you are the one that has issues, and should seek psychological evaluation. you believe in a fairy tale that is based entirely on myth, not facts.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
  20. Deny

    Yeah I think it gonna start if the israel will divided in their land.the holy land is holy land it never must divided.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
    • j


      May 22, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
    • Marc F.

      The Bible tells us that Armageddon will happen after the Jews return to the Holy Land, not when they are kicked out.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:56 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.