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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. DL

    Hopefully this will be Camping's last rapture prediction. I had no doubt that we was crazy and way off, but I hate that he scared kids all over the world with his ignorant beliefs.

    May 22, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
  2. Andrew

    Typical idiots just brush their failed speculations off. I wish there was a law against these jabronis opening their fat mouths where we could end their world for spreading such crap all the time. Idiots

    May 22, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
    • Svetlana

      Hi all. I live in Toronto, and I'm just about ready to punch anyone who btreahs a single word about how the world is overheating. On the back of the coldest May I've seen here in many years, I would like to say that up in cottage country, in the Muskokas, this past weekend, it snowed for 3 hours and left snow on the ground. I have had to turn the furnace on in my house several times in the dying days of May. It is not unusual for it to go down to 4C at night. In short, it is unusually cold, most of the warm spells were immediately cleared out by strong northerlies that gave us brief but violent thunderstorms and then COLD, COLD and more COLD. Most of Canada is well below normals for this time of year.

      October 8, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
  3. Truth

    These people are so ready to die to be with God, that they are forgetting that life is a God given gift to which should be enjoyed until their natural demise.

    May 22, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
    • Ujval

      Now that is real...thanks for the reminder...life is a beautiful gift, let's make the most of it by spreading, love, peace, and happiness.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
  4. Omnipotant Travis

    Religion is the ONLY ignition point for all past, present, and future wars and causes inability to accept others as human beings... Anyways why would a god want any of us in heaven? Seriously, it would be like stopping at a trashy yard sale and buying crap you don't need to begin with to replace the nice crap you already have... Just idiotic...

    May 22, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
    • airwx

      You might want to study history a bit better.....war has little to do with religion....religion catches the blame.

      Think greed, power, expansion, food, water, pride.. see what you think after that....

      May 22, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
  5. Faithful

    Maybe they should have had a "Plan B" after all... LOL! They shouldn't be surprised - nothing ever went as planned in the Bible either.

    May 22, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
  6. myorganism

    i dont believe it anymore it has been over 2000 years n jesus never return to earth n i think the earth will end by nuclear disaster o food shortage o disease only n so we will c what going to happen on earth...................

    May 22, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
  7. Opie

    Personally, I blame the Emperor Constantine for all this nonsense. If he hadn't gone and made Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire it would probably have remained nothing more than a minor cult. And had that happened imagine where we would be now. Probably out colonizing the stars. Perhaps we'd be some other civilization's UFO's! Instead we're stuck here on Earth with lunatics like Camping and his deluded followers (not to mention those 'tea party' nincompoops).

    May 22, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
    • guest

      i have to agree with you 100%. but the sadest thing would be that he wasnt even baptised untill he was on his death bad and was forced too

      May 22, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
  8. ryan

    ass clowns. I don't feel sorry one bit for these morons.

    May 22, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
  9. Marc F.

    After all of the genocide, murder, hate, vengeance, poverty, racism, famine, disease, war, and suffering in this world, one can logically conclude the GOD HATES US ALL. Oh...wait, it's all part of his mysterious plan (or something).

    May 22, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
  10. osvaldo

    When we grown up to see that the world will end when we die. It Is a reason for us to live here and a purpose. No one come to earth to rescued some fill of people and send others to hell. We are responsible for living with misery, selfish, destruction and corruption of the nature's resources. love your next as you love yourself. That's the principal of Christianity.

    May 22, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
  11. DD

    Believe what you want. Just don't try to push it on me as I have my own beliefs and arrange the universe as I wish.

    May 22, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
  12. Stephen

    When Mr. Camping gets to heaven, I hope he has a conversation with the Lord, similar to the one Job had with Him.....Job 38 – 41. Like Mr. Camping, I'll pick and choose what scripture I accept (from any faith) and reject the rest. Most faiths encourage forgiveness, and helping the poor. Those tenets I'll embrace. The rest are fairy tales, written to bring fear and shame, in order to control the feeble minded.

    May 22, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
  13. Veronica

    The Rapture was actually not included in the Bible and did not come along until years after it.
    The Bible was not written by God but by a bunch of men. All of you justifying this mishap and saying that only God knows.. No. God doesn't know because it's all made up. If God exists, he's wondering what the hell you all were smoking when you came up with the Rapture.

    The Bible says that God said not to worship manmade objects. So all of you justifying this with means of what the Bible says are actually contradicting it by worshiping the words of the Bible, which was written by men.

    Anyone who believed in this should absolutely be ashamed of themselves, all the more so that quit their jobs, sold their homes and possessions, and things of such a nature. Like honestly, what would possess you to do something so mind-numbingly stupid? If you were to be Raptured, do you not believe that people might you know, see you floating up towards the sky? Gee, what a shocking concept that no one left on Earth would notice you. And selling your house?! What did you do after you did that? Roamed the streets like zombies? Is that where the zombie apocalypse part of this came in? Honestly.

    May 22, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
    • Jack

      You're talking about shame? Wow. Hypocritical much? Take your own advice of poo and wallow in your own shame.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
    • Get A Grip

      Jack,

      Wow. A little touchy today, aren't you? Sorry for your loss (of rapture and of reason).

      -------------------------–

      Veronica,

      Good post.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
    • Jack

      @Get a Grip – I wish you'd get one. A grip that is. Where did I say I believed the rapture would happen yesterday? Put words in other people's mouths much? I was commenting on Veronica's hypocritical screeching and hatred. Everything she was screeching at these people for, she was guilty of. But, I guess haters stick up for each other. I hope you and Veronica are very hated together and I wish you both much screeching.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
    • Get A Grip

      Jack,
      "Everything she was screeching at these people for, she was guilty of."

      Really? Where do you see that? I do not see a hypocritical stance. And I see the venting of one who is fed up with nincompoops - if you hear 'screeching', so be it.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
    • beelzebubba

      "The Bible says that God said not to worship manmade objects. So all of you justifying this with means of what the Bible says are actually contradicting it by worshiping the words of the Bible, which was written by men. "
      Very clever argument Veronica. I think it went over Jack's head (maybe it got stuck on his horns)

      May 23, 2011 at 10:41 am |
  14. B.man

    Is there a hidden Atheist agenda to grab pitchforks and torches in order to lynch Christians? I would much rather believe in fairy tales than live a life of hate and grandeur . If faith in science is your way of life please keep the fascism and ill will to yourselves. I would love to see you in heaven but apparently you all are to smart for that. PROVE GOD DOESN'T EXIST . Is that not part of your scientific process ? Smart guys ha!

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

      To paraphrase Betrand Russell: can you prove that there is no china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit?

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

      The agenda is not hidden. Atheists could care less about proving anything about gods existence. We go about our lives based in reality, science, and cold hard facts. Yes we ridicule christians because if we went around claiming that the easter bunny was going to take us to a magic disney land in the sky after we die we would get laughed at but if you for some reason replace easter bunny with god it is religion.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
    • Veronica

      See, B.man, here's the problem with your theory.
      You also cannot prove that God DOES exist, because the Bible was actually written by a bunch of guys a bunch of years ago that are all dead and, not God himself.

      Not only is that a problem with your theory but a faith or religion of anything is not a way of life but a personal choice and belief. It does not and should not control your entire life because no religion has been either proved nor disproved. The fact that people judge different people on their personal beliefs is one of the things that is truly wrong with this world.

      The final and perhaps largest problem with your theory is that you are using fascism incorrectly. To be a fascist is to believe in the good of the country before the good of the individual. While it's probably true that atheists do this better than religious folk do and take way better care of the country by addressing what's important and true rather than fairy tales that haven't been proven, atheists are not fascists. They are atheists meaning they do not believe in any particular religion, with which there is no problem.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
    • runner305

      I find it pleasantly ironic that you mention atheists with pitchforks, when throughout time, plenty of Christian Crusaders have tried to force their religion onto others.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
    • John Richardson

      No, the only people in the west to burn people alive for not conforming to their beliefs have been Christians, a truly murderous and obviously still paranoid sect.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
    • JakeSully

      Paranoid christian is paranoid.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
    • Get A Grip

      B.man,

      If faith in religion is your way of life, please keep it to yourself... and keep it out of public policy, public education and the lives of others.

      – and –

      As for your, "PROVE GOD DOESN'T EXIST": No, that is NOT how science or logic works. YOU claim it exists = YOU prove it does. If I claim that I have an invisible leprechaun sitting on my shoulder, I must prove it - you cannot disprove it.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
    • Chaos411

      Unfortunately, ignorance and faith outnumber common sense and science 10 to 1.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
    • Krister

      You can't prove a negative. Genius.

      Proof is a mathematical term, not a scientific one.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
  15. Twin

    What makes me laugh is that camping is worth like 100 million and supposedly put contracts on stuff 6 months from now to purchase hmmmm. I started to feel bad for the people that sold everything including their house, spent their life savings and are now broke but I ready don't feel bad. If the world comes to an end we won't know it. Be happy, spend more time with your family, make new friends, become friends again with old enemies. JUST LIVE LIFE LIKE THERE IS NO TOMORROW.........CAUSE TOMORROW ISN'T GUARANTEED....

    May 22, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
  16. MR Agnostic

    For all the hype, publicity and credence given these lunatics, I think equal media coverage should be given to the rational, sane, stable people of faith that do not rant and rave like so many heretics that are disgracing their evangelical beliefs. How many times will they "recalculate" the end and start this idiocy all over again!? ENUF!

    May 22, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
  17. Chris

    People are stupid.

    May 22, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
  18. Wesley Pittman

    The Rapture will not occur until God the Father says so. Even Jesus does not know when the Rapture will occur. And then, it will be 7 more years until Jesus actually comes down upon the earth for the Battle of Armageddon. It will be another 1,000 years before the earth is actually destroyed by fire. This is all in the Book of Revelation. The point is to be ready for Christ when He comes. All of the people who set dates are wrong. No man knows the hour of Christ's return. It will be in the twinkling of an eye. In order to go up in the rapture, one must be saved or born again through the redemptive power of the blood of Christ upon the cross.

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

      If people actually read the book of revelations, they would all realize that the entire book was a dream. I have weird dreams too but i dont go about proclaiming them as prophesy. The answer is it was divine intervention. I say a bad piece of goat caused the whole thing.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
    • Sarah

      Here's my problem with that. What about people in remote parts of the world who are never exposed to the Bible or God. Isn't it up to Christians to reach out to every last corner of the world so EVERYONE has a chance to be saved? What about people who died before they had a chance to be saved or reborn? What about babies? Are they all going to Hell? I can't believe that is being translated correctly. How is that fair?

      May 22, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
    • Faithful

      The Rapture is contrived theology. There will never be such an event, nor will Judgment Day ever be a date on the calendar. These are all spiritual metaphors, no matter how good the pictures look.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
    • Know What

      Wesley Pittman,

      "This is all in the Book of Revelation."

      This book is an early example of science-fiction/horror/fantasy literature, tagged onto the current popular religion. Creative authors throughout the centuries have imagined lots of spectacular apocalyptic scenarios. Scare your socks off.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:56 pm |
    • beelzebubba

      Wasn't the book of Revelations written to a address issues of the time that persecuted Christians were facing? Amazing how it has been turned into a three-ring circus by semi-literate, self-taught, unscholarly, shysters who interpret it literally.

      May 23, 2011 at 10:50 am |
  19. solly989

    All this situation has proven is that we are an intellectually and scientifically illiterate group. It is less about some con-job and more about the inherent problem with religion and bad science. All are to blame.

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

      There is a sucker born every minute.-PT Barnum

      May 22, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
  20. Logical

    It's interesting to see Christians ridiculing Camping and his followers. I mean these people believe in a magical past, a holy scroll, sorcerers and healers, talking animals and a magic staff, etc. But when out comes to predicting a rapture, hey now THAT'S crazy!

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

      Yes believe in the mutation fairy and her magical wand. Sprinkle a few mutations here and there and poof!! Complex life forms with eyes, ears, brains, muscles, reason, concience.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
    • lan

      Christians ridicule his prediction.... but they still believe that SOMEDAY the Jesus zombie will descend from the sky and people will fly up to meet him..... to the sound of trumpets, of course!!!

      May 22, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Hanson, learn something before you babble. You're embarrassing the children.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
    • Krister

      Hanson, go educate yourself. All of the various stages of eye complexity are still in use by various organisms.

      There is a difference between "believing" in something and accepting that the physical evidence is overwhelmingly in support of a specific theory. In other words, accepting reality instead of trying to ignore it.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
    • airwx

      @ Krister.... I have a real problem with the math used in evolution...maybe you have the answer.

      Given that NASA scientists postulate the possibilty of a minimal single cell self replicating organism less complex than the smallest known organism being spontaeously created in a perfect enviornment with perfect stimulus is 1 in 1 X10 ^ 123rd. This number alone is a violation of Borel's law and only accounts for one specie being generated. What further restrictions to probabilty would be generated by accounting for 10,000,000 species? And this only accounts for single cell organisms, no cell differentiation, no male/female, no multi cell beings. There is no overwhelming evidence.. just a demand that we ignore the fact that the probabilty of the life on earth being in accord with Darwin is so small that no human lives long enough to write the fraction. Just call me skeptical, And if you are tempted to say that since we exist the proabilty is one....fuhgetaboutet..we both know that is bogus

      May 22, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
    • Moderatus

      eConsultation is pretty comomn at and even in various disciplines in Westminster; see the on policy development, as well as the sites. It is perhaps ironic that of all the methods of e-consultation, the Department of Culture Media and Sport had possibly the least sophisticated mechanism for enabling public consultation, and that instead it fell to representatives from active digital businesses within the UK to . As for getting the Unconferences started, I wouldn't be so generous as to describe events like the London Digital Britain Summit as even remotely unconference-like', as the agenda was set, there was little interaction with participants and no choice to mobilise discussion sessions on topics of interest. The vast majority of genuine unconferences set up on Digital Britain were again the initiatives of the working digital media community.Reply

      October 7, 2012 at 6:35 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.