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. Michael Morrell

    The passage the Rapturs use to say God is going to destroy earth, in the SAME VERSE say that at that SAME TIME He will DISSOLVE Heaven. So what is the point of them going there?

    DUHHHH.. Think people Read the context – get the meaning – what is your disease?

    May 22, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
    • BlackRepublican

      This goes to show you that when you put logic, science, and facts against religion, religion falls apart.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
  2. dm

    These people needs some psychological counciling. They are delusional and paranoid, and its not right to teach that your kids. I was one of those kids once.

    May 22, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
  3. Adam

    -1 Religion. I think we're at -37,000 or so now.

    If you truly want to believe in God, then you'll convince yourself that he is real. If you're willing to believe in virgin births and world-wide floods, then you're probably willing to believe just about anything.

    Focus more on helping your fellow man, and less on trying to force your beliefs on them, and people will accept you (even if they think you're a bit childish in your belief).

    May 22, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
    • gingersrule1

      I agree with you. Its hard for people who think they need Meth to cure ADD to pay attention though. As a stoner. I can personally tell you that no one knows the day the time nor hour that Jesus will return. However. If Bible prophecy holds true then it seems as though at least some of these things are already a reality. I think credit cards are like the mark of the beast. It might not be under your skin but it might as well be.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
  4. Chuck

    All about GOD! It really doesn’t matter what anybody believes about GOD. You really can’t believe or not believe, or it doesn’t really matter whether you accept, or deny the existence of GOD. Case in point: I was giving a lecture about the holographic nature of the universe, and an an engineer asked me if I believe in GOD. I asked him if he believed in “Windows” You could hear a pin drop in the room. He said what does “Windows” have to do with GOD. I said “ what is “Windows”? He said “Windows” is an operating system. I said “BINGO” GOD might be a cosmic operating system ya think?, and the more you acquaint yourself with the principals of natural law and to understanding the laws of the creation, you might find yourself in the company of the Greater Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent Divinity (GOD). GOD knows and cares about you in direct proportion to your understanding and knowledge of “him” I’m done!

    May 22, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
  5. dreamer96

    Meanwhile in a parallel Universe, all Hell is breaking loose......

    May 22, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
  6. Chris

    “For us to say it was absolute, I think that’s where we went wrong..."

    Yeah no s***

    May 22, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
    • Jason

      Thanks Chris 🙂 Just what I was thinking when I was reading this story

      May 22, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
  7. Faithful

    I think Camping got raptured to Mexico with the cash. His last broadcast was Thursday night, so he probably high-tailed it right after that. Sure he was in the clouds alright...in a jet to Cabo!

    May 22, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
  8. silly

    Americans should grow up and stop decieving ppl abt rapture date.they arent the only country on earth.why is it they are the only judgement date setters or are they trying to predict their own country dooms day

    May 22, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
  9. CJ

    I am a Christian (a Catholic to be more precise). Please do not lump all Christians with these lunatics. I do not have a problem with atheists who don't believe in God. I simply do not like being treated as if I'm a nut job because I do.

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

      If you are a religious person, you are a nutjob.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
    • Adam

      Sorry CJ. We non-believers have our flaws, as is human. It is very hard for me to wrap my mind around how a modern, civilized, educated person can believe in the god of the bible, which leads me to the conclusion that most believers are not modern, civilized, or educated. Best wishes to you and your family.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
    • BlackRepublican

      I think Rich is angry at something or someone and is taking it out on you. Forgive him.

      CJ, I don't think people who are making fun of the people who believed yesterday was the end of the word think that all people of faith are a nutjob. I for one don't think so, but I do have a problem with people who push their religion (any kind of religion) on others and act like they are a moral authority while at the same time commit horrible sins. I hate hyprocrits.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
    • HJ

      Amen CJ.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
    • steve


      get a life! no way to go thru life dumb fat and lazy!

      May 22, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
  10. Rich

    Faith is a weakness, not a virtue.

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

      You are so right.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
    • BlackRepublican

      I again agree with you on this, Rich.

      But there are a few things you have said here about religion is a bit harsh, don't you think?

      May 22, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
  11. Pash

    The bible has been rewritten by men but in the 1400 years not a single word of the koran has been changed. It is the word of god. God knows when judgement day is not jesus, not muhammad(pbuh), and not moses. Their all mortals. God is ever living.

    May 22, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
    • Pilgrim1

      Maybe... but it was made up to begin with, so it doesn't need changing!

      May 22, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
    • Pash

      It even says in the koran if anyone can write a book even close to it then they should. I feel bad for you on the afterlife. Ill pray for you.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
    • asrael

      It seems that smug is no respecter of religions...

      May 22, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
  12. Talk Sense


    May 22, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Here, let me summarise this for everyone: Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah

      May 22, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
  13. Barbara Bear

    How do we know that Saturday wasn't indeed "Judgement Day"; not as it was prophesized as a horrific cataclyismic event, but how do we know that it wasn't a judgement of our individual spirits? I'm not a practicing Christian, but I do believe that something happened; I've spoken to enough people and have seen and heard enough to know that something mystyfying took place. Maybe it was a rapture – maybe it truly was Judgement Day.

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

      What in the world are you talking about?

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

      Holy dog doo, get a life lady.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
    • wstevens

      Or maybe you are a deluded fool.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
    • Logic

      EVERY day is judgement day.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
    • GrowlerDriver

      What exactly happened? As far as I could tell the sun rose and set just like it always does. I went about my daily duties without anything unusual or out of the ordinary. My wife went to work and came home without incident. My kids played in the yard like the usually do on warm Saturdays. This talk of "rapture" is utter non-sense.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
    • VJATL

      Here comes next harold camping

      May 22, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
    • tallulah13

      The most miraculous thing that happened on Saturday was that the Bolts finally solved the Bruins to tie up the series in the east. It gives me hope to carry on, but I'm fairly certain it was not a sign of impending doom.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
  14. caninelillie

    See my “bed bug dog Lillie” finding bed bugs on YouTube

    May 22, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
  15. godschosen

    another stumbling block by a false prophet and used by the media to make you loose faith to keep us from seeing the truth from the most high. DONT loose faith and trust in the most high !

    May 22, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
    • AthensGuy

      Thanks, but I will stick with evidence-based logic

      May 22, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
    • lan

      So in your opinion he got the date wrong..... but you still believe a zombie will come down from the sky and people will rise up to meet him to the sound of trumpets????

      May 22, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
  16. Rich

    Religion is delusion.

    May 22, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
    • BlackRepublican

      Amen! =)

      May 22, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
  17. Larry

    These people are disappointed that 97% of the world's population didn't die. No wonder these fake religions are at the cause some much human suffering.

    May 22, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
    • Rich

      All religions are fake.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
  18. RCPorter

    most so called christians are nut cases anyway,believing in everything these preachers spew out

    May 22, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
  19. Jeanine

    It really should have been a clue when Harold Camping filed a tax return. If the man REALLY believed what he was saying then he wouldn't have bothered.

    May 22, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
  20. frank

    It is certain that the world will end sometime, either by our sun dying or the earth being struck by an asteroid or the moon leaving earth orbit or dozens of other possible catastrophies. The real lunacy is that so-called prophets think that they can predict anything based on their interpretations of the Bible. Sheer madness.

    May 22, 2011 at 7:16 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.