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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. Wheels of Justice

    There is a sucker born every minute.

    May 22, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
    • Jon

      There is a sucker made every minute. I like the Sweet ones that turn sour. I like those the best. Oh sorry we were talking about the Rapture. I heard that King Kong has awaken on the east coast. And Godzilla is making his way through the Pacific. And, Mothra is flying up to inter veen with the both of them. That will be the Rapture of all man kind.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
  2. Krister

    What do you expect from people that worship the Hebrew pagan god of war and destruction?

    Of course there is always going to be a collection of sects that are constantly fantasizing about all of the non-"Christian"(and not "Christian" enough) men, women and children of this Earth being left to suffer global war and oppression.

    If you are confused by my first statement, let me clarify. The various human authors of the Old Testament were NOT monotheists. They were pagans or "MONOLATRIST" POLYTHEISTS. If you are curious, I recommend that you start here:

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MlnnWbkMlbg&w=640&h=360]

    May 22, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    Thank you family radio for showing that this was all about making money, scaring people into giving away their money, and showing how stupid and gullible religious fanatics are. The more you do this the more people are turned away from you money-making "faith". "The bible guarantees it" LOL

    For the rest of you, who are believers but not following this scam, you should be standing up for your faith and consistently denouncing these idiots.. The more groups like this make false claims, the worse your religion looks. Have a great day 🙂

    May 22, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
  4. B-Rizzle

    The idea of God only exits to serve humanity's ego. In absolute truth we are no more, nor less, than the dirt we walk on or the cat our crazy neighbor likes to dress up. There is no God but for that which is the base existence of our universe, and there is no inherent importance within us except for the false importance we invent for ourselves.

    That being said, for those of you somehow disappointed that there was no massive death of everybody in the world so that you could go sip virgin daiquiris in the sky with some bearded dude....You are not a good person. Maybe you should look yourself in the mirror and actually think about what you are talking about.

    May 22, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
  5. theredhammer

    This just further compounds that all religions are wrong. But mostly Christianity. Anyone who prays, follows commandments and gives churches 10% of their income in this day and age is a retard. You people make me sick.

    May 22, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
    • cat

      tell that to the christian Martin Luther King Jr. Tell him how stupid religion makes people.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
    • 123

      why do most people try to bring down christianity especially? i's like the name Jesus christ can be used as a swear word, but GOD forbid if you say anything good about him, much less say you are a christian. like i understand lwhy most people hate christians, t's because they can't fathom that there is a GOD and a jesus especially. so before ppl try to point the finger, try reading the bible, and actually give jesus a try then u can say hay, or nay. as for some christians who run around condeming people to hell, they make us all look bad and most importantly jesus. no one ever points the finger at the devil though. but hate comes from fear, fear of what you don't understand. jesus loves u, forget christianity, it's not a religion or a cult, just a group of people who understand and know jesus, give it a try at least men.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
  6. Linnea

    Truth of the matter is, the Rapture isn't even in the Bible. It was made up by some crazy preacher in the late 19th century, and the theologians who know what the heck they're talking about agree that it's nonsense. For the *real* story, read "The Rapture Exposed" by Barbara Rossing.

    May 22, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
  7. Ron

    All religion is based off a few old dudes in fancy robes making you feel guilty for not going to church giving them money so they can continue to make you feel guilty and give them more money and so on.

    May 22, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
    • Christopher Blackwell

      No not all religions try to make you feel guilty and take your money. Wicca does not and I have been in it for 26 years. Nor do I have to convince anyone else or convert them because it would not dream to claim it was the one and only. How much I spend it up to me according to what I would like to do, the gods don't need any money though some of the ministers may want it and the Religious Businesses may claim otherwise.

      You don't need churches, or temples, or paid ministry, no matter what the ministers or Religious Businesses tell you.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
  8. Jon

    The Funny thing is that they totally forgot that all the planets haven't aligned yet. Once this happens the world will be in turmoil. However I do not believe the world will end. The only way for Earth to completely die if the sun turns to a Black hole. You know that Song Black Hole Sun. That is the only way for the Earth to completely Die. Until that happens or a Huge Asteroid crashes into earth than the only thing that would survive would probably be Roaches. And, then they would die off due to no food for them.

    May 22, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
    • Ron

      Finally someone bring science in the picture and makes sense of it all actually we another 4 billion years before the sun burns off all its hydrogen so we got a few more days.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
    • Krister

      Before the Sun becomes a black hole, it will expand and engulf most if not all of the solar system.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
  9. chris

    The bible is the greatest work of fiction ever written.

    May 22, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
  10. JIM

    Where they went wrong- FAILURE to read the BIBLE for themselves & letting someone TELL them what it says without checking it out themselves. If they had READ the WHOLE thing cover to cover they would have found Jesus words " NO MAN NOT EVEN ME KNOWS THE DAY OR THE HOUR" & if they used a little Common sense – 1. What do we base our Calender on? Jesus BIRTH –
    2. Jesus was crucified, buried & resurrected 33-1/2 years later. if you take the to God 1000 years = 1 day you would quickly figure out it has only been 1978 years since his resurrection leaving us 22 years before it will be a even 2,000 years minus the 7 year tribulation , then you have to consider a unknown factor that " If the days had not been shortened there would be NO Flesh left alive" So Where are we in the timeline- APROXIMATELY (underline that word) in the beginning of sorrows. a lot still has to happen. We may know the general SEASON & yes we are supposed to WATCH- But Jesus ALSO said – "OCCUPY UNTIL I COME." That means preach the Gospel- Repent, Go & sin no more – That Jesus died for the payment of all our sins & that we accept HIS work, His Righteousness by grace through faith not relying on our own works which are as a filthy rag in God's sight. Jesus DID NOT SAY- do as you please & expect to get into the kingdom of heaven.
    He said " WHY Call me LORD & don't DO the things I say?" "Keep the Commandments" Which? He was asked- Look them up there are 10- But NONE OF US KEEP THEM NOR CAN- That is the Point- WE CAN'T KEEP GOD'S COMMANDMENTS & WHY We need Jesus to save us & take the Punishment WE Deserve & by Faith accept HIS Righteousness.

    May 22, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
    • Gingeet

      If they "actually read the Bible cover to cover" they would have realized that it is complete BS like all other religious texts. If you have the reading comprehension of a 5th grader you will realize this after reading the first two chapters of the book. If you're not hip, the first two chapters are two different "creation" stories that contradict each other.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
    • steve

      I couldn't AGREE with you more. The problem with people today is that they don't want to read and study the bible.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
    • You're nuts mate!

      See my name. There is no magic man in the sky. The sooner this world can realize that, the better. Religious people scare me!

      May 22, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
    • Krister

      The ten commandments?

      Don't do anything evil like pick up sticks to heat your home on the seventh day of the week or you might get stoned to death.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
  11. Kyle Mason

    Not that I believe any of this, but PEOPLE:

    He said the world will begin to end on MAY 21, and continue for 5 months until OCTOBER!

    You people really are blind

    May 22, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
    • Jon

      I did notice that. And, yesterday the 1st sign is in Iceland with the huge Volcano. Now Tornado's in Minnesota and now new flooding in the West. But, like I said the planets must align and this doesn't happen between now and October 2011

      May 22, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
    • Jeanine

      sounds like you're just bucking for another "End of the World" Party and 2 in one year with another one in 2012 is just greedy.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
    • Krister

      He also said that the "true" "Christians" would disappear from the face of the Earth before that "begins".

      May 22, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
  12. RD

    It is worthless,time wasting effort to study the end day. Be a Christian in your words and deeds and in purity.God Bless you!!!!!!!

    May 22, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
  13. Ron

    Hey Chuck,

    Could you repeat that agian I did'nt hear ya the first time.

    May 22, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
    • Chuck

      Ron, I think I layed it out pretty good the first time. Maybee you're using a "Mac" (different operating system (GOD)!

      May 22, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
  14. Blake

    These people are idiots. There's no such thing as a rapture, it's not gonna happen, ever. December 22nd will be here in no time and thus prove their ignorance.

    May 22, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
  15. Jeanine

    as for the Mayan Calendar, folks should PLEASE be mindful that the Mayans calculated, and calculated, year after year, after year into the future. There is no forecast of doom in the Mayan calendar. They simply stopped making calculations. It just stops. That means nothing. All it means is that the Mayans got tired of making the calculations and perhaps would have updated them if they had survived. But really...how far in advanced do they have to keep calculating before someone said...."this is boring...lets go get a beer."?

    May 22, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
    • Kyle Mason

      Jeanine,

      With all due respect, the Mayans created a codex (now called the Dresden Codex) which shows the world ending with flood waters!

      Google the 'last page of the Dresden Codex' and decide for yourself

      May 22, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
    • Jeanine

      dude...if you have been churning out calculations year after year for a period in the future when you won't be around so you don't give a poo, then eventually you write "and then they all died....the end" and grab a beer and go meet some hot chicks

      May 22, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
  16. bluforeal

    All of it waz a big joke 2 me really but yo Camping man can u pay all dat iz lost n me but I lost nun lololololol!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 22, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
  17. DL

    I believe the rapture will happen one day, but when no one is expecting it. This is clear in the bible. Having said this. I don't think it will happen anytime soon. Last time I checked, the antichrist has not appeared claiming to be the messiah and a new world order is not in place. These will happen before the rapture does.

    May 22, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
    • brian

      It's amazing that you can believe one word of the incoherent gibberish you just wrote. I sure as heck don't.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
  18. Lucy

    Just another cult that can join the ranks of Jehovah's Witnesses, who preached in 1975 that armageddon was coming. It is really sad when people follow imperfect men as their spiritual leaders.

    May 22, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
  19. Pastor Barone

    It is a wonderful thing that so many feel so much for our Lord however, as many have expressed, for mortal men to believe that they know what is in God's plan and mortal humans can "figure out" and "de-code" the Word of God is to lose sight of God and to give man all the glory. ONLY God knows the true meaning of His Word and that is exactly why the Bible can have so many meanings to so many different people. It is NOT for man to "decode" but rather for man to interpret to his/her best ability with the mind and faculties that our Lord and Father has seen fit to bestow upon us as individuals. If not for these differences there would be no place for God's Word as we would all think and feel and experience this gift of life in the exact same way. Praise our Lord for making us in His image wich if we were all combined into one being could still never encompass what our Lord God truly is. Be Blessed and don't lose your faith but instead please rethink your direction and God has already laid your path before you. Praise be to God!! +

    May 22, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
  20. neil

    It is sad that in the 21st century people still can be seduced by nonsense. Christian fundamentalists are no different than other religously confused radicals in other countries. I hope they learn from their mistakes.

    May 22, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
    • Jamie G.

      Not likely.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:26 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.