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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. Pauluss ll

    I guess it is Obamas fault too since doomsday is very liberal event.

    May 22, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
  2. Yall are idiots

    No on knows when the worlds gonna end. If you actually took time to read the bible you would realize that no one knows when the rapture day is coming. And if you "plan" the rapture it will be know as false propheting.
    May 21, 2011 was just an ordinary day. Way to go you once again FAILED at planning the rapture date.

    May 22, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
    • James Smith João Pessoa, Brazil

      Actually, the best, most recent prediction is one billion years, more or less. But that's based upon observable scientific facts, not delusional belief in a badly-translated, politically-edited collection of myths and lies.

      There is no god, there never was a jesus and all religion is a scam to allow one small group of con artists to control the thoughts and actions of a large group of gullible fools.

      You may not like the post, but prove that it is not all true.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
  3. Mark Yelka

    Anyone under the delusion that gods exist, such as Ra the sun god, Zeus, Thor, and those that are "modern" gods, cannot be expected to think rationally. They live in, for most of them, a happy delusional state. Some are not happy; but, all are delusional.

    May 22, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
  4. Pat

    Only God knows when Christ is coming back...What a mess these people have made...

    May 22, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
    • James Smith João Pessoa, Brazil

      What god? Ra, Thor, Zeus. Loki? Maybe Aphrodite, or Mars? Prove those do not exist and then you might understand that yours does not, either.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Which god did you have in mind? There have been so many...

      May 22, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
  5. cozmin

    These guys were wrong in the first place! No one knows when the rapture is going to be. Read the Bible because it clearly says that not even Jesus himself knows when it is going to happen!! So how does Camping or any other doomsday predictor calculate or predict all this?? They are simply frauds!! Not knowing basic scripture!

    May 22, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
  6. Annie Haze

    End of the world? Get real. With all the pollution we create, the wars we like to start, the threat of killer diseases, people starving to death, terrorism and all the other stupid, selfish, hateful things humans do, I think mankind is doing a fine job at kiling off the planet and its population. Who needs God to end it for us? We're already doing the work ourselves!

    May 22, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
    • Dan

      Annie, I am in total agreement with you. I am a full blood Mayan and our predictions do not say the World will end, but say it will change. It has to, as we were sent here to create heaven on earth, we haven't done a very good job of that as a species have we? If anything we will become extinct by our own hand. According to the Popol Vuh the Mayan Sacred Book of Creation, " Humans will become so cruel that even there own utensils will raise up against them ! " We have those tools that can eliminate this World 100x over!

      May 22, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
  7. Saddened

    It is very sad to see the people posting here that are so negative toward religion and toward Christians. Christianity is all about living life in a positive way, knowing that our sins are forgiven and we are saved through Jesus Christ. We are all human and therefore, sinful beings. None of us is more perfect than any other human, we are all equally sinful in God's eyes. Being a Christian means being free of the guilt and sorrow that comes with our constant sin, because we know we are forgiven. For all of you that have such a negative view of religion, I feel very sorry for you. I'm not sure what happened in your past to give you such a view of religion, but whatever it was, it was not a true representation of what Christianity is all about. True Christianity has one mission – to accept Jesus as your savior and to spread the good news of the Gospel so that others might be saved. I don't see why anyone would have hatred toward any Christian living life by this simple principle. God bless all of you that have not experienced the life changing impact of faith in Jesus Christ as your savior.

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

      Saddened, most people don't hate Christians (except when they are forcing their beliefs on us), we simply feel sorry for them. Christians to me are like that one girl you know who wasn't all that attractive, but landed a one-night stand with the quarterback. She's convinced that she's now popular, and that any day he will be calling her. She just knows in the bottom of her heart that the quarterback loves her; that the two are soulmates.

      You can try to convince her all you want, but she refuses to believe it, because accepting the truth would shake her to her core.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
    • greg

      Being an atheist, I live with the notion that all of my sins may not be forgiven, and therefore think twice before committing them in the first place. Saying you will be forgiven for your sins is like saying that its ok to do morally reprehensible things, when clearly, its not.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
    • Mac

      Bull. Mere whimpering from someone once again proven wrong. How about your faith's slaughter of innocents? Their coverup of rabid pedophilia? The continued hate-mongering toward gays? We'll be better off when religion ends once and for all. If your god ever existed you've all finally killed him.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
    • delusional

      Christianity is all about living life in a positive way

      Really? They why is it that so many "Christians" do not practice what they preach?

      May 23, 2011 at 11:18 am |
  8. jbaga

    So I'm finally proven right. THERE IS NO GOD!!!!

    May 22, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    the guy who started this scam was nothing but a hoaxer. the person who promoted it was a nobody who felt like he had a mission to tell the world. i don't understand why this whole day after thing focuses on religious believers....anyone who thought the world was ending was in a small cult. no other christians and no other religious followers thought that this was the day the world was going to end. stop generalizing.

    May 22, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
  10. Bob

    SHAME ON YOU, every media member who insulted us by dedicating 1 or more seconds of attention to this garbage. With all the very serious issues facing the world, you spent time "reporting" about THIS???
    That also goes for CNN, which covered this pathetic "story" as if it was one. Whoever is your editor should resign.

    May 22, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
  11. chaim

    Meshugahs

    May 22, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
  12. Ding Dong DooDoo

    Can I have one of their RVs now that they don't need them?

    May 22, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
  13. Matthew Jandecka

    The bible clearly states that no man, even Jesus himself, but only the father (God) knows the time when the rapture shall happen....

    May 22, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
    • God

      shuddup bubba

      May 22, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
    • Adam

      Yeah, so if there is only one god, and he is three parts (God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit), how can Jesus not know things that God knows? And, if they are all the same ent-ity, then when God sent Jesus to die for our sins, he really just sent himself. Sounds like an attention wh0re to me.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
    • James Smith João Pessoa, Brazil

      The babble? Do you mean that collection of myths and lies written by some bronze-age con men? Prove that anyone of it is true. Only the truly deluded could possible accept that any religion is more than a scam. You have to reject truth, rational thinking, and observable facts to believe in such nonsense.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
    • asrael

      Please name the biblical chapter and verse which mentions "the rapture"...

      May 22, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
  14. Tim

    HAROLD PARTNER SAYS WHAT HE SAID ABOUT MAY 21ST NOT HAPPENING! WATCH THIS SO FUNNY!

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_zUDjTp0jc&w=640&h=360]

    May 22, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
    • jbaga

      Awsome!!!!

      May 22, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
    • squiddy79

      LOL...thats funny you mention that, I was reading something yesterday and that was the predicted response!

      May 22, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
  15. Tom

    Man did i pick the wrong week to start gaying it up. I figured, what the hell, times up. Give somethin new a shot. Now i got some calls to make.

    May 22, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
  16. LBJ

    Is anybody going to prosecute this thief? He has STOLEN money of faithful! His church was "worth $100 million" according to an NPR article. What, this guy gets off scott free for this sham? The law shouldn't let him get off – or else every wanna be preacher is going to do the same thing! Wait a minute, they DO!

    May 22, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
  17. MrHanson

    According to Marx, religion helped keep the masses passive before the abuse of the wealthy and powerful, and the only way to free them from the “stupor," God and religion had to be eradicated.

    Atheists are quick to point out that throughout history large numbers of people were killed in the name of Religion; but they fail to mention the countless millions who were killed by leaders who worshipped themselves or by militant atheist-Communists who were driven by a hatred for God and Religion.

    May 22, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Yeah, throughout history a lot of people were murdered for religious or political reasons, but at least the communists didn't add hypocrisy to their list of sins by killing millions in the name of a guy who preached "turn the other cheek."

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

      Replacing one authoritarian practice with another results in the same thing, mass death, masses deceived... nothing different... us atheists are right so much, you must be irritated.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
    • James Smith João Pessoa, Brazil

      Obviously, religion wants its own version of history as well as its own version of facts.

      Hitler, was a devout catholic. Stalin, Pol Pot and the rest did not kill people because of religion but because they perceived them as threats to their power. They didn't commit their crimes because they were atheists, but because they were determined to hang on to their power. Theists tell the lie that it was because they were atheists to lend a shred of credibility to their lies. But a religion that was founded upon lies and has never stopped lying will attract liars and never change simply because they are shown to be wrong.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
  18. David The Great

    ITS BEEN MOVED TO MONDAY!!!!

    May 22, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
  19. Spockk

    We are completely right to ridicule these people. Also, anyone who believes in a supernatural, omnipresent, omnipotent being that cares about what everyone does and thinks and will judge and punish or reward you after your life is over. Ridiculous.

    May 22, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
    • TheWiz71

      In spite of your "name", it is completely illogical to lump every single theist (from any tradition) who believes in a God that is interested in individual human lives, and in the life of the human race in general, with these misguided individuals. The vast majority of theists thought these people were just as loony as you regarded them, and, if anything, regarded them as an embarrassment more than anything.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
  20. gfc

    The rapture didn't happen??? Rats!!! I was hoping to get a newer car from someone who was raptured.

    May 22, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
    • Siara Rose Vicario

      The only person that knows when the world is goin to end is god and jesus christ cause they created it. Myself as a christian i believe this is true in my religon. GOD BLESS YOU ALL!!!!!!

      May 22, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
    • gfc

      @Siara Will JC give me a car after the rapture?

      May 22, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
    • Adam

      Siara, I thought even the son didn't know? Sounds to me like you haven't been reading your bible. If you're going to believe in the thing, you should probably study it quite a bit.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
    • James Smith João Pessoa, Brazil

      @Siara What god? What Jesus? There is no evidence for either, Start thinking for yourself and discard the brainwashing that has led you into delusional beliefs.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:20 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.