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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

    I would rather believe in God and find out he is not real than to not believe in God and find out he does exist after dying. The Bible is man written but God inspired. I believe the rapture is real and will happen one day, but not for many years. There are many things still yet to be fulfilled.

    May 22, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
    • Adam

      Ah, so you're purchasing Hell Insurance. The premium is quite high and I hear the deductible is a real bi*ch.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
    • AJD

      "man written god inspired" says who? where are you getting that? The bible is a mishmash of nonsense...read a couple of books on science, go to a few museums...get caught to what the human race knows currently...the bible is laughable in comparison, written by a bunch of people who didn't know why the sun came up in the morning...please

      May 22, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
    • James

      are you yet another false prophet. more like real puppet.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Yeah, I'm sure god will be REALLY impressed to see that you pretended to believe in him, "just in case".

      May 22, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
  2. Rin Ponneth

    I made a doodie. It smells.

    May 22, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
  3. AJD

    AHHHHH..these fools..they keep making themseleves look more and more idiotic while science continues to answer the questions that necessitated the need to make up a god in the first place...its not that i don't believe in god, as this suggests that there is "something" to believe in, it's that god is a rediculous and childish notion on par with Super Man and Santa Claus...good luck with your faith

    May 22, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
  4. beelzebubba

    [Cristian They do, however, drive a nice Mercedes, while you scoff at their satisfaction, possibly while (and because of) riding a bicycle...]
    Not sure why anyone considers riding a bicycle is undesriable, but my rides are a Lexus, Acura, a road bike, a mountain bike and a cruising sailboat on the coast of NC. Since you are prone to bad judgement calls, I'd recommend you leave your Mercedes with the cult of your choice.

    May 22, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
    • lolrelgigion

      Yes, thats it I am jelous I do not manipulate people in order to reatain money and have an ethical job where I earn my pay.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
  5. lolrelgigion

    This is what happens when you follow something blindly, eventually you get to a cliff.

    May 22, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
  6. Flying Spaghetti Monster

    I'll let you know when the world begins

    May 22, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
    • Fluffy the Gerbil of Doom

      FSM
      Didn't I see a picture of you "crashed" on the other blog site, below ?
      Glad to see you picked yourself up.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
  7. Drinker

    It scares me how dumb a large proportion of the human race is.

    May 22, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
    • Finger Puppet

      Scary. They get to vote too.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
  8. brian

    FREAKS FREAKS FREAKS THATS ALL THEY ARE BRIANWASHED FREAKS

    May 22, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
  9. Electro-Jesus

    I'm sorry but I laughed so loud even God heard it. Religion again – caused a lot of damage and destruction. Fooled thousands if not millions to change their life in the name of stupidity – "yes I believe in these fairy tales and I'm proud to be stupid"!.

    Yes, the universe is endless in one way – the human stupidity. The clever ones are the ones in funny hats using funny stories and ceremonies by taking a charge from the stupid portion of the population to fund their family and life. Congrats to you!

    Let us all come together at least once a year to celebrate the stupidity in every man and woman on this planet! We have all done silly things at least once in our lives! Let the May of 21st be the day of international/national stupidity!

    May 22, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
    • James

      Anyone who would celebrate the death of billions in the name of their own personal salvation are the most heinous of humans. Religion has been, and always will be, the universal scam of mankind.

      Oh wait I'm sure I see Jesus at Home Depot. OH wait, that's just our neighbor buying wood.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
  10. TimeToParty

    Lets look at the bright side. It gives the rest of us heathens until October 21st to live it up.

    May 22, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
  11. Sarai

    LIFE DEFINETLY GOES ON!!!!

    May 22, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
  12. InhonorofGod

    Read the Bible! The good book states the TRUTH! Some folks that say they are "Christian" don't really know Christianity, they are unfortunately"blinded" by these people that only want their money. I know this due to my husband turning in that direction after 9 years of marriage. He decided that television "GOD" was correct and Bible "GOD" were 2 different things. Poor soul, he will not know until GOD really enters. I pity these poor souls that believe the word of MAN speaks for the word of GOD.

    May 22, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
    • Mark Yelka

      Yes, just tell yourself you're a pretty cat. But what you're licking is gross to those of us who see what it really is.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
    • Thinking Southerner

      Of course the bible is true. It says so in the bible. Also, I am the smartest, best looking, and most humble human being that ever existed. Don't believe it? Just ask me. I'll tell you that I am.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
    • gfc

      @InhonorofGod. I'll give odds 100 to 1 that you haven't even read the whole Bible! It's full of insane bs that not even you believe.

      May 22, 2011 at 9:04 pm |
  13. frank

    hahaha Christians are stupid hahaha

    May 22, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
  14. Mark Yelka

    Some folks prefer to eat on paper plates, throw them away when they get dirty, and get a new clean plate. Others wash their plate and make it clean again. Doomsayers are the throw-away mentality.

    May 22, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
  15. Jimb

    That's why we dont give people w alzheimers a microphone

    May 22, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
  16. Love All Beings

    Everyone naturally wants happiness. Has anyone questioned why this is true? Of course they want to go to heaven. That is where they believe there is happiness. If you know that "The kingdom of heaven is within" that means that your happiness is already present within you. Stop looking for it somewhere else. There is no heaven that you go to. You make your heaven here when you have love and compassion for yourself and others. As long as you are hoping to be one of the lucky 2 or 3% of humanity that goes to heaven while the others suffer in hell for eternity, there is no way to be happy. Be happy now. Love all beings.

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

      happyness comes in all shapes and forms from that of a serial killer to one of a child, it has nothing to do with go to heaven and alot to do with satisfation of selfish desires, even the "faithfulls selfless acts" are in order to gain a higher chance into going into heaven.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
    • Love All Beings

      The cause of happiness is decreasing one's own negative thinking: anger, jealousy, greed, pride, and ignorance. A serial killer's happiness is not truly happiness because the result is suffering. Be happy now. Love all beings.

      May 22, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
  17. GodIsDead

    Always refreshing to get further proof that religion is complete and utter BS. There is no god, never was, never will be and the sooner morons that believe in crap like this "rapture" die out the better off our society will be.

    May 22, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
    • AJD

      Right on brother....trix are for kids...silly believers

      May 22, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
    • AJD

      Right on brother

      May 22, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
    • AJD

      Right on bro

      May 22, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
    • Thinking Southerner

      I'm surprised at you GodIsDead, there is a plethora of Gods. It seems everyone creates god in their own image!

      May 22, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
  18. DrPete

    It amazes me that people can simultaneously say that God is beyond understanding yet claim to have his plan all figured out down to the hour. That's some selective scripture reading at its finest.

    May 22, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
  19. EffortPA

    Anybody who blindly believes in something written over two thousand years ago, by people who thought the Earth was flat and the Sun went around the Earth are complete idiots incapable of reasoning by themselves.

    May 22, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
    • Janspach

      Could not agree more

      May 22, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
    • Thinking Southerner

      I agree EffortPA. But the scariest part about these primitives is that the Tea Party has put so many of them in office, making laws that effect you and I. Even our last [unelected] President believed Earth was 6000 years old and was made in six days. [Of course the rest of the macro universe was made on day three as an afterthought.] The fact that these people are in Washington making laws scares the heck out of me. What if one of them believes enough in the "doomsday scenario," that they try to push a few buttons and MAKE it come true.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
  20. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    From my observation as a layman, I would say that most of the people who expected they would be taken up in the Rapture, probably wouldn't as they were guilty of the sin of Hubris. Their overwhelming pride in the "knowledge" that they were the "elect" has already damned them.
    If it had occurred, two people I would have expected to be taken were Bishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalhi Lama. 500 some-odd people I expect will not be taken are the members of the House and Senate, even though I am sure just about every member of the Republican caucus expects to be taken. Again, the sin of Hubris as opposed to two souls who actually fought for human dignity and freedom.

    May 22, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Indeed, but they are far from the only ones exhibiting this failing. The Christians on thos board regularly chortle about their salvation and the damnation of others.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
    • Trunks

      Fantastic!

      May 22, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Let me amend my statement: There are SEVERAL Christians on the board who regularly chortle about their salvation and the damnation of others. A few are regulars. Many more seem to be just passing through, spreading their good cheer ...

      May 22, 2011 at 8:39 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.