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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. Mike

    Just another two-bit scam built around religion and people's gullibility.

    "The End is coming, so give us all your stuff and we MIGHT be able to 'save' you."

    Pathetic.

    May 22, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
  2. Bellatrixie

    Too bad about the armageddon failure. An earth free of sanctimonious evangelicals sounds like, ummm, heaven.

    May 22, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
    • Thinking Southerner

      SO TRUE, SO TRUE!

      May 22, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
  3. oh please

    BORING!!!!!!!!!!!

    AS IF........
    AS IF SOME BOOK could TELL YOU when the .....WHAT A CROCK OF CRAP......losers.

    May 22, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
  4. Ziggy

    Harold Camping needs to apologize to all his followers and the world and admit that he is a false prophet and needs to return to his nursing home and repent and ask for forgiveness.

    May 22, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
    • Dan613

      hehe.. yes, you are right, in theory, but remember, these people NEVER apologize. They will come up with a sort of explanation, such as "god is giving the world another opportunity, so nice is he!!" or something along these lines. They always do this. They are liars and deceivers.

      May 22, 2011 at 9:09 pm |
  5. baltazar91

    End of the World is when u die !!!!

    May 22, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
  6. JCR

    I was so busy I totally missed it... how did Jesus looked? was he shinny? was he flying around or just descended in a ray of light? i guess I was not not one of the chosen few cuz I'm still here... sigh...

    May 22, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
    • Thinking Southerner

      Actually he looked a lot like the late great Bob Marley [nice dreads]. Could it be? Nah, this guy had no rhythm. Another strange thing, he seemed much more attracted to the men than to the women.

      Watch the fundamentalist come out of the woodwork with their torches and pitchforks now! I think I'll go hide;-)

      May 22, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
  7. Birther 2d max

    I've been trying to find news about the end of the world but all they want to tell about is war, tornados, floods, volcanos, and the destruction of israel. No news on the end of the world.

    May 22, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
    • Mark Yelka

      Yup. Earth life as usual.

      May 22, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
  8. yawn

    How great would it be if these 'true believers' put more energy into improving the world we all live in, instead of spreading their vile 'end of world' horse s@#t around. I have a one suggestion – do us 'sinners' a favor – next time make it a suicide pact!

    May 22, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
    • JCR

      hehe nice :-]

      May 22, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
  9. Thinking Southerner

    I need the help of some fundamentalist christians. My son cursed me the other day, so I need your help stoning him to death as god commands in Leviticus. Also, I am wearing cotton jeans and a polyester shirt [different fibers]. So when we finish with my son, you will be required to put me to death. Also found in Leviticus.
    When i pointed these laws out to some 'christians,' they said that the new testament replaced the laws of the old testament. That's great, so I guess you will stop the BS about posting the ten commandments in our Courts!

    May 22, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
    • asrael

      That's right" God changed "his" mind, apparently, but nobody was supposed to notice...

      May 22, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
    • asrael

      And make that first quotation mark a colon...

      May 22, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
    • Dan613

      Allegedly also jesus predicted the end of the world "within his own generation" and failed. The early church believed that this end was so imminent that they recommended to live in complete disregard to earthly concerns (marriage and the like). Gullible christians forget these precious gems from their own gospel. Very selective memory indeed.

      May 22, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
    • Jumangee32

      I am not a fundamental Christian but I can summarize you what happened: you are a white trash that failed to raise your son properly since he obviously doesn't respect you. So maybe instead of trying to bully Christians with arrogant comments you should revisit your values and start with your child

      May 22, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
    • Leslie Moon

      Very funny and very true.

      May 22, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
    • Bellatrixie

      FYI, the new laws trump the old ones and the only one you need to know is the golden rule... I mean the treat others the way you'd want to be treated one, not he who has the gold makes the rules. BTW the old rules were ripped off from earlier laws and beliefs, so apparnetly, god was plageurizing or tried and failed earlier....

      May 22, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
    • prplheart4u

      Your an idiot. Do you take TV and Movies literally too, or do you look for meaning in someone elses words? Open your mind to more possiblities than just what your peabrain can conjure up. The world will not end until your God says it is time. May 21 was BS from the beginning but dont underestimate your future. Jesus loves you!

      May 22, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
    • Dan613

      "jesus loves you" ... what a repulsive notion, cheesy statement, and cheap merchandise. Nah.. thank you, keep it. I don't need it.

      May 22, 2011 at 9:11 pm |
    • annica

      God did not change his mind. Idiots. we people dont know whats up . We change everything , to what we feel comfortable with. Labling a christian in that way is not right. If I read the bible and you read the same passage, we both will come up with our own theries. When the end of the world comes, you nor I will be here to say who was right, only God knows when. Bet u he s not telling.

      May 22, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
    • asrael

      Actually, God just told me that She changes her mind all the time; it's a major perk of being God...

      May 22, 2011 at 9:21 pm |
    • Thinking Southerner

      Jumangee32
      I guess you've never heard of sarcasm. I didn't really mean I wanted to kill my son. Nor has he cursed me, recently anyway. I was making fun of fundamentalists and their predilection for quoting the Bible. . Also, "white trash" is an adjective not a noun. you could say someone is white trash [adjective modifying the noun someone], but you cannot say someone is "a white trash." I would surmise from your response that you might have been "hom skooled." [more sarcasm, please don't try to correct my spelling]. By the way, what makes you think that i am white? Please do not assume.

      May 22, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
  10. Baby jesus

    Can I have my K.F.C. Now daddy?

    May 22, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
  11. Nightwyn

    Is it logical for one to sit and complain about the intolerance of one ‘generalized’ set of beliefs while they are being intolerable themselves?

    May 22, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
    • Mark Yelka

      Religion, by definition, is intolerant. Science, by definition, is tolerant.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
    • Brett

      Brilliant! Glad some people can see the crazy double standards that exist.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
    • Logic

      Right on!

      May 22, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
    • Nightwyn

      Mark, have you actually read these comments? Both sides of the concept are guilty and being intolerant. Have you read the comments that call people who believe in religion idiots? Someone is not automatically an idiot because they do not share your beliefs. People can be misguided, and allowed to choose what they believe.

      May 22, 2011 at 11:22 pm |
  12. bluemax77

    PSYCHOS..!!!

    May 22, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
  13. Ben Thare

    Camping's fiction was much better written by Ray Bradbury. 🙂

    May 22, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
  14. BB

    Harold Camping to Worl – "Gotcha!"

    May 22, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
  15. Jim in Washington

    Rats. I wanted to see the people being beamed up to heavan.

    May 22, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
  16. Casey

    The whole concept of the end of the world is narrow minded and immature in my reasoning. The world will never end, it will just continue to change form. The world of the dinosaur "ended" just like the world of the prairie bison. I think you might say that the world is always ending. Everyday species die because their habitat is destroyed, their world has ended. the world I knew as a kid has allready ended. Most of the places outside I used to play in are paved over now. The world of the native cultures all over this planet has allready ended, and only within the past several hundred years. what difference does it make if it is by musket and cholera or asteroid and the 4 horseman. Even if fire and brimstone rained down on us tommorrow, the seas rose, and the mountains crumbled, it wouldn't be the end of the world, just the end of the world as you know it. If 99% of the humans living today were destroyed by an asteroid tomorrow, the world would still go on for the survivors, it would just be a different world. If 99% of all life was destroyed, some things would survive and the world would go on. if you look at the fossil record of this planet you will see that "The world has ended" numerous times over, but only that particular chapter. when this rock finaly does die out and the sun goes supernova, bits of this world will be blown into space only to become new things again. People who say the world will end really only mean their world as they know it will end, like it does over and over, because the univeres is not static, it is dynamic. And never forget that one day, all of us will die, and does it matter if it is by cancer or cataclysm? The only thing that makes cataclysm unique is that it is a unique and novel way of dying. for those who really desire a novel way of dying, figure one out, the rest of us will just have to wait and see which way die.

    May 22, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
    • Mark Yelka

      Leave some air for the rest of us

      May 22, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
    • aes

      Seriously...

      May 22, 2011 at 9:04 pm |
    • humanity01

      Our star lacks sufficient mass to supernova. However the life cycle of our star will eventually make our continued presence impossible on this planet.

      May 22, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
  17. lisa

    People have been predicting the end of the world since the beginning of time.

    Although these people try to use Christianity and the Bible to back up their claims, virtually all Christians think these guys are crazy.
    I don't discriminate against people based on their religion OR LACK THEREOF. I've read comments here that religion is "the oldest form of bullying", "for the weak", etc. Neither myself or anyone I know has ever been bullied by a church and there's nothing weak about any of us. But then again, I don't hang around cults or extremists, so how could I possibly understand what you mean?

    May 22, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
    • Mark Yelka

      If you were gay, you'd see church bullying.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
    • asrael

      No bullying in church communities? Imagine a huge, very long guffaw...

      May 22, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
    • Thinking Southerner

      Actually I can deal with the bullying. I just wish all the churches, synagogues, and mosques would pay their taxes instead of the Govt. making ME pay their taxes for them!

      May 22, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
  18. DL

    I am a Christian but I find it hard to beileve that only 2-3% of the population will go to Heaven as Harold Camping has stated. Are u telling me that 98% of all the people that have ever lived on this planet go to Hell?? Must be a crowded place.

    May 22, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
    • Joefish

      At least my friends will be there

      May 22, 2011 at 9:04 pm |
    • Spidey-Man

      You don't get to go unless you believe in HIS interpretation of things.

      May 22, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
  19. Brett

    Sick and tired of this failed prediction being used to make all Christians look like nuts. Left wing media tells us not to judge Islam because of a few radicals but will happily make Christians look foolish. Nearly all Christians didn't buy into this false prophecy. Mainstream media is a joke. Tired of people thinking all Christians are foolish for believing in a higher power. Tired of the term right wing Christian nuts. When people with good, strong morals who stand up for what they believe in are called nuts, there is a problem. Bill Mayer says Christians have a neurological disorder because he is a liberal and can say what he wants with no consequences. Pretend he is conservative and says the same about Muslims and there is crazy uproar. Stop with these insane double standards.

    May 22, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
    • boredhacker

      Your beliefs make you look foolish, not the media. Just sober up and face reality as it is and you'll have far fewer problems in your life. Take it from someone who used to believe in fairy tales and finally woke up.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
    • aes

      Good point

      May 22, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
    • Thinking Southerner

      Hi Brett.
      Hate Muslims do we? After all it was somewhere in the Qu'Ran that said, "crash airplanes into the two towers and kill all the christians, [along with all the Muslims in the Mosque in the North Tower and the ones in the Mosque in the South Tower"

      In the 1700's good Christians hated Jews and African Americans [i mean ni**ers]. The bible was used to justify slavery, persecution of Jews and Catholics in the late 1800's and early 1900's. Now we must hate gays and Muslims. You need a new bumper sticker. "WWJH" "Who would Jesus Hate?"

      May 22, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
    • Dragonwind

      Do you still believe in Santa Clause? The Tooth Fairy? Leprechauns? No? Yet you believe in an equally imaginary, all powerful "God".

      When you grow up and stop believing in fantasies created by the mentally ill, then and only then, will you stop looking foolish.

      May 22, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
    • Brett

      Sigh, I was simply pointing out the double standards that exist. Apparently, it was over your head. People are using this false prophecy to make Christians look like nuts. Never judge an entire group because of the actions of a few.

      May 22, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
    • Dragonwind

      I don't have any double standards, I think all religious people are nuts.

      May 22, 2011 at 9:14 pm |
    • Karen S

      Wow, if all Christians have a nuerological problem, that's great news! Then Christians are "born that way" . It gets to be considered a natural consequence rather than a choice. Next comes "minority status", government protection, ...the options are endless. In fact, separation of church and state could no longer apply, following God would become a medical requirement, and therefore could not be forbidden...oh wait, hold on, that's right, the kind of nasty intolerance that people like to spew at Christians would have to stop...it would be a "hate crime". Wouldn't it be nice?

      May 22, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
    • Thinking Southerner

      Hey Karen S,
      You sound like a true christian all right. Gays can't be born that so its alright to hate them. Oh, I meant to say we are trying to save their souls by beating the gay out of them. Oh and anyone with a "minority status" [your words] deserve no protection. After all, there is no government protection of the majority christian, white, wingnuts. Oh wait, they do have all of the protections. I am astonished that you might mention separation of church and state. I thought that was just a commie lie?

      May 22, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
  20. Danny G

    I think that they got the message wrong. Jesus was going to come back and "rupture" them.
    Ouch. That Messiah packs quite a kick to the groin.

    May 22, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
    • Thinking Southerner

      Right On Danny G!

      May 22, 2011 at 9:10 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.