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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. JimmyDG

    Its real simple Camping. You and your followers called God a liar. Process that and be prepared to answer for those who abandon the faith because of your B.S.

    May 22, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
    • tim

      i mean is camping really anymore ridiculous then glenn beck or are at this point soiling Mr. campings name

      May 22, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
  2. robert

    The explanation is simple. Camping is an idiot. The people that follow him are idiots. Religion demands that people be ignorant and gullible. No surprises here. Queue the next idiot in line.

    May 22, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
    • Existentialist

      Amen to that!!! I mean.... er..... I'm with you!

      May 22, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
  3. Thersites

    Frank Kermode, squee!!!!

    Next time guys, do a proper Bible study and find a normal church.

    May 22, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
  4. Coutinho

    I have just one question. Does the person that had all the signs put up on the billboard get a refund? Or maybe they should be sued for false advertising. !!??

    May 22, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
  5. HeIsGod

    “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.

    HELLO, GOD NEVER GAVE A SPECIFIC DAY OR TIME, STOP TRUSTING MEN AND TRUST GOD!

    May 22, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
    • Mark Yelka

      How can you trust someone who is afraid of showing up? God never shows up... ever. He must have died. I mean, really died. No resurrection. Just dead.

      May 22, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
    • tim

      too think the idea of GOD came because the sun caught fire to a dead brush in the middle of a desert....i mean would a burning bush have been all that much a surprise lol

      May 22, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
    • Antonella

      Let's continue to eposxe the STEROID (and other drugs) users so people will know who the LOSERS are.The reason the ROIDERS get furious and want us to keep silent is because:1. CHEATING in ALL SPORTS (PHONEY)2. ILLEGAL (JAIL)3. DANGEROUS (UNHEALTHY)4. LOSE SPONSORS or make less money from own supplement line. (SCAM ARTISTS).Stay natural buddy!

      October 7, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
  6. Navin

    If scientists would have said, there is going to be large comet strike on earth's surface, I would have then believed. These nonsense people wrongly interpreted the faith of a religion. They should be locked up for spreading false messages and committing fraud, and return all money to the sheeps back. 86 or watever age was that guy who masterminded this hoax who seems lived up his life by now and his one leg lying on the graveyard, surely will see his world coming to an end., that's for sure..

    May 22, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
  7. Allen

    It saddens me see the the bigotry and hatred that is revealed in many of the comments posted in regards to online articles. People slinging the word 'intolerance' around while spewing it freely in their remarks. Fortunately I serve a God who will be there for them when in a moment of desperation they finally cry out to him.
    But what saddens me even more is all of the 'BELIEVERS' that choose to ignore the Bible in their haste to get away from all the people on this earth that irritate them.
    Following are just afew scriptures that clearly state that 'NOW' is to be a believers concern;

    Mark 13:(King James Version)

    32 But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.
    Matthew 6:34 (King James Version)

    34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

    Matthew 22:(New King James Version)

    36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”

    37 Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’[a]

    38 This is the first and great commandment.

    39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]

    40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

    Proverbs 3:(King James Version)

    5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

    Come on 'BELIEVERS' begin to live the Bible as Jesus preached it. Get off your pulpits and go help a neighbor.
    Be followers of Jesus, not just a Christian in name only. Then maybe some of the things that are posted will not hit so close to the churches.

    May 22, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
    • Mark Yelka

      Some people eat when they're sad. You write and write and write

      May 22, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
    • Existentialist

      Well, unfortunately, the are intolerant people on both sides of the fence. My reply to you is: You can't use the bible to prove that the bible is true. You make a lot of referances, but it is sort of like saying that my research is true because, in my research, it states that it is true. It's a circular arguement that is silly. The bible says {insert quote about god} and God said {isert quote about bible}. Most Christians (religious folks in general) can't get past the fact that their "book of choice" is probably full of parables NOT TO BE TAKEN AT FACE VALUE. So, "“What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof.”

      May 22, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
    • Kal

      I was born into this world with SMA and have never once been able to walk, so when you tell me god exists, I'll tell you what it's like to be intelligent. Oh and by the way, if god truly does exist, why is he letting me call him a sadist right now?

      May 22, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
    • tim

      HAHAHAH you google these? ahhah you people with scripture crack me up, do i need to refer to the scripture that teaches you how to sell your daughter to slavery, tells you when to stone or honor kill your children own and trade slaves go f yourself dude you know nothing do you even know how many commandments there really is or are you still convinced the bible only says good things...well that's how it seems if you've never read the book....90 percent of Christians have actually read the entire bible. They focus only on the positive and ignore the ridiculous, if you want poetry and beauty in words and structure read poetry or Shakespeare its much easy to detect also its already claiming to be fiction so you don't have to get all caught up in it.. oh i guess genocide is cool with the bible too

      May 22, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
    • Oi

      @Allen: You said "Fortunately I serve a God who will be there for them when in a moment of desperation they finally cry out to him." and that statement really makes my point. You see Allen, like you, there are far too many religious types that are truly arrogant. First of all, there is no God so let's just get that out of the way. You'll say I can't prove there isn't and I'll say there is not, nor has there ever been one shred of credible evidence that there is a God. Now, going back to your statement, you must realize (and yes, sadly you don't) that religion is based on fear. "If you don't believe, you will burn in hell for all eternity"; "If you don't give yourself to Jesus Christ, you will be sent to Satan who will inflict unimaginable pain and suffering on you forever and ever, amen." Do you understand how impressionable, malleable, how easily influenced the masses are? Religion is about power, money, and control of the people.

      "If they are afraid enough, they will do as we say and follow our tenets." That's exactly what you're doing with your statement. Thing is, that stuff is getting super old and not nearly as many are falling for it anymore. Yes, civilization is actually advancing, and in a positive way, in spite of religion. Your threats worked on the unintelligent, the uneducated, the weak of mind, the easily influenced, and not all of these people are down-on-their-luck types. Some can be prominent individuals or just your average person. Bottom line is it's based on fear-mongering and yours is a perfect example. Your quoting scripture is really funny. Thanks for the fairy tales.

      May 22, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
    • tim

      kal i hope your story is true cause if it is I heart you for coming on here and saying that woah always knew never saw

      May 22, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
    • rawdi

      Wanted to say you are right on. Jn:13:35: By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another

      May 22, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
  8. Trey Fishman

    Those who gave up everything for this charlatan, deserve what they get. P.T. Barnum said it best: "a sucker is born every minute." I don't pity any of them.

    May 22, 2011 at 9:33 pm |
  9. tim

    people believe the book of Mormon its no wonder hes got a following

    May 22, 2011 at 9:32 pm |
  10. Coutinho

    Can't seem to understand why anyone is commenting on this topic. This is exactly what this believer wants. This should of never even hit the news!! Shame on you, the media, and and the waste of time !!!

    May 22, 2011 at 9:31 pm |
    • jmt

      The same reason you are you enabler.

      May 22, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
  11. wstevens

    The bible is infallible the bible is never wrong blah blah, this is what happens when you strictly adhere to an archaic antiquated religious text written to suite the values of the time 2000 years ago and mistranslated by imperfect humans for thousands of years.

    May 22, 2011 at 9:31 pm |
    • Stephen

      @wstevens The Bible doesn't actually say anything about the end of the world happening on May 21st 2011. This event says something about Harold Camping rather than God's Word. Also, translations of ancient texts aren't like the telephone game. They're not translated over and over again from one another. Look up the Dead Sea Scrolls.

      May 22, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
    • Oi

      @Stephen: It doesn't matter. They're still all fairy tales. Try going to whywontgodhealapmuteesdotcom. It will open your eyes. You definitely need it.

      May 22, 2011 at 10:06 pm |
    • tim

      oh what a load of crap....the KING JAMES BIBLE really????

      May 22, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
  12. Leah

    The Bible declares that no man knows the day or the hour. If those who believe are ready at all times, we won't have to scurry about in the last few days trying to prepare for Jesus' return. We are to pursue holiness, as the Bible says, and we will see the Lord when He returns. For those who don't believe, I respect your choice to believe God is a myth. Unbelievers didn't deter Him 2000 years ago, and they don't deter me now. Satan is still defeated, God is still exalted and Jesus is still Lord of all. God bless.

    May 22, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
    • Mark Yelka

      No man knows. But women do. That's why they're supposed to be quiet in church.

      May 22, 2011 at 9:33 pm |
    • tim

      seriously the fact the bible was written to man should show so much about who we are as a society we created it we wrote we go none of the credit

      May 22, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
    • tim

      ugh....church....praise god! got any change?

      May 22, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
    • jo

      Very well said, Leah. Amen!!

      May 22, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
    • tim

      I find it scary that the vast majority of society believes in a made up father figure who watches our every move and loves to be praised and yet I'm crazy for not believing. I do believe that is a situation of pure irony. On top of that other human beings believe MAN became GOD and died and came back to life, do any of you even know where JESUS was for the first 30 years of his life. Jesus also according to the good book made a pig go crazy and explode but no one talks about that...what about when god raised the army of the dead to invade Egypt?? IF JESUS IS GOD THEN YOU HAVE TO TAKE THE WORD OF THE BIBLE AS LITERAL TRUTH once you bend the idea that its an extension of the truth you therefore with this logic must do it with each and every story of the bible for their integrity relies on it. You just simply cannot say well that story is complete bull but the one about him dieing and coming back that's ones real IM SURE OF IT. We as human beings tend to relies so much on the idea that more bad things will happen in life than good things, this is life, life is a struggle but without strife and struggle our lives are meaningless....this my friends is what heaven is supposed to be...if heaven is what ever you want it to be its a matrix nothing more than a lie, and god for bid heaven is anything like life on earth because if that's the case you'll wish your were dead just think.....if your married that's eternal buddy. I mean comon people the same people who are laughing at muslims and think oh how silly, are the same people getting up to go to church on sunday to pray to an 11,000 year old deity. AM I THE ONLY ONE WHOSE SANE!!! COMON PPL COMMENT

      May 22, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
    • tim

      leah you do know that Jesus was put to death for claiming to be god its not a conspiracy its just no one believed him and rightfully so, how can you believe all the trickery and lies bestowed upon you...he was put to death something tells me he was non too popular the the crowd burst into cheers (no i didn't mean tears) with each public whooping.....it takes 2000 years for a legend to develop and to think it took only 50 years of science to destroy it muahaha

      May 22, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
  13. tim

    i laugh he claims mathematical error because hes saying hes off by a year or two when really its more like 1,000,000,000,000 of years off, of course your math is wrong you believe creation happened only 11k years ago and that snakes talk and god is a white dude stroking his beard...a father figure HA!

    May 22, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
  14. Harold Camping

    Sorry to all my victims, oops I mean my devout money giving followers. My calculations were off because large piles of money covered up the correct paper with the right date. Please send me more/all of your money so that I can recalculate the correct date of your demise.

    May 22, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
    • myview

      I think you got what he was after.

      May 22, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
  15. doug

    Imagine no religion.

    May 22, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
    • Stephen Nowlin

      exactly.

      May 22, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
  16. mjg228

    Idiots.

    May 22, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
  17. 66Biker

    I've read it cover to cover and nothing is "guaranteed" in the Bible. Harold Camping is just another wingnut con man. A flake with a following.

    May 22, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
    • Mark Yelka

      You were post #1000! Woohoo!

      May 22, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
  18. jsr237

    This episode of EOW thing is no longer beneficial to us, neither to our faith. God is now mocked, and we should be careful about what we say and think. Instead of finding fault in others, let's just cultivate love among ourselves 'coz this is God's message and the very reason Jesus came to the world – that we might be saved. Let us give God the glory and honor He deserves in our life. The end of the world will surely come, and the best we can do is to be prepared.

    May 22, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
    • Mark Yelka

      I hated that movie. It was boring.

      May 22, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
  19. zoundsman

    What can I say. people will always believe in fortune tellers, fakes, prophesies, etc.. Only, if my neighbor comes back
    from spending it all in his misguided belief, I'm sorry pal, can't help you there. Ask the the radio guru for handouts.

    May 22, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
  20. DianaGail

    The only one who disappeared seems to be Mr. Camping. He did this once before – in 1994 – and more than likely just ran out of the $$ he racked in back then from the ignorant fools he swindled. Next doomsday date? The day his bank balance hits zero.

    May 22, 2011 at 9:25 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.