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. Shin K

    Hah! Christianity died on Doomsday... Tick-tok goes the rush to atheism clock. People want out of the brainwashed cult. Everyone knows the truth now. The rapture idea surfaced in Scotland in the 19th century. it

    May 22, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
    • JED

      This reminds me of a joke. A bunch of Allied POWs were lined up in formation and forced to rock their heads back and forth saying, "Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock...." But one prisoner was rocking his head to one side only and saying, "Tick, Tick, Tick...." The commandant stood in front of the individual and said ominously, "A vize guy, eh? Vell, vee have vays to make you Tock!"

      May 22, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
  2. Steve

    Atheists are so funny! They wouldn't believe their hand in front of their face. The president of Iran doesn't believe the holocaust ever happened. He's probably atheist, too..

    May 22, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
    • InFormed99

      What a fool you are. Better get back in your RV and hide in the mountains waiting for the next Camping day. Just don't bother the rest of the normal people.

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

      Ahmadinajad is a theist (Muslim). That is why he can ignore inconvenient facts, like you Christians do.

      May 22, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
    • Steve

      And only the fools say there is no god! (quote) from Miracle of Our Lady Of Fatima. Do your research bub!!

      May 22, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
    • InFormed99

      I would say you have it backwards. Only fools would believe in something that they have never seen, can never prove and will never understand.

      May 22, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
    • Jay

      The Holocaust left a lot of evidence and the president of Iran, like a few others, are deniers of these evidence. Your god did not leave any evidence. You just have faith. You mock atheists and you probably think that you have evidence to back up your god. Your god is no different than Zeus, Osiris, Jupiter and Odin. No evidence, they are all myth.

      May 22, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
    • Jay

      Only Catholics believe in Marian miracles. Have you figured out why other Christian denominations don't?

      May 22, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
    • Colin

      Fátima. That is where Christians believe in miracles based on the rantings of a deluded nun who was about 9 years old when she had her visions..

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

      Christians are hilarious. The president of Iran is president the world's most famous theocracy.

      He kind of has to believe in god by default.

      May 22, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
    • Oi

      "Steve-And only the fools say there is no god! (quote) from Miracle of Our Lady Of Fatima. Do your research bub!!"

      My question is, why use a fairy tale for reference or research? That truly makes no sense.

      May 22, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
    • Steve

      Sorry, INFORMED 99, but I have personal proof of life after death. When my father and mother died, 16 years apart, I experienced a phenomenon, a sign, that I experienced that cannot be explained, nor will I ever reveal it in my lifetime. This changed my belief entirely. Go ahead with your cynical comments. They will have no effect on me. Signing out for the night!!

      May 22, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
    • asrael

      Steve knows something very special, but he ain't tellin'. A lesson for the would-be-reverend Camping...

      May 22, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
  3. Regina Skeens

    I don't fault those who believed the world would end on May 21st. I just ask that they read Revelations a little closer. Revelations tells us that even the angels do not know the time of the Lord's return. Isn't this why we should all be watching, waiting and anticipating his return EVERY DAY? God bless.

    May 22, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
    • InFormed99

      Ha Ha. Camping spent 50 years reading all this crap and came up with a load of BS that tricked a bunch of fools into running around in RV's making doomsday claims. What makes you think reading this crap would result in any other ending to their foolish pursuit?

      May 22, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
  4. Ivanhoe

    For more on this read novel... king of Bat'ha

    May 22, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
  5. Giselle

    Its so ridiculous that someone says they know when this will all end. Unless God came down and sat in front of you and said "son tomorrow is the end" then shut the hell up. Some idiots out there believe what some say and skip work or stock up like many did when we were all going to die when the year 2000 hit. Funny how its 11 years later and im still waiting.... lets see what happens in 2012 I guess. Ill post the day after just to show how stupid that assumption is as well.

    May 22, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
    • InFormed99

      That's different between them and going to church like lemmings every week?

      May 22, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
  6. bronie4life

    This is to Mr. Evans...:
    Yup, you were wrong, and im not gonna lie, i would expect such a thing to be embarrassing. We are glad that you honorably accepted your error (which we all should learn to do) and yes I forgive you. Of course, I do hope you learn a lesson from this. Faith isn't always a good thing and it should NEVER be taken with anything more than a grain of salt. I hope that this helps you see the difference between "believing" and "knowing."
    Remember everyone: never act on simply on belief, only act on morality and knowledge. Although it might be nice and comforting to follow your heart, you also have to use your brain. If you doubt something, don't blow it of too "satan" or whatever, it is just your brain kicking in... and always listen to your brain, and the brains of those around you.

    “Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”- Buddha

    May 22, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
  7. Steve

    Only the fools say there is no god.

    May 22, 2011 at 9:52 pm |
    • Fichts

      Only fools believe in Gods without evidence.

      May 22, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
    • Jay

      He is a greater fool who believes in a God without any evidence.

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

      And only morons say there is.

      May 22, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
    • InFormed99

      And only fools believe in magic and talking snakes.

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

      Only a fool repeats foolish quotations...

      May 22, 2011 at 11:02 pm |
  8. Adelina

    Everyday is a doomsday for more than 150,000 people average on earth. But I hope this kind of non-sense of predicting the date of Jesus' return won't happen again for next thousands years because it's stupid.

    May 22, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
  9. Missy

    Why do people worry about such things? It's going to happen one day, but no one knows when. It tells you that on the bible. We just need to live our lives! Because everyone dies, but not everyone lives! God wants us to live our lives & be happy not wait around for the end.

    May 22, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
    • InFormed99

      Seriously, give it a rest and stop making false claims. There is no end just a bunch of fools running around making bold and foolish statements.

      May 22, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
  10. 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 |
    • InFormed99

      The bible is nothing more than a tool for controlling the masses. It has no other purpose. Look how it can make a bunch of weak minded people fork over all their money and take up the cause. I'm not even talking about the 'Campings'.

      May 22, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
  11. John G

    We're on our own on this planet – I"m tired of pseudo-religious freaks believieng in ANYTHING otherwise.

    We're all going to die... and ROT

    May 22, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
  12. abraham

    I don't know what kind of Bible they read. My Bible said that no one know the end the world except God..but we need to be ready.the Salvation day is today and now.

    May 22, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
    • InFormed99

      I think a bunch of people already said the end was now and we need to get ready. Time to use a different fear technique.

      May 22, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
  13. Rodney

    Why doesn't people just realize that religion is a big crock of crap. I can't believe people are so gullable!

    May 22, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
    • bob

      Holy crap, I can't believe people don't know how to spell "gullible".

      May 22, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
    • Veritas

      Neither do I. It's sickening to think about it; they go around wishing all those others who are not in their tribe should die a horrific death while they, the chosen ones, go to some kind of "paradise".

      Religions are not needed for anything, they are just destructive. Why can't people just love their near and dear, and be kind to others around them. You don't need the rules, dogma, threats, or rewards offered by religions. The meaning of life is to enjoy it, be happy, and be kind to those around you.

      May 22, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
  14. jim

    September 23 looking real good with this planet on the way.


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

      Not a chance. Check your NEO statistics.

      C/2010 X1 comes within 0.03 a.u. (4.5 million km) of the Earth’s orbit, but only ~0.4 a.u. from the planet itself – not at all threatening to us.

      May 22, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
  15. anthony rixon


    May 22, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
    • regis990

      You spelled "buckle" incorrectly, therefore all your CAPS locked lunacy has been proven to be false.

      May 22, 2011 at 9:52 pm |
    • iNFormed99

      Ha Ha, OK Mr Camping. sounds fine. At least you have a bunch of RV's still. Just change the date.

      May 22, 2011 at 9:55 pm |
    • Mark Miner

      Setting a new date? Have you learned nothing?

      May 22, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
  16. mike

    Hahaha people are ignorant!

    May 22, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
  17. jays.mom

    i want to recommend pastor jess lessigne book "unlocking the last days" to everyone out there christian or non believer. anyone who wants more understanding of the last days.. this book answers every question you have about the final days it breaks down the book of revilation verse by verse. it is an amazing book people and it haelps you build your faith in jesus and for his return. pastor jeff lessaign is one of the main pastors at harvest christian fellowship in riverside california and he is one of the most intelligent pastors ive ever heard he has reasoning behind everything that he tells you its hard not to believe in the bible. im proud to say im a born again christian saved by gods holy grace and i cant wait for the day jesus raptures up the church to be with him in heaven. "jesus doesnt say change your life and ill accept you, he says i accept you now lets change your life"

    May 22, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
    • iNFormed99

      Ha Ha, OK, looks like someone is looking to be another 'Camping'.

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

      There is no such thing as "end days", it's just nonsense. What the h3ll is wrong with people, can't you get an education and grow a brain instead of all this embarrassing jesus-cr@p.

      May 22, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
    • asrael

      That your post contains the word "intelligent" is an occasion for smiling...

      May 22, 2011 at 11:06 pm |
  18. ruStupid

    dumb dumbs all of them

    May 22, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
  19. BirtherTurd

    Come join us Doomsday guys, we'll take you in!

    May 22, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
    • JED

      How much will you charge?

      May 22, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
  20. dakota michael barnell

    well, I think he had the right decision to think that it was the end of the world because it was in the bible. and I think that it was right to leave his job to spend time with his family. he is a very religous person Im guessing. as long as hes not following the crazy aztec calender which stops on 2012 like the other crazy people. I highly doubt that will end the world. thank you.

    May 22, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
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About this blog

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.