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. Buddy Lee

    The funniest part is that this guy made a bunch of money from all this. He knows Jesus is not going to save anyone. He is just racking in the money, taking advantage of poor people. Typical church propaganda. Always feeding on the uneducated.

    May 22, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
    • KingOfErehwon

      From what I have read, he really wasn't taking any money from it. The money was all going into the licenses for the TV and radio stations. He is just a guy who got carried away with his own religious fantasies and had a bitter resentment toward churches after he was fired from one back in 1988.

      May 22, 2011 at 10:20 pm |
  2. Satan


    May 22, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
  3. emerald

    Oops!! For those who walked away from jobs, family and loved ones it's obviously not funny,but
    really, puhlease, although the Bible said there will be a Judgement Day I don't recall it specifying when!!
    It has been used before to build a hysteria in people until they genuinely feel the end of the world is
    nigh – intelligent people sometimes too!!
    While the end of the world will occur, I'm quite happy to go along with life as it is without worrying
    about when it will occur! There will be nothing I can do to stop it and nothing I can say or do will change it,
    so why should I worry about it – c'est la vie, what will be will be!!
    You don't have to be religious to know that one day this planet will explode into billions of pieces of rock, that's
    just science – but by knowing the day, week or month before does that really help you? A lot of harm can be done
    by making specific comments like the end of the world is tomorrow, things can be done and said that can never be
    taken back and there have been plenty of instances over the years of family or even mass suicides of believers
    thinking that the world will end on that day!! How about those who have gone out and run up massive debts they will
    spend years trying to pay back if ever because they didn't think they'd have to re-pay a dime?!
    The comical Oops at the beginning was because the story should never have been given the credibility it was by
    the media, it proves you just can't believe everything you hear or read on the news hm lol!!

    May 22, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
    • JED

      "C'est la vie, what will be will be"?! O...M...G!!!

      OK, OK, I'm sorry, but I can't pass this up. "C'est la vie" means "That's life" - Frank Sinatra. "What will be will be" comes from the Spanish "Que sera sera" - Doris Day.

      May 22, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
  4. Aaron

    Sadly, this won't change a thing for them at a fundamental level. The reinforcement of the religious mindset is a lot like the reinforcement people get while gambling at slot machines. With slot machines, most of the time you lose, but every once in awhile (just often enough to keep you hooked) the bells ring, the lights flash and you are given a little reward. In the long run, you are going in the hole, but bells don't ring and lights don't flash when you lose, they only do that when you win, therefore the winning is what you remember the most. The rest of it gets filtered away.

    When people look for signs from heaven or pray, most of the time those prayers go unanswered and the signs don't fit what they hoped they would find. But every once in awhile, they pray that the tornado doesn't hit their house.... AND IT DOESN'T, which is a very dramatic deal for them – and that's the one they remember, the day god saved their house just like they asked. The truth is, if they were unbiased and kept a log of all the signs they asked for and all the things they prayed for that didn't come true verses the ones that did, they would see, just like slot machine gambling, overall, it doesn't work.

    May 22, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
    • Colin

      Very well said. Great post.

      May 22, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
    • KingOfErehwon

      How very true!

      May 22, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
    • JED

      Yeah, just like gambling...or listening to Jim Cramer.

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

      In RE to Aaron: Your post is unfortnate and misguided because you don't understand that God does answer MOST if not ALL of your prayers. The problem is: PEOPLE DON'T KNOW HOW TO PRAY! Asking God to, "please save my home", or "please help me win at craps", or "please help me win the lottery", or any other ridiculous prayer like those – IS NOT THE WAY TO PRAY! People are misguided when it comes to how you should pray and what prayers will and won't be answered. If they learned the correct way to pray they would realize that God does answer most, if not all fo their prayers.

      Also, I don't understand why ignorant people are posting comments which infer that the May 21 "end-of-times" belivers are church going christians and represent all churchgoing christians. The reality is that Harold Camping IS NOT A MINISTER!!!! HE IS AN ENGINEER WHO COMES UP WITH A FUNKY CALCULATION ALL ON HIS OWN!

      You'd be hard pressed to find a REAL minister, pastor, preacher (outside of some fringe minister in some small town in America) stating that they Apocolypse will happen on a given date at a given time – IT JUST SOUNDS MORONIC! This is NOT what the vast majority of christians believe. This Camping character is just that – A CHARACTER, and all the athiests on this post need to stop ascrbing his thoughts and beliefs (and those of his people) to all people who believe in the bible and believe in GOD!

      May 22, 2011 at 11:33 pm |
  5. Kevin




    Told you suckers!

    May 22, 2011 at 10:11 pm |
  6. unknown

    No one knows the end... And when u die and leave this earth that will be the end for you and a new beginning.
    People can't predict what happens when u die, why try and predict things in this lifetime.
    There's no denying the signs tho... For example : birds and livestock dying for no reason at an incredible speed, and all nations will go against Israel. This is true and there's no denying it.

    May 22, 2011 at 10:11 pm |
    • KingOfErehwon

      I deny it.

      May 22, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
    • JED

      Yes, there is. I am hereby denying it. So there!

      May 22, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
    • Mark Yelka

      Actually, mortuary science is quite advanced and can tell exactly what happens to you after you die.

      May 22, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
    • Hank Long

      Species have died throughout history, and human's screwing with nature may speed some of them up a bit, but this has NOTHING to do with religion. As to Israel, since it seems to be emulating the worst of its enemies by taking more and more land from its neighbors, well no wonder more countries are turning against it. Criticizing Israel does not make one anti-Jew... only anti-Zionist. And the fundamental Jews - like fundamental Christians and Muslims - are convinced that THEIRS is the only true way and all others are heathens. Well, count me in as a heathen, along with a growing majority in the world.

      May 22, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
    • asrael

      I deny the possibility that unknown has a winning presentation...

      May 22, 2011 at 11:12 pm |
  7. rosethornne


    May 22, 2011 at 10:10 pm |
  8. Hank Long

    It's at these times that I fondly recall the quote attributed to an Australian: Thank goodness we got the prisoners and the Americans got the puritans!

    May 22, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
  9. Loreen

    Because one person stepped out with this ridiculous prediction does not mean our faith should be negated. When Mr. Camping and his followers made this prediction, they were already wrong at the outset because God said in His Word that "no one knows the day or hour." The majority of Christians did not believe or follow these predictions. The Lord loves us and we are to follow Him- not some man. God Bless those of you who will still believe God.

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

      Loreen, it is time you simply dropped this bible nonsense entirely. Times have changed.

      May 22, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
    • asrael

      And damn all of those who do not...?

      May 22, 2011 at 11:13 pm |
  10. Chris Savoie

    I think Mr. Campings penance for spreading such garbage should be taking down all those bilboards himself.

    May 22, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
  11. chris

    I feel sorry for anyone who feels that guy life style is ok! Well I ask you to read GOD word to find what he say's about that life style. I know know many people do'nt want to hear the true so they live a lie everyday.

    May 22, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
  12. Colin

    Atheists yet again show Christians to be Bible – cuddling half wits. When are you silly Christians going to learn? Our chemistry showed your first heaven was 80% nitrogen, our telescopes showed there was no heaven in space, Darwin and our geologists showed you got creation all wrong and now our cosmologists have proved the Universe does not need a divine hand at all.

    Come on guys, drop the Iron Age myths and get with the 21st Century. It's not as frightening as you think.

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

      Here, here!!

      May 22, 2011 at 10:44 pm |
    • asrael

      Or, alternately, hear, hear...

      May 22, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
  13. Peter

    Let's hope they learned form this, and the leader needs to be ashamed, he's to blame for cultivating the trust of these sheeple, maybe he needs to hand over his assets to those who sold out.

    May 22, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
  14. Jason B

    And like every other nut that's predicted doomsday and been wrong, he'll come out with a statement saying his calculations were wrong and he needs to study more. I love the part about how "sure" he was this time. Just like you know he was so "sure" last time. And how every other crackpot has been so "sure" of their prediction.

    I just hope his "followers" realize what blind sheep they were.

    May 22, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
  15. RapturesRUs

    Sillly believers! Raptures are for kids!

    May 22, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
  16. KingOfErehwon

    Dear fellow Americans, why can't we just outgrow this whole nonsense called religion, like so much of Europe has done? Why can't we look at what we have learned in science and philosophy over the past 2000 years and revel in that? It is far more satisfying in so many ways, although far more humbling. How can anyone take bible stories literally in this age? Come on, folks, let us just get past this craziness, ok?

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

      Oh yes! Let's be just like the brilliant, enlightened, progressive Europeans. Who knows, maybe we'll be lucky enough to end up like the Greeks, Spanish, or Portuguese. Oh, wait...

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

      JED, you can go ahead and continue to wallow in your bible if you choose. I hope you enjoy your wait for your Rapture.

      May 22, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
    • JED


      I apologize. I did not make my point well, which was this: It's not religion, per se, that is the culprit; it is human nature, and getting rid of religion would not stop us from following our nature, which generally leads to some pretty horrendous results, such as national bankruptcy (or much worse). I'm not religious.

      May 22, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
    • JED

      Oh. And check out my joke at:

      May 22, 2011 at 10:02 pm

      It's hilarious!

      May 22, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
  17. jimi

    That was great! I can't wait for the next party, Dec 21st 2012.

    May 22, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
  18. Tom

    Mr. Camping is probably sitting around laughing his butt off at all of the chumps that he was able to con this time around. Of course, he's not going to let them know that. They might stop and actually engage their brains for a few minutes and consider the possibility that they've been hoodwinked by just another con man who looks for people who have lost the ability or motivation to think and act for themselves. That's all the leader principle requires. Ghosts, goblins and spirits......and there were people who actually believed it. Good grief. If there are people in this country who are that stridently ignorant, then there's hope.....for making lots of money from them.

    May 22, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
  19. amusing

    As far as people quitting their job (in these hard economic times) and walking away from family.....God really does have a sense of humor.

    May 22, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
  20. John Le

    LOL, we're totally sick of these stuffs from the obsolete 'holy bible' of Christian belief. The fate is at our behavior and smart decision on global challenges.

    May 22, 2011 at 9:59 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.