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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. Steve

    Does he give all the suckers their money back now or when he said there is "no plan B" was he just talking about them?

    May 22, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
  2. Logic

    EVERY day is judgement day...need proof?

    keep reading the comments.

    May 22, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
  3. brent

    maybe you christians should find something else to do

    May 22, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
  4. WiserThanEwe

    [I]f I were not an atheist, I would believe in a God who would choose to save people on the basis of the totality of their lives and not the pattern of their words. I think he would prefer an honest and righteous atheist to a TV preacher whose every word is God, God, God, and whose every deed is foul, foul, foul. –Isaac Asimov

    May 22, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
  5. Brian Hartman

    Religion isn't the problem. Religious *texts* are the problem. The minute you have a text, you'll have people trying to interpret that text, and that's where the crazies come in. It all really started with the Protestant Reformation. When the Catholic Church was the interpreter of what the Bible said, they could control things like this. But once everyone started interpreting the Bible on their own, this kind of thing became inevitable, because, frankly, some people are just idiots.

    (That's not a dig at Protestants, by the way. Intellectual freedom *depends* on people interpreting books for themselves, and the Reformation was part of the intellectual freedom movement. It's just that not every consequence of that is necessarily positive.)

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

      In the early beginning of the Catholic Church they were predicting and predicting and predicting. They got fed up. Jesus was not coming. They learned their lesson. No more prediction. Here comes people who think they know the Bible better. Hahahaha. they got burned. The Bible specifically said that only the Father knows the end of the world. Who are they to contradict Jesus Christ Himself.

      May 22, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
  6. WiserThanEwe

    i.e., follow the money.

    May 22, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
  7. Jon

    🙂 pretty much as expected. People like harold camping come up pretty frequently in history. They get so focused on divining the secrets out of the universe that they miss the bigger picture. It isn't about when the world is going to end. It's about learning to live each day like it's your last.

    May 22, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
  8. WiserThanEwe

    Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived. I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.

    May 22, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
    • edcagape

      Ohh this is the best way to increase revenue in your own church. Put up a religion. Inject fear on your followers by doomsday predictions.. Voila!! got more money in your own pocket.

      May 22, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
  9. Logic

    By JUDGING all the JUDGEMENTAL comments in here I'd rather be JUDGED by than a higher power than a mob of fools...JUDGE not least ye be JUDGED!

    May 22, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
    • Oi

      Oi!

      May 22, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
    • asrael

      And meanwhile, keep grabbing the caps key...

      May 22, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
  10. urbanite

    can we just get over predicting the "end of the world" already. for all we know that Mayan guy just ran out of room on his calender

    May 22, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
    • Ken

      Amen.....

      May 22, 2011 at 10:37 pm |
  11. Colin

    Christianity is the belief that a god impregnated a virgin with himself to give birth to himself so that he could sacrifice himself to himself to forgive an original sin that never happened and negate a rule that he himself made.

    Poeple who believe this will believe anything. That's why, whenever a gifted conman wants to make a quick buck, he becomes a televangelist and goes straight to the Christians. Poor fools.

    May 22, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
    • edcagape

      Man, read on the koran and the muslim religion, Buddhism and Hinduism. They believe in so many things more than christianity does. Doomsday prediction is not a christian monopoly.

      May 22, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
  12. Ken

    Why does anyone care...live everyday like its your last and spend and give because you want to, not because you might as well...if the rapture comes you won't stop it anyway. Look at recent events in the world...all predicted in some form by someone in history....

    May 22, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
  13. Final Ninjia

    GET IT THRU YOUR THICK HEADS! THE BIBLE SPECIFICALLY SAYS THAT THE END OF THE WORLD WILL COME WHEN NO ONE EXPECTS IT, AND ONLY GOD KNOWS WHEN AND HE IS NOT TELLING BEFOREHAND.

    May 22, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
    • Colin

      sooo, enjoy the kool-aid?

      May 22, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
    • Oi

      We already know when the end of the world will come. When our sun goes supernova, that'll be all for Earth, but that won't be for billions of years yet. You've got time.

      May 22, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
    • asrael

      It's all in caps, so it ... must ... be true...

      May 22, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
    • Finger Puppet

      @oi
      It's too small to go supernova. It will go to the red giant phase, and that's when the earth will fry and burn, and be no more. Hopefully by then, SCIENCE will have figured out a way to get us somewhere else. You think the fundies are gonna decline a ride and wait for the celestial chariot ? I seriously doubt it.

      May 23, 2011 at 1:28 am |
  14. Bill

    Dumb dumb dumb, dumb dumb!

    May 22, 2011 at 10:25 pm |
  15. Tim Murmansk

    Hahahah, silly republicans. Is it too late for you to go back to talking about the President's birth certificate now that the earth is still here and everything??

    May 22, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      No Christian Republicans huh?

      May 22, 2011 at 10:25 pm |
  16. Colin

    Christians remind me of Charlie Brown and reality is Lucy who keeps pulling out the football and laughing as they fall flat on their a$$es. It doesn't matter, they just keep comoing back for more.

    As they say, only sheep need a shepherd.

    May 22, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
    • BoldGeorge

      True christians know and promote the biblical truth about the end times...that "NO ONE knows the day or the hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." This is very clear in Matthew 24:36, and I don't understand what the doomsday predictors don't get about this clear and extremely understandable verse. Well, as someone mentioned to me this morning, these doomsday-sayers only make christianity a mockery to the world. So, your comment comes to no surprise. May God bless you though.

      May 22, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
    • Colin

      But BoldGeorge I tought you Christians believed god the father and god the son are one and the same. How can it know and not know at the same time?

      May 22, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
    • asrael

      Always good to hear from yet another "true" Christian...

      May 22, 2011 at 11:22 pm |
  17. luvconquers1

    Of course they were wrong, contradicting God is a HUGE no no! We just have to wait for the last 7 plagues until God comes back, and the end of Sin will finally be here. Cant wait!

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

    Bring back the lions.

    May 22, 2011 at 10:20 pm |
  19. HolyJeisus!

    I'm very upset. I was really looking forward to having all those idiots leave the Earth.

    May 22, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
  20. Justin

    There's one benefit to those people quitting their jobs. Now non crazies can possibly take their places.

    May 22, 2011 at 10:18 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.