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. Randy

    Liberals need to take this opportunity to pretend there's no God because they found a crackpot.

    May 22, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
    • asrael

      Non-liberals need to find any excuse to rip liberals...

      May 22, 2011 at 11:23 pm |
  2. hank lechter

    So, how disastrous was that Y2K doom and gloom again? How many hysterical scientists said that planes would fall out of the sky, nuke plants would boil over, and VCRs would not record?

    May 22, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
  3. Joanie

    I have probably experienced at least 20 doomsday predictions by weirdos in my lifetime. You people who predict stupid stuff like this really need to focus on what is really helpful in this world and do something constructive to improve the world, rather than predict stupid things.....if you are really interested in improving the world and making it a better place.

    May 22, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
  4. Ickabod

    If everybody would just worship Satan, these problems would be solved.

    May 22, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
    • P.C Sunil

      Are you sure that 1/3 of the world population already on the terror watch is not already worshiping Satan. It will not take long before the majority worship the anti-Christ.

      May 22, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
  5. peter

    heres the real story of the bible... an old man with some grandchildren told them some stories about his day when this guy jesus lived and performed miracles/magic tricks. the kids were so infatuated with this guy jesus that they deiced to write down these stories and also add to the tales. They told stores of a man who lived in a whale and survived to go along with the story of jesus. they also told of stories of men who lived to be 900 years old. they went to the bookstore to sell their book and there was a new guy working and he was told to book this book on a bookshelf. he was supposed to put the book on the fiction side but being new put it on the non fiction side and the rest is history

    May 22, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
    • CrosshairFocus

      As witty and entertaining as your comment was, you probably subscribe to another manmade story like the world evolved through evolution fancy word used by folks called scientists and the media.....or that there are Martians...
      There is a world of supernatural, and it will come back and haunt you , not if but when...beware of scoffing at what is to come...human's make missjudgements , yes.The soldiers who spend last minutes facing death, change their minds just before they depart....but you were never in Civil War, WW1 or WW2 or Korean or Vietnam. Untill you face the moment that humbles you don't scoff.

      May 22, 2011 at 11:16 pm |
  6. Alex

    IDIOTS! There is no god......no heaven....no hell.......anticipate oblivion .....that's all, folks.

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

      The fool has said in his heart there is no God. with all the evidence around you ... YOU ARE A FOOL.

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

      @GUStavo: Uh, and that evidence would be exactly what, bro?

      May 22, 2011 at 11:10 pm |
  7. Darius

    First of all, I would like to clarify that Harold Camping is really just a false prophet. Jesus himself said there will be false prophets to come in the world, and camping is one of them. Second of all, I find it pretty sad how Harold just used this as a way to scare others and also make Christianity look bad and false. The truth IS though that Jesus will be coming back to rapture his people but at an UNKNOWN TIME. Jesus said he doesn't even know when he'll be coming back but only God the Father knows. And for those who mock Christianity and the Bible, let me tell you something. God IS real, and I cannot fathom what he has done in my life, he has NEVER failed me. Mock and laugh all you want, but YOU'RE gonna be the ones suffering hell here on earth after Jesus comes back and takes his people.

    May 22, 2011 at 10:43 pm |
    • asrael

      Thanks to Darius for clarifying that those who disagree with him are going to hell...

      May 22, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
    • All Religion Is Evil

      LMFAO!!! There's no hope for you, son. Your brain is terminally infected with god-worms.

      May 22, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
    • Darius

      Correction* Those who don't have a personal and strong relationship with Jesus Christ will suffer hellfire. It says so in the Bible. And my brains are infected with worms? Really? I'm perfectly sane and I believe the Bible is 100% true despite what others may say about it.

      May 22, 2011 at 10:57 pm |
    • Oi

      "Darius: I believe the Bible is 100% true despite what others may say about it."

      Yup. He's certified.

      May 22, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
  8. catt

    can we turn the churches that spread this news into giant malls? that will be a better use of the space. Oh, and of course, close Family Radio!

    May 22, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
    • CrosshairFocus

      The best thing that happened is that it did get a lot of attention and Fear so that now we we are talking about it, this was just a warning of things to come. Glad it's this v.s. Nonsense coming from media and Hollywood.the churches and synagogs are corrupt and do not teach truth valid about God, as it actually was written in the Bible that they will fall away.They are just money changers.........however one valid source is true-the Bible.Just is your death is sure to come so will the time of the Final day......as long as there is time ahead of us there is the end of time as we know it.

      May 22, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
  9. 2ginasdailypost

    I Thessalonians 5:4,9-10 "For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.

    I thought the above bible verse was interpreted as we will not know when GOD returns. Like a thief in the night...unexpected. I'm surprised because I thought this organization took the bible literally, if so, how did they get lost in translation?
    Family Radio, the Oakland, California, Christian broadcasting network behind the May 21 movement.

    I wonder how many people went running to their church "to get saved".

    Family Radio, was your business plan a success? How many new members did this marketing ploy pull in? Have you calculated the estimated new revenue projectons yet?

    May 22, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
  10. ninja

    hello any one know where is my cat now i donated before the end of the word may 21 and now the word is still here but my cat is gone heheh x)

    May 22, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
  11. Theword

    This stunt generated an enormous amount of publicity, and therefore money, for this little church no one ever heard of. Well played by the preacher and members. Enjoy all your new toys and vacations in this life, cause there's nothing coming after...

    May 22, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
    • 2ginasdailypost

      The little church is heard by many people. Family Radio had net assets of approximately $122 million in 2007.
      It has been reported to have received $80 million in contributions between 2005 and 2009 alone. Camping founded Family Radio, a nonprofit Christian radio network based in Oakland, Calif. with about 65 stations across the country.

      May 22, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
  12. tmoeller

    why aren't there news reports talking about the insane that believed this idiocy? We should be identifying, and mocking, those that believed the world would end yesterday. You wanna do news? Do news that is relevant.....the people who believed this stuff should be put forward and mocked, I mean, really? No stories about them? Nothing?? C'mon CNN

    May 22, 2011 at 10:41 pm |
    • Logic

      sounds to me that you also believed in the hype, and now you are bitter and wanting boodshed...get over it...tomorrow is promised to noone. If you knew this from the start you wouldnt be in here talking about finding and bashing the fools who followed that fool.

      May 22, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
    • asrael

      Always a thoughtful decision to complain about the worth of stories one is commenting about...

      May 22, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
  13. Logic

    An intollerant mouth cant preach tollerance...this goes for Atheist AND Christians alike.

    May 22, 2011 at 10:40 pm |
    • asrael

      Because the mouth doesn't know how to spell "tolerant"...?

      May 22, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
  14. Dana

    I'm sorry to disappoint you brainwashed nimrods but the earth is still here.

    May 22, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
    • CrosshairFocus

      Not for those who are dead. death symbolizes the end. The end is to come not if but when just as all around you loved ones depart.

      May 22, 2011 at 11:58 pm |
  15. Zoepup

    Religious extremists/fundamentalists of any kind are stupid!More stupid are the people who follow them.Shame on those who use God's name to profit for themselves. I like to hope and believe they will be punish for this horrible sin.

    May 22, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
    • CrosshairFocus

      Don't believe the profit was the motive in this case , unlike the tv preacher personalities who try to sell you stuff like CDs etc.The motive was to let as many people know that the return of Christ was to happen... The fact that it didn't does not prove the greed was the motive rather a convincing belief.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:04 am |
  16. Joe

    If these people were truly faithful to GOD, they would have read the bible. Particularly, the verses that address this. Bible states, 'But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Obviously they chose to ignore or not even read the bible and contribute their messages based purely on their own guessing. Not very faithful is it or wise.....

    May 22, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
    • Colin

      But Joe, 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 10:39 pm |
    • Scott G

      You think it is wise to consider the bible a work of fact and not fiction? Really?

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


      Actually, that's incorrect. God the Father and God the Son are different. When Jesus says "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30), the Greek word used for one has no gender here, even though Father and Son are both masculine. They are one as in "one essence", not one as in "the same".

      May 22, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
    • Darius

      To Colin, God Jesus and the Holy Spirit ARE one. What the Holy Spirit does glorifies the Son, and what the Son does Glorifies the Father, therefore they are one because they each work together very closely. However at the same time, they are Seperate. God is still God, Jesus is still the Son and the Holy Spirit are is still the Spirit of God.

      May 22, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
  17. neeeeext ..........

    Can't wait til 12-22-2012 , Maybe we will all wake up & see that religion & politics just don't work anymore . Personally , I 've never believed in either .

    May 22, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
  18. doomsday dude

    Sent from my Droid while in heaven

    May 22, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
  19. DB

    Oh well, time to get back to work people.

    May 22, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
  20. Dan

    Who cares what an associate professor of religion at Concordia University thinks?

    May 22, 2011 at 10:35 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.