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. Tie

    Time was created by man, not God. Time was created to organize our everyday lives. So for someone to say we will die on May 21st, they are RETARDED because in reality, there is no time, no days, no months, no years. Its all made up so we'er organized and civilized as people.

    May 22, 2011 at 11:02 pm |
    • Sandeep

      Well said!

      May 22, 2011 at 11:06 pm |
    • Finger Puppet

      Wow, and the moon is made of green cheese.
      When you get run over by the bus, you tell yourself that, as you realize you should have jumped out of the way, BEFORE it hit your dumb a-s.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:59 am |
  2. Snake Oil Salesman

    After sucking his follower’s wallets dry Harold Camping is probably sitting in some Tropical Paradise sipping Mai Tai’s with pretty Asian Women fanning Him while preparing operation raise the Snake with a Coconut Oil Rubdown – Talk about speaking in tongues!!!

    May 22, 2011 at 11:02 pm |
    • asrael

      At Camping's age, I doubt there's much of a snake to raise...

      May 22, 2011 at 11:27 pm |
  3. Maurice

    I believe that only god knows when the worl is going to end. If u guys remember back in 1999 there was some people sayin that it was going to be the year of the anti-christ. And then, the Y2K saga, it was going to be doomsday because the computers were going to shut down. And then that guy that went all over the world saying he was the new jesus christ but then he changed and said he was the anti-christ. And now he's one of americas most wanted for theft. What to believe or not nobody knows and is just people who want to be famous and pull money out of the people!!!

    May 22, 2011 at 11:02 pm |
  4. LeftBehindAndLikingIt

    I have it on good authority that the rapture actually DID happen yesterday. Unfortunately none of us qualified. The Almighty was heard to say as he surveyed the rapturable pickins down here... "Meh"

    May 22, 2011 at 11:01 pm |
  5. Joe

    I strongly believe that ALL money earned with this fiasco shoud be returned. In fact someone should start a class action lawsuit against the organization for all the pain and suffering. For ANYONE to play God should be committed and the key thrown away.

    May 22, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
    • bucky64

      Why should there be a class action lawsuit, if people are too stupid to keep from quitting their jobs or giving all their belongings to an organization they have no one to blame but themselves.

      May 22, 2011 at 11:12 pm |
    • Jen

      Yes, it was wrong of Harold Camping to be using doomsday as a way to make a few quick bucks (and this is an understatement), but if his followers are ignorant and stupid enough to fall for his tricks, then I have a very hard time showing them any sympathy. As far as I'm concerned, Camping's followers deserve to be broke, and maybe having to start over from scratch will give them a taste of reality, and they will not be deluded anymore.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:04 am |
  6. optimus prime

    Nowwhere in the bible does it give a date or a time when the end will come, it even says man doesnt know, noone does, only the lord does. it also stated in the bible as well to be wary of false prophets, false predictions and those twisting the word of the scripture around. now, if people are so blind as to believe someone who twists the word you are falling, im not judging anyone, for its not my place to judge. but ill say this that if people like camping choose to use the bible as there excuse they should study it fully, read it and not miscommunicate the true message of it by saying it gives a different message then whats being given. well thats my opinion on this whole issue as a person whos been devout to religion and understanding multiple religions

    autobots transform and roll out

    May 22, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
    • Concerned4Fla

      Best. Comment ending. Ever.

      May 22, 2011 at 11:01 pm |
  7. Logic

    You would think that all the Atheist would not care what any religious crackpot says if they are true atheist.

    May 22, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
    • Chirpie

      that'd only be true if religious teaching had no effect on other people's lives even if they didn't believe the same thing. Which of course it isn't.

      May 22, 2011 at 11:03 pm |
    • sally_t_1212

      As an atheist, I will say, you are correct. I do not care what this guy said. As a New Yorker, I am faced with crackpots like this everyday. I'm not sure why this guy got so much more press coverage than the average raving person I am faced with on the subway, but it makes me even more sure of my belief. A god that is only willing to accept 2-3% of his own supposed creation sounds like a pretty horrible guy and definitely not someone I want to believe in.

      May 22, 2011 at 11:18 pm |
    • Logic

      well that goes for atheism too if you want to put it that way..I feel that both Athiest AND christians are making life helll...I'm sure the majority of people can understand me.

      May 22, 2011 at 11:23 pm |
    • Logic

      Atheism is just ANOTHER LAME religion to me....I feel like it's being forced on all kinds of people too.

      May 22, 2011 at 11:26 pm |
  8. Karl

    Christianity is whatever you want it to be. The bible can support or condemn anything you want. There are no absolutes – other than those you create.

    Thank dog I wasn't left behind!

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

      Stating that 'there are no absolutes' is an absolute in itself. Please don't contradict yourself.

      May 22, 2011 at 11:24 pm |
    • asrael

      I would say that ... any ... statement about absolutes (including this one) is a contradiction. Isn't this fun...!

      May 22, 2011 at 11:31 pm |
  9. nutterz

    The bible you seem to have read may not really be a bible. You see the things you speak of aren't in the ones the rest of the world reads. Man didn't become god and come back to life. Jesus Christ is the SON of GOD. He was only a man sent by his father to tell his fathers story. Therefor Jesus IS NOT GOD and you DON'T have to take the bible literally! The Bible has been translated many many times but still says the same thing, however much of the bibles lessons stem from early times when things were quite obviously different. For ex. 'Eye for an eye' cannot be looked at literally. In those times, it was common for someone to kill anothers family member. The family would retaliate and kill an entire village. Eye for an eye was meant for reacting fairly.
    Also, an exploding pig? Really? Is that the only bible story you saw on the internet today? Read the rest of the story, understand it and get back to us!
    Atheist think THEY have all the answers... All you have is a bunch of big words.
    Also think its kind of funny how all the atheists wish the rapture did happen to be free of all the christians "ruining" the world. If it did happen wouldn't that make Jesus Christ and GOD real? And therefor those left behind really would be left on earth for the deadliest and scariest 5 months ever imagined? Wouldn't that in actuallity....SUCK!
    Not trying to convert anyone on here, just don't say stupid things. We know you're morons, your big words and "knowledge" of the bible only enforce it!

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

      Shut up man. There is no god. "Religion is an opiate for the masses" – Karl Marx. People cling to religion as a way to understand what cannot be understood. Example – when a young kid dies in a random tragety, christians will say that he is now in a better place (heaven) as a way to feel alleviated from the horrible pain they are experiencing. No one knows what happens when we die. Religion creates more conflict and pain than anything else on the planet. Jesus isn't coming, the truth hurts.

      May 22, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
    • spock

      Thousands of years ago it was all made up by human beings and it continues to be made up by human beings. You can create your own religion and believe whatever you want to believe. The new testament is a plagerism of the old which is a plagerism of ideas from ancient Sun worshiping cultures. They believed in the Sun of God and that became the Son of God.
      Enjoy your time on planet earth and realize that it will all fade to black. You knew nothing before you were born and you will know nothing after you die. It's okay. Whatever you do in this life will never be worthy of some fantasy of eternal bliss. Enjoy this existance and don't try to speed up the end before you have enjoyed all you can.

      May 22, 2011 at 11:27 pm |
    • asrael

      Serious thanks to nutterz for the gracious demonstration of saying "stupid things"...

      May 22, 2011 at 11:33 pm |
    • Oi

      sally_t_1212 made the best point with "A god that is only willing to accept 2-3% of his own supposed creation sounds like a pretty horrible guy and definitely not someone I want to believe in." I couldn't have said it better and for that matter, what makes you so sure you'll be in that 2-3%? I guess the rest of us are just throwaways to God, who by the way has an extreme ego, so extreme that he would inflict terrible pain and suffering on his creations who had the temerity to not worhip him. Mindlessly psychotic, sadistic and manipulative, if you ask me.

      May 22, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
  10. Concerned4Fla

    Why don't these people spend their energies helping the poor and the sick instead of touring the country in RV's advertising their exclusive righteousness? If you try to *speak* the message of Jesus, chances are excellent that people will ignore you. If you make an honest attempt to *live* the message of Jesus, people might actually take notice. To me, the whole exercise of driving around with the signs and the megaphones seemed really prideful.

    May 22, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
  11. wes

    These guys are just misguided, and they need prayers. There's no need in trying to guess when Jesus will return; just live your life as if Jesus were going to return at any moment. As for 2012, this isn't a religious calculation of the end of the world. The Mayan calendar is just the lunar cycle, when it ends it 2012, it will just restart. I just wish people would stop saying stuff like "I don't believe in God" or different things of that nature and I wish people would not characterize all Christians based on the actions of a few misguided believers such as the Westboro Baptist Church or these guys. The Bible is more proven than the science books students are forced to read in school, there's a lot more than just faith based information in the Bible, there are a lot of historical events in the Bible and fulfilled prophesy. Even if you don't believe, I ask why not? You can either believe and if everything in the Bible just happened to be coincidental and not true, then when you die, you aren't going to care, you'll be dead....but what if our faith is true, then where are the non believers going to be when they die? My prayer is that you will have some experience that changes your way of thinking and brings you to have a relationship with God.

    May 22, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
    • Concerned4Fla

      I was with you until you said the "Bible is more proven than science books..." Um, no.

      May 22, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
    • thatundergrad

      Yes, because if they Bible doesn't say anything about gravity, a concept talked about in these untrue science books, then it must not be real.

      May 22, 2011 at 11:06 pm |
  12. yeahll

    Jesus will be come. However, nobody knows the day when he will be back, because the bible says he will come like a thief

    May 22, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
  13. Peter

    The Bible DOES guarantee the rapture, etc. Just not when man sets a date.

    May 22, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
  14. BoldGeorge

    "...the 2012 event promises to be as big as Y2K." the writer wrote. But she forgot to add that 2012 Doomsday will also be just as fallible as Y2K. What don't the so called biblical and doomsday pronosticators get when Jesus states in Matthew 24:36 that no one will ever know (not even Himself) about the day and hour of the end of things? He stated that ONLY His Father knows the day and hour of the end of the world. My urgent advice, stop trying to calculate or "decode" certain biblical passages to interpret (or misinterpret rather) the apocalypse. As a christian I certainly believe in the rapture and the end of this world, but I know for a fact that neither I nor anyone in this world will ever know when that day will come. So, knowing this, the only thing left to do is to be preapared for it. And it's all logical...if God were to reveal directly or indirectly His second coming, what sense would that make? The bible discribes His second coming as a "thief in the night". Does a thief announce his coming? Does he scream out, "HERE I COME. HIDE ALL YOUR BELONGINGS. TAKE OUT YOUR SHOT GUNS. OR BETTER YET, CALL THE COPS, I'M AT YOUR FRONT PORCH CLIMBING IN THROUGH YOUR KITCHEN WINDOW!!!" By the way, when Jesus proclaims that He will come as a thief in the night, He means that He will negatively surprise the unprepared. For the prepared (the saved), His coming will not be of surprise. May you get to know Jesus Christ and be prepared. Trust Him, it won't hurt one bit.

    May 22, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
    • suavecito_05

      Clearly you missed the point of that line... they"re saying just like this prediction nothing happened... so that one will have a lot of flair and fuss like this one and produce nothing...

      May 23, 2011 at 12:21 am |
  15. Evan

    What dissapoints me about Harold Camping is how he spent (wasted) millions of dollars on something that he could have given to charity. Even if it was completely certain that the world would end on the day he predicted, he should not have spent so much money to campaign it. The Bible says as much.

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

      Suck to be wrong!

      May 22, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
    • bhoff

      Spent? He got more awareness than any advertising or PR effort could ever have gotten him; he'll double his "followers" who will contribute more than enough to make up for whatever this cost him. Brilliant campaign – I wish I'd conjured this up.

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

      I read somewhere that more than $18 million was raised and spent on this. That's a LOT of food, clean water, mosquito netting, vaccines, pre-natal care, etc. that could have helped those vastly less fortunate. Regardless of their religion. Shameless.

      May 22, 2011 at 11:10 pm |
  16. john

    Well maybe God came and took all the people he felt was deserving ... and left everyone else.

    May 22, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
    • bhoff

      Hmmm... guess that would include leaving you behind along with the rest of us.

      May 22, 2011 at 11:34 pm |
  17. The Man Himself

    Hey everyone... the Lord here, weighing in (I have a few minutes – it's halftime of the Bulls-Heat game). I appreciate everyone's input. Sorry if I threw some numbers out there that would make some believe they would know in advance when the world was going to end; just wanted to test a little faith – I do that on occasion.

    The fact is. if you truly believe in me, I need you to stop twisting my Word for your own self interest; have compassion and understanding FOR ALL and work for the common good of ALL my children on earth.

    But do live everyday like the end actually is near – not by quitting your job and quitting on others but by enjoying life, loving they neighbor and being kind onto others; that will make your time on earth truly rapturous.

    Gotta go; second half is starting – speak to you soon.

    May 22, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
    • asrael

      Holy Cow (so to speak)! God's keyboard has a caps key, too...

      May 22, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
    • raggedhand

      Thanks for the kind words, God. Enjoy the game, even though You know how it will end up.....as in life, it's the way you play it that counts, right?

      May 22, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
    • 2ginasdailypost

      Well said GOD. Are you on FACEBOOK or EP, can we be friends?

      May 22, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
    • The Man Himself

      Sorry, I'm not on Facebook – not one of my better creations. I suggest you find something productive to do with your time on Earth.

      May 22, 2011 at 11:13 pm |
  18. GüeroEnMéxico

    If you thought yesterday's "rapture" created a lot of media hoopla, just wait 'til next year when the Mayan calendar supposedly predicts the end of the world. I'm guessing that the Mexican beer and tequila makers and their U.S. distributors already have their marketing campaigns ready to go. They recognize a good opportunity to sell more product when they see one. Look what they've done with Cinco de Mayo!

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

    Why do people who don't believe in a god make it their business to go to any story that happens to have God in it??? could it be that they are actually looking for something or someone that they have denied themselves at one time in life???? Hmmmmm?

    May 22, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
    • teresa, snOhio

      they just want everyone to be as "enlightened" or Miserable as they are. they're doing BELIEVERs the favor ; )

      May 22, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
    • asrael

      Golly, the originality of that comment is simply astounding...

      May 22, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
    • thatundergrad

      Unlikely, considering the people who do believe in God and the stories about them actually do influence their lives greatly – gay marriage and women's reproductive rights, for example. It there were more stories about athiests actin' a fool Christians would be all over them too. I mean, the Christians are already swarming all over any story that has to do with Muslims... so does you assumption work in that case too? Good try, though... verrry clever!

      May 22, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
  20. PRISM 1234

    Why does CNN give voice to such bizarre group of people, writing their articles in such way as this was the mainline Christianity?
    It looks that CNN loves to fuel any kind of thing that throws mud on real Christianity, and this should be very obvious to anyone who reads all their "religion blogs" articles. This speaks volumes about what our media is made out of! Way to go, America! Getting better every day!

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

      Paranoia is such a painful ailment...

      May 22, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
    • All Religion Is Evil

      Oh, yeah,.."real Christianity" – now there's a rational worldview for ya! The religious meme has all manner of defenses – yours is a fairly weak one. Your argument that these were misguided fringe wackos, not the "real" Christians, and therefore have no impact on your fantasy, holds no water. These are people fervently believing the predictions of their religious leader, who in turn is basing his guidance on the inerrant word of "god" as depicted in your hold book. What's so tough to understand about that? Just one itty-bitty problem though...we're all still here so there must be some trouble with the underlying premises of infallibility, truth, existence of "god", etc.

      May 22, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      LOL! And they say Christians are filled with venom?! You're steeped in it, buster!

      May 22, 2011 at 11:03 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.