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. DE

    There is going to be about a 4-5 billion wait for the earth to be destroyed; and if youi're waiting for Jesus to return, that will also be about 4-5 billion years.

    May 22, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • brad

      Actually the latest estimate I believe is that the Earth will be a dead planet in about 1 billion years. Either way tho, the dust of the dust of the dust of our bones won't be around by then

      May 22, 2011 at 4:36 pm |

    What's infuriating is not so much their betting the world would end...but...they would be "raptured" out of the mess leaving the rest of us to deal with it. You bet I won't bet on them to be there for our next war.

    May 22, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  3. Derek Ream

    Rather than sitting here trying to calculate the end of our planet based on religious ideals, I think people really need to stop trying to influence others to think and do what they think and do. Selling homes, leaving families and children in the hopes to be self-rightous and go to heaven, all because of an 89 year old man who has a big check book and an un-original idea of preying on the weak minded. There will be more responses today and next week to the effect of "I am a Christian, I do not regret what I did"...etc. But what they don't understand is, they had influenced others who were not as informed or devout, people who have experienced chaos and grief, and they sought a way out of all of this, by paying into Camping's ministry.

    I hope CPS is called on the parents who pulled their children into this mess, children who had no idea what was going on, scared children. There are no words to describe the amount of anger I have towards morons like these people.

    May 22, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • the dude


      May 22, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • Scott

      CPS should be called for any hyper religious parents. Unfortunatly there wouldn’t be nearly enough CPS people

      May 22, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • Karen S

      So, what you are suggesting is that the Government is given the authority to remove children from homes, in which religious beliefs are taught, simply because the Government does not agree with the teaching? Wow, scary thought. So there would be a State approved theology? And this would all be based on the premise that being raised in a home that is teaching a theology that is not the "approved theology" is harmful? Who gets to decide this or will all religions fear having their children removed from their home? Slippery slope there...be careful

      May 22, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
  4. sacred geometry to string theory

    Camping should have been a weatherman, then no one would care that he was wrong.

    May 22, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • airwx

      I've said it before and I'll say it again....don't blame the weatherman!!!! My stats are better than Campings!

      May 22, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • john

      Wouldn't be surprised if he didn't live another day. U know what i mean 😛

      May 22, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
  5. Jim

    Actually, I fail to see the difference in what Camper's followers believed and th belief in any religion or supernatural god. Delusion is delusion. Wish thinking is wish thinking however satisfying or reassuring.

    May 22, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • Majolica

      Yeah, it's about as delusional as waiting for the ice caps to melt and catastrophe to happen because of "man-made global warming."

      May 22, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
    • Scott

      Most Christians believe everything Camping’s followers were saying except most Christians don’t have enough guts to name the date.

      May 22, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • Fish Flakes

      Uhm, the ice caps ARE melting. How can you even compare the two situations?

      May 22, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
  6. More Pius than a Prius

    Come on have some guts If this were a real cult they should have ended things with mass sucide or something like that.

    May 22, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
  7. Robert

    Who needs to fear " The End " . just read the American Government warnings for Citizens travelling in Mexico and you will know that Paradise Earth is no longer Heaven on Earth ... Rebellions , Refugees camps, Government Corruption ,Wars , Death , Wealth disparity , injustice , State Security regulations ... Poverty , unnecessary suffering , Death ... Toxic Assets , Economic Depression , Filthy Rich and Perversion ..... what's left to pour into the Mix ?

    May 22, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • More Pius than a Prius

      Mexico has always been a craphole.

      May 22, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  8. brad

    I'm not a fan of organized religion at all, but I do consider myself a Christian in a philosophical way. Even Einstein who did not believe in a personal god himself, deeply appreciated the basic teachings of Christ the person. It just sucks that mankind twists and turns things around to fit their own political agendas or whatnot, like the 'First Council of Nicaea' in 325 AD being the best example. For those that are die-hard Christians, I suggest you look solely at Christ's philosophies, and basically disregard anything else, for history has shown the Bible was put together by man, and not by God.

    May 22, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • TheDude

      Brad, think bigger. Who guides history? Can anything that experiences time linear be god?

      May 22, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • leonard

      Brad, I agree with your sentiments but your Example of the Jewish Einstein (who had probably never thought of your Christ much if at all). We Jews do not have an end time myth because it is not in our scripture. For even when the messiah come the world does not end but merely is peaceful for a thousand years (after that it is not know what happens)

      May 22, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
    • Fish Flakes

      Very true! I admire Christ and try to follow his examples, but Christianity can take a flying leap. All the punitive stuff has just created a bunch of people going around pointing fingers at one another – pointing out one-another's supposed sins and very little self-reflection, all in an effort to prove that they, but not "them" are worthy.

      May 22, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • Sparky101

      Leonard, meet Daniel. Read and pray.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
  9. GetReal

    The end is acutally next month 6/21. I am currently setting up a PO box where you can send money.

    May 22, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
  10. TheDude

    I think this stuff is absurd as well, but...

    Why do you guys HATE them so much?! Doesnt that reveal an equally negative aspect of YOUR OWN character?

    May 22, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • Jackie Treehorn

      Because every step we try to take forward into the 21st century has to be a struggle against these kinds of medieval morons who make up half the populace.

      May 22, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • John

      Point taken. But you know, the world and the rest of us need all the help we can get. To have a big group of people whose minds are so disengaged on the next world gives little support to everyone trying to make a go in this one.
      The simple facts: god has never spoken to anyone. there are no angels, and no miracles. There is just us chickens, and we are scratching for every scrap.

      May 22, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
    • Majolica

      Hey, Jackie, if it hadn't been for the fact that the Church was there to preserve knowledge from the ancient world through the middle ages, if it hadn't created universities and hospitals, hadn't spread a moral code through a largely barbarian world, you'd still running around as unlettered and brutal as the Visigoths and the Vandals. Learn some history.

      May 22, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
    • Scott

      @Majolica: And what were you smoking when you read this “history”?

      May 22, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • john

      I hate them so much BECUASE "THEY" ARE NOT "CHRISTIANS" and represent "AMERICA" as a "STUPID" "COUNTRY"

      May 22, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • Sparky101

      Haters will hate. It's the way they were raised.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
    • Frogist

      @The Dude: Good point. It should be our duty as humans to return the divisiveness and arrogance of the doomsdayers with at least pity. Anger at actions could be understandable as well as justifiable in certain cases. Ridicule of ideas also. But hatred of people does us no good from either side.

      May 23, 2011 at 9:31 am |
  11. Greg Smith

    The only thing that will end the Earth is humanity itself.

    May 22, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • Jackie Treehorn

      Therein lies a great irony. I bet a lot of the doomsday crowd are the same kind of people who scoff at global warming, despise environmentalism, and support runaway militarism. Invisible spirits in the sky destroying the earth makes sense to them, but empirically demonstrable facts, like the fact that adding CO2 to a volume of air increases its capacity to retain heat, is too much for them to comprehend.

      May 22, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • sacred geometry to string theory

      Even science agrees the world will end... one day.

      May 22, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • airwx

      @ Jackie.... I would be more afraid of two things that can contribute more to warming than anything else....solar radiation and water vapor.... CO2 is a minor player by contrast

      May 22, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  12. Sumner

    The sad part is not that the predication didn't come true, it's about how people quit living. It was reported that some people ran up huge credit card debt with expensive gifts and vacations for themselves. Others gave up on their dreams. Some quit college and families quit their jobs to sit home and read scripture or pass out fliers. They survived.

    Although dictionary.com defines Rapture as: " the carrying of a person to another place or sphere of existence" and this is a term used by many Christians regarding the second-coming of their Savior; it is also defined as: "ecstatic joy or delight; joyful ecstasy".

    Many people have ceased living their lives everyday. Some of those who were waiting for yesterday, stopped their dreams or contributions to society. Each day others are going through the motions of living, waiting for some future unforetold date. And countless people who have no belief in this thought at all, also fail to live in the moments of each day. The potential for rapture within each day is lost in the worry, guilt, judgment and plans only for the "sometime in the future", whether that's the spiritual rapture, marriage, weight loss, the perfect job...etc.... For some, the afterlife is where Heaven is, and that is all they can think about and live for, and they cease to live out the heavenly moments and rapturous potential in every day.

    Some people were ready for the end of this life because they wanted out; and others were ready because they had lived each day to the fullest and believe they had completed their purpose.

    May 22, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
    • brad

      What is really sad is how those people disregarded the history of the 'end of the world' prophecies in the last 1000 years. This is definitely not the first time people gave up everything expecting doomsday, and it certainly wont be the last. If one thing is true about history, there will be things that have occurred in the past, that will always occur in the future due to simple ignorance of history.

      May 22, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
    • Scott

      Well, joining a religion is pretty much the same thing as quitting living

      May 22, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
  13. MartinNorth

    those "believers' are a bunch of idiots. And that's not what I really want to call them. That word would be censored.

    May 22, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
    • TheDude


      May 22, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • Sparky101

      Such a vivid example of "tolerance." Bravo. Your hatred will eat you inside out. Divest yourself of that before your heart is affected.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
  14. Don

    The Bible is no more that a 2000 year old best sell which people use as a crutch for living period. and all this religion is the excuse to promote an agenda.

    May 22, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • Seaturtlelover

      the Bible is a book of truth and life. and just so you know, the bible specifically says it will not tell you when the end of the world is. i bet the man who started this doomsday crisis isn't even a real christian. so don't diss what the bible says because of one guy!

      May 22, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      The bible is a book of myths and fables... It just has had better promoters, who found it useful for their purpose, than Aesop or any of the other fiction writers of the past...

      May 22, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • Peace2All


      You Said to @David..."who are you to say if somethings right or not?"

      May 22, 2011 at 4:29 pm

      So when you said to @Don above...."the Bible is a book of truth"...

      Kind of ironic, in my opinion.

      ***Pot meet kettle.


      May 22, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
    • Scott

      @Seaturtlelover: The bible Is not a book of truth and life. The original New Testament as formulated by a group of "Bishops" seeking recognition as the state religion of Rome, they were housed, fed and cared for by Constantine for several years while they argued about which texts to include. Their main consideration was to please Constantine and ensure their personal power in the church

      May 22, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
    • Sparky101

      Scott, the books selected were the same ones that had been in use for over two centuries.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:31 pm |

    Doomsday babes:

    I'm just a regular dude looking for a date. I figure you gals might work out. It's not like you had plans this week.

    (Har har har!)

    May 22, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • Fish Flakes

      🙂 Good one!

      May 22, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
  16. Jackie Treehorn

    Camping was foolish to make a religious prediction that was subject to empirical disproof. He should have been smart enough to act like most religious folks and limit his sweeping statements of absolute truth and certainty to things that can't possibly be tested or disproven. If he'd done that, he and all his followers could have carried on their lives enjoying the comforting sense of certainty and righteousness that religious self-delusion allows.

    May 22, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • Don


      May 22, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
  17. David

    Moron's!!!! What a bunch on Morons!!!!! I'll just put my faith in GOD to take care of it all. These people need to seek professional help. These are the same people that believe "everything happens for a reason", "it's GOD's will that I walked in front of a truck". NO it's not, your're a moron or accidents happen.

    May 22, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • Seaturtlelover

      who are you to say if somethings right or not?

      May 22, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • john

      You see SEeturtlelover, thats the exact thing Hitler thought? Who is to say killing people isnt right? Who is to say raping women aint right? And who is to say that Camping aint right just becuz the world dint end. U are a mad and base.

      May 22, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
  18. Jared

    Religion is a crutch for the cowards and weak-minded.

    May 22, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • BC

      thats interesting. whats your opinion about that?

      May 22, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • Luposian

      Don't make a statement like that with MY name on it. Yes, my name is "Jared", also. Read your bible and you'll find out some interesting things about your/my namesake. Two of which are that, his son never saw death and he was in the genealogy of Jesus Christ. Makes me downright proud to be a Christian... my father named me well!

      May 22, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • DonD

      I think that religion provides easy answers to very complex issues. Who wouldn't want an easy answer? I sure would. The problem is that easy answers just don't work, as has been demonstrated by this prediction. Questions about life, the Universe, and Everything require generations of thought, as well as trial, error, and discovery.

      May 22, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • Jared

      Anyone that believes that there was a man a few thousand years ago who could walk on water, heal the sick and turn water into wine and come back to life after dying is JUST as crazy as the morons who follow Camping. And yes, you're right, religion provides the EASY answer, which is why I called it a crutch. Nobody on earth will EVER know why we are here or who put us here or what will happen when we leave. End of story.

      May 22, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • Iris

      How true! The only good thing about religion is that it helps the weak cope. Other than that, it has largely been more like a force of evil through out history. The world would be better without organized religion.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
    • Sparky101

      Hmmmm. How deluded can someone get Jared? I suppose the reason you call a "generic" people names, is to suture your failing self-esteem. If you have a teeny-weenie, calling other people names won't make it grow.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:36 pm |
    • Hans

      Yeah okay Jared. Go eat some more subway.

      May 22, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
  19. Jack

    Say it with me now, "wah wah." Looks like those millions they took in for the sake of the cause was little more than a get rich quick scheme. What is it that the bible says again about false prophets? Any one? Anyone?

    May 22, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
  20. The Perfessional

    The World will END when I say so! Geezus!

    May 22, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • Bucky Ball

      Hi Ed.

      May 22, 2011 at 4:32 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.