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. Rickote

    But seriusly guys, when are you going next to Jesus? I am disappointed you are still around, I was happy for a few hours when I saw the radio web site disappear, I thought the whole radio was raptured. I would be really happy for all you Christians findind all that love, and if along you take others like Jews, Muslims etc... better. How long we will have to wait for another opportunity like this? Can you imagine a world without religion????

    May 22, 2011 at 11:48 pm |
  2. willybgood

    Well this isn't suprising whats sad is how they make other christians look. My family and friends have been asking me about this and all I could tell them is No...THey got it wrong. Christ himself said that WE wouldn't know when he is coming so for them to attach themselves to this issue is just silly. We had folks I'm deployed with right now that thought it was going to happen and others like me were telling them, READ SCRIPTURE we don't know when the rapture will happen.

    May 22, 2011 at 11:47 pm |
    • pat carr

      the "rapture" isn;t ever going to happen. it's a hoax along with the rest of xianity

      May 23, 2011 at 12:16 am |
  3. Nsos

    @ alsmeer1 – well said. Thanks for cleaning up my message.

    May 22, 2011 at 11:46 pm |
  4. Marty in MA

    nutjobs lose again

    May 22, 2011 at 11:46 pm |
  5. JP

    I think that Evans is right. The world did truly end. Yesterday at around 6 PM, there was a disturbance in the Force. I felt it, didn't you? I dunno. Maybe it was gas. I believe in the end of the world. It has ended already. We are living in the Post-Apocalypse era. The world has ended before, as well, several times, in fact.

    May 22, 2011 at 11:46 pm |
    • Aly

      Divah's Mommy Posted on I remember when you staretd going natural @ Project Imhotep, I thought you were soo brave! I've been an undercover natural for a year now, I think I'll come out the closet soon lol

      October 7, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
  6. Paul

    Nice to hear from all you haters.
    If I choose to believe in God, that's my choice.
    If you choose not to believe in God that's your choice.
    You want to get all snarky because your religion is science then you're no better than a bible thumper.
    Science is good for explaining how things work, not why. Most religions teach us to be good people and why. Before you crank up how religion never did anybody any good and causes war I will point out that science has been twisted to do bad things to people. Often bad people find excuses to do bad things whether religion or science. Hitler's master race and the routine sterilazation of undesirables in the 1930s is a couple of examples. a more recent example is how some have twisted global warming to their own political ends. So much of the environmentalist's claims have turned out to be no more accurate than the world ending on May 21.
    So believe what you want and let me believe what I want and let us agree to disagree.

    May 22, 2011 at 11:46 pm |
    • beelzebubba

      Can you define "believe in" ? People say it all the time, but it doesn't seem to mean anything. That does suggest that people who use it are easy to influence and not prone to questioning what they want to believe. Anyone?

      May 23, 2011 at 12:02 am |
    • Jerrold Smith

      There's this rule on the Internet that says if you have to invoke Hitler to win an argument, then you've already lost.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:02 am |
    • Finger Puppet

      Science does explain why things work.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:51 am |
  7. tizbad

    Everyone should just not worry about when the world is going to end. The day will happen and it will be swift and painless. Its up to God to decide when he's ready. I'll admitt I aint a Saint but I sure hope there will be a spot up there in Heaven for me and my family. But there's no way I'm not going to listen to some bible thumper that's going around and telling people the world is ending. Because like it saids in the Bible only God knows when the world will end and him alone!!

    May 22, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
  8. Michael Swart

    If they were true beleavers, then they would know that, no Man nor Ángel will know the final day.

    May 22, 2011 at 11:43 pm |
  9. Greg

    ......yeah ....this is kinda like the red sea parting....and folks walking around on golden streets. Best to keep religion as a moral compass for the populace and stop making predictions...Not to mention staying out of politics before they start getting taxed!!!

    May 22, 2011 at 11:42 pm |
  10. Name*Dman says

    Doomsdayers, now come on! One last chance,if not this is your 3rd strike, when is the world going to end? Do i have to unpack?

    May 22, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
  11. jonathan


    May 22, 2011 at 11:40 pm |
  12. Richard

    It's unbelievable that this nonsense was given even 5 seconds of any media's time.

    These wackos are not geologists who had found a new fault line about the shake, they're not astrophysicists who had spotted a planet-killer meteor and they're not scientists who'd found a new life-ending disease.

    They're delusions are the same as saying a gigantic pink unicorn will appear from the desert to explain the meaning of life in 5 languages.
    Is CNN really going to cover that too?

    The meaning of life is we're on a cooling planet where life by chance got started, it has evolved in nonlinear ways and it will keep evolving. We lucky few who were instigated from the sperm+egg connection (when millions of sibling sperm and hundred of sibling eggs didn't find a match), we survived childbirth and we have lived to this moment.

    We have only so many hundreds of months to live (most people don't make it to 1000 months).
    Let's make the most of it based on our innate ability to understand how to live together peacefully while experiencing a rich and fulfilling life as best we can. Making this planet a better place for the next batch would be a good idea too.

    Please, delete all news items from your website about this story. Giving these people new's space just encourages such delusions.
    I hope no one was hurt because of all of this.

    May 22, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
  13. Anthony Cooper

    When will the humanity learn religion is just a scam exploited by sick people. Just look at the Vatican.

    May 22, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
  14. Meaty Portion

    I'm still laughing way too hard at these dingbats to type my thoughts on this.

    May 22, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
  15. karl

    Again science beats religion lol

    May 22, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
  16. i believe

    god doesn't have to destroy the human race, i'm sure we'll destroy each other eventually without any help

    May 22, 2011 at 11:36 pm |
  17. Eric

    All major relitgions as we know them exist with the strength they have because because they were foisted on us with force and aggression. All they do is cause us grief, pain, disillusionment....they get many to waste a good part of their precious little time on earth indulging someone else's dilusion instead of living out their own life purpose – which is to explore, experience and discover for themselves what their own truth is. Having good guides and teachers are great – but they rarely come from any church, mosque ot temple. They are around if you want to hear them and learn from them but they're not going to force you to hear what they have to share....unlike the fakes who will scream with ferocity about their message because their egos and bank accounts demand it. Too many fools leading around even bigger fools wasting their lives believing nonsense which truly does little to fulfill them. What a miserable waste. Take a chance – free yourself from this ignorant thinking. Life and the unknowns that accompany it are scary...but living with that while seeking out your own truth is far more fulfilling then being all muddled up by a bunch of BS.

    May 22, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
  18. laugh

    I bet Harold Camping is the next Bill Gates right now.

    May 22, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
  19. chris

    People we need to look at this in a different light look at all the people that came together in the name of the lord right or wrong the faith in that one thing is so powerful. Man is just Man we need to read our bibles ask the lord for the wisdom to understand ,Gods word is there stop ignoring that live your life do what he wants you to do and stop following man. Stand up band toghether preach his word live his word and be ready everyday. If everyone would do that this country and world be a great place. God Bless

    May 22, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
    • Meaty Portion

      Didn't reading bibles get these people in this situation to begin with?

      May 22, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
    • Justin

      Or you can think about all of the children that got terrified because the world was supposed to end. Try to help those people who quit their jobs or school as well because the world was supposed to end.

      God's word does not live...A few people who wrote a book in order to maintain society, now their word lives on. It continues to brainwash and is a great way to show individuals how power is abused. But keep praying to ease your fears.

      May 22, 2011 at 11:40 pm |
    • asrael

      Wow! Did all the commas get raptured...?

      May 23, 2011 at 12:10 am |
  20. 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 11:34 pm |
    • alsmeer1

      @ Nsos....to expound a bit on what you said about people not knowing how to pray. You are right. The Lord says that if we pray, in His Name and according to His Will, He will answer. key word is in His will. asking for fun things is not the way.

      May 22, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
    • Justin

      All the people who believe in God are scared and insecure. Praying is a form of hope, so stop saying that prayers get answered.

      Why is it so hard for people to accept that they should live their life to the fullest? Rather they are judged by the lot of you "christians" because they are not brainwashed by some book written by power hungry individuals, which is easily still in control and abused.

      I'm sick if reading posts that say "god bless" or quoting scripture....keep it to yourself. It's disgusting and you are all brainwashed into believing fairy tales, kind of like a bunch of children...seems to be a lapse in psychological growth. Religious people are sone of tge creepiest individuals. Keep it to yourself.

      May 22, 2011 at 11:48 pm |
    • asrael

      Always good to hear about the ... proper ... way to be religious...

      May 23, 2011 at 12:12 am |
    • tsmith

      I'm surprised at the amount of people who would follow the rants of a man who clearly has a mental disorder.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:44 am |
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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.