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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. wecanbesaved

    If man cannot guess the day or hour of the second coming and with a world population of 6.9 billion. If someone different chose a day to declare its the end of the world every day we would be safe for 18.9 thousand years!!!!! Ponder that.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:20 am |
    • me

      Because no one is suppose to know BUT God, in that case God wouldn't have created anything of this universe.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:30 am |
  2. Rickote

    Sorry but There are no 3 wise men, Santa, Or God. I should have tell you when you were 5, but I saw you all, soooo happy! In fact there is not toy manufacturing at the North Pole, Heaven, or Virgin Mary. Sorry, I hate to tell you all, but is the true!

    May 23, 2011 at 12:17 am |
    • Dustin L. Hopper

      Agreed. All ancient fairy tales. All religions, fairy tales.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:20 am |
    • Name*jeff

      oh so your one of those really logical scientific types that attribute all life and matter in the vastness of our universe to a random explosion called a "big bang". Theres something to put all ones trust in!

      May 23, 2011 at 12:27 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      No, God... can you prove your claim?

      May 23, 2011 at 12:32 am |
    • me

      So sure Gos doesn't exist, then PROVE IT, since you're the one making the claim.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:39 am |
    • Rickote

      Will be tough with your Brain damage, but you can try staring with a some trig, college calculus sequence, college physics, intro to quatum physics, and then there are a number of decent books in quatum physics with cosmology. I like last from Prof. Hawking (The Grand Design). Eventually you can start understanding that the universe can, and will create for nothing without any God need.
      You have either that point of view in agreement with the vast mayority of the scientific educated comunity, or hundred of religions, cults, and traditions, including Christianism, that disgree each other, and have no basis or reasoning whatsoever.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:48 am |
  3. 20somethingnobody

    i love Jesus. & i do think He is coming back eventually. but i would like to know where these rapture theories come from; since – you're all going to hate me for saying this – there is no word "rapture" in the entire bible!

    May 23, 2011 at 12:15 am |
    • PraiseTheLard

      20somethingnobody wrote: "there is no word "rapture" in the entire bible!"

      Neither will you find the word "Raptor" or any other type of dinosaur...

      May 23, 2011 at 12:22 am |
    • Rickote

      It is not in English one they didn't translate using the word rapture, but something similar (even if is the more accurate) .That word is used in the earlier Latin ones. You should go to "True" mass with Mel "cucu" Gibson, he will teach you all!
      Also you should stop using computers or book readers for the bible, too much technology will get you in hell, Pope words!

      May 23, 2011 at 12:27 am |
  4. a dollar and some change

    doomsday will happen any second now... ok. any second now...

    wait for it ...
    waaaiiiit ...

    here it comes....

    waiiit...
    waiiit ...
    i'm going to bed. the world should have disappeared by the time i wake up. goodnight!

    May 23, 2011 at 12:13 am |
  5. exact change

    i predict doomsday tomorrow. oh, wait. ok i'll shut up now.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:10 am |
  6. mike

    IDIOTS LOL .....

    May 23, 2011 at 12:09 am |
  7. Tom Guyette

    Ezekiel 13:8
    “‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: Because of your false words and lying visions, I am against you, declares the Sovereign LORD. 9 My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and utter lying divinations. They will not belong to the council of my people or be listed in the records of Israel, nor will they enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Sovereign LORD."

    May 23, 2011 at 12:07 am |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Gee... can you also quote from other works of fiction?

      May 23, 2011 at 12:10 am |
    • asrael

      And the Lord said, when all else fails, quote me: you might just get away with the lack of a presentation of substance...

      May 23, 2011 at 12:15 am |
  8. Handonwall

    Surely Christ Jesus is "COMING IN A CLOUD", and we have to "keep on the alert at all times", but are you able to tell the exact time, while literally reading the Bible exactly? But I don't want that we are going to have to remember "The Late Great Planet Earth".

    May 23, 2011 at 12:06 am |
  9. noman

    Not that I'm preaching to anyone here but you're all bigots. You are, what you despise. Which also makes you hypocrites. Get over yourselves. Quit beating your gorilla chests and saying, oh, look at me, I was right. You're doing exactly what you're condemning. Boasting in your self righteous glory, are we?

    May 23, 2011 at 12:05 am |
    • asrael

      Fortunately, there is smugly superior noman to set everyone straight about their smug superiority...

      May 23, 2011 at 12:18 am |
  10. legit

    Uhh why does these cults that believe in the bible always miss that Jesus said himself only God the Father knows when the end times will occur smh they make us real Christians look dumb.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:04 am |
  11. mono

    All yall are idiots...

    May 23, 2011 at 12:03 am |
    • Justin

      Thanks for joining the idiots club.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:05 am |
  12. Name*jeff

    Camping is what we call a false prophet. God is still God and no one knows when that day will come but him. Lastly, they dont serve breakfast in hell. Good night now.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:00 am |
    • In Reason I Trust

      How about, "God is still fictional and fictional characters can't end the world.".

      May 23, 2011 at 12:06 am |
    • Skipper

      But I hear the lunch buffet is to die for......

      May 23, 2011 at 12:09 am |
    • Name*jeff

      One day you will know- mark my words-you will know, you will bend your knee to him and confess Jesus is Lord.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:12 am |
    • Name*jeff

      I dont know about any buffets but ive heard its pretty damn hot all
      year round....

      May 23, 2011 at 12:16 am |
    • JAberg123

      @Name*Jeff. "mark my word". Are you making a prediction about what god is planning on doing? You may have noticed that this hasn't worked out very well lately for some other people. God hasn't done anything overt and out in the open for centures (more likely:never), why are you so confident that atheists and believers of other faiths will "see the light". Why would you expect anything different now?

      May 23, 2011 at 6:19 am |
  13. theleader

    And for those who interpret the Bible literally are setting themselves up for disappointment upon disappointment. Faith is one thing, but taking it word-for-word is downright heinous.
    Here are a few facts:
    1. the Bible was written 200 years AFTER Jesus
    2. Peter conveniently left out Gospels that he did not "like"
    3. Among things voted on at the Council of Nicaea: Jesus is the Son of God.

    It's funny how die-hard Christians "know" these facts but deny them at the same time. It's one thing to ignore them (as all religions come with discrepancies), but it's another thing to just outright deny that they ever happened.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:00 am |
    • beelzebubba

      On the other hand (if I may play gods advocate for a moment) if there is a god... he created the platypus. Maybe he was sending a message that he can do anything... of course if that was so... he'd have made earth in a way that pleased him the first time.... not cursing it and destroying it once and promising not to do it again and then threatening to end it all.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:07 am |
    • Bill

      Uh...actually, dude....there's NO concrete evidence there even WAS anyone named Jesus from Nazareth. They can't even find definite evidence there WAS a place so named. Today, there's a town in the region that claims to be the modern remnant, but there's no proof. And the Romans, who were FASTIDIOUS record keepers, somehow failed to ever write down ANY of that nonsense. And even though they recorded the name of EVERY governor they ever appointed, there's no record of a 'Pontius Pilate' at all...zero. Some fake stone was once found that they said included a partial snippet of Pilate's name written down hundreds of years later, but it was discredited.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:09 am |
    • svann

      Again for those that missed it, these people did not get their message from the bible. They got it from a charlatan.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:18 am |
    • Dustin L. Hopper

      Not to mention, no one ever even met the guy. The bible was a series of letters put together of hundreds of years. It's been added to, deleted from, all by man, and it's just a 2000 year old comic book based on hearsay that was discussed from person to person because there was not much to write on and record history back then. All religions are bogus, and while they have good and bad lessons in them, they should never be taken literally period.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:25 am |
  14. Rickote

    Justin we most agree with you, but don't talk like that to Nsos, is unsensitive just like telling a boy that Santa do not exist, poor Nsos he may be crying.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:00 am |
    • Justin

      Hahahaha...he seemed to be handling himself well, so I thought he could take it. It may seem insensitive, but sometimes the truth of the situation can be just that.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:03 am |
  15. KJH

    There are no unbelievers after death..( :

    May 22, 2011 at 11:59 pm |
    • beelzebubba

      Funny that none have ever come back from the afterlife to tell us. I mean, it would be so simple for god to show us and then let us decide for ourselves. It makes no sense.... it is pure BS

      May 23, 2011 at 12:10 am |
    • pat carr

      nor are there "Believers". Just corpses

      May 23, 2011 at 12:10 am |
    • PraiseTheLard

      pat carr wrote: "Just corpses"

      Unless a magician made them disappear... secret word: Abracadaver...

      May 23, 2011 at 12:14 am |
    • asrael

      Gee, will the facile quotes disappear, too..?

      May 23, 2011 at 12:22 am |
  16. Steve

    Unfortunately, one of these days they are going to be right 🙂

    May 22, 2011 at 11:58 pm |
    • Bobq

      Or its all just a nice little story wrapped up in contradictions. In fact, Christianity is a pretty incoherent religion compared to many others (all of which are also nice little stories).

      May 23, 2011 at 12:04 am |
    • pat carr

      nope they never will. xianity is a scam

      May 23, 2011 at 12:11 am |
  17. RD

    Wellll, if you really loved the Lord and listened to His spirit, then don't follow what some dude says. He "calculated" the end of days, but I never heard him saying that God was with him or anything like that. Just a man's knowledge. To follow some guy means to deny the Lord Jesus Christ pretty much.

    May 22, 2011 at 11:58 pm |
    • asrael

      And here I thought Jesus was "some guy" being followed by his contemporaries...

      May 23, 2011 at 12:23 am |
  18. Robert

    I believe that Harold Camping should be forced to play, "Sympathy for the Devil" by the Rolling Stones in a continuous loop on his station for the next 9 months. Or however long he has been heading this movement across the country and the world!

    May 22, 2011 at 11:53 pm |
  19. Logic

    The funny thing is that Atheism is still another religion but it is disguised as no religion yet it uses the same christian bible to proove their point..they judge and persecute the ones who don't believe like they do...AND it is being forced upon people wheather or not they know it. YES you heard it here folks... all you atheist are bible beating whackjobs as well.

    May 22, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
    • Logic

      if i'm not right..then why are athiest the strongest commenters here?...cough..religion..cough..cough.

      May 22, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
    • Justin

      While I'm not an atheist, I can certainly say that the Bible is just a piece of text used to brainwash individuals. Atheists use this against Christians. They will certainly use other texts to disprove those religions as well. They are just as looney as you Jesus lovers.

      May 22, 2011 at 11:52 pm |
    • Observer

      When atheists demand signs in schools and public buildings with the name God crossed out (for instance), then your comments will have validity.

      May 22, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
    • Justin

      Atheists have demanded that God's name be struck from the pledge of allegiance (which it should with the whole separation of church and state thing)....there's your example

      May 22, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
    • Chuck

      I really hope you're being sarcastic because you're logic could be topped by 5 year olds. Why are atheists commenting on here? Because a bunch of people who go against what Atheists believe were wrong, and it's hilarious, and it helps atheists prove a point. You think Republicans would be talking the most if Boehner did something stupid? No, it'd be the dems. It's called "Toldya So". You also have no clue what you're talking about for atheists. I never have once pointed to a single verse or any part of the bible when arguing against religion. All I have to do is utter the one simple line "There's not a single ounce of physical evidence", and move on. You can hope you try to confuse some dummies into believing the garbage you're spewing, but luckily the people on here see you have no clue what you're talking about.

      May 22, 2011 at 11:57 pm |
    • Jose Sanchez

      The pledge didn't have God in it until it was modified in the 1950s and it makes no sense now. How do we have an indivisible nation when we've divided it in the same sentence with religion? We're not demanding the pledge be modified to state that God doesn't exist like some Christians seem to think, we just want it back to being neutral on religion like our nation is supposed to be.

      May 22, 2011 at 11:59 pm |
    • Observer

      Atheists want the Pledge of Allegiance to return to it's original version as a "pledge of allegiance to the flag of the United States".

      No comparison to believers who changed it and insist on forcing their beliefs in schools and public buildings.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:01 am |
    • Justin

      Agreed...

      May 23, 2011 at 12:01 am |
    • Karen S

      I agree with Logic. I don't see the Christians on here quoting nearly as many Bible verses as the Atheists are. And Atheism is a religion, just like the (extreme) enviornmental movement is the good old fashioned Pagan worship of their "god" Mother Earth. It is facinatining watching people make a religion out of not being "Religious"

      May 23, 2011 at 12:05 am |
    • frank

      "Logic–The funny thing is that Atheism is still another religion but it is disguised as no religion yet it uses the same christian bible to proove their point..they judge and persecute the ones who don't believe like they do...AND it is being forced upon people wheather or not they know it. YES you heard it here folks... all you atheist are bible beating whackjobs as well."

      Incorrect. Try again.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:06 am |
    • pat carr

      "they judge and persecute"....LMAO. there you christians go again with your pathetic "persecution complex". Ummmm last time i checked you lunatics were in the majority

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

      A religion is mans attempt to explain god. Technically, Christianity is not a religion, because "god did the explaining".
      Very original idea. Still BS though.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:12 am |
    • pat carr

      because they are the strongest thinkers that's why. and if you think atheism is a religion, well you know nothing about it. not surprising though

      May 23, 2011 at 12:13 am |
    • Observer

      If religion is defined as the way that someone deals with the meaning of life, then atheism can be considered a religion. It is a religion that lacks the formal organization and financial considerations of most other religions. So what?

      May 23, 2011 at 12:15 am |
    • beelzebubba

      beelzebubba

      A religion is mans attempt to explain god. Technically, Christianity is not a religion, because "god did the explaining".
      Very original idea. Still BS though. But branding atheism as a religion makes no sense. Your cult should welcome you with open arms.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:15 am |
    • In Reason I Trust

      Atheism is not a religion. Religion is belief without evidence-what you call faith. Since atheists do not hold any beliefs without evidence it is not a religion. And no it is not faith to believe God is fictional, the same way it is not faith to believe unicorns are fictional. If you want to prove to me unicorns are real you better have some evidence. Why are atheists so vocal you may wonder? Because we are surrounded by grown adults who believe in ridiculous stories.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:17 am |
    • zac

      Atheists are on here because its hysterical for us that you dumb people belive in such trash, anything that you people get told by someone that's holding a bible you believe. Its incredible how insanely stupid you people are and it litterally was better seeing on TV or reading on here how disapointed you people were when the world didn't happen than watching football. I think I'm going to act like I believe in god open a business.... I mean a church and get rich myself off the minds of morons like god beleivers.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:25 am |
    • me

      LOVE IS THE KEY

      May 23, 2011 at 12:27 am |
    • Dustin L. Hopper

      a·the·ism
         [ey-thee-iz-uhm] Show IPA
      –noun
      1.
      the doctrine or belief that there is no god.
      2.
      disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings.
      Origin:
      1580–90; < Greek áthe ( os ) godless + -ism

      —Related forms
      an·ti·a·the·ism, adjective, noun
      pro·a·the·ism, noun

      It's simply a lack of belief in a god or gods, via dictionary.com You may THINK it's a religion, but it's a word that describes a person. Atheists have no deities, bibles, or anything that organized religions have. The only thing they share in common, is their disbelief of a god until they've seen IT with their own eyes. Until that happens.... they'll continue to be atheists.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:29 am |
  20. Bazoing

    Notice that Camping is missing. The rest of us were unworthy! What is so hard about that?

    May 22, 2011 at 11:48 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.