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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. DaveN CA

    Makes you wonder what else religions are wrong about.

    May 23, 2011 at 1:02 am |
    • Phil in Oregon

      How about the one that says killing infidels is doing them a favor, keeping them from living those empty lives without Allah.

      May 23, 2011 at 1:11 am |
    • DaveN CA

      How about the one where one man and one woman supposedly populated the earth with their incestuous children?

      May 23, 2011 at 1:14 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      How about the honoring father and mother .... the ones with out sin can toss the first stone.

      May 23, 2011 at 3:43 am |
  2. izzy

    If people would just read the Bible they would know that only God the Father knows when He will rapture His chosen......read and learn my friends....God Bless you all

    May 23, 2011 at 1:01 am |
    • DaveN CA

      Rapture is a bad song by Blondie. Nothing more.

      May 23, 2011 at 1:15 am |
  3. Advaita.

    Also I dont understand why the world should be destroyed ,when God comes back to earth from sky. I hope he will probably like to have a smooth landing.

    May 23, 2011 at 1:00 am |
    • Phil in Oregon

      We ARE talking the Creator , aren't we? Real estate doesn't have much value when you can create as much as you want anytime.

      May 23, 2011 at 1:13 am |
  4. M

    Excuse me if I brag and say that I had a bit of rapture on that day 😀

    May 23, 2011 at 12:58 am |
    • M

      Twice

      May 23, 2011 at 12:59 am |
  5. Phil in Oregon

    I keep wondering how ANYONE could believe a Mayan prophecy when the Mayans have been gone for hundreds of years. What WOULD be the point of telling them that if they weren't going to be there when it happened?

    May 23, 2011 at 12:57 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Cause the society of the Mayans is gone, the people just rolled over into new cultures.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:58 am |
  6. hustlenflo

    "I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use." – Galileo Galilei

    who was persecuted by the Catholic Church for suggesting that the Earth was not the center of the universe.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:56 am |
    • Phil in Oregon

      Having studied biological chemistry and seen the magnificent complexity of life, I cannot for a second believe that it just 'happened'. It's too fragile, too dependent on EXACTLY this situation to exist. On one hand, you have chemistry and physics. On the other, life, but no way to get from one to the other.

      May 23, 2011 at 1:08 am |
  7. troy

    Odd that people would waste time waiting for God to return when he was never here in the first place.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:50 am |
  8. Courtney

    The real believers know that when Jesus comes it will be unexpected you can't predicted when a rapture Is coming down to the exact minute; it's just not possible! We just have to be prepared and know that we are in good hands

    May 23, 2011 at 12:50 am |
    • Phil in Oregon

      Live each day as though He IS coming tomorrow...

      May 23, 2011 at 12:53 am |
    • DaveN CA

      It's all a myth.

      May 23, 2011 at 1:04 am |
  9. -DC-

    I think a good portion of these people are mentally ill or have extremely low IQ.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:49 am |
  10. pawworker

    HA HA you religious book following IDIOTS. See what happens when you believe what a book tells you. LOL

    May 23, 2011 at 12:49 am |
    • Mark Miner

      Really, you've never read a nonfiction book in school? A textbook maybe?

      May 23, 2011 at 12:50 am |
    • Phil in Oregon

      One cannot have a relationship with a book.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:52 am |
    • jamie

      so no one ever read on the origin of species?

      May 23, 2011 at 1:07 am |
  11. Aaron

    An interesting pattern to so many of these Doomsday events is that they're suppose to happen on or near the 21st of the month. While often coinciding with an equinox or solstice, this recent one was for May and October. I wonder why that is?

    May 23, 2011 at 12:47 am |
  12. Kynt

    There's a conspiracy saying the Gregorian calendar is 300 years off and we're in 1700s right now...

    May 23, 2011 at 12:46 am |
  13. Travis

    I want to see what they thought is proof of the raptures time. Cause the bible clearly states that we will not know the time or place of christs return. The fact they had all these dates planned is crazy...... the bible also states false teachers are among us. Read the bible for what it says and not what some say about the bible. Lesson learned if Jesus comes now-10000 years from now it won't matter as long as we are prepared. And those linking the iceland volcano to doomsday, don't that thing erupts every 10 years. God bless y'all and god bless america!

    May 23, 2011 at 12:45 am |
  14. Truth

    Christianity is false religion. Jesus never claimed he is god and he never named christianity as a religion. Jesus was a Muslim. Meaning one who submitted his will to God. Just like Abraham. peace be upon all the prophets

    May 23, 2011 at 12:43 am |
    • Advaita.

      Iam not a christian. But you saying Christianity as a false religion is so bad. Every religion asks to submit yourself to God. Eastern Religions/ Hinduism also asks the same. Just thinking only one religion is good and other are false is the problem facing the whole world. I bet you have not read any other script ,repeat like a grama phone what you was taught.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:48 am |
    • troy

      Jesus was Jewish not muslim. Not that one is any better than the other.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:49 am |
    • Bill

      LOL you are crazy. Jesus was a Jew. Another religion against the insane Islam. Two against one. We shall win.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:56 am |
    • Adam

      That's incorrect. Jesus used a parable once that illustrated his divinity. And he on numerous occasions fulfilled Old Testament prophecies clearly with the belief in his being the Messiah. Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins and God confirmed Jesus as the Messiah by raising him from the dead. Great evidence to back that up.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:58 am |
    • Over It

      Take your insane Middle Eastern "prophets" and shove them. Abraham would be in a mental inst.itution today.

      Jesus' Messiah-fulfilling feats are bogus - the writers of the NT just squeezed them into their stories.

      May 23, 2011 at 1:17 am |
  15. travis noell

    I think people just need to keep working and going to school, and quit thinking about when the "last day" will come,. If it happens it happens,. But in the mean time lets all try to continue building a stronger nation and worry about the real problems.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:41 am |
  16. widow

    Wow and they call themselves disappointed... First of all if all you want is to see god destroy the world we have and the people and memories in it.. You are a pretty sad excuse for a human.. or any form of life for that matter.. What happened to sacrifice, selflessness.. does everything have to be about one's want? If you just lead a good life and try to help others.. what difference does it make? seriously? These people like soooo many others are just selfish... be it in a strange way.. they are still being driven by selfish compulsion.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:36 am |
    • cg

      you obviously don't understand what it's all about. they don't want to see the world come to an end, they want to be taken to heaven with Jesus – mainly why they've been traveling the world and spreading their message. I kind of feel sorry of them (not Harold)...all misled and left with disappointment

      May 23, 2011 at 1:08 am |
  17. John

    Jesus said clearly in KJV bible that he and the Angels doesn't know when, where and how he will return in "2nd coming of christ" Only his Father knows everything. Only when time's up, the Father will notify his Son, Jesus to get packing, start to roll . . . . .

    Stupid, ignorant and bewildered people who said Judgement day May 21st, 2011 will never feel the same. . . .

    May 23, 2011 at 12:35 am |
    • Over It

      "Jesus said clearly in KJV bible ..."

      Jesus didn't say a dang thing in the KJV bible. Men did.

      May 23, 2011 at 1:09 am |
  18. jrdz

    To think what would have happend if one of those nut jobs ever got voted in as president with thier hands on the nuke button?

    May 23, 2011 at 12:26 am |
  19. hustlenflo

    God gave up on this planet a long time ago. He realized that the human race was a failed experiment and moved on. Primary evidence that the human race is not worthy of God's attention - Harold Camping, Family Radio, Pat Robertson, Westboro Baptist Church protesting military funerals, Christians killing doctors, the Spanish Inquisition, George Bush Jr.'s fake conversion to Christianity, the Pope giving his blessing to Adolph Hitler the Crusades, and all the other phony Christians who hate everyone who doesn't believe what they believe and commit crimes in the name of Jesus.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:24 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Funny, anyone else on your "I hate Rolodex?"

      May 23, 2011 at 12:31 am |
    • Advaita.

      Jesus told "The kingdom of heaven is within you" and "Be Still and know that Iam God". People should understand that by going inwards within one self through meditation or Yoga, which the eastern religions (Hindusim,Buddhism) underlines , we can realize that one can be one with god just like Jesus. With due respect to belivers, I think it is not very rational to think God is sitting some where in a chair watching us from some heaven where NASA is not able to reach so far. Only thing that is realistic is We the most intelligent of beings and by going within oneself beyond mind we can be one with God or Lord, as Jesus rightly told. Eastern religion says everybody when they lose their individuality ,will understand that there is only God everywhere and not anything else,this world and individual ego is a mirage on god. Rightly Jesus told "love your neighbours", and "offer your right cheek and somebody hits your left cheek", such a noble and self enlightened being.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:40 am |
    • Durtmagert

      Not to mention the fundamentalist Muslims too. Or any fundamentalist religion for that matter.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:52 am |
  20. gypsumrose

    Ask yourself this, would a loving god gamble your soul in a cosmic poker game with the devil? would a loving god give you a book that supposedly has all the answers, an intelligent mind with which to think, then make all the evidence in the world contradict the book? are you really serving a god or are you serving a church, a belief, and a delusion that time and time again has been disproven..........insulting whatever divine being is out there by continuing to believe things that have been proven false will not help you in life. I think people really need to step back and ask themselves. do i believe this because my intelligent divinely given mind believes it or do i believe this because i was told to and im afraid. if there is a god it gave you a brain PLEASE USE IT!!!!

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

      Right on!!!

      May 23, 2011 at 12:37 am |
    • Phil in Oregon

      I hope you meet Him someday. Then you will realize how insignificant the human intellect is. "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, the things He has prepared for those who love Him" – and I've known some really intelligent, imaginative people.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:50 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      So, if we said we were serving God, would you believe us? I love the responses here today. Its almost similar to a battle between denominations... basically why do not more people believe what I, the person asking, believe.

      I like this guy/girl's post because it wasn't the direct "no God no God" postings that alot of us people of Faith, have been laughing at all day.

      Gypsumrose, the battle or conflict or whatever a person wants to call it might appear as a cosmic poker game but the wild thing is that it is not. The gamble or the dance is pretty simple, there are some in Faith that wish to make things very complicated but to most persons of Faith, it is simple acknowledging that something out there created all of this and we identify him or her as God. Now a person can go Westboru on folks or even this sect but for each one of these there are simple country and city churches that are not them. Its just like for every klansman I can count well over thousands of good and decent white folks. Now a person can point to one church and define the entire Faith as bad but there are folks that point towards one member of a race and declare the entire race is bad.

      What help in life are you looking for GYP'? See in mine my faith is the foundation and the spirit is the that which illuminates it. I guess in the end a question you ask, yep as many here claim there is no God and can not prove it and I claim there is a God and can not prove it.... I can step back and still be at peace and happiness with choice.

      Hope this helps.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:51 am |
    • kc

      "Amen" 🙂

      May 23, 2011 at 12:58 am |
    • Over It

      gypsumrose,

      Yes. And get rid of those damnable archaic scriptures - ALL of them - rife with the supernatural fantasies of primitive men who knew less than today's 10 year-olds about the world. There's more help in "Hints From Heloise" than in those books. Relegate them to history with the rest of ancient mythology.

      May 23, 2011 at 1:05 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.