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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. done.

    I just want to make an apology to any of you who doubt the validity of the Christian faith. I know that something has been done to make you feel such strong feelings against Christianity. I'm sorry. I'm sorry that Christians don't always represent Christ in the way they are supposed to. I'm sorry that we can be hypocritical and judgmental. Please forgive us. Thankfully, God understands our imperfections and loves us still. What's really great is that he understands you aren't perfect either. He wanted to to free you from the flesh, from the earthly world. That's why He sent his one and only Son to die on the cross. Jesus died the death that we all deserve. Because Christ rose again and conquered death, conquered the flesh, we can enter into God's presence. We can become his children. You might not believe that God wants you. You might doubt that He would accept you and love you, but that is why He is so amazing. He wants you, not as a slave like servant, a "religious" drone fulfilling His will, but as his child. He wants to crown you and invite you into the royal family. All you have to do is accept. Bow down at His beautiful feet so He can place the crown on your head.

    If you become one of His children, when the end times come, you get to spend eternal life with Him. That's what the Rapture is all about. It's judgement and separation. Royalty from the rest. It's a sad sad truth. It seems elitist, but you were given a choice. I am 100% sure that God will mourn for every single molecule of His Creation that He destroys. Seems counter intuitive, but if your piece of pottery is broken, you throw it into the trash. Let Him fix you! Please.

    Camping and His followers got a lot wrong. A LOT. But they spent their last few months spreading the good news relentlessly, hoping to bring as many people with them as possible. That's what Christians are called to do everyday. To love the world enough to save it. I'm sorry if that hasn't been done enough. That is what I'm trying to do now.

    May 23, 2011 at 1:30 am |
    • Matty

      "Spreading the good word"? Telling everyone they will die in a earthquake because God loves us and not you? Yeah, that is really sweet...

      May 23, 2011 at 1:34 am |
    • Donovan

      Listen To yourself foraminute. My kid would love to heat fantastic stories like that before bed. Maybe right after I read him Star Wars

      May 23, 2011 at 1:36 am |
    • done.

      The key point is that you don't have to live through that "earthquake". You can be in Heaven too. That is the good news. Salvation is available to EVERYONE. You included.

      May 23, 2011 at 1:39 am |
    • Matty

      yeah, telling my kid everything will be great right after you see your Dad crushed by a wall and swallowed up by the earth... If your "God" was so great, why wouldnt he just stop everyones hearts, or have them die in their sleep? Why all the smashing stuff? Ever think of that? Oh right. You don't think for yourself.

      Darth Vader is going to get you!

      May 23, 2011 at 1:43 am |
    • done.

      One more and I really am done. Please please please. Donovon and any other doubters. Please read Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. Particularly the first few chapters. Lewis was an atheist, a STRONG believer in atheism, who was converted and is definitely able to present Christianity in a much more understandable and eloquent and above all LOGICAL way than I ever could. Oftentimes, atheists, agnostics, etc. claim to be devoted to knowledge. Take this as a challenge. It's just like how all atheists should read the Bible. It's always easier to deny something if you know exactly what the thing your denying is. Read Mere Christianity. If nothing else, it will make you a better atheist right? I'm praying instead it might change your mind a little bit. I mean it when I say it's logical. It's the best argument for Christianity I've ever read.

      May 23, 2011 at 1:47 am |
    • 1nd3p3nd3nt

      sounds like you're a good person. What worries me is the irrational part of most of our current religions. If people can get sucked into this, what else are they getting sucked into?

      Some of religion is good lessons and morals to help live our lives, most of religion is memorizing silliness and emphasis on blind faith over any critical thought.

      May 23, 2011 at 3:36 am |
    • Leslie Moon

      Done says: "I know that something has been done to make you feel such strong feelings against Christianity."
      Um. Let me see what I think that could be? Perhaps saying that everyone who doesn't accept Jesus Christ is going to be destroyed and denied salvation for all of eternity? Hmmm. Maybe that could be one of the offensive things? You don't sound "elitist" Done, you sound mean-spirited, prejudiced and spiritually deranged.

      May 23, 2011 at 4:39 am |
  2. Proud to be a Christian

    "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man [Jesus]. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man." – Matthew 24:36-39

    "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you must also be ready, because the Son of Man [Jesus] will come at an hour when you do not expect him." – Matthew 24: 42-44

    "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour" - Matthew 25:13

    May 23, 2011 at 1:26 am |
    • 1nd3p3nd3nt

      the reason why it says that in the Bible is so no future priests or pastors can set a date for the end of the world, thus allowing the religion to continue without any challenges to its authority.

      Is like the wizard telling you to not look behind the curtain. Instead of toto pulling it aside, you're simply describing the curtain.

      May 23, 2011 at 3:39 am |
  3. Rob

    Religious lunatics!

    May 23, 2011 at 1:24 am |
    • Anon

      indeed

      May 23, 2011 at 1:36 am |
  4. jonnathen

    evans iw a idiot and so is anyone who believes they can decipher the bible, history or GODS plans...he is THE ONE, and he and only he knows when he will be back... And when that day comes all of us would be none the wiser to his arrival...And this goes for all our worlds religions...But we can all trust and believe, he will be back soon, and very disappointed at what he see's...and may He have mercy on all our Souls, or should i say HIS Souls...

    May 23, 2011 at 1:24 am |
    • Anon

      God will NEVER back because HE DOESN'T EXIST!!!
      If Justin Bieber exists, then there is your proof that there is no god.
      If Rebecca Black exists, then there is your proof that there is no god.
      If Twilight exists, then there is your proof that there is no god.

      May 23, 2011 at 1:38 am |
    • 1nd3p3nd3nt

      before the christians pushed jesus into being the 'son of god' he was simply regarded as a messiah. The messiah part should be kept in mind for future saviors of man. I'd be more concerned about impacting our world and nurturing our future messiahs than simply hoping one day a zombie messiah from over two thousand years ago will come back to life and magic your problems away.

      May 23, 2011 at 3:41 am |
  5. Michelle

    I can not stay Quite we all need to sit back and read the word of GOD because no one knows the hour nor day or time that he will come back I see much but I refuse to put dates on it because it will come to past only in GOD's timing what I am saying Guy this Guy don't know when it will take Place and it is foolish to even guess the Day Lie like he is coming everyday and get into a good believing Church that preaches Jesus and stop listening to people who are prophesying the end times becasue we don't know when it will happened for he shall come like that theif in the Night so just live life to the fullest and be ready to go at moment notice for he will come back and we will go back to heaven with him as I stated in his Timing Shalom Michelle

    May 23, 2011 at 1:22 am |
    • Matty

      Jesus, where did you learn to read and write? Crazytown HIgh school?

      May 23, 2011 at 1:32 am |
    • 1nd3p3nd3nt

      the reason why it says that in the Bible is so no future priests or pastors can set a date for the end of the world, thus allowing the religion to continue without any challenges to its authority.

      Is like the wizard telling you to not look behind the curtain. Instead of toto pulling it aside, you're simply describing the curtain.

      May 23, 2011 at 3:42 am |
  6. Goofbal Camping

    When that Board of Director meets, the FIRST thing they need to do is get rid of the old goofball Camping.... what an embarrassment !

    May 23, 2011 at 1:22 am |
  7. Seth

    Think for a second does his failed prediction of "the end" show more that the bible is true cause it say that man will not know day or hour of the second coming

    May 23, 2011 at 1:20 am |
    • williamjones

      yes I agree. Also it is a fulfillment of the verse in Mat 24 that says their shall arise false prophets and christs.. This shows that we are in the end time when false prophets arise

      May 23, 2011 at 1:28 am |
    • 1nd3p3nd3nt

      williamjones, there are many false prophets, the false christ precedes the second coming of christ and he's supposed to be a world uniter, but in some sort of underlyingly sinister way, leading us astray. I don't think any qualifies as that yet, as the world is far from united.

      May 23, 2011 at 3:44 am |
  8. Advaita.

    On a not so lighter vein, With the amount of Green Gas ,deforestation and pollution , I would better ask a scientist to predict the End of world and hopefully that day God will come to Earth.

    But I believe God is within us, in every living being , and in giving respect and loving each other and in helping others, he can be felt. Love is the message given by Jesus to my understanding ,and he did not give that message without a reason.

    May 23, 2011 at 1:20 am |
  9. Atheist Prophet

    It is times like these to persecute the church. Why do they have tax exempt status? Makes no sense at all. Should I get tax exempt status to worship a pumpkin? I hear faith in god or jesus, but never faith in man. Religion is a disease and it is time to find the cure.

    May 23, 2011 at 1:18 am |
  10. Matthew

    "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angles in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." Matthew 24:36

    They skipped that one.

    May 23, 2011 at 1:16 am |
    • Nightwyn

      Actually Harold Camping ‘studied’ the bible and found his ‘truths’ in numerology not with the actual text. Therefore the verse would be irrelevant. And the irony is, numerology is more of a mathematical science, and yet all the bashing on the Christian doctrine. Google it 🙂

      May 23, 2011 at 1:24 am |
    • 1nd3p3nd3nt

      nightwin, sadly, crazy end of the world radio guy actually took phrases from the Bible and then created a haphazard equation with them. The one day is as a thousand and a thousand as one day quote, for example, is a phrase used to add seven thousand years to get us to 2011.

      Most mathematics involving the Bible are used in Hebrew and each letter and word can be assigned a numerical value, thus making the whole Bible a giant code of numbers. Some study the numbers and look for patterns in them. The movie PI goes into great detail about this. But ultimately it depends on the version of the Bible you have and how it was translated, or Torah, the old testament.

      Pretty sure the new testament was written by multiple authors and has no correlation to mathematical studies in the same regard as the old testament.

      May 23, 2011 at 3:49 am |
  11. 1nd3p3nd3nt

    god does not need faith to believe in him. If you need faith to believe in god, you might want to question what you are believing in. There's a good chance you are misguided and confused.

    An all-powerful, all-knowing, omni-present god does not need a leap of faith to be believed in, he's right in front of you everywhere you look if you can only see : )

    The Bible and Koran or ok, but god doesn't live in a book.

    May 23, 2011 at 1:16 am |
  12. jamie

    i assume people here who comment on the bible have read it, i mean really read it, cover to cover. They wouldnt just be taking an opinion they have picked up along the way would they?
    clearly no one would be that asinine to give a critique on something they havn't truly examined?

    May 23, 2011 at 1:15 am |
    • Donovan

      I have read the bible, but I'm not sure which version it was. I think there are thousands of version aren't there?

      May 23, 2011 at 1:17 am |
    • 1nd3p3nd3nt

      you know what really upsets me? Is when some christian nondenominational born again sheeple on the corner stops to tell me how jesus can save my life when they barely know the Bible at all. Most christians haven't read the Bible yet alone thought about it critically.

      My personal beliefs aside, most atheists I know have read the Bible and that's why they're atheists. The Bible is full of gaps in logic and contradicts itself several times. Worse are the christian nondenominational evangelicals who tell other people what jesus meant and then ask for money.

      ...god doesn't need money, he can work miracles. Jesus didn't say give me your money, he said the meek shall inherit the world.

      May 23, 2011 at 3:57 am |
  13. Donovan

    Vote for Obama! first he saved us from Health Care providers by giving us the health care bill, which increased our insurance premiums. Next he killed Osama bin Laden which might have ended terrorism, but certainly not the two wars against it! And now, he has saved the world from The Rapture. hooray Obama!

    May 23, 2011 at 1:12 am |
    • 1nd3p3nd3nt

      ...the healthcare bill doesn't even take effect until 2014. You may want to do some more research or thought before you start commenting on things you obviously know very little about.

      May 23, 2011 at 3:59 am |
  14. cyberCMDR

    For those devout Christians out there, this is an excellent opportunity to reflect on where to draw the line on beliefs. The core of Christianity, that there is a God and Jesus was his son, is not provable or disprovable. This, and Jesus' message of tolerance, loving one's neighbor (and he was very open about who was your neighbor), forgiving one's enemies, etc. provide a good set of rules to live by. If you start using the Bible though to interpret the nature of the Universe, you will find a huge number of disconnects between measurable reality and the Old Testament. The universe is demonstrably not less than 10,000 years old, there is overwhelming scientific evidence to support evolution, and like it or not reality trumps beliefs. Being a good Christian does not mandate dismissing (or trying to "correct") science. You just have to believe in the important stuff like how to live your life, and not try to distort reality to make it fit the Biblical version of history.

    May 23, 2011 at 1:10 am |
    • KJH

      To ME, science only proves how God did it!

      May 23, 2011 at 1:16 am |
    • after39years

      What an enlightened approach. I hope everyone reads this!

      May 23, 2011 at 1:18 am |
  15. Robert

    When god shall arrive it will be like a thief in the night with no account for predictions or false prophets.

    May 23, 2011 at 1:09 am |
    • Not a deek

      Ur an idiot

      May 23, 2011 at 1:17 am |
    • Over It

      Nice to know that your "God" is a sneak thief - bah!

      May 23, 2011 at 1:22 am |
  16. child of god

    there's only 2 things that are certain in life birth and death, that being said lets make the best of ths life love respect and help each other....peace

    May 23, 2011 at 1:09 am |
    • Josh

      and to pay taxes

      May 23, 2011 at 1:24 am |
  17. James A Okello

    If one believes in Jesus, he or she should believe what Jesus said.
    The Word says "No human being knows the day or the hour. Many will make false prophesies! "
    So, whenever one defines a day as the last day, just rule that person off.

    May 23, 2011 at 1:06 am |
  18. Colony

    Tom Evans sums it up with his remark, "I was trying to be faithful." Faithful, yes, but faithful to whom? Not to God or the Bible, but to that ridiculous character Harold Camping. Mr. Evans and others like him forgot about a little something called personal responsibility. He simply does whatever his pastor (or a poser like Mr. Camping) says with no thought. That's what we call blind faith. What did Mr. Camping do to earn the kind of following he has, anyway? Say, "Look at me, I've got a date so I must have done the math"?

    May 23, 2011 at 1:05 am |
  19. john

    atheists are sad angry little people

    May 23, 2011 at 1:04 am |
    • DaveN CA

      Generalize much? 😉

      May 23, 2011 at 1:06 am |
    • beelzebubba

      Assuming that is true, does it make you sad (if so, you are no better off) or does it fill you with glee (if it does, you are worse off spiritually)

      May 23, 2011 at 1:13 am |
    • Matty

      Al least we didn't murder and torture millions of people over hundreds of years over a fairy tale story... We've got that going for us.. which is nice.

      May 23, 2011 at 1:39 am |
  20. omg!!

    HILARIOUS!!! Harold Camping PARODIES!!!
    http://losangeles.ibtimes.com/articles/149992/20110522/harold-camping-may-21-rapture-doomsday-parody.htm

    May 23, 2011 at 1:03 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.