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. Cythara

    When will people learn??!! The same people who ridicule Santa Claus stories accept with a straight face a Jewish peasant walking on water. The same people who ridicule Islam as a gutter religion think Judaism is 'right fresh from heaven'. You are all morons! If yer brains was dynamite, there wouldn't be enough to blow yer noses!

    May 23, 2011 at 1:57 am |
    • Nightwyn

      Ever heard of pot calling the kettle black?

      May 23, 2011 at 2:02 am |
  2. jesse

    Wow... 35 pages of mockery... don't get me wrong, I'm lmfao like the rest of the population at this point, but aren't we kind of beating a dead horse at this point? Especually after we all knew this game had been played before?

    May 23, 2011 at 1:56 am |
    • scott501

      I'm not clear, did the world end?

      May 23, 2011 at 1:57 am |
  3. Marine5484

    So what do the people who believed this that quit there jobs say to there former employer lol. hey.....boss can i have my job back even though you think im kind of crazy.

    May 23, 2011 at 1:56 am |
    • Cythara

      Yeah...they'll look a little 'sheepish'.

      May 23, 2011 at 1:58 am |
  4. James

    The first sign of the rapture was of course Macho Man's early demise

    May 23, 2011 at 1:55 am |
  5. alexx


    May 23, 2011 at 1:52 am |
  6. Jerry

    Jesus is dead and he ain't coming back. Stupid God freaks!

    May 23, 2011 at 1:48 am |
  7. Mike

    The Bible says, no man knows the day or hour. Goes to show how people don't read their Bible. Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth... BIBLE.

    May 23, 2011 at 1:48 am |
  8. Kathleen

    Anyone who believes in a sky fairy has no room to criticize Camping. His beliefs are only slightly more ridiculous than the typical god-worshipper.

    May 23, 2011 at 1:48 am |
  9. Jojorican

    would most of the world really notice if 2-3% of the population suddenly went up in a spaceship to kingdom come? Especially if that 2-3% were from less developed areas, where they lived off of the land, and were not as soft as most people are in more "developed" countries? Seriously, if you needed to replant the human species on a new planet, with no existing infrastructure, etc... you wouldn`t want stock brokers and IT personnel....you`d probably do better off with amazon natives and desert nomads....

    heck, the rapture coulda happened, and the end may be coming...we just missed it cause we`re not the hardy type of colonizer....

    or maybe it is all just BS....

    May 23, 2011 at 1:47 am |
  10. Hadji

    Only The Almighty God have knowledge of the last hour.The Quran says so.Some people are delusional, and others are confused and misguided.But the Almighty have given us signs of the last hour (the rising of the sun from the west, etc...

    May 23, 2011 at 1:46 am |
  11. MAC1973

    Hey, how do we know the Rapture DIDN'T happen? Anybody you know missing? Maybe the "true believers" like Camping didn't make the list!

    May 23, 2011 at 1:45 am |
    • William

      ...and THAT would explain why he's not returning any phone calls...It's all making sense...;-)

      May 23, 2011 at 2:10 am |
  12. Canaya123

    The earthquake was a little offset of New York as predicted and therefore ended in Iceland with an erupting volcano...

    May 23, 2011 at 1:43 am |
  13. Futurama

    Bender says: "Life goes on – except for you! Hahahahaha!"

    May 23, 2011 at 1:42 am |
  14. Samuel Gonzales

    We all know that the world will end but no one knew when. Most people refered it from the Bible the interpretations defers from person to person. All chapters and verses they mentioned are all exactly correct however there is one thing they have not mentioned, Jesus said he will come like a thief in the night my interpretation to this is very simple no one knows. Amen.

    May 23, 2011 at 1:40 am |
  15. Canaya123

    There was a rapture on Saturday as Camping predicted..!!. unfortunately, no one made the cut. 🙂

    May 23, 2011 at 1:37 am |
  16. porto

    Idiots that shouldn't be allowed to breed.

    May 23, 2011 at 1:37 am |
    • Alina

      True, these men were murdered, but not by the uprresis, these men were murdered by the government to deceive the muslim nation into being their puppet buffer against the uprresis or to inflame the situation for immigrants They are trying to turn muslim against black when there really is only one true enemy, don't be fooled AGAIN VA:F [1.9.9_1125]please wait...VA:F [1.9.9_1125](from 0 votes)

      October 9, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
  17. Advaita.

    NASA , please find where the Gods belonging to each religion is sitting in his high chair and Mr. Stephen Hawking please tell us when the world will finish off sucked off by some black hole. For me , my world is going to end now..iam going to doze off and a good night sleep is as good as rapture 🙂 .Enjoy guys!

    May 23, 2011 at 1:36 am |
  18. NewsAnalyzer

    To my fellow people of the book (Christians and Jews):

    1. I personally did not believe in what this "Rapture Day" people were saying. But, I respect their views.

    2. In the Holy Quran, there is a verse that states ONLY ALLAH = GOD knows when the end comes. Here is the verse:

    chapter 7 verse 187:

    "They ask you about the Hour (Day of Resurrection): "When will be its appointed time?" Say: "The knowledge thereof is with my Lord (Alone). None can reveal its time but He. Heavy is its burden through the heavens and the earth. It shall not come upon you except all of a sudden." They ask you as if you have a good knowledge of it. Say: "The knowledge thereof is with Allah (Alone), but most of mankind know not."

    "يَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ السَّاعَةِ أَيَّانَ مُرْسَاهَا ۖ قُلْ إِنَّمَا عِلْمُهَا عِندَ رَبِّي ۖ لَا يُجَلِّيهَا لِوَقْتِهَا إِلَّا هُوَ ۚ ثَقُلَتْ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۚ لَا تَأْتِيكُمْ إِلَّا بَغْتَةً ۗ يَسْأَلُونَكَ كَأَنَّكَ حَفِيٌّ عَنْهَا ۖ قُلْ إِنَّمَا عِلْمُهَا عِندَ اللَّهِ وَلَـٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ"

    3. I am pretty sure the Holy Bible/Torah has a verse similar to this one.

    4. For my own education, please let us know about this verse if possible. I know that true Christians and Jews have something to that effect in their Holy Books.



    May 23, 2011 at 1:35 am |
  19. t-bone west

    Those bozos need to be publicly ridiculed for their complete idiosy and yet their core beliefs, that Christ will return and judgement day will come is the core belief of all who profess to be Christian. This core belief is equally ridiculous just not so dramatically disproven.

    May 23, 2011 at 1:35 am |
  20. mike zaldivar

    Well how does it feel to be made a fool of?????

    May 23, 2011 at 1:34 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.