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. MT

    Religion...Whether it's the world ending, or all the rest of the fantasy crap every religion offers, I think it's all just a waste of time.

    May 23, 2011 at 3:19 am |
  2. Greg Lippert

    ha ha idiots. I love it when these doomsday folk talk this crap. The world is not going to end just the way we live. A bottleneck of humanity and those that are left I hope and pray they do not do things the way the world has been doing them – taking advantage of other people, lying, cheating, stealing, ego centric behavior, robbing mother earth of her resources and not giving back, abuse, neglect, greed, lust for more more more – – you get the point. I am not in fear of the God of my understanding just simply in awe of the God of my understanding – this God loves me and only wants what is best for me – not this fire and brimstone crap i was taught growing up.

    May 23, 2011 at 3:18 am |
  3. steve

    uhm well....heres what happened we made a opps it didnt happen causeing people to screw there lives up and yes our enviroment is f#$% and sorry for the bad spelling and language but camping is a total D-bag and needs to resign and recieve punishment for what he has done so with that said have a nice day and dont drink the kool-aid

    May 23, 2011 at 3:16 am |
  4. Peter

    Never have so many deserved to lose so much so quickly.

    It is a genuine pleasure to see idiots get what they deserve.

    May 23, 2011 at 3:11 am |
  5. stealth616

    It's just amazing how many people not only in the USA this guy has duped. Imagine, one even going to the extent of quitting his job! i can't understand why people still believe this guy even though he already 'predicted" Doomsday way back in 1994 in which nothing happened.

    May 23, 2011 at 3:08 am |
  6. porto

    What a bunch of dumb-@ssess. And that's an insult to the @sses.

    May 23, 2011 at 3:07 am |
  7. American Citizen

    I'm extremely disappointed! I was so looking forward to this!
    Imagine a world without all of these vile self-absorbed humanity-hating death-cult whackjobs!!
    ..but, then again, it probably wouldn't have been too nice once "God" began his outpouring of "Love"..

    May 23, 2011 at 3:02 am |
  8. Mick

    Does the December 21st date mean I don't have to buy Chrstmas presents? Woohoo!

    May 23, 2011 at 3:01 am |
  9. Lindsey

    Bad things are happening: floods in the Mississippi basin are destroying homes and crops ( why so much water?). The volcano in Iceland is erupting and it accelerates ice melt. We've had the most horrendous tornadoes hit middle america (300 in one month alone? that's unheard of! insane!) , we are flat broke as a country, teachers are losing jobs and many state run services like libraries are being closed. Our politicians are running a show and no one can get the country back on track. We're about to get involved in a deadly war in them Middle east, if we don't get out of there asap. Never mind that we've been there 12 years now! Why are we wanting to bite more than we can chew! Things are going from bad to worse. Birds and fish have been dying in the thousands in 2011. We have worse earthquakes than ever before..... you get the picture. Our weather is spelling disaster for many around the world and we are still in an economic crisis. I want to be optimist but the reality is alarming. We need to face all things with courage and love...and hope. Hope for the best! I'm totally ranting! sorry!

    May 23, 2011 at 2:58 am |
    • m0ose

      Quick! Grab your "The End is Nigh!" signs and head the street corner! There isn't much time!!

      May 23, 2011 at 3:04 am |
    • jellylee20202

      Yes, you are ranting and please stop before you embarrass yourself. There are disasters throughout human history if you weren't so lazy as just turn to religion and blind faith for answer instead of pick up a book to enrich yourself you'll learn that these events are not abnormal.

      May 23, 2011 at 3:09 am |
    • Chicken Little

      The sky is falling, the sky is falling.

      May 23, 2011 at 5:51 am |
  10. Mike X

    I'm so thankful for being an atheist, you have no idea.

    May 23, 2011 at 2:57 am |
    • American Citizen

      I do! I know exactly how you feel!

      May 23, 2011 at 3:05 am |
    • Tony

      I think he was trying to predict his date to go!! HAHAHA I'm evil. I think that the world is a slave to religion and that once religions begin to fade to science the world will be a lot better....only for a religion will someone murder millions...oh yeah I'm a little erked because I COULDN'T BUY MY BEER!! GUESS WHY....IT'S SUNDAY 🙁 pretty sure its something to do with the whole god thing...yes lowercase

      May 23, 2011 at 3:31 am |
  11. jellylee20202

    Is it too soon and too cruel to laugh at them now?

    May 23, 2011 at 2:52 am |
    • Blah

      Probably the same Y2K people

      May 23, 2011 at 2:59 am |
    • m0ose

      It was appropriate to laugh in their face before May 21st. It is now even more appropriate to laugh, as they got exactly what they needed... a fresh dose of reality.

      May 23, 2011 at 3:01 am |
  12. Jordan hood

    People are stupid for believing this guy, Harold Camping is old and crazy. It's about time for him to go, and for being a false prophet he is going to hell plain and simple. Everyday at 3, there will be a pineapple shoved up his ass for being a liar

    May 23, 2011 at 2:51 am |
  13. LilJon

    Eventually, some idiot is going to try and speed things along and force the visit between the Maker and mankind (i.e. start killing people on massive scale). One gets tired of being wrong over and over again.

    May 23, 2011 at 2:48 am |
    • Mycology

      Have you never heard of Islam? they're trying to bring it about now, with the destruction of Israel and the genocide of the jews.

      May 23, 2011 at 3:06 am |
  14. Lindsey

    Hey guys, just because you didn't see instantly happen on May 21, doesn't mean that IT'S not happening. The guy is sill human and it's not easy even for scholars to understand theology. Don't write it off that all is okay. I like to joke as much as the next person about things but the apocalypse and the rapture thing and all that is still on. If people get insurance policies for useless crap like cars and houses, shouldn't you think about making yourself all right for your God? He might be telling us what's really the most important thing: GET READY. Consider yourself lucky that the world didn't end. You have time to set aside all joking. For some people around the world, death and destruction, hunger and disease is happening and is very real to them. We need to look at all this with compassion. Things might get worse. If we haven't suffered from any of these things, then perhaps we truly are fortunate. Don't be arrogant if death and destruction isn't in your neighborhood. Thousands aren't as lucky as we are. May 21 isn't an overnight thing, Mr. Camp may have gotten that wrong, but its a process and maybe that's what we need to be very watchful and prayerful that we can overcome al things. May God bless and protect all of you!

    May 23, 2011 at 2:41 am |
    • Jordan hood

      What do we do if there ends up being no God at all? I personally do not have a religion, because these so called Gods are pinning the human race against each other. No one can ever be ready for the world to come crashing down, maybe they seem ready or they say they are but no one will ever be ready

      May 23, 2011 at 2:58 am |
    • Ole

      – useless crap like cars and houses?
      You live in a cave? Ride a horse to work?

      May 23, 2011 at 3:05 am |
    • m0ose

      You are so right. We should start living in fear of the invisible hand in the sky. The all loving all caring god who would come and smash all his creation and send his minions to an eternity of hell. Yep, sounds like a great guy....

      May 23, 2011 at 3:13 am |
    • Sam

      There is no God. You're just too ignorant and brainwashed to see common sense.

      May 23, 2011 at 4:02 am |
    • Chicken Little

      Honey, it's called Pascal's Wager. It's been around for a few hundred years, and it ain't original. It's been debunked again, and again. maybe if you had taken even one philosophy calss you might know that.

      May 23, 2011 at 5:53 am |
    • Chicken Little

      oops, that should be "class"...

      May 23, 2011 at 5:54 am |
  15. truth


    May 23, 2011 at 2:39 am |
  16. Jason

    I'm just disappointed that I didn't get to go on my planned post rapture looting.

    May 23, 2011 at 2:37 am |
    • Blah


      May 23, 2011 at 3:02 am |
    • Beverly

      For those that don't read the BIble, I will warn you that the Bible says: But of that day (rapture of the saints) and hour
      Knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father ONLY.
      Matthew 24:36
      Harold Camp is not a true prophet and you should not listen to him nor fear him. When Jesus do appear all eyes will see him and the ears as well.

      May 23, 2011 at 3:40 am |
  17. Nightwyn

    Has anyone actually googled Harold Camping? You do realize that he “studied’ the bible and found his ‘truths’ of doomsday in numerology not with the actual text. This can be done with a T.V. guide………………. And the irony is, numerology is more of a mathematical science, and yet all the bashing on the Christian doctrine.
    So in fair game does that give Christians the right to bash scientist now? Or numerologist? Oh, Oh I know radio broadcasters…..He was a man can we go on a male bashing….

    May 23, 2011 at 2:36 am |
    • m0ose

      In what way is numerology a science. It is about as scientific as astrology is. Please..... stop grasping at straws.

      May 23, 2011 at 2:55 am |
  18. Confused

    I am quite perplexed at 'Christians' or anyone who claims to be believe in the Bible and who believe such irate claims such as these when God himself says in the Bible that NO MAN KNOWS THE HOUR. So why do people continue to fall for these stupid claims? Is God's word not enough for you? This day can not be predicted. PERIOD. Speaking to those who claim to believe in the Bible.

    May 23, 2011 at 2:36 am |
    • Agree

      I completely agree with that. I don't understand what part of that verse they do not understand. It even says that JESUS himself does not know the date. So what makes them think that they can figure it out when Jesus himself does not know???

      May 23, 2011 at 3:02 am |
    • Daniel

      U r right!! Doesn't the Bible also say, He will return like a THIEF in the night!? I have never heard of a thief calling years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes or seconds before robbing a place. If God n Jesus are tightier than a grilled cheese on a hot day, and Jesus doesn't know when He is coming back. How is a flawed, distant, creature like man suppose to predict such a return?

      May 23, 2011 at 3:46 am |
  19. a-meee

    I feel a bit slighted only in the fact that it DIDN'T happen and we're still stuck with all these ZEALOTS on our hands, not having been taken away from us. Now we get to suffer, listening to the deciples sing their Backpedal Jig. Maybe that's the hell they were referring to?

    May 23, 2011 at 2:32 am |
  20. jai brown

    I think these ppl who come up with this type of crap need to grow up. It is not wrong to believe in the Lord but, attempting to predict when he will come is NOT going to make him come. Don't it say in the Bible that noone will know the hour nor day? Live life to the fullest and enjoy it...stop looking for a quick out and STOP listening to those quack suppose to be preachers on tv...they just want your money!!!!

    May 23, 2011 at 2:29 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.