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. LoneZero

    This made me laugh this quote is taken from another article.

    "But Camping is certain he won't be available to talk about it Saturday. "There is no way I can schedule an interview, because I won't be here," "

    Now were all waiting for that said interview, interesting that he went into hiding and hasn't spoke to anyone yet. I guess he needs time to figure out what to say.

    May 23, 2011 at 5:34 am |
    • Larry Rollins

      He was right,
      he said he wouldn't be there on Saturday,
      Ho'e not, He's in hiding.

      May 23, 2011 at 5:53 am |
    • Theerdha

      I have yet to see any of Indur Goklany’s papers in any of the mitnsaream media, yet they are much more scientific! You folks keep wanting to see truth in the media. It's just not going to happen. This is not a factual debate. This is money, plain and simple. They can hide behind whatever headline they wish. 90% of the population that can read it's up each and every dire headline in the 15 seconds of attention they commonly allocate to any given piece of information, and they move on.This is fighting a hydra that can grow 10 new heads as quickly and as easily as 1 can be chopped off.This battle isn't about truth and facts. It's about money. And when we finally reach the tipping point where enough people are looking at their paycheck and saying Hey WAIT A MINUTE , it's just going to keep on rolling.JimB

      October 8, 2012 at 4:30 am |
  2. Jonathan

    Wow, I love laughing at these idiots. I can't wait to see what his excuse is. Come on, he is almost 90 years old. I'm sure plenty of you have parents or grand-parents who are that age and ramble a bunch of nonsense that you probably ignore so why listen to anything this crack-pot has to say? People should have stopped listening to him the last time he was wrong. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice and I'm an idiot who had it coming.He is hiding in his house with all of your money and you completely deserve it for believing the moron.

    May 23, 2011 at 5:31 am |
  3. justThinking

    All non profit orgs are supposed to submit their financial records for each year to the IRS every year in July. I find it interesting that Harold Camping/Family Radio predicted a rapture of May 21, and total destruction of earth ending five months later on Oct 21, yet they requested an extension, to turn over their records, til Nov. A month AFTER there is to be no more earth, H. C./Family Radio OR an IRS.

    May 23, 2011 at 5:29 am |
    • GK

      Family Radio are more of a "Non-prophet" organisation I'd say.

      May 23, 2011 at 5:39 am |
  4. Lacey

    Someone didnt read their Bibles. The book of Matthew says "No one knows the day nor the time, not even the Son, only the Father" <- right there people. Only God knows when He's going to come back. You can read the Bible backwards and forward for your entire life, you still wont know. (-_-)

    May 23, 2011 at 5:23 am |
    • Nightwyn

      Actually Harold Camping ‘studied’ the bible and found his ‘truths’ of doomsday in numerology not with the actual text. Therefore the verse would be irrelevant.

      May 23, 2011 at 5:29 am |
    • Larry Rollins

      The verse would only hold true if Camping was the father. Numerology has nothing to do with it. It doesn't say "only the father... and numerologists... will know when the end comes."

      May 23, 2011 at 5:36 am |
    • Nightwyn

      I know, and it doesn't say that. But that is what he did anyway.

      May 23, 2011 at 5:43 am |
  5. et donc ?

    they seem to regret that 90% of the world population did not die. i wonder if the death of "non believers" is something that they are looking forward to. it does not seems very Christian to me. Christian religion should be about compassion and love of of human beings. it seems somewhat very selfish and not in line with Jesus preaching...

    May 23, 2011 at 5:20 am |
  6. Jose Jimenez

    I wonder how much money this man made fooling ignorant people... Also, I wonder if he is planing to pay reparations to all those that were affected by his 'calculations'. The government and companies should deny helping those people regain the jobs THEY abandoned. Clearly, they do not care enough for an American economic recovery because they were ready to say to everyone else here "Sayonara!"

    May 23, 2011 at 4:32 am |
    • nisroc

      was said to be around 80 – 100 million

      May 23, 2011 at 4:39 am |
    • Larry Rollins

      80-100 million people left their jobs?
      Wow, that's 1/3rd of the American population!
      I didn't know that we had that many employed...

      May 23, 2011 at 4:54 am |
    • justThinking

      I don't think (@ least I hope not) he meant that was the number of people who quit their jobs. I think he was talking about the money donated.

      May 23, 2011 at 5:36 am |
    • Larry Rollins

      Good Call...
      Wow 80-100 million! I need to start a crazy church,
      The world will end on the 33rd of November 2011
      Please send money to
      P.O. box 4532
      Beverly hills, 90210

      May 23, 2011 at 5:41 am |
    • justThinking

      @ Mr Rollins...this might explain why they requested an IRS extension.

      Sidenote: I thought it was funny when they interviewed some of Family Radio's own employees on Friday and they said they didn't believe it and was going to report to work on Monday as usual.

      May 23, 2011 at 6:22 am |
  7. Ben

    Lock them up.. lock them all up. Time to treat religious beliefs like the mental illness that it is.

    May 23, 2011 at 4:25 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      I take it you would go the Hitler route... final solution.

      Nice to see so many continuing examples of such reasoning does exist also outside of religion.

      May 23, 2011 at 4:31 am |
    • Nightwyn

      Your right, people shouldn't have rights or free will. In fact everyone should wear pink dresses and carry poodles.....

      May 23, 2011 at 4:35 am |
    • Larry Rollins

      They don't have free will, a glorious charismatic religious leader has already taken that.

      May 23, 2011 at 4:51 am |
    • clizzy

      Just because you think religion is wrong or false minded manipulation doesn't make it true. You are nothing more than molecules in motion......right? Lol..........lol!

      May 23, 2011 at 4:58 am |
    • Nightwyn

      Someone took your free will Larry? I'm sorry.

      May 23, 2011 at 5:14 am |
    • Larry Rollins

      You crack me up, I make a comment about a sect that was so brain washed
      by a crackpot leader that they quit there jobs, and went out waiting for Jesus to come.
      And you assume I am an atheist...
      NIce job... nice job...

      May 23, 2011 at 5:33 am |
  8. Muhammad

    “We Love our followers. O Muhammad feed their Memories they are forgetting while we are recording.”

    Muhammad Scripture*

    May 23, 2011 at 4:21 am |
  9. Bob

    How many idiots live on this planet is just amazing ..... religion is for the weak.

    May 23, 2011 at 4:18 am |
    • sam

      ur weak!

      May 23, 2011 at 4:59 am |
    • Jonathan

      Bob has a point. Religion is the "opiate of the masses" and apparently the masses are pretty dumb on their own without any kind of opiate.

      May 23, 2011 at 5:55 am |
    • Lycidas

      Actually..how strong is Bob if he feels the need to show how unweak he is?

      May 23, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
  10. mark

    well, I think a lot of people felt really smart on Sunday. I am really sorry, I never do this and this might offend some people but, thank god I'm an atheist! (please note the sarcasm) last time I was told I was dumb for being an atheist was sat.. wait, who's dumb?

    May 23, 2011 at 4:11 am |
    • sam

      U are

      May 23, 2011 at 5:00 am |
    • Mary

      Just because one extremist (and even psycho) group of religious people is wrong that doesn't mean all beliefs are wrong -certainly at least one (or lack of thereof) must be right ... if you are so smart then tell us what caused the big bang?

      May 23, 2011 at 5:43 am |
  11. Cerebral1

    Blind faith... Because thinking is hard.

    May 23, 2011 at 3:57 am |
    • drockintheblock

      HAHAH clever girl...

      May 23, 2011 at 4:32 am |
  12. Ree

    I feel bad for what these people put their kids through. I saw an interview with two little girls, ages 7 and 5, whose parents were convinced that the rapture was happening on Saturday, and it was heartbreaking to hear them say, "Well, Daddy said that lots of people will die next week and I'm pretty scared because I tried really really hard to be good all the time, but sometimes I forget, and what if I die too because I was naughty and forgot to say my prayers sometimes?" That was so awful to hear . . . if you want to believe this stuff, okay fine, but don't terrorize little kids into thinking that there's a good chance they're gonna die a horrible death in a couple weeks.

    May 23, 2011 at 3:54 am |
  13. Dale

    All these people who spent all their money and quit their jobs for this event will all be on the unemployment line and asking for welfare come Monday morning the 23 of May.

    May 23, 2011 at 3:47 am |
  14. Belky

    Sad, really sad! I think about these people that gave up everything they had, including family to go around in RV’s and spread the word that the end of the world is here and all I can feel about it is sad. Why does this happen? Where these people all depressed and wanting the end to come because they don’t like life or are they all just weak minded gullible people who looked for direction and found it in a man who can’t read a map?

    God bless them all for find passion at least, I have none of that in my life so in a way as sad as this was at least they had a good ride on the way!

    May 23, 2011 at 3:31 am |
    • MikinAZ

      It happens because they have relinquished their responsibility of conscious thought and critical thinking in exchange for "faith" in something that has no basis in fact. Preachers call their followers their "flock" – kind of an insult but accurate...sheep are stupid animals who follow blindly. Religion is a plague on humanity that entraps the weak.

      "Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest."
Denis Diderot (1713-1784)

      May 23, 2011 at 4:04 am |
  15. benjamin dover

    It is interesting to me that none of the signs that are proposed in Revelations. Not one. I know that it isn't nice to say that someone is stupid, but come on, if you have the conviction to travel the country and spread the word about the rapture, shouldn't you have had the conviction to read the bible and notice that the man that made this prediction didn't have any basis for predict it.

    May 23, 2011 at 3:30 am |
    • AJ

      Agreed. The Bible does say that only God the Father knows when the end will come. Camping needs to go find another hobby. He and his followers should volunteer to do some charity work and volunteer in homeless shelters, something/anything more useful than creating fear about the our demise. I do feel bad for them though, they're just looking for a miracle, a sign that there's wonder and meaning to it all. I can relate. I hope they will all be ok after this I really do.

      May 23, 2011 at 4:12 am |
  16. Captain Jack

    Here's what you should do:


    May 23, 2011 at 3:26 am |
  17. brian harrison

    I KNOW the rapture is going to happen. just dont know when.all we can do is live for the lord and be ready when those trupets sound.

    May 23, 2011 at 3:26 am |
    • MikinAZ

      The world will end – I think there is no disagreement around that...but it won't be with trumpets, milk and honey. Natural disaster maybe – but not Supernatural. Maybe caused by man but not by a man made in someone else's image. Funny that the logic is circular...Use your "god given" brains and trust in the science your "creator" has allowed you to develop and you will come to only one conclusion – its all fake, man made ideologies intended to control and enslave the weak of mind. Using god's gifts will lead you to the determination there is not one. lol

      May 23, 2011 at 4:10 am |
  18. SWILK3RS

    Everyone look busy, Jesus is coming. Haha, idiots.

    May 23, 2011 at 3:26 am |
  19. Dani

    I was raised Catholic and I am now a believer in a higher power but i have no affiliation with a certain faith. That said, a wise woman (my grandmother) always said "treat everyone u meet with the respect and kindness you yourself would want to be treated" She told me a story of when she was in her kitchen one day in the 1950's and a homeless person knocked on her door and asked her for money for some food. Instead of sending the man on his way, she invited him in and made him dinner. He was very greatful and said God Bless You. I asked her why she would invite a stranger into her home and she said "If Jesus will walk the Earth again to send us up to God, he will come as someone or something not expected. He could be anyone, so i play it safe and treat everyone the way I would want to be treated." I take her advice to this day. On another note, being raised Catholic, everytime when someone claims there is to be the second coming of Christ or Jesus Christ himself, "respectable" church's are the first people to call them looney. Moral of this story, practice what u preach cause that homeless man asking for help just may be the man upstairs. Be good to each other but don't be taken in by those with hidden agendas.

    May 23, 2011 at 3:21 am |
    • Hebby

      Well said Dani. Unfortunately people with bad intentions have ruined it to be able to trust just anybody to let into your house or in other ways specifically anymore but I like the message. Do more for people and you never know.

      May 23, 2011 at 3:44 am |
    • Name*stephanie

      Amen I love your post wish more people thought like you.

      May 23, 2011 at 4:52 am |
    • Name*stephanie

      I wish more people thought like you.

      May 23, 2011 at 4:53 am |
  20. Cliff Vegas

    I'm sorry, I have no sympathy whatsoever for these people. They call themselves "christian" but all I see are heretics, Neanderthals (mentally-speaking), and charlatans. I'm sick of you. Go home already.

    May 23, 2011 at 3:21 am |
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About this blog

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.