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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. ILoveJesus

    Every single INDIVIDUAL of Camping's group is responsible for picking up the Holy Bible and READING IT FOR THEMSELVES!!!
    The day Jim Jones stood up in the pulpit and dropped the Bible down on the floor saying "we don't need this anymore", that was the congregation's que to stand to their feet and WALK OUT!!!! Not continue to follow him all the way to the jungle to inevitably be served "koolaid". PEOPLE......READ IT FOR YOURSELVES. STOP BELIEVING ONE MAN'S interpretation.

    May 23, 2011 at 6:28 am |
    • Sassan

      Read it, and see how the Old Testament allows slavery

      May 23, 2011 at 6:34 am |
    • ILoveJesus

      Sassan, Wrong...The Word of God strictly forbids menstealing. The penalty was death. Men commonly "sold themselves" to buy food when the money failed in the land. AGAIN! Read the WHOLE text. Don't start trying to "pick it apart" because you reject it. If you really want the truth the READ THE WHOLE TRUTH.

      May 23, 2011 at 6:41 am |
  2. Cindy

    Yes, the signs of the ends times are at hand...which just means we all need to be living the life every day that our Lord expects. Bible says & all of these Doomsdayers should know it....No man knows the time or the day...it shall come like a thief in the night. When was the last time you knew before hand when your house would be burglarized????

    May 23, 2011 at 6:25 am |
    • MichaelInDC

      What, exactly, are these signs that are supposed to be "at hand"?

      May 23, 2011 at 6:30 am |
    • Sassan

      You go ahead and leave your delusions to yourself. Michael these nuts see the events in the middle east, earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis (such natural disasters) etc. as "signs"

      May 23, 2011 at 6:35 am |
    • Nightwyn

      No worries, it's not like we will ever have another world war..... I mean who would bomb America?

      May 23, 2011 at 6:48 am |
  3. gerard

    HEY Mr. Camping??? we are now in the month of May, perhaps you are thinking of April pools day???

    May 23, 2011 at 6:24 am |
  4. TcTruth

    It's a shame that some people waste their lives with their noses stuck in a centuries-old, fictional tale while life speeds right past them. If you believe in God, why don't you get out of church and appreciate the beautiful earth that "He" created. Visit the ones you love and enjoy the life that "He" gave you. When your world ends, don't worry about taking the rest of us, Heaven might actually be a little roomier if you leave us behind.

    May 23, 2011 at 6:21 am |
  5. gerard

    Mr. Camping used his vast knowledge in civil engineering in calculating the advent of doomsday. Unluckyly, he made use of stone-age calculating technique that is why his prediction is a dud. Anyway, forget about Mr. Camping, his ideas are as old as his age.

    May 23, 2011 at 6:21 am |
  6. Gaunt

    So now that he was wrong, what are the chances that Camping and his collection of con artists will return the millions of dollars in onations they have recieved? According to the IRS Family Radio is worth over 72$ dollars now, based almost entirely upon donations, and they have a portfolio of over $30 million dollars in LONG TERM bonds and stocks. Think about that for a second.

    They knew the world would never end, they used it as an excuse to rake in tens of millions of dollars in donations. This man and his entire organisation should be in jail for mass fraud.

    May 23, 2011 at 6:16 am |
    • stillHere

      I the outside chance they don't think they are going to take that money with them........And they keep good books (no pun intended).......I wish they would do something good with that money and help some folks that may be hurting financially.

      May 23, 2011 at 6:37 am |
  7. MightyMoo

    Dear Harold,

    Matthew 24:36

    Yours Truely,
    MightyMoo

    May 23, 2011 at 6:16 am |
  8. Kalev Lehola

    The World Is Going To End On May 21, 2011-Is this the world's biggest fraud???

    May 23, 2011 at 6:13 am |
  9. Josh

    Harold Camping is not GOD and that's the truth, God can change time which Harold Camping CANNOT!! World CANNOT End until God decides, not Harold Camping!!

    May 23, 2011 at 6:08 am |
  10. Nothingbutthetruth

    It's very simple. The scriptures says 'No man knows the hour, but my father in heaven". So ANYONE who says God is returning on this, or that date is a LIAR!!. anyone would believe person who gives dates is simply foolish. The scriptures also states that" There will be MANY false prophets in the last days" This is CLEARLY evident. People don't have to believe the scriptures, nor believe in God for that matter, but "The fool has said in his heart there is know God". I respect those who chose not to believe there God exist even though there are endless amount of scientific evidence supporting this (which you'll never read or see in the mainstream News, magazines for obvious the reasons) other wise. I ask those who don't believe and who have not studied t study both sides of the contrasts to ask themselves this question. Would it be competent to comment on something I do not know enough about? You see, most (if not all) people who don't believe there is a God, are people who have not fully, and I mean FULLY analyzed both sides. I for one never believed whatever I've been told whether it's from a biblical teacher, scholar or a scientist without studying the "TRUTHS" behind both sides. Instead of calling believers "weak minded for believing in the scriptures, and the return of Jesus Christ to rid the world of evil", and atheist " Fools for not understanding there's a difference between "Micro, and Macro evolution and there is NO evidence of the evolution that (I'll leave that for readers to go and RESEARCH) our educational system has been teaching our children for decades is completely inaccurate (hence the reason why mainstream scientist have been lobbying in the courts to remove the debate of "evolution" from the schools because of all the evidence that has come to light) People need to analyze BOTH sides with an open mind before commenting. It's the "Intelligent" thing to do

    May 23, 2011 at 6:03 am |
    • Grammar_Angel

      May god have mercy on your grammar.

      May 23, 2011 at 6:13 am |
    • Nightwyn

      Its called logic....so viewing all the concepts "logically" on can come to the conclusion....
      A.) You believe in God and there is no God and die = nothing happens
      B.) You don’t believe in God and there is no God and die = nothing happens
      C.) You believe in God and there is a God and die = good things happen
      D.) You don’t believe in God and there is God and die = very bad things happen
      So logically.....

      May 23, 2011 at 6:14 am |
    • Sassan

      Religion, belief without evidence is all a lie. The only difference is that their life was slightly different than the bigger lie you believe in and base your life on.

      May 23, 2011 at 6:15 am |
    • Mark Yelka

      Scientific evidence of a god? Show us! It has to be evidence that will hold up in court. There is only testimony and old books. You can't prove any god lives today because they're just in people's minds. No photographs. No video. Nada.

      May 23, 2011 at 6:16 am |
    • Nightwyn

      testimony and old books? Wouldn't that be probable cause?

      May 23, 2011 at 6:21 am |
    • Troy

      @Nightwyn – The problem is, there is only ONE old book; by historical standards, the Bible as a whole fails to be supported enough to be taken seriously. Before you get started on specific events, there is now evidence that a war between the Greeks and the Trojans actually took place – does that mean I should take the Iliad and the Odyssey literally? Meaning the ancient Greek gods actually exist? If not, why is your Bible held to a different standard of evidence?

      May 23, 2011 at 8:49 am |
  11. David

    Some of you think Camping was making a prediction about the end of the world. What he was doing was auditioning to be Cloris Leachmans boyfriend on Raising Hope.

    May 23, 2011 at 6:02 am |
  12. Dorianmode

    They keep saying that "only the Father knows the day and the hour". How is it possible that His coequal Son, the Word doesn't "know" anything the Father "knows" ? Hmm. What is the theological definition of the word "know " ? Isn't that a time dependent activity ?

    May 23, 2011 at 6:01 am |
    • Nightwyn

      I guess God says "Ready, set, go!"

      May 23, 2011 at 6:09 am |
    • adnyl

      There is no such thing as time.......

      May 23, 2011 at 6:26 am |
    • Dana

      Jesus is not Almighty God....why can't people believe the TRUTH...it's right there clear as day in the bible! Jesus himself said @
      John 7:28,29
      28 Therefore Jesus cried out as he was teaching in the temple and said: “YO both know me and know where I am from. Also, I have not come of my own initiative, but he that sent me is real, and YOU do not know him.
      29 I know him, because I am a representative from him, and that One sent me forth.”
      If that isn't clear as day!

      May 23, 2011 at 6:34 am |
  13. Noonsun

    Fools, who has calculated teh 7000 years from Noah's Arch....wrong mathematics.
    World cannot come to an end just like that....there are calamities happening everyday, it not because it is May 21st.

    May 23, 2011 at 6:00 am |
  14. cjmeadors

    Satan laughs and spreads his wings on this one. Can't wait until he gets thrown into the bottmless pit for decieving the nations. Jesus said no one knows when he will return, and that he will come like a thief in the night. He also said be careful not to be decieved by false teachers who come in his name. Not only can Satan enter a church of god he can also become its leader. Think of Jim Jones, David Koresh, ect. these people were not lead by the Holy Spirit of God, But of Satan.

    May 23, 2011 at 5:54 am |
    • Sassan

      You are just as brainwashed as them; only in a different way. The belief in scripture from an ignorant time of our race written by uneducated dolts is a belief in irrationality regardless if it was this cult or the bigger/general cult you are a part of.

      May 23, 2011 at 5:57 am |
    • KP

      @Sassan: An "ignorant time of our race"? Look around you and read the news and tell me again how we have progressed in a meaningful way...

      May 23, 2011 at 6:50 am |
  15. greg

    If you are stupid enough to believe in god, then groups like this is what you will get.

    May 23, 2011 at 5:49 am |
    • Sassan

      I have come to the conclusion you are right. I used to say before "well the people want to lie to themselves to cope with their fear of death but it doesn't necessarily make them stupid" but now I realize that it truly does. In order to truly not be stupid; you must have a level of logic where regardless of how brainwashed you were when you were young; have the capacity and capability to leave the slavery you were once a part of and live your life with rationality. Therefore, people who believe in god are stupid. No wonder why the populace of Europeans are much more intelligent...much higher atheist %.

      May 23, 2011 at 5:55 am |
  16. Ray

    There is a very simple answer: there is no god, or heaven, and mankind is in control of its' own destiny.

    May 23, 2011 at 5:49 am |
  17. Paul Jones

    A lot of people apparently got dropped on their heads one too many times. Uh.....gee....why didn't the world end like ya thought it would? Maybe because GOD & the Bible are as real as Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, ya morons!

    May 23, 2011 at 5:47 am |
  18. junemoon

    are you sure something didn't happen?
    if anyone died in Joplin from the storm
    or in Iceland from the volcano
    were they thinking "Oh, it's okay -
    IT'S JUST THE RAPTURE!
    Let it ride ... "

    May 23, 2011 at 5:44 am |
  19. Dan

    I am tired of arrogant people who claim that THEY are the CHOSEN ONES, and all others are doomed. Followers of the "One True Faith" are deluding themselves. The are no different than the Nazis or Fascists who preach that you must follow them or you will die.

    May 23, 2011 at 5:38 am |
    • Kase

      Except that the Nazis were often right because they would then kill you themselves...

      May 23, 2011 at 8:44 am |
  20. Cindy Merrill

    Hundreds of beloved pets given away or euthanized. Many believers had quit their jobs, gave away their belongings: All because they listened to the demented ravings of an 89 year old long overdue for a Nursing home, preferably with maximum supervision.
    It is written in the bible that it is not for man to know, not even the angels know when the Rapture will take place. So anyone who tries to predict this event is a blasphemer and a fraud. Want words of wisdom? Read the word of God- period.

    May 23, 2011 at 5:36 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.