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. John Holmes

    This is why religion is poison. People are idiots who follow this non sense. nothing but a ship of fools, if it was not for a few people, the majority would be living in caves and praying to a rock..IDIOTS..

    May 22, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
    • ForeverFaithful

      Yet your mouth spews vile hatred toward your fellow human beings. We are all but specks in a massive ever expansive universe that will surely end one day. I would much rather spend my days on a sinking ship with those who love me, knowing that no matter what the future holds, I tried my hardest to lift people up and not slam them down. Your ship will sink too, the only difference is that you will be all alone trying to figure out why in your last few moments. I pray for your soul and of others like you.

      May 22, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
    • MrHanson

      Yes fools! like Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, Max Planck, William Thomson Kelvin, Charles Babbage, the Right Brothers, Martin Luther King, etc..... All dedicated chritians. Idiots! They all held us into the dark age.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
  2. Keith

    LOL! What a bunch of dumb-asses!

    May 22, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
  3. JM

    “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”

    That mainly demonstrates your lack of value for epistemology. Where you strayed from reality was whenever you informed your actions and understandings with mythology. The absolute certainty you were able to find in something untrue is directly dependent upon your faith, and desire for your scriptural fantasy.

    May 22, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
  4. Jess

    In one respect, Mr. Camping is right, the world will end. Jesus will come again. If you believe what the Bible teaches, then you know this is true. However, the verse that he seems to forget here is in Matthew that states no one knows the day or time except the Father. Also, in looking at his calculations he states Jesus was born in 7 BC. Now, I was always taught that BC stood for "before Christ" so how could Christ be born in BC?

    May 22, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
  5. White's hung people for looking at them the wrong way???

    How sad and pathetic that this is what humanity has come down to. You have to really take a step back and wonder what is wrong with you! Its funny how people dont believe in God but cherish Christmas every December, think about it.

    One thing I have learned, is that Americans are the biggest hypocrites, they have no back bone, they don't believe in reality and are stuck in pure fantasy.

    What isn't the White man scared of these days, they criticize every race but there own. Its time to look in the mirror. This delusional idea that the world was to end yesterday reminds exactly of the stupidity that I see everyday when I step out of my house and have to deal with the hypocrisy of America and that silly white man who thinks he's above everyone else just like Harold Camping believed in this ridiculous idea that the world would end and only the good would go to heaven, trust me, all white people think the same way this guy did! What a shame!

    Reality check, your not the only race on this earth and your definitely not pure!

    May 22, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
    • Fish Flakes

      Well, you make some igood points and I understand what you are saying, but please do trust me on this one point: ALL white people do not thinkj the same way. And to believe that you are just mirroring exactly what you are ranting against.

      May 22, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
    • evets2010

      That's how all white people think? I don't know where you live, but it sounds like it must be the South to me. Up here in the Northwest, religion is looked at with quite healthy skepticism.

      May 22, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
    • batgrl1222

      Wow! You are sadly mistaken. I hold my head no higher than anyone else. I know my backgrounds, and I know the torture my family had to go thru to get to this country as well. My father was born in a concentration camp in Augustdorf Germany. Honestly, I don't treat anyone any differently just because of the color of their skin or because they have special needs either. Not EVERY white person is as bad as you think they are. A generalized sweep is actually kinda hit and miss. I've had quite a few "american haters" actually like me because I'm open minded and a decent person.

      I will admit that many are very close minded. Sad for a nation that was once built on possibilities- hence why my and possibly (i say possibly since I don't know ANY of your ancestry) your ancestors came here and busted their bums. But not everyone is the same..... if we were we would have all the same qualities. Nothing to discuss, and nothing to challenge each other with. I like the challenge you proposed. But may I propose you with one? Find white people that are worth talking to! They're hard to find (even I have problems finding true blue friends- I have very few) but we'll last a lifetime if you let us 🙂

      May 22, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
    • Sparky101

      Bigot much? Are you not making the same mistake of which you are accusing others? Sure you are, but you forgive yourself.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
    • beelzebubba

      So, after the church launched an ad campaign to target children, bribe them with presents (if they'll believe there is an invisible friend with a red suit they'll believe in other invisible friends), to brainwash them, you have issues because some of them grow up to question the invisible friend nonsense? What are you smoking?

      May 23, 2011 at 1:42 am |
  6. Alverant

    OK Mr.Camping, you need to look into a mirror and say in a loud authoritative voice, "You were WRONG." Then you return all the money donated to you. Too bad you can't fix all the people who killed or tried to kill themselves because of you.

    May 22, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  7. fastball

    "When you believe the evidence that God is coming back"?
    Evidence? Tell me, what evidence?? Or does listening to the religious ravings of a 90-year old man, who's already oh-for-one in predicting the end of the world, count as evidence??
    Seriously, people....give your heads a shake.

    May 22, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
  8. Andre

    Sad, I call these individuals religion terorists and spiritually constipated.

    Instead when you open your eyes: Look at the universe and say the following.

    May 22, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  9. Nick

    "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."

    I did not realize this was the same guy as in 1994. They probably made a lot of money then, and they sure made a lot of money this time around. There should at least be an investigation into whether this was simply a publicity stunt for profit.

    May 22, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  10. kim va

    Ohhh...you said "Mate on the first??" Never mind!

    May 22, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  11. ForeverFaithful

    So many people hating, judging, and misplacing anger on here. I believe the only mistake that this group made was believing that they knew enough about God and the will of God to think that there was no chance that they were wrong, or inaccurate. No one will ever know enough about science, life, death, love, God, or even themselves to fully understand it, much less predict what the future holds. I strive to know and understand my self and my lord and I am proud of that, but I am humble enough to realize that I will never fully understand. The only thing that I know for sure is that I will always love my lord, because my lord will always love. The lord heals my broken heart every day and I am sorry that there are so many broken hearted people out there that do not understand the love of God. I hope and pray that one day you will.

    May 22, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • Scott

      Yes you’re right. The only difference between the beliefs of rest of the Christians and Camping’s people is that Camping’s people had enough guts and faith to pick a day. All of the other horrible and hateful things they were saying is main line Christianity

      May 22, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
    • Sparky101

      Scott, Bull.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
  12. mm

    I don't know what part of the Bible these people find such prophecies regarding predicting the end of the world. Jesus himself clearly states that not even he know when that day would be. I can't help but feel sorry for these people who most of them are probably just a bunch of educated idiots.

    May 22, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  13. Da Professor

    Ah Mr. Camping, you can crawl back under your rock now, refund all the money you took from your followers, and pick another sure-thing date for the end of the world..
    Most of us, the sane people, never lost a minute of sleep Friday or last night
    Those that walked away from their sanity, friends, and jobs can now be found in the unemployment line right along with the unfortunate unemployed who will engage you in a very interesting discussion that you might find useful in choosing your next church.

    May 22, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  14. Esu Seye

    True faith would be demonstrated by accepting that since God didn't bring about the end of days then there must a reason for it that we can not understand. Accepting God's actions without question... move on with your life in Light and Love as taught by God's Only Begotten Son. True faith would have no call for disappointment, only acceptance. I gave up on organized religion a long time ago because True Faith does not include the need for someone else to tell me how to have a spiritual relationship with the Divine in all of us.... have a peace filled day every one... remember, it's the day after the end... sounds like a new beginning to me... thanks God 😉

    May 22, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • rayo

      beautifully sead.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
  15. Randy in Tulsa

    These doomsdayers should all be sterilized so they can't reproduce.The brainwashing starts at an early age,passed down from generation to generation.It is programed into childrens psych and nurtured throught childhood.If the Bible is correct-noone will know the day or hour this will happen,It also says you cannot add or take out of the scripture as well.It is totally laughable when you hear these nuts running around going against what their own textbook says.This (should) be a huge lesson for these zealots to keep their mouth shut,and stop trying to shove their doctorine down peoples throats-It's why most normal sane people laugh and think what a bunch of BS.

    May 22, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
  16. Bibleman

    The bible says no one will no the time nor the hour. So what's all this talk about exact times and dates? Plus who really knows exactly what the rapture is? I am not sure it is what people say it is.

    May 22, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
    • Evan

      Not only that, and im not religious whatsoever, but there are many things that would need to happen in israel before the "end times" could even happen, wow religion is possibly the stupidest thing in our society.

      May 22, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
    • AstroSynergy

      Thank you for your post Bibleman: Matthew 24:36

      May 22, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  17. Supernintendoh

    I too want to set up a P.O Box and i think the world ends in i don't, Next July 4th. I need all the money i can get to buy a new Hous.....er shelter and stuff.

    May 22, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
  18. JamesJust

    Thanks a lot you false prophet!!! You have created the worst deception in Christian history. You have fulfilled prophecy, but not the prophecy you wanted to fulfill.
    You can find a hidden message about Camping in the Hebrew number 666..

    May 22, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
  19. TheDude

    Three good hits of LSD-25 will change any atheist into an agnostic real quick!

    May 22, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
    • Scott

      Nop, been there, done that, still an atheist

      May 22, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • trixen

      haha works for me.

      May 22, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • Paul Bishop

      You guys are hilarious! 😀

      May 22, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • Peace2All


      LOL...!!! Yep... it may turn you into an 'agnostic' about 'everything...! LOL...!


      May 22, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
  20. Factoid

    HAHA. Another win for sanity. God is imaginary. Religion was created as a means of controlling populations by giving them a fear of breaking moral codes and ethics. Now that we have laws and the court system, police, and the military with their laser guided missile systems, we don't need to rely on "religion".

    May 22, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • airwx

      Actually, Hammurabi's Code was non-religious....replete with punishments and fines...and established judges, courts etc. He also had his own military with (wait for it) laser guided rocks!!!!

      May 22, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • Landrover

      Right on Factoid! Religion is brainwashed at early age...we talk about the muslims...well, some christians are just the same.
      Religion is the reason why the world is at war...i have enough of religion!

      May 22, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • WokETokE

      Totally agree. Great way to put it.

      May 22, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • neeeeext ..........

      well put .....

      May 22, 2011 at 11:29 pm |
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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.