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. P.P.


    May 23, 2011 at 7:08 am |
    • Logical

      Well said, but not clarified.

      May 23, 2011 at 7:09 am |
  2. GDog


    May 23, 2011 at 7:04 am |
  3. gfc

    There's an old saw that applies to Camping followers, and it doesn't come from the Bible, "A fool and his money are soon parted."

    May 23, 2011 at 7:04 am |
  4. Logical

    Some people are leaders and some are followers. Why is it that the human race and there vanity thinks that we are any better than the bugs, birds, reptiles, vegitation? Yes we have a higher brain compacity, but do you think all the other living things no matter how they communicate with each other are sitting around deciding if they are going to their perspective heavens and hells. I am sure most of you have had pets at some points in your life. Do you think that fido was concerned about going to doggie heaven? Live your lives and if it makes you happy to believe in something go for it. If you are good intentioned or not that is up to you. It will only be how you are remembered.

    May 23, 2011 at 7:04 am |
  5. David Crandall

    I wish those believers would kill themselves then they could say 'I told you so' to each other.

    May 23, 2011 at 7:02 am |
  6. iShane

    I just hat to 'Moo Out Loud' at this article. Compelling. MOL!

    May 23, 2011 at 6:57 am |
  7. Bernard

    Or you can just use your head and ask for proof when they say the end is near. But that involves reasoning and religion doesn't like that. Because churches love fear and ignorance to do the recruiting for them it’s easier than actually proving what they claim.

    May 23, 2011 at 6:57 am |
    • Nightwyn

      Yeah because 98% of bible readers that responded to kingjamesbibleonline didn't believe Camping

      May 23, 2011 at 7:25 am |
  8. Patrick

    It never fails to amaze me how hostile people are whenever God or religion is the topic of a discussion.

    Camping and his ilk are a phenomenon that comes with the territory. As long as religion exists, there will be those that take advantage of it and/or screw up and destroy peoples' faith. And it's up to everyone to figure out the most fitting punishment for them.

    I believe in God. I believe Jesus is our savior. I know this is true but cannot prove it. I am not interested in proving it.

    I just wish people on both sides of the argument could treat each other with some dignity instead of all the vitrol and hate. But then, some of those that believe ask for it when these kinds of things happen.

    Believers have been ridiculed for millennia, no biggie. We were warned that we would be hated. Of course, we really shouldn't have needed a warning. After all, the human brain is wired to demand tactile proof of a claim. Until one is open to the possibility of the unseen being real, then an unseen god or God will remain as plausible as the Tooth Fairy.

    May 23, 2011 at 6:56 am |
    • Josh

      Well, what these Christians ended up proving, is that their god does not exist. With, now, 100% certainty for the very first time.

      May 23, 2011 at 7:00 am |
    • Matt

      You are honorable in your avocation of civility, but do not forget that not all non-believers haven't considered the possibility of the unseen being real.

      May 23, 2011 at 7:02 am |
    • John Richardson

      Ridicule is not hate. One day, if you have any sense, you may thank us for the ridicule.

      May 23, 2011 at 7:34 am |
  9. roadzombie

    For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believe in him should not parish, but have everlasting life.....all others pay cash.

    May 23, 2011 at 6:52 am |
  10. PinkFlam

    These fanatics exhibit a depressing ignorance of The Bible and a disgusting arrogance that they can know or understand God's plan. Worse, by inflicting their gibberish on other people, they demonstrate that they don't have a clue about what it means to be American. Truly depraved creatures deserving only contempt.

    May 23, 2011 at 6:50 am |
  11. Michele

    the Bible is very clear that "no man will know the day of His coming" even the Lord Jeses doesn't know but only God the Father-people need to stop trying to grab 15 min of fame at the expense of others souls & start preaching the Bible!!

    May 23, 2011 at 6:49 am |
  12. Teva

    Got news for everybody. The world isnt gone end in 2012 either. Ill put all my $ on that.

    May 23, 2011 at 6:49 am |
  13. Nick

    These people are a danger to themselves and to society. They need to be fought hard, rounded up, and turned into fertilizer. I am ashamed to be of the same species as these super-dumb sub-humans.

    May 23, 2011 at 6:47 am |
    • Richmon

      Any plant species feeding on their resultant fertilizes may also pick-up their sub-human traits and passed them on in the food chain. They must rather be disposed off in a burning furnace and their resultant solution disposed off at high seas where growing plants would not come into contact with their solution.

      May 23, 2011 at 7:10 am |
    • Airwalk2k8

      Hang on now... You're generalizing a whole religion as being a load of idiots who need to be "turned into fertilizer"? I'm a serious Christian who believes in God and that Jesus died for all of us. I didn't believe a word of what Camping said... Nobody knows when the world ends. I'm religious and I'm still a normal person living life on earth... That doesn't make me or others a disgrace.

      May 23, 2011 at 7:25 am |
  14. David

    If only they had read their bibles..... it clearly states that only God knows the time...

    May 23, 2011 at 6:46 am |
    • UncleM

      It would be far better if all Christians realized that the bible is myth and stories.

      May 23, 2011 at 6:50 am |
    • Greg

      And it would be even BETTER of Atheists would stop forcing their religion on the rest of us (yes, Atheism IS a Religious belief)

      May 23, 2011 at 6:55 am |
    • LoneZero

      "And it would be even BETTER of Atheists would stop forcing their religion on the rest of us (yes, Atheism IS a Religious belief)"

      Atheism- the lack of god-belief – nothing more and nothing less

      educate yourself next time. Also I would love to see all these Atheists "forcing their religion on the rest of us" You know like creating laws to limit your rights, creating groups to silence and limit the freedoms and expressions simply because they believe didn't from you, that thing we call evidence and proof, can you provide any? Or all you just being hateful and ignorant?

      I can show countless religions forcing their religion on the rest of us before you can even try to attempt to prove Atheists are forcing their anything on of you.

      May 23, 2011 at 7:08 am |
    • Nightwyn

      You mean like complaining and outlawing a "moment of silence" in schools, or changing the pledge or complaining about Santa and Christmas, [which is actually pagan not christian] Making it so you can wear any other symbol but one of Christianity on school grounds....etc? like that.... Oh wait that has happened.

      May 23, 2011 at 7:19 am |
    • LoneZero


      "outlawing a "moment of silence" in schools"
      public schools are neutral. , if one religion is allowed to then they all must, if not then none, it's just that simple. a public tax payed church can't choose one religion over another or ignore the others

      "changing the pledge"

      other way around "under God" was added, it was not in the original pledge, it was added during the communist scare McCarthyism. The United states was founded on freedom of religion, we are free to believe in any religion we want yet are pledge and money is under God/in God we Trust. Does that make sense to you?

      "complaining about Santa and Christmas, [which is actually pagan not christian]"

      That's what Atheist tell Christians they explain the origin and are called liars, the problem isn't the holiday it's being forced to celebrate it even if one don't believe it.

      "Making it so you can wear any other symbol but one of Christianity on school grounds"

      not true, public schools are neutral. , if one religion is allowed to then they all must, if not then none, it's just that simple. a public tax payed church can't choose one religion over another or ignore the others

      May 23, 2011 at 8:31 am |
  15. adnyl

    what if your wrong?

    May 23, 2011 at 6:45 am |
    • Nick

      What if you learned how to write correctly?

      May 23, 2011 at 6:48 am |
  16. cjmeadors

    Proof of gods exsistence would ruin any chance of people escaping the lake of fire. If a person sees proof of god before being saved he is dammed. The only way to be saved is to read the book of Romans and believe what paul says. If you saw proof you would not need faith. And without faith it is impossible to please god.

    May 23, 2011 at 6:44 am |
    • Teva

      "God takes care of all folks and fools while the devil takes care of making all the rules.". Public Ememy
      Lake of fire? Please God to avoid being sent to the lake of fire? Sounds like u worship the devil.

      May 23, 2011 at 6:57 am |
  17. Jim

    Quit your jobs, leave your homes and walk away from family and friends. can you say D'oh!

    May 23, 2011 at 6:44 am |
  18. someone PLEASE stop camping

    harold camping needs to be held accountable for this disgusting abuse of power. this is not the first time he has done this end of the world BS and it makes me sick to see people ruin their families lives because they got fooled by this insane corrupt preacher. He has several million dollars so he can afford to be wrong, but the people who follow his crackpot teachings are left hanging when they find out its all a scam. I hope and pray that someone starts a class action suit against camping and ruins him financially so he cannot perpetrate this nonsense again.

    May 23, 2011 at 6:37 am |
    • Barton

      Stop Camping? For what? He is just a story teller making up stuff like movie directors do every day. Why not ask why do people believe in fiction like the bible in the first place? If someone believes that E.T. Is real you don't arrest Steven Speilburg but you send that person to see a psychiatrist. People that believe that some magic being lives in the sky and that a work of fiction should be taken literally need to seek mental help.

      May 23, 2011 at 6:56 am |
    • Andy

      It's not his fault those following him cannot think and reason for themselves. You'd have to be a mindless dolt to believe the crap he spits out. It's their own fault, period.

      May 23, 2011 at 7:00 am |
  19. valentin

    come on... we will never know when 'it' happen. im gonna take a positive side from this.... be a better person.
    and I think... (only my opinion) about 2012 issue; do you guys notice from the first month of 2011.... until this month? how many disasters and wars happened? how many did it took a toll? i think 2012 is the sum of after all those tragedies. and again.. we maynot know about tomorrow

    May 23, 2011 at 6:36 am |
  20. Brandi milliner

    If they would read the bible right instead of trying to decode the bible that doesn't even need to be decoded... it's says he will come like a theif in a night no one will know the time or day...I mean come on jeez the big man upstairs is in charge not the ppl brain storming false dooms days...if your a true believer stick with what the Lord says in the bible & not these ppl that think they know everything but knows nothing obviously....

    May 23, 2011 at 6:32 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.