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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. david moses

    Hasn't anyone noticed that the things in revelations is happening step ny step. Histpry is repeating itself and there is proof that all of thos has happened before thouhh not exactly. Of course there isn't anyone with a clue to whats going on except myself but oh well..... Check circleofelohim website.

    May 23, 2011 at 7:31 am |
  2. Osama

    Hahahahaa

    May 23, 2011 at 7:27 am |
  3. Justin Observation

    They are disappointed that billions of men, women, and children, did not suffer through horrible destruction, death, and misery... How compassionate of them.

    May 23, 2011 at 7:27 am |
  4. Tony

    For those (few) Christians that actually take the time to read their bibles knew all along that Mr. Harold Camping was scripturally incorrect. Simply taking the time to read the scriptures would have told anyone that. False prophets come and false prophets go but Gods word remains the same throughout time. Do like the Thessalonians did, they where eager to hear the word, however would go back and confirm what was heard through reading the scriptures...I'm paraphrase but the point is well made. Is your church scripturally correct. (and yes Bob Russo its still Acts 2:38!)

    May 23, 2011 at 7:24 am |
    • richunix

      Your right Tonry, Religion is still all an ACT....

      “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

      May 23, 2011 at 7:30 am |
  5. Geopapa

    Once again these simple minded people show how truly simple they are. Gave up your homes. Walked away from life believing the end of the world has arrived. All of you need to be beaten for your stupidity & ignorance.

    May 23, 2011 at 7:23 am |
  6. Good Atheist

    Damnasses.

    May 23, 2011 at 7:23 am |
  7. cattlebarn

    Guy must have had a book he was trying to sell.

    May 23, 2011 at 7:23 am |
  8. GDog

    The beginning of the end actually started Nov 4, 2008. The world has been going down the crapper ever since.

    May 23, 2011 at 7:22 am |
    • Lu

      You are so right! Ever since the republicans lost they did nothing but run around and stir up trouble! Then when they got elected last fall they ignored the election promises about helping with the job situation and went right back to trying to push the social agenda's of anti abortion and anti gay marriage.

      May 23, 2011 at 7:37 am |
    • Me

      Pretty sure the beginning of your demise started shortly after the condom broke and the john left the money on the night stand. Are you so vapid and glib that you would go on any story about any topic to take a simpleton's shot at the President. It matters not whether you are a republican, a tea-bagger or tea-baggee, you idiocy precedes them all.

      May 23, 2011 at 7:37 am |
  9. Crazy Cow

    You all need visit http://www.mormon.org

    May 23, 2011 at 7:22 am |
    • rewulie

      Why? What is your point?

      May 23, 2011 at 7:32 am |
  10. WWRRD

    Jesus will come as a "Thief in the night" . No one knows the hour or day of his coming. The only thing believers can do is live faithfully everyday, love one another, and always be ready.

    May 23, 2011 at 7:21 am |
    • richunix

      and Peter Rabbit will come by, along with Santa Claus.....and of course Elvis....

      “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

      May 23, 2011 at 7:27 am |
  11. Navyvet8192

    I'm still counting on December 21, 2012. The Mayans had a much better track record for prophectic analysis. To those of you who gave me your stuff prior to Saturday, the answer is NO! You cannot have it back! 🙂 Happy Monday to all of my post rapture hethern Sisters and Brothers
    !

    May 23, 2011 at 7:21 am |
  12. dogs rule

    All the born-again Doomsday-ers should go back on their Thorazine and leave the rest of us alone. Too bad those moron Rapturists didn't get Hoovered up to heaven to leave the rest of us in happy sin. Down my way (I recently moved to the South), half the population would have "poof"- been Gone. Where is a good asteroid strike when you need it?

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

      I highly doubt that. While many people in this country profess to being Christian, I find this hypocritical. You cannot reconcile the hate filled speech, the war-mongering, and the racial/social/gender-based bigotry of those on the far right with the teachings of the New Testament. On the other hand, most atheists I know try to live life by rules that could easily be called "christian".
      "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ" – Ghandi

      May 23, 2011 at 7:46 am |
  13. Carldelprado

    what is it with the day of the month 21st. Many of the doom days have that in common

    May 23, 2011 at 7:19 am |
    • dogs rule

      Perhaps one has to be 21 to whoosh up to "heaven", Bible in hand!!

      May 23, 2011 at 7:20 am |
  14. YABAhOOCHIE

    And as far as the JW's, They proclaimed that in 1975 mankind had inhabited the earth for 6,000 years. They also proclaim that Christ's 1,000 year reign began in 1914. AND, they also preach that NO one knows the day nor hour, only the father. They proclaim and practice the greatest and second greatest command given by Jesus Christ, Gods SON, (no, he's not God Almighty) that you "Love the Father..." and "Love your neighbor as you love yourself". If you are going to quote them, quote them CORRECTLY.

    May 23, 2011 at 7:17 am |
  15. GBMartin

    I feel terrible for all the believers who aren't dead now. I think they should all take matters in there own hands and kill themselves. it's only fair. they wanted to go anyway, right?

    May 23, 2011 at 7:17 am |
    • dogs rule

      I agree. I wish they would figure that out! 🙂

      May 23, 2011 at 7:22 am |
  16. GDog

    Wow! After the end of the world, clothing optional, 34-C Bra size and above only, Liqour Laced, pool party we threw this weekend, I know several who wish the world had ended.

    The end of the world should come more often

    May 23, 2011 at 7:15 am |
  17. Marco

    The world ends for those that pass away if you get to wake up tomorrow, be greatful to God for another day.... (Thank you Lord for one more day of life) Amen!!! 5/23/2011

    May 23, 2011 at 7:14 am |
    • Josef F

      You're fairy tale is getting kind of boring.

      May 23, 2011 at 7:22 am |
    • Josef F

      *Your

      May 23, 2011 at 7:22 am |
    • craZypants

      What?

      May 23, 2011 at 7:25 am |
  18. john b

    The real doomsday has already passed it was 1-20-11 we are seeing the results slowly not in some big magic show

    May 23, 2011 at 7:12 am |
    • Anon

      dum da dum dum dum

      May 23, 2011 at 7:16 am |
  19. Nick

    Mr. Harold Camping belief was proven wrong and I'll tell you the reason that the world will not end in 2012 according to the Mayan calendar thingy. The reason the Mayan calendar ends in 2012 is because they ran out out of room on the stone that their calendar was carved into, period. If the stone was larger, the calendar would end on 2020 or however much room they had. It's a stone size thing here kids but your are free to believe what you want and give your money to whomever you want.

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

      Well, not quite. It's a mathematical cycle that ends next December. That does not mean the Mayans had an apocalyptic prediction of the world ending, just a calendar that would become obsolete and would need to be replaced. Hmm, no one has used that calendar for a few hundred years. I guess they got that right.

      May 23, 2011 at 7:32 am |
    • Troy

      Correction – the Mayan calendar will not become obsolete, just roll over into a new cycle. It's happened before. What everyone has messed up is that the Maya didn't predict the end of the world, just a shift in the pervading culture. Given events in the Mid East, the culture clashes in the USA and other places, and so on, maybe they weren't wrong.

      May 23, 2011 at 8:19 am |
  20. Osita

    Like God said, no one will know the day or the hour that the world will end. He will probably pick the most Random day to end the world.

    Other than religous views, natural disasters aren't just gonna come out of no where! What ever happens... happens. But no matter what the world wont end .

    May 23, 2011 at 7:09 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.