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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. bush limbush

    I so want to be able to point in the faces of the doomsday fools and laugh AT them.

    By the way – Camping is a multi-millionaire and he didn't give it all away in the time leading up to the "rapture". Shouldn't that tell you idiots something. If he was so sure, why didn't he spend his money to help people before it all ended?

    May 23, 2011 at 8:46 am |
    • cdgfla

      Exactly. I hope some honest reporters go to these idiots houses, ring the bell, and just laugh in thier faces when they answer. WHAT NOW? CARE TO RESPOND? Lol. Such sheeple.

      May 23, 2011 at 8:55 am |
  2. Linda

    If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans!

    May 23, 2011 at 8:45 am |
  3. Tyler

    Its sad. In Acts chapter one verse 8 I believe it says that no man shall know the day. If someone claims they know the day that the end will happen don't believe them. Just that simple especially if your a christian. Yes we all should live like tomorrow is out last day, but we shouldn't believe people who claim they know the date.

    May 23, 2011 at 8:44 am |
    • cdgfla

      RIght...so no one shall know the day it seems then. So instead of doing some thinking on your own and questioning the utter absurdity of some writer centuries after the death of Christ offering a "prophecy" that is completely open ended and cannot be held accountable or reliable in any way, you just accept that as "truth"? So Camping was stupid for predicting an make believe event, but you are just as stupid for accepting that this make believe event will happen in the first place. This crap is taken from the "word" of god (Again, written centuries after his death and subject to hundreds of interpretations and language translations from Latin, Italian, Middle English, Modern English, etc.) which you describe as a literal truth. Ugh, American christians are so stupid.

      May 23, 2011 at 8:52 am |
  4. John

    Jesus is soon to return, but He will come when God, the Father, sends Him. No man knows the hour of Christ's return. Therefore, Mr. Harold Camping deceived many so called Christians who claim to know Christ. People need to stand of God's Word and not the words of a man who twists the Word of God. It is the Christian duty to spread the gospel of Christ to a dying world. I know for sure that God is real and Christ is real. I have a relationship with God, not religion.

    May 23, 2011 at 8:44 am |
    • Curly

      John "Jesus is soon to return". Sorry John you're another Howard Camping with your ludicrous predictions. You will die an old man like those that have gone on before you. Your Jesus won't be returning anytime "soon" Johny, thats one prediction you can bank on. Dead people stay dead, thats called REALITY John.

      Best wishes and heres hoping you jettison this most poisonus worldview you hold of returning Jesus's and what not.

      May 23, 2011 at 9:23 am |
  5. John Weiss

    I feel sorry for the morons who went for this scam monger. Why, I wonder, are so many anxious for the world to end? Be patient believers, your world will end in good time.

    May 23, 2011 at 8:43 am |
  6. MTP

    Typical bull from religious zealots. Same as it ever was.

    May 23, 2011 at 8:42 am |
  7. MormonChristian

    There is a long list of ideologies that have been misused to exploit people. Atheist communism has killed, starved or otherwise exploited its millions, while Christianity has been hijacked/exploited over the centuries by the power-hungry. Christ did not operate in this manner. He said that "no man knows the hour" of the Second Coming, so that should have been a clear message to all these "believers" who listened to Camping rather than their own intuition and the Bible.

    May 23, 2011 at 8:41 am |
    • Stevie7

      As far as I know, no one ever killed in the name of atheism. Communist states forces atheism to consolidate power and limit opposition. It was a tool – it was not a reason.

      May 23, 2011 at 8:44 am |
    • Sybaris

      and your Jesus man doesn't know either. Jesus, if he existed today, would fall in ranks with Camping, Koresh, Jones,.......

      May 23, 2011 at 8:46 am |
    • Timberattler

      Says the guy who wears "magic" underwear...........

      May 23, 2011 at 8:46 am |
    • JJinCVistaCA

      @MormonChristian, WRONG again. Atheism and communism are not mutually exclusive. Even atheists have morals. Why? Because morality transcends religious belief systems. The communists of the 20th century were "atheist" by convenience. Atheism in reality is just a word used to describe a person or people who have come to the realization that god never existed in the first place, and that religious belief...belief in god...is merely a choice. Atheism did not kill people; power-hungry people killed, do kill and will continue to kill people, no matter the belief system.

      May 23, 2011 at 8:50 am |
  8. spaz

    people need to believe in themselves and not act like a bunch of panzies by hoping to have some higher power to "take" care of them! Take care of yourself and work hard to help others instead of worrying about an afterlife. Live now, Rock on!

    May 23, 2011 at 8:40 am |
  9. somedude

    hahahahahahahahhahahahhahahahahahahahahahahhahahahhahahahahahahahahahahhahahahhahahahahahahahahahahhahahahhahahahahahahahahahahhahahahhahahahahahahahahahahhahahahhahahahahahahahahahahhahahahhahahahahahahahahahahhahahahhahahahahahahahahahahhahahahhahahahahahahahahahahhahahahhahahahahahahahahahahhahahahhahahahahahahahahahahhahahahhahahahahahahahahahahhahahahhahahahahahahahahahahhahahahhahahahahahahahahahahhahahahhahahahahahahahahahahhahahahhahahahahahahahahahahhahahahhahahahahahahahahahahhahahahhahahahahahahahahahahhahahahhahahahahahahahahahahhahahahhahahahahahahahahahahhahahahhahahahahahahahahahahhahahahhahahahahahahahahahahhahahahhahahahahahahahahahahhahahahhahaha

    May 23, 2011 at 8:36 am |
  10. FrankieD

    Harold Camping is a scam artist and should be jailed for the rest of his miserable life, so he can no longer get into the minds of the weak.

    May 23, 2011 at 8:35 am |
  11. Chris

    How bout that guy that spent his whole lifesavings on billboards and flyers. I think it was over $100,000

    May 23, 2011 at 8:34 am |
    • frgtliner

      I believe he was a retired transit worker from ny and the amount was $140.000. Guess he dident like retirement

      May 23, 2011 at 8:46 am |
    • Thomas

      I am more concerned with the people with families that quit their jobs or emptyed their bank accounts.

      What do these losers say to their kids today? "oops my bad, forgot to carry the 2?"

      So, if you were an employer and one of your employees quit their job because of this scam, would you hire them back?

      May 23, 2011 at 8:48 am |
  12. Jowicr

    Why would anyone want God to return? If you're not chosen, you will be tortured for five months by a God who created you, who knew you would not make it into heaven well before he made you (if He's omniscient). So, God would have made you only to torture you. Or, if you are chosen you go to a palace with golden streets and thrones. God sounds a bit materialistic for somebody who supposedly created matter itself. Most religions are very strange, but Christianity is weird. I'm glad the oceans are not filled with blood. Have a great week!

    May 23, 2011 at 8:34 am |
    • Chris

      Your not "chosen" you have a choice to follow him or not. It's not a lottery it's all up to you and what you believe

      May 23, 2011 at 8:37 am |
    • Stevie7

      And what of those who never had a choice? Or, say, young kids who grew up in another religion? Or all of those Nobel Peace Prize winners who did wonderful things for the world, but had different beliefs. Is an all-powerful and all-loving god going to sit be and watch them get tortured? If not, then what are the rules, and where, exactly, does this get delineated in the bible. Last time I read it, god was the only one who chooses. Maybe he's come out with an update that I missed.

      May 23, 2011 at 8:47 am |
    • Jowicr

      You're missing the point Chris. I'm surely not chosen, because I do not believe in what most Christians say you have to believe to get into heaven. I'm a good person, but that's supposedly not good enough. I'm saying that if God creates every person, and is omniscient (all knowing), then He knows that person will go to hell before he creates them. It may very well depend on what we do in this life, however, God is aware of what we will do and our ultimate fate. So, if he makes someone (me) knowing what deeds I will do, and where I will end up...then he is condemning a soul before that life ever takes shape. So, either God condemns people to Hell before they act, or he's not omniscient. One or the other.

      May 23, 2011 at 9:05 am |
  13. barbara

    Harold Camping is a scam artist and opportunist of the worst kind... he preys on people's fears. He gets them to give him all their money with the perverted suggestions that this might spare them. Anyone who gave him money should sue him! This man is not a religious leader. A true religious leader would be more concerned with telling people how live a good life. Lead a good life and you don't have to worry about when the end comes. And it won't cost you a dime.

    May 23, 2011 at 8:32 am |
    • jim

      People like these, make me ashamed to be american..morons...believers are weak minded sheep.

      May 23, 2011 at 8:40 am |
  14. Adam

    Well, I guess since we're all still here there's only one thing to do- point and laugh at these fools!!!

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

    What if the rapture did start that day? Maybe no one saw it come because no one really knows what they are seeing, why should the rapture be seen as people disappearing in front of everyone’s eyes, why couldn’t it just be business as usual for the ones that are not chosen and for the ones that are chosen as far as the one’s who are not are concerned all die everywhere in the world in car crashes tornadoes heart attacks and all the ways that people die already. Maybe we should not be looking for Hollywood shenanigans from God. Could be that we are all left here because we did not deserve to be taken by the rapture and that’s it. Why should God show us any kind of sign of Gods existence be it or not? Could be we are heading for a bitter end but not one that we would be looking for in a rapture biblical painting but in some other way. I am not a religious person and I do not believe that the rapture started on May 21st but I wouldn’t expect the end of the world to be a two minute event. First of all if the second coming ever happens is Jesus going to appear out of thin air or will Jesus be born from a virgin once again as he was in the bible story and grow up amongst us all invisible to non-believers and also wouldn’t the Anti-Christ be born around the same time to play his part? Anyway, my brain hurts because I am a simpleton!

    May 23, 2011 at 8:28 am |
    • barbara

      By your own admission then, because millions of people die everyday and people journey toward their death the minute they are born, the end has been happening since the beginning. Duh!

      May 23, 2011 at 8:35 am |
    • cdgfla

      A yes, another religious imbecile with a self serving and intangible prophecy. Shocker. You better start groveling you supplicant if you expect to catch the next rapture bus!

      May 23, 2011 at 8:40 am |
    • belky

      I don't think you get what I'm saying Duh! And I did say I'm a simpleton so be nice already, sheesh!

      May 23, 2011 at 8:41 am |
    • belky

      Also I said I am not a religious person and that means I do not believe in any of this stuff but I am not going to say it is impossible because I think almost anything is possible so calling me a religious anything is about as empty an insult as anyone can toss my way, read before you insult, oh yes and make sure you retain what you read, that might help you a little. Imbecile!

      May 23, 2011 at 8:44 am |
    • jim

      How about this?????God is a fairy tale!!! !He doesnt exists.Its just a figure that was made up to keep the masses in line, and makes people feel secure about there lifes. Gods, are for the weak minded!!!! church is a multi billion dollar buisness. So keep believing,and paying money to this scam...

      May 23, 2011 at 8:46 am |
    • belky

      Jim and you other two, all I am saying is a what if, not hey look out everyone this is what is going on.

      May 23, 2011 at 9:00 am |
    • Curly

      Belky what if invisible pink unicorns were coming to save you from the flying spagetti monster?
      Supernatural what if's are useless, keep your what if's rooted in reality and more scientific. This way you very well may contribute something to mankind for the good. Sort of like hey what if we can harness the power of lightning and transmit it to every house hold via wires? Or hey whatif we deliver running fresh potable drinkable water to every household.

      Thats the stuff that matters, not the Whatif the boogey man was real type stuff. Using ones mind to contemplate mythology as fact only contributes to the scores of mentallly ill folks the world over.

      May 23, 2011 at 9:14 am |
  16. Toad

    As a Christian, this was a bad idea from the start... basically through the people on the fence about God right over to the non-believers side. Your job as Christians, is not to beguile the person who started this, but to share the Word and witness to those who dont yet know Him.

    May 23, 2011 at 8:27 am |
    • JJinCVistaCA

      @Toad, it's not about "throwing people on the fence to the non-believers side", or even about sides...it's more about recognizing that faith, a common human trait, is really just a choice. It's not about who's wrong or who's right; it's about common sense. I may not believe in any one particular religion, and I certainly don't believe in god, but even I believe that most religious people have common sense enough to avoid the type of hystaria that doomsdayers espouse themselves to.

      May 23, 2011 at 8:43 am |
    • Curly

      Your job as a christian is to keep it to yourself and those others in your cult. None of the rest of us care about any God or Jesus nonsense.

      May 23, 2011 at 8:54 am |
    • David Johnson

      @Toad

      You said: "As a Christian, this was a bad idea from the start... basically through the people on the fence about God right over to the non-believers side. Your job as Christians, is not to beguile the person who started this, but to share the Word and witness to those who dont yet know Him."

      Yep, I made a similar comment yesterday. These doomsdayers, standing there on the 22nd, with soiled britches, is gold for the atheists. Anytime the religious nuts start telling everyone about the wants of Jesus and heaven and hell and all the other fables, we can just remind them of May 22nd, 2011. We can ask fence sitters to picture the doomsdayers, who could not be wrong, with filth dripping from their legs. LOL

      The Christians are very quick to point out that only the doomsdayer group thought the world was coming to an end. They knew that no one could know the date and time! Shame on those doomsdayers!

      But, the doomsdayers only sin, was picking a date for their humiliation. All Christians (nearly all), believe Jesus will come back. He will come back and hurt everyone who didn't accept Him. All frothed up, probably still ticked over being crucified the first time. *sigh* Lots of Christians love to tell you about the non-believers pending agony. It's a staple! Always gets an amen on these threads. LOL

      The only difference between the doomsdayers and the rest, is that the doomsdayers committed themselves to a date. Now the rest of the idiots are doing damage control. No man knows the time or the date...blah, blah, blah.

      Cheers!

      May 23, 2011 at 8:58 am |
  17. jjheinis

    Evangelical Christians have an especially difficult time with the Book of Revelation and confuse it with the Book of Reevaluation. The former is taken literally and has led to such groups as the Millerites (world to end in 1841, 2), the Jehovah's Witnesses (the end times began in 1914), etc. The Bible itself says that no one knows the exact time of the end of the World other than God himself. I think it wiser to behave as if every day was to be your last. In that way, you have very little to atone for. Be kind to others and do unto them as you would like to have it done unto you. That is a far wiser course of action to be a post-millenial Dispensationalist (please look it up).

    May 23, 2011 at 8:26 am |
    • David Johnson

      @jjheinis

      It's all crap, dude.

      Cheers!

      May 23, 2011 at 9:02 am |
  18. Walker

    I wish it had happened...then we'd be rid of the lunatic right-wing nutcases and we'd be able to get on with making things better around here instead of having to fight them and their fantasies!

    May 23, 2011 at 8:24 am |
    • duuh

      Gay? huh Dont worry you can change!

      May 23, 2011 at 8:30 am |
    • Norm

      Christians "long" for the Rapture?
      I don't think so, unless your life here on Earth is so pathetic.
      God made the Earth for us to enjoy. Anyone longing to leave is considered suicidal.
      God will be especially harsh with FALSE PROPHETS on the day of judgement.

      May 23, 2011 at 8:31 am |
    • kasey

      Don't worry, duuh is an ignorant fool. He is the one that needs to change!

      May 23, 2011 at 8:39 am |
  19. jl

    These kinds of theories are a dime a dozen. Most people don't realize how precarious reason is, so they naively believe likely or unlikely arguments

    May 23, 2011 at 8:24 am |
  20. Really?

    Another religious scam followed by a group of people that need to follow something. One step worse that religion itself.

    May 23, 2011 at 8:23 am |
    • duuh

      Just like those stupid liberals following pelosi!

      May 23, 2011 at 8:28 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.