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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. mulakater

    How much $ did the profits make??? No pun intended.

    May 23, 2011 at 9:13 am |
    • jim wilkins

      look at the vatican....its a castle..where did they get the money for that??????your ansesters were scammed to, you morons..
      You are your own god!

      May 23, 2011 at 9:21 am |
  2. Desi

    This Camping man is a loon and crazier are his followers who have made him a millionaire!

    May 23, 2011 at 9:12 am |
  3. Athiest

    Everyone who honestly believed the world was going to end Saturday is a gullible moron who needs to wake up and start questioning what they're told. How many times has their imaginary friend let them down, now?

    May 23, 2011 at 9:12 am |
    • Rich

      I agree that the "gullible morons" who believed the May 21 garbage should question what they're told....the problem is, they believed what a MAN said....not what GOD said. In the Bible it clearly states that we will not know the hour in which our Lord will return and should be false prophets. They should have looked to God's Word rather than a man who contradicts it.

      BTW, it's "Atheist", not "Athiest"....thought you might want to how to spell your faith in nothing.

      May 23, 2011 at 10:05 am |
  4. rickyd

    I think it's funny that they're wondering why it didn't happen. Maybe the Rapture did happen and Camping and his brood just didn't make the cut? Heh

    May 23, 2011 at 9:11 am |
  5. what a suprise

    really? this didnt happen... who believes amy of this crap when someone says it? This makes how many end of the earth dates for us? Sometimes i think the religious people are a little looney.

    May 23, 2011 at 9:11 am |
    • jim wilkins

      churches,preachers are all legal scams.Im so sick of hearing about this god.And what makes me sick is how many morons beleive .Wake up ! !its all a cult.....

      May 23, 2011 at 9:18 am |
  6. BC

    "NOBODY" can predict the end of the world... only God knows when. I never believed in these kinds of foolishness and stupidity. I bet these guys are praying that the world ends soon so they can say that the man is true with his predictions, which I think is sinful.

    May 23, 2011 at 9:07 am |
    • Jamest297

      Which god knows? I'd like to know so I can check with him/her/it to get their side of the story.

      May 23, 2011 at 9:24 am |
    • SurelyUjest

      I think it is sinful to even support a premise that some diety would destroy the Earth or Human kind. Certainly their are natural events and possible man made events that could destroy the world or all life on Earth. To believe some God is sitting back in judgement waiting to make that call is sinful in iteself because it creates an atmosphere of fear. We are meant to love live and flourish if we keep to those goals we need not fear any ending man made or natural. We need to take care of our planet and each other the chances of a random meteor or giant solar flare exists still they have nothing to do with a mythology created for those who choose to be unaccountable for their part in our future.

      May 23, 2011 at 9:49 am |
  7. hingedlwnb

    Where's the kaboom?!? There's supposed to be an Earth, shattering, KABOOM!!!

    May 23, 2011 at 9:06 am |
    • Larry

      KABOOM!!!!!!!!!!!!

      May 23, 2011 at 9:12 am |
    • brad

      .................kaboom! well I heard it! wait...... I just farted.

      May 23, 2011 at 9:23 am |
  8. jake

    Camping's followers never did their homework. They trusted in Camping's conclusion. Bad way to go. But Christ will come for sure. Just don't know when.

    May 23, 2011 at 9:04 am |
    • FifthApe

      You are as nuts as they are – you just differ on dates.

      May 23, 2011 at 9:08 am |
    • theendofdays

      It's almost like religion is just stuff made up by men or something

      May 23, 2011 at 9:10 am |
    • jim wilkins

      People like you and the rest of the religionist are just the people the churches are looking to munipulate and scam...ha ha ha ha
      Wake up morons!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!There is no god,jesus,peter, Matthew,there all names thrown into a book for weak minded people such as your self...follow the heard you sheap..baaa baaaaaa

      May 23, 2011 at 9:14 am |
    • Larry

      Religion Is nothing more than a mental crutch. When things go wrong it is never our fault. It is the will of God. Sorry believers.

      May 23, 2011 at 9:17 am |
    • SurelyUjest

      Nut jobs all of them!

      May 23, 2011 at 9:50 am |
  9. pccoder

    why can't all these people who are in a rush to meet their maker just kill themselves? just speed up the process you idiots.

    May 23, 2011 at 9:04 am |
    • jake

      how dumb

      May 23, 2011 at 9:05 am |
  10. alec b

    People are just plain silly to think they can predict such an event even the bible says no man can do it.... so the question really should be is there something to gain from this popularity notoriety this sounds more suitable of a reason!

    May 23, 2011 at 9:04 am |
  11. Tyler

    The fact that doomsday came and went is a reflection of mans fallacy, NOT Gods. Mankind is filled with error and mistakes which is evident by this "doomsday prophecy". I think we can all agree that mankind is not perfect, but although we may not be perfect, this false prediction changes nothing. The Bible is no less true, Christs death on the cross is no less significant and mankinds desire for purpose in this broken world is still very much in tact. Although mans opinions and knowledge changes constantly, God does not change.

    May 23, 2011 at 9:01 am |
    • David Johnson

      @Tyler

      You said: "I think we can all agree that mankind is not perfect, but although we may not be perfect, this false prediction changes nothing. The Bible is no less true, Christs death on the cross is no less significant and mankinds desire for purpose in this broken world is still very much in tact. Although mans opinions and knowledge changes constantly, God does not change."

      The bible is composed of the morals and understandings of ancient men. It is not true.

      Jesus may not have even existed.

      The world is not broken. That is just your delusion talking.

      God does not change, because He does not exist. LOL.

      Cheers!

      May 23, 2011 at 9:09 am |
    • NOT MY CHAIR

      you are so right because it can only take perfect being like god to make something as far from perfect, but functioning as the human race. the problem with faith is no matter how little of evidence there is for god there is no doubt that hes there...

      May 23, 2011 at 9:12 am |
    • Kyley

      Well said, Tyler.

      May 23, 2011 at 9:24 am |
    • SurelyUjest

      It is so funny to watch the religious zealots run to their bible to protect them from their own predictions which were inspired by the same book. Why is it so hard to just accept responsibility for your actions and live a "holy" life without some silly book to "guide" you? We are all in this together aeithists, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Pagans, Buddhists, etc....all of our books and kneeling and praying will not change that. We need to stop with the silly ancient writings and use our newly awakened knowledge of ourselves, science and nature to lay out our path forward.

      May 23, 2011 at 9:56 am |
  12. Ed

    As I said Camping is a loon

    May 23, 2011 at 9:01 am |
  13. willy Smith

    your not the God that decides the day of resurrection, The Day he creates the Universe The Day he Finish it, its his own choice. actually your ppl are corrupted and changed the Bible according to their life style, if you read the "Quran" you would know when will be the Doomsday, becoz its never changed and purely God words.

    May 23, 2011 at 9:01 am |
  14. Name*Eric

    Sounds just like the Great Disappointment of 1844 William Miller predicated Christ was coming back then. How can readers of the Word of God follow such foolishness? II Corinthians 4:4 thats how.. They had excuses back then why it didn't happen and they'll have some today or tomorrow.. Sad

    May 23, 2011 at 8:55 am |
    • Rico53

      Apparently Camping ,during his 50 year study ,didn`t read Mathew 24: 36. But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.

      May 23, 2011 at 9:06 am |
  15. Lou

    The question is what is Time? Some concepts like the number pi are given to us by nature. Time is something we make it out to be, which happens to work nicely in our little formula D = Vt. Had the world ended on Saturday, then people in NY would’ve never see it happening because it had already happened in China, right? How about the folks at the space station? their “day” is less than 1/8th of ours. And, what about outside our galaxy, this little formula might not work, destroying our definition of Time. So, go ahead and google Time. If you can find a straight definition of Time, then you will know exactly when the apocalypse is coming! Meanwhile, make sure you and everyone around you have a good TIME!

    May 23, 2011 at 8:53 am |
  16. Genesis8:21

    "Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. "

    “As long as the earth endures,
    seedtime and harvest,
    cold and heat,
    summer and winter,
    day and night
    will never cease.”

    May 23, 2011 at 8:52 am |
    • David Johnson

      @Genesis8:21

      "Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. "

      Religion does so much damage to humans. Do you really want to teach your children that their heart is evil? My child's heart isn't evil.

      We really need to give god and the bible a make-over. Mom always said, "If you are going to invent a god, make that god a useful god!"

      Cheers!

      May 23, 2011 at 9:16 am |
  17. jim

    Most Humans are weak minded,and are to dumb to see there being hearded,and manipulated. Religion is and always has been a scam...

    May 23, 2011 at 8:51 am |
    • TylerT

      I agree, that's the best way to explain it.

      May 23, 2011 at 9:00 am |
    • Peter Griffin

      Pot meet kettle. Let me help you, so you don't sound "dumb" like the people you are bashing. (1) It's "too dumb", not "to dumb" and (2) It's "herded", not "hearded".

      May 23, 2011 at 9:13 am |
    • Brian

      Your misspellIngs: "to" should be "too"; "there" should be "their"; "hearded" should be "herded". I guess you're right: humans are too dumb!

      May 23, 2011 at 9:22 am |
    • quori

      never confuse religion and faith. yes, religion is only as strong and truthful as those at the top of its hierarchy. If they are corrupt, the religious order will be corrupt. But that does not mean ones faith in their religious viewpoint is corrupt. Jesus' teachings are at their core, common sense. And the very simplest and purest plan on how we should treat one another. There is nothing wrong with that. Imagine a world where all people do more for others than for themselves. There's your heaven, utopia, eden, or whatever you want to name it.

      Regardless, without some semblance of a God from where does one derive moral foundation? Without that higher power providing a certain level of order and structure surrounding what I ought and ought not do, the world can easily be thrown into chaos and anarchy. It becomes a completely animalistic-driven Darwin society of "survival of the fittest". I am stronger than you, ergo I take your food and money, perhaps your woman and children too to be my slaves. I then continue to amass more and more as I become more and more powerful until someone stronger takes what I have for themselves. I can do anything I want, to whomever I want, simply based on my stature and strength.

      But my moral compass steps in and tells me...NO. You cannot take food from a starving man, you should instead give him more. NO. you cannot take that man's wife, you should cherish yours. etc etc. Without a higher power there to judge and ultimately punish, morals mean nothing. They must have an authority behind them to provide weight and context.

      Look, people can be atheists all they want. People can be Christians. People can be whacko scientologists. People can be whatever they want. In the end, simply put....treat one another as you want to be treated. Which really only becomes a problem with sadomasochists.

      May 23, 2011 at 9:28 am |
    • Rich

      Case in point...

      May 23, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  18. john m

    The part of this that should be realized is that wishing for the rapture is wishing for the rest of humanity to die, and to die in a horrible manner. These people are not kind and friendly people. They are sick demented fools. Thank god that they do not have their finger on "The Button" lest they try to make it happen. JM

    May 23, 2011 at 8:51 am |
    • pierre

      u are absolutly right,they dont realized they want destruction,they are selfish and judge themself and other peoples.they cant accept the world we live in and reject the creation as it is.

      May 23, 2011 at 9:09 am |
    • David Johnson

      @john m
      You said: "The part of this that should be realized is that wishing for the rapture is wishing for the rest of humanity to die, and to die in a horrible manner. These people are not kind and friendly people. They are sick demented fools. Thank god that they do not have their finger on "The Button" lest they try to make it happen. "

      Yep, it use to terrify me when George W. was in the Whitehouse. Crazy bible banger with His finger on the button.

      The big reason Evangelicals support Israel, isn't that they love the Jews. They even refer to Jews who have accepted Christ, as "perfected Jews". Sort of demeaning to the rest of the Jews. No? I guess god was just kidding, when He called them His Chosen People. He was obviously talking about the Evangelicals.

      The Evangelicals want the temple to be rebuilt, so Jesus can come back and torture all us non-believers. Christianity is one sorry religion.

      So yeah, having deluded people in power is scary. And that is why you should vote for the Dems. The Republicans are the puppets of the Religious Right. The Religious Right wants a Theocracy. A nation, with Jesus as Head of State. Only they will be able to hear Jesus' wants. They will tell the rest of us what He says.

      Cheers!

      Cheers!

      May 23, 2011 at 9:29 am |
  19. Ray

    Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32 state: “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."

    I can see that this is a true statement however the return of Jesus would come in the form of a personal relationship, not a group fix. Individuals make personal choices and as salvation is a personal choice, this takes religion out of the picture.

    Jesus gave his disciples an answer when they asked him why he spoke in parables. He said, in part: "For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’ " (Matthew 13:15)
    It sure seems to me like he is speaking towards individuals making a personal decision, a personal choice.

    And then there's this:
    "On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” (John 7:37- 38)
    Sounds like Jesus is calling out for people to make a personal decision about him.

    About the living water:
    God states in Jeremiah 2:13 that he is the spring of living water ie: the source of life. Revelation 22:1 describes that living water is life, and that it flows from throne of God and the Lamb, and verse 2 states that it flows down the middle of the great street of the city. That would be the city of God. And Revelation 21 describes this city as the New Jerusalem. The throne of God and the Lamb is located in the New Jerusalem.
    For one to have the life of God flowing through him or her, as Jesus promised would happen, they first have to see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their heart and turn to Him. Only when one makes a personal choice to do this are they healed. Jesus referred this process to Nicodemus as being 'born again', and the apostle John describes it as a 'new heaven and a new earth'. For living water to flow from anyone, he or she has to be a new creation as God’s Holy city from His Heaven is established within them.

    For living water to flow from someone, Jesus has to be with him or her.

    For Jesus to be with someone, he would have to return.

    God is with us, those who believe and turn to him with their hearts. Jesus comes to each of God's children who choose life and as Matthew and Mark described – no one knows the time Jesus will come to us, only the Father. Jesus comes many times to different individuals in our physical world every day because his coming has to do the personal relationship God has with his children. After all, Jesus is the way and the truth and the light. No one comes to the Father except through him.

    And every time Jesus comes he comes riding across our sky, our heavens on the clouds, the living water, the very life of his Fathers righteousness and he brings those who choose him the gift of the understanding of our Father. And no one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father, because it’s a personal choice.

    I think the day of doom happens when the choice is no longer available – when physical death occurs.

    May 23, 2011 at 8:46 am |
    • Kevin K in TX

      good job copying and pasting..

      May 23, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
  20. 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.

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

      With hundreds of Christian sects with hundreds of different twists of their holy book, what makes you sure you can pick out the "right one", rather than the one that simply aligns with your preconceived notions?

      May 23, 2011 at 8:52 am |
    • Shamrock6

      No John...he is not going to return. He will never return to Earth. There will never be a rapture. Not now and not at any hour from this moment until the sun burns out several billion years from now. The bible is a book that was written by man. God had absolutely nothing to do with it. A roman emperor decided which books he liked and which ones he didn't and that is how your bible came into being. It has been used to seize and wield power as well as line the pockets of anyone evil enough to use it to do so throughout the past 2000 years. It is sadly...nothing more. I'm sure there is a God and I'm sure there is an afterlife but neither of these things have anything to do with the bible and the relentlessly ambigous and over-interpretated ramblings that it contains.

      May 23, 2011 at 8:52 am |
    • greg inniss owner of this computer 489 4556

      just another example of a brainwashed,conditioned response to try to rationalize something you really have no clue of, i am not mocking you or judging your belief, but take a step back and try to be honest and realistic, can you really verify this , truth is, you can't,it simply is a point of view,specifically,you're point of view, and we all have one, cheers

      May 23, 2011 at 9:04 am |
    • jim

      moron !!!

      May 23, 2011 at 9:07 am |
    • anonymous

      Hm... John, your replies are interresting. I must say I disagree with Shamrock6 and greg. And Troy, the only way to find the right Christian sect is to follow the scriptures. By their fruits shall ye know them. Find the people who ACT like christians. Then, follow what your heart tells you. The spirit of God speaks to the heart and the mind. When they are telling you the same thing, and when you can find peace with your decision, you have found the Lord's church.

      May 23, 2011 at 9:09 am |
    • David Johnson

      @John

      You said: "Jesus is soon to return, but He will come when God, the Father, sends Him. No man knows the hour of Christ's return."

      You said: "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."

      All you deluded Christians like to say the world is dying. What is your definition? What is your metric?

      Your beliefs taint everything. If you really cared about the earth, you would be engaged in projects to deal with global warming, water pollution, preservation of rain forests etc. And some Christians are involved in these efforts.

      But, let's be honest. Evangelical pukes want Jesus to come back. They don't care about the earth. They like to see the earth as a dying planet. They think it means Christ is on His way.

      But, let's keep May 22, 2011 in mind. All those believers having soiled their britches. Looking to Heaven... That is the fate of all believers. For what you believe, is crap.

      Cheers!

      May 23, 2011 at 9:44 am |
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About this blog

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.