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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. Mike

    IN MARK 13:32, "However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows."
    Wow! a God with split personality!

    May 23, 2011 at 9:35 am |
    • El Kababa

      That verse was inserted into the text by a later generation, I'll bet. I'm not a scholar, but that IS a very convenient verse. It's a 'Get Out of Jail Free' card for Christians. It allows them to disavow all failed predictions of Judgement Day. So far, of course, all of the Judgement Day predictions have failed. We've got two more coming up in the next couple of years.

      May 23, 2011 at 9:44 am |
  2. Bible Clown

    Morons. It's only a book. Lord of the Rings makes better sense.

    May 23, 2011 at 9:35 am |
  3. Scott

    wimanf, you hit it spot on. What amazes me is how many followers will stay with this false prophet after yet another bogus and failed claim.

    May 23, 2011 at 9:35 am |
  4. The Dimension Machine

    We survived the May 21 “end of the world”…so Good morning to all, look in the mirror and make sure you are good…. and let’s have a great week. Thanks from TheDimensionMachine.com

    May 23, 2011 at 9:35 am |
  5. El Kababa

    Religion occurs in the human brain and no where else. That is where our gods reside. Predictably, our gods tells us what we want to hear. God told Jesus that if he fulfilled the promises of prophecy, then God would destroy the monarchy of Herod and drive the Romans from Israel. But Yahweh existed only in the mind of Jesus. Yahweh's voice was really the voice of Jesus.

    May 23, 2011 at 9:34 am |
    • El Kabong

      The voices in my head say you are wrong.

      May 23, 2011 at 9:36 am |
  6. The Dimension Machine

    2012? E=mc2 is actually E=mc3, How far can you look into deep space? What types of black hole exist? Time travel, Dimension travel, Are past and future on the same platform? What is the motion of love? The perfect social structure! Can we change the past or the future? Evolution the truth, NYC, The Art of love making, all this+ at the real deal at www TheDimensionmachine Dot Com

    May 23, 2011 at 9:32 am |
    • El Kabong

      Get help. You're insane.

      May 23, 2011 at 9:37 am |
    • Improv

      Umm... E = mc^2 is well known and tested. If it really was E = mc^3, nuclear reactions would be vastly more powerful, and the sun probably would have destroyed us by now. The last thing we need is to replace doomsday theories with conspiracy theories.

      May 23, 2011 at 10:01 am |
  7. ant

    The world did end no one was worthy.

    May 23, 2011 at 9:32 am |
    • El Kabong

      Both Believers went to heaven.

      May 23, 2011 at 9:38 am |
  8. shawn

    HAHAHAHAAAA HAHAHAHAAAAHAHA!

    May 23, 2011 at 9:32 am |
  9. Mike

    wimanf: Jesus only wanted a gentler Judaism, not founding a religion. Read St. Paul and see how Jesus was all forgotten when he picked it up.

    May 23, 2011 at 9:31 am |
  10. Donkeypower

    Beware for many false prophets who come in my name!AND you will be persecuted for my name sake! No one knows the hour nor the time! Do not put your faith in man but in GOD alone!!! Listen people LISTEN!!

    May 23, 2011 at 9:31 am |
  11. Tom

    We wont know when it will happen. Just be decent to one another, geez...

    May 23, 2011 at 9:30 am |
  12. sylvan finkelstein

    hey dummies surprise surprise

    May 23, 2011 at 9:28 am |
  13. MarkSu

    No human being can change the word of God in Thessalonians 5:2

    May 23, 2011 at 9:28 am |
    • Biblical Expert

      "Pimps up; hos down." John 3:16

      May 23, 2011 at 9:41 am |
  14. jim wilkins

    The pope is a old man dressed like a massia but is nothing more then a symbol of a long time scam that is fading away..!!!! Wake up people! religion is nothing more then false hope!

    May 23, 2011 at 9:25 am |
    • Rick

      Why are you trying to shove YOUR lack of belief down everyone's throat??

      May 23, 2011 at 9:37 am |
  15. Now what?

    Velocirapture?

    May 23, 2011 at 9:21 am |
  16. Mike

    So many Gods...so many endings...
    Christians have been predicting the end of the world since Christianity was invented by Saulo of Tarsus.

    May 23, 2011 at 9:19 am |
    • wimanf

      CORRECTION: CHRISTIANITY'S FOUNDER IS JESUS CHRIST NOT SAUL OF TARSUS. THOSE WHO BELIEVED THAT THE WORLD WOULD COME TO END ARE VERY UNWISE WHEN JESUS SAID, IN MARK 13:32, "However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows." YOU SEE, IF YOU ARE A TRUE BELIEVER, YOU FALLOW WHAT JESUS TEACHES, NOT WHAT FOOLS THINK.

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

      And they'll eventually be right.

      May 23, 2011 at 9:29 am |
    • Organized Religion

      @wimanf

      And in the true spirit of organized religion, it's logically inconsistent, but yelling makes it so...

      May 23, 2011 at 9:35 am |
    • seraphim0

      w- Since 'jesus' didn't write the bible, and man did... what does that say? Try as you like to say that some infallible God wrote the book himself, it is even agreed upon that human hands put words to paper. Would you say mankind is infallible? If so... then what is the difference between man and god?

      May 23, 2011 at 9:37 am |
    • Rick

      seraphim0

      w- Since 'jesus' didn't write the bible, and man did... what does that say? Try as you like to say that some infallible God wrote the book himself, it is even agreed upon that human hands put words to paper. Would you say mankind is infallible? If so... then what is the difference between man and god?
      ------------------------------
      Man wrote the Bible through the voice of God. In other words God said what to write and man wrote it.

      May 23, 2011 at 9:39 am |
    • El Kabong

      "YOU FALLOW WHAT JESUS TEACHES, NOT WHAT FOOLS THINK." Fallow? And why are you typing in all-caps?

      May 23, 2011 at 10:45 am |
  17. bailoutsos

    Mother Nature is always blamed for the bad things and God gets credit for the good things. End of life on Earth will be no different, it will be her fault.

    May 23, 2011 at 9:19 am |
    • Rick

      Not true.

      May 23, 2011 at 10:02 am |
    • Furious

      Love this! I completely agree. She gets a bad rap every time. And to think that She's just firing back at us for all the awful things we done to Her this last century or two.

      May 23, 2011 at 10:35 am |
  18. Hop

    Religion was created for mass control of people. It started when power-hungry kings would scare the people into believing they were Gods. Just be a good person. Do good things. This is just another example that it isn't real. You are free to believe in what you wish, and I respect that.

    May 23, 2011 at 9:18 am |
    • NotSoMuch

      I'm not really very religious, but I am a student of history. You are so far off that you can't even see the facts from where you are standing. Spouting crap in criticism of a story about a bunch of other people that were spouting crap is amusing, but probably not intentionally. Good luck with your crap!

      May 23, 2011 at 9:27 am |
    • ant

      NotSoMuch where are your facts you call out to someone that they are not correct but it is true Religion is created to control.

      If you are being controled you deny it but you are still controled. Look at the religious leaders in Jesus's time if you disbelieve it.

      They incited the crowds in other words lead them through control to kill Jesus.

      So I guess the Jews didn't kill Jesus it was the religious leaders sounds like what is happening today.

      May 23, 2011 at 9:36 am |
    • SeanNJ

      @NotSoMuch: What you said: "I'm not really very religious, but I am a student of history." What we know this to mean: "I'm trying to hide my nutball ideas behind a thin veil of something that makes me sound less idiotic."

      May 23, 2011 at 9:43 am |
    • Dude

      You can't prove that religion is what you say it is anymore than I can prove it is not. Faith is something you cannot see but believe it exists.

      Same holds true in every time you see a live electrical wire laying on the ground. You can't see the electricity but simply because someone says it's live you believe them. You place faith in the fact that what they say is true even if you've never met them before in your life.

      May 23, 2011 at 10:08 am |
  19. sam99999

    HAH-HA!

    May 23, 2011 at 9:15 am |
  20. Toon

    Welcome to a New Age of Atheism!

    May 23, 2011 at 9:15 am |
    • Dude

      Why are you even bothering to reply?

      May 23, 2011 at 10:08 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.