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. musikpal

    @CoolDude, Ahh a chepshot, anywy, I wsn't trained 2 b a writer. I was trained 2 take short cut 2g8 da best result n dat wat I do best.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:10 am |
  2. Fred Willis

    Here's a song that the Doomsayers should listen to, very carefully...


    May 23, 2011 at 10:09 am |
  3. margret raines

    It seems that the Jehovah's Witnesses had to also learn the hard way about hard & fast date predictions-according to one internet source there were 5 such predictions made by the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society or its founders. Those dates were in 1914, 1918, 1925, 1974 & 1989.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • richunix

      you forgot 1999 (hence why the "Elder Consul" resigned)

      May 23, 2011 at 10:16 am |
  4. Shaunna

    I agree with the poster who said "NO man knows the hour or the day" because that is firmly what I believe. God is not mocked. We are warned of false prophets in the latter times and here is one of them! Not saying they don't believe what they believe, but how very arrogant of them to definitively state they KNEW the time of the rapture. Again – NO MAN...

    May 23, 2011 at 10:06 am |
    • richunix

      Have you been also warned about false deities, unbelievable stories about GODs coming to earth and screwing the local inhabitants, then destroy the earth and of course done with evil angels. Then I have swamp land in Florida to sell you! Your so damn gullible that you probably seen Elvis at least once on your Refrigerator

      “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 10:13 am |
  5. Lilly

    Harold Camping is a fruit loop....Why did he think once again he knew when the world was coming to an end...The first time he predicted it years ago it didn't happen and it looks as if history repeated itself once again...The Bible clearly stats that "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come." Anyone who truly believed that it was going to happen when Camping proclaimed are fruit loops as well...Everyone should be prepared but no one will know the exact hour or day.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:05 am |
    • UncleM

      You are only slightly less of a fruit loop because you still believe this biblical nonsense.

      May 23, 2011 at 10:09 am |
  6. bernie

    I should have got into religion it turns out that is the biggest ponzi scheme going. Send me your dollars, praise be unto me. Bring me your tired, weak, lazy, welfare recievers and let me relieve you of your burden, lighten your hearts and your wallets. Now lets pay, Dear heavenly big brother anoint us with your gracious wealth.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:04 am |
  7. Hunt

    he doesnt know if he did anything wrong. False prophet? fear monger? liar? yes, yes, and yes. and these are only the things i can think of off the top of my head that are in his bible. not that i believe in that. But after all of this they all think they are in the one or two percent that makes it to heaven. YOU ARE ALL PATHETIC. And you make me sick.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:03 am |
  8. Albe Reasonable

    People have proclaimed the end of the world for centuries:


    May 23, 2011 at 10:03 am |
  9. EddyWithani

    Ah, the disappointment that these folks are feeling couldn't have happened to a nicer bunch of D-Bags!

    May 23, 2011 at 10:03 am |
  10. Guff

    “When you as a person believe that God is coming back, and you believe the evidence is very clear that he’s coming back..." the evidence was NOT "very clear". You allowed your beliefs to out-weigh logic.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:03 am |
  11. Carlos M. Garcia

    For the founder of Family Radio, Harold Camping, who is 89 years old the end of the world is much closer that most other humans. Creating such a fuzz around such a complicated and controversial theme such as Judgement day is at least irresponsible if not childish. Thanks God most people paid little or no attention to this annoying prediction. Can you imagine the effect collective hysteria? What reason would have God to destroy us if he/she was the one who created us in the first place? Did he/she not know in advance that most of humans would be sinners? Besides I did nod ask to come here. I was forced like everybody else into human life. So please Domesday experts: Give us a break!!!

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

      There isn't any "most humans are sinners." Every single human beign sins. Its the natural life.

      We human are born to die so that after death we are reborn. Which is known as the circle of life. All this doomsday crap is utter b.s.

      Random Question to ask your self: Those who predicted 2012, don't you think they didn't finish the calender cause they died off?

      May 23, 2011 at 10:14 am |
  12. bobby frank

    This has been going on since I was a child. It really frightened me the first time around but like someone said earlier. Only God knows when the end of the world will be. I think he is in control and not some idiot preacher. Jesus was next in line to know.......... don't you think? Live your life like every day is your last and I think most of us will be ok.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:01 am |
  13. PAULA


    May 23, 2011 at 10:00 am |
  14. Fred the Wonder Platypus

    As if the universe gives a crap how one little planet chooses to count its trips around its star. It's made over 4 billion of them so far, and the last 2 thousand are significant?? To whom??

    May 23, 2011 at 10:00 am |
  15. Take A Stand

    As everyone know, throughout the ages, men have tried to predict the second coming of Jesus. While I am not going to judge the sincerity of their faith and will give them the benefit of the doubt, I have to question why they would believe that they would know when the rapture is going to happen. For in the Bible, Mark 13:32-33 to be exact, states:

    "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come."

    This means that EVEN JESUS does not know when that day is; only God knows and will reveal it when He chooses. So the next time someone says they know when the world is going to end, and even if they say they have concrete proof, do not worry. ONLY GOD knows when that day is, and He has told us through his Word that absolutely no one will know. But we always must be ready for His coming, for it could be at any time. The Bible says Jesus' second arrival will be swift and everyone will be caught off guard.

    "So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him." (NIV, Matthew 24:43-44)

    So we must make sure to be ready in our hearts, and to press on in the field of evangelism, so that all nations will hear of God's infinite love for all of us and what He did for all so that we would have eternal life.

    May 23, 2011 at 9:59 am |
    • UncleM

      You are as nuts as Camping. What's scary is that you're considered mentally competent to vote.

      May 23, 2011 at 10:10 am |
    • desi

      What about people of other religion? What about Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Jews? When this so called "rapture" happens, and however it happens – earthquake, flooding, nuclear explosion, it will only happen in places where Christians live. Places like Iran, Afganistan, China, India etc will be safe.

      May 23, 2011 at 10:14 am |
    • Take A Stand

      I have to admit I laughed, @UncleM, when i read your comment. You should be saying "The scary thing is that you sound like someone much older than your actual age" because I am definitely not old enough to vote yet. Who said youth can't have a say in world affairs.

      May 23, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
  16. 95Jagman

    Idiots, all idiots. It is people like this that are giving Christianity a bad name in the world. it almost makes me ashamed to be a Christian.

    May 23, 2011 at 9:59 am |
    • BadMoon

      Not very Christian of you to be calling other people idiots now is it?

      May 23, 2011 at 10:01 am |
  17. covenant

    God's covenant with Noah was to never again curse the ground on account of man or destroy every living thing, saying that things on earth "shall not cease" (Gen 8:21-22).
    So the folks who constantly preach gloom and doom need to re-read their Bibles with the idea that God is love and he will not destroy us.

    May 23, 2011 at 9:58 am |
  18. dc4sense

    Scott – From George Carlin you left off:..and he needs money!

    May 23, 2011 at 9:58 am |
  19. Realist

    I'm dissapointed..............that all these wack-jobs are still here. I was hoping they would be wisked away.....

    May 23, 2011 at 9:57 am |
  20. Jon

    I, along with millions of others, am a devout Christian who heeds the words of Jesus when hearing of these self styled prophets and others who think that God speaks to them so that they can lead others. We don't listen and we hope that others won't listen either but they do. That's the great thing about having freedom to choose.

    To those that blindly follow guys like Camping there is little to say, but I am reminded of the words of Bill Engvall: "Here's your sign...."

    May 23, 2011 at 9:56 am |
    • Colin

      Jon, is it any less silly than blindly following prophets from 2,000 years ago, which is what all Christians do?

      May 23, 2011 at 10:01 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.