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. Joe Christianson

    So sad. Live your life dum@ass stop worrying about the end and worry about why you WANT the world to end. Why you are afraid to live your life fully.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:24 am |
    • Ptah

      "Why you are afraid to live your life fully."

      Because they're accustomed to not being able to think for themselves.

      May 23, 2011 at 11:13 am |
  2. Realist

    There is something just papently EVIL about hoping for the word to end. Please keep these halfwits out of politics, there's too many of them in the GOP already.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:24 am |
  3. Lee

    It's amazing, this "perfect" god can't seem to create a world that doesn't end of going so wrong he has to drown all his "beloved"children or otherwise destroy it in order to "fix it". And this god takes no responsibility for creating such a apparently flawed world. Its apparently the fault of all us dumb clucks for "turning out too sinful". I thought this god knew history forwards and back? If so then surely he knew he was create a bunch weak chumps, who would eventually p him off enought that he'd have no choice but to destroy the world.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:24 am |
  4. Really?

    Let me help the doomsdayers process this. . . YOU WERE ALL DUPED!!! Don't count on an apocalypse happening in your lifetimes. Go out there and live your life.

    If you have any further questions, please direct them to the nearest adjacent brick wall. Have a nice day!

    May 23, 2011 at 10:22 am |
  5. Leafy

    hahahha look at this "Rapture video" hilarious

    May 23, 2011 at 10:21 am |
  6. Lee

    Well keep hoping and praying Christians. You might have been wrong this time but maybe you dream wish will come true and the evil overlord will finally destroy this ugly filthy sinful world you think so worthy of destruction.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:20 am |
  7. Not All Docs Play Golf

    The same weak minds that believed this are the same weak minds that have driven the child exploitation book, Heaven Is For Real, by Sarah Palin's ghost writer, to the top of the charts.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  8. Gumbo

    Anyone want to pick up a nice used RV cheap?

    May 23, 2011 at 10:17 am |
  9. Not All Docs Play Golf

    Apparently God didn't get the memo.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:17 am |
  10. Diane

    The Bible is clear, no one will know the hour of the rapture....In God's words! So these people did commit a sin, they put words in God's mouth! But for those of us Christians who know the truth.......it doesn't matter when Jesus returns, we just know that he will and that is all that matters!

    May 23, 2011 at 10:17 am |
    • richunix

      The word "Verily" is Old English (13th Century) and GOD is of Germanic in orgins (6th Century) so what did he say?

      “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 10:27 am |
    • Stephanie

      True! It does matter to the point we KNOW it will happen, but it doesn't matter to the point of when. If we were suppose to know, we would. God would of told us. Instead he tells us to be working, not sleeping....which means GO! Do God's work for the kingdom!~ Then when it does happen, you will be ready, no matter what.
      I feel bad for those expecting to see Christ on Saturfay, and didn't. Very sad and disappointing. I do believe they misunderstood scripture, I do believe they added to the Bible. They replaced the HOPE that we all have, with false prophecy. They will have to answer for that, I think.
      Praying for them and the HOPE they repent and keep loving the Lord for who He is, not for when He'll return.

      May 23, 2011 at 10:38 am |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Diane wrote: "..it doesn't matter when Jesus returns, we just know that he will..."

      You don't KNOW anything... You've been deluded into believing in a fairy tale and accept it as fact...

      May 23, 2011 at 10:41 am |
  11. palintwit

    Trigtard would like to comment on this..." smurpp, drool ".

    May 23, 2011 at 10:15 am |
  12. Ptah

    Matthew: 16:28 Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.

    You know something? This is from Matthew – the very book so many other people quoted. But, look here! Even in this verse the so called "rapture" is well over 2000 years past. Just goes to show: Believe none of what you hear, and only half of what you see.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:14 am |
  13. RealityCheck

    So, someone claiming to know the will of God has made predictions which turned out to be untrue. Most of the world, including others who claim to believe in God(s) have looked at this with amusement and befuddlement. How could anyone believe such ramblings? Good. You got the message. Now comes the hard part. Now look at *your* religion. Look at the statements and claims that it makes. Now realize that your religion's claims seem just as bogus to others as Camping's claims seemed to others not of his following. That is the big lesson here. How many of you adopt a more humble, and less imperialist and self-righteous, perspective on your own religious beliefs? How many of you will decide that belief in God has nothing to do with going to a church, synagogue, temple, etc and listening to someone tell you how you are special and better than others because you follow that person's belief system? How many of you will look on anyone who claims to have a special insight to the will of God with the same amusement and befuddlement that we now hold for Mr Camping (even your own religious leaders)?

    May 23, 2011 at 10:14 am |
    • TxGirl


      May 23, 2011 at 10:24 am |
    • David

      How many of you will give up belief in God?

      May 23, 2011 at 10:30 am |
    • Lee

      All Christians are brainwashed. It is very hard for them to change their mode of thinking as a result. Look they believe a book, which oculd only be writting by human hands, to be the word of a god. Even though original authors are not known, it is known to have been massivley edited at differnt times with whole sections torn out... Yet it is the word of a god.

      May 23, 2011 at 10:33 am |
  14. Bobbb

    According to my understanding there will be 144,000 people raised during the ressurection. By my estimation there just isn't 144,000 Christians yet.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:13 am |
  15. jp

    I guess this church did not read the bible......

    May 23, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  16. MLasso

    Our maker, whatever/whoever that is, gave us the power to reason. This is an important skill for humans – it's what keeps us from being swindled, among other things. Religion is counter to our power to reason – it requires us to ignore reason and the trigger is faith. In the end, it's all misinformation. We draw in this information, along with many other sources of misinformation, such as the Republican party, and then we cast our votes. So much for democracy.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  17. Bil C

    I would at this moment harken the faithful to the book of peanuts ch258 vs 14 behold Charley Brown I presenteth you a football to kick and even as I have pulled it away in past times causing you embarrassment and pain...this time will I steadfastly hold it until they Lockett it to thy hearts joy.

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

    A users guide on how to milk sheep:

    First, pick a wealthy country where about 80% of the population still believe an Iron Age deity reads their minds (or “hears their prayers” to the extent you see a difference) and will cause them to live happily ever after in heaven.

    Second, tell these people the World is ending on a specific date, based on some voodoo math from parts of their sacred book (that was compiled in the Dark ages) that they will never read.

    Third, have them send you money, not to spend after the World ends (they may see through that) but to “spread the word”.

    Fourth, don’t spend it all.

    Fifth, when the date inevitably passes, refuse to give it back on the basis of religious freedom.

    Shazaam, the Christian sheep have been milked AGAIN. No wonder they need their Shepherd.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  19. LYDIA

    "But concerning that day or that hour, NO ONE KNOWS, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, BUT ONLY THE FATHER. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come". MARK 13: 32-37

    May 23, 2011 at 10:11 am |
    • Grumpy

      Exactly right!!! That's the passage I used for my sermon yesterday. That and a few bumper stickers I've seen over the years, like "Jesus is Coming! Look Busy!"

      May 23, 2011 at 10:17 am |
    • Colin

      Odd, Christians claim god the father and god the son are one, but accpet that it can know and not know at the same time. Let me guess, "a mystery too complex for our small minds to comprehend, right?" There is nothing wrong with being gullible, but wow, you guys reach for the attribute.

      May 23, 2011 at 10:20 am |
    • Phil

      Why waste valuable time you could be spending doing something else or being with those you love instead of following around false ideas and imaginary beings... Your chances of being abducted by an alien are 100% more likely to happen than meeting something called "god".

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

      Colon, that is a doctrine, the Trinity is not from the Bible and the Bible does not teach that all 3 are one.

      May 23, 2011 at 10:39 am |
  20. Caveman

    Cavemans are living much more happier wayyyy back then than people are living now. Because they don't have all this so call religion(s) to bother them, to interfere with their lives.

    * It's important to have a religion in our society...to believe in something, but not to the point of this extreme...idiots !!
    (Which means you can believe in whatever religions you want to believe, but don't try so hard to MAKE or persuade everybody to believe what you believe in.)

    World Peace !!

    May 23, 2011 at 10:11 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.