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. Luke

    These wack jobs really ruin it for Christians...I'm so sick of the reputation I get from them.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • belief

      well that comes from JUDGING others and good people don't judge others, including good athiest.....they know it is not right to judge either.

      May 23, 2011 at 11:08 am |
  2. tony

    I was really looking forward to some post-rapture looting. I was ready to move into a much nicer house for the next 6 months. I guess I probable shouldn't have stopped taking my vitamins either. how disappointing.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  3. Luke

    CNN, you might as well just say, "I'm gay".

    May 23, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  4. Pedro

    According to them the world ends on Oct. 21, well that's my birthday, soooo LET'S LIVE IT UP!!!!

    May 23, 2011 at 10:33 am |
  5. Jem

    I think what this group failed to do was "read" the Bible. If Jesus himself says he does not know the time or the hour, who do they think they are? They need to go back to where this all started- the Bible.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • Steve (the real one)


      I could not agree with you more. Setting dates is foolish and unscriptural! On this blog, many of us stated how this was wrong. My question is does camping get a do-over or finally be recognized as the false prophet he really is. Lots of lives came crashing down on Sunday morning. All because they did not read the Word for themselves.

      May 23, 2011 at 10:47 am |
    • AKeaton

      AMEN!!!!!! Matthew 24:36

      May 23, 2011 at 11:13 am |
  6. OnlyIdiotFellforThis

    Harold Camping is nothing but a con artist. Not sure where he got his so called engineering degree from, but I would not be surprised if he got it from a slot machine or a copy machine. This con artist must have got quite a bit of assets from many stupid fools out there.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • Alison

      He apparently got it from UC Berkeley. But, well, a degree doesn't necessarily mean you're smart...

      May 23, 2011 at 10:45 am |
  7. Cheeseskreist

    Where's George Carlin when we need him?

    May 23, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • Mark

      Please stop saying these people need to read their bibles! Stop because all of you saying they dont know the bible dont know it either! There is no Rapture because the word rapture is not in the original greek texts! Everyone looking for a Rapture in the future will be disapointed! Our tribulation will be no different than the tribulation the 1st century christians endured in 66c.e. to 70c.e. This time it will be on a world wide scale. To understand this tribulation that you all are speaking of you need to first understand what happened in 66ce. to 70c.e when the Roman armies destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple. Read your Bible!

      May 23, 2011 at 10:41 am |
  8. Julie

    These poor people...as they are Christians, it would be helpful if they read the Bible. Jesus in his own words gave specific information regarding the end of days. First of all, there is NO pre-tribulation rapture. The Christians are going to go through a living hell just as everyone else. In fact, Christians are going to be hunted and slaughtered.

    The beginning of the last 7 years begins with a major peace agreement that involves Israel and their rebuilding of their temple (which requires that they obtain the Temple Mount property which is now in the hands of the Palestinians, on which sits a Mosque). Tricky

    Jesus will not return until 7 years after this peace agreement. As you well know, peace in the middle east would be nothing short of a miracle!!!

    Jesus says that the signs that it is near are wars, famines, pestiliences, and earthquakes in many places.

    God bless

    May 23, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • amos

      keep believing in your fairy tales. There will always be an excuse or reason as to why 'jesus' wont come back. PLEASE use your head and think out your nutty theories. You might find they they really are not true and your life wouldnt be so consumed with being taken to a better life.

      May 23, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • Julie

      Amos, you are assuming an awful lot about me that is just not true. My life is not consumed with thoughts of a better one. I do have faith in God, though. I understand you skepticism. But when you see a 7-year peace agreement take place in Israel and the temple being built on the Temple Mount....give it a moment of your time to reflect.

      May 23, 2011 at 10:41 am |
    • Mark

      Julie you are clueless....I am sure that God concluded his covenant with the house of Israel so why is literal Israel so important anymore? You think you know something but you dont....Why would God have anything to do with a people who no only rejected him but rejected his son? Hence I am concluding the covenant with the house of ISRAEL.....Now people of all nations have a covenant inscribed upon their hearts that says they are Israel...GODS people. Why do people focus on Geography when Israel is mentioned in the bible. Did you read where Abrahams sons name was changed to...what? Israel....not a place but a people. Read your bible.

      May 23, 2011 at 10:48 am |
  9. Chad in IA

    Let's encourage them all to follow through and "Rapture" themselves.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:31 am |
  10. Susie Q

    "not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father" "knows about that day or hour" Matthew 24:36. I guess Mr Camping's ego got a little in the way of his judgement. Selective reading on his behalf led him astray. Satan did a number on Camping and his followers he must be laughing his fiery socks off right now. But that's what Satan wants to have all Christians labelled and viewed through the lens of this minority who have been cleverly tricked by him.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:31 am |
  11. Me

    Or one could chalk this one up to THERE IS NO GOD/JESUS. It's all an interesting story to say the least-about how Jesus came to be-but there is no proof, well the proof that nothing happened back in '94 and May 21st.

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

      Jimmy Haigh (20:39:59) : Just a quick question for annoye. Why did they position the global atmospheric CO2 monitor on top of an active volcano???At first glance, Mauna Loa doesn't seem like a good location for a CO2 monitor An active volcano situated on a rather carbon-rich island. Hawai'i is the land of Vog Volcanic smog and lush tropical forests on the eastern part of the Big Island. Although large parts of Hawai'i are actually considered to have a Maritime Desert climate.But the reason is relatively simple There was already an observatory there. The CO2 is sampled from air that is above the Boundary Layer; ostensibly free from surface effects.The Keeling Curve has the longest history of CO2 continuous measurements; but over the past 50 years a network of similar stations has become active. They all show roughly the same pattern of increasing CO2.50 years is not a long time period And the CO2 measurements carry no definitive anthropogenic fingerprints. It's a reasonable assumption that some of the CO2 increase is anthropogenic; but there's no really accurate way to quantify the natural vs. anthropogenic components.

      October 8, 2012 at 12:39 am |
  12. amos

    ALL religions are fairy tales to scare 'followers' into 'buying' what they are spewing. All you dummies that keep dropping your $ into some nut that tells you thats what you have to do to be 'saved' just got a rude smack in the face. Try thinking for yourself and you will be 100% better off. No man or being from the sky is going to come and take away all his followers to some mythical place to live in peace. That thinking only exisits in books and games. NO PROOF has ever been brought forward that this way of life is the correct choice. Only scared sheep follow this way of thinking. Your born, you live and then you die, pretty simple I think.

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

      Very interesting. Do you know that there was a person called Jesus lived in Israel in the first century?

      May 23, 2011 at 11:56 am |
  13. regina matthews

    people wake up this man is not and never will be(GOD) STOP BEING SO STUPID READ THE REAL BIBLE THE KING JAMES

    May 23, 2011 at 10:29 am |
    • amos

      oh yea thats were the real truth is, HAHAHA. You are no smarter than the other kooks that follow any religion. A book written by men to scare you and tell you how bad you are doesnt sound to good to me. Think for yourself !!!

      May 23, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • LivingInVA

      You do realize that the King James is a pretty darn modern version of the Bible, right? It's not even close to original.

      May 23, 2011 at 10:33 am |
  14. lysander77

    I guess this is proof that all you have to do to get attention on major media circles is be a complete wackjob.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:28 am |
  15. toxictown

    Wow. Thousands of years of snake oil and people are still getting sucked into these fairy stories.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:27 am |
  16. Travis

    Thousands of years ago, some guy came down from a mountain and said that a burning bush told him to go to Egypt and liberate the slaves. Another man sat under a tree for several weeks before reaching a new plane of human existence. Yet another said he was the son of God. And another transcribed a book that was dictated to him by angels. These men were greeted with scorn and hostility by many of their contemporaries, yet today, people like Moses, Buddha, Jesus, & Muhammad are revered as great visionaries and prophets, maybe even divine.

    I'm not questioning anyone's religious faith. It is a source of strength for billions around the world, and I would never claim that one's belief is invalid just because those beliefs are based on figures and events that have long since passed. It would be arrogant of me to presume that I have all the answers. However, it is no secret that for many people, these ancient beliefs trump rationality and common sense. There are way too many people who throw caution to the wind and place their faith in the hands of those who would exploit and manipulate them.

    This is at leas the second time that Harold Camping as been proven wrong (the first being back in 1994), and now he's saying that even though he miscalculated the date, the Rapture will still "definitely" happen this year. Maybe he actually believes it, maybe he doesn't. The point is that the gullible masses who took him seriously the first time around will continue to send donations to his organization and dedicate their lives to his message. One can't help but wonder if the great prophets of the past were nothing more than smooth-talking con artists looking to make a quick buck and just happened to get lucky. Is it possible that Harold Camping could be revered as a religious figure thousands of years from now, assuming he once again "miscalculates" Earth's expiration date? It's entirely possible. Back in the 1950s, a struggling science fiction writer with a Nixon-like paranoia complex wrote a book that blamed space aliens and psychiatrists for all the evils in the world. Today, his followers have elevated him to saint-like status in their new religion.

    It's a scary thought to question one's core beliefs. Even if the founders of these great faiths had pure intentions, those authority figures who followed in their footsteps certainly did not. We're all looking for answers, but let's at least keep things in perspective. Matthew 24:36-44 basically says not even Jesus Christ, let alone Harold Camping, knows when the end of the world will come. All we can do is live good lives and teach our children to do the same. Don't be swayed by ideological hucksters and flim-flam artists. Use your head. Think for yourself. That way, if you do live long enough to see the end of the world, at least you can look God in the eye and say that you've used the brain with which you've been blessed.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:27 am |
    • Yusuf

      Two ... thumbs ... up

      May 23, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • bj

      Travis, 100% agree with you on the Harold Camping part. But I do have a question for you. Do you believe that Jesus was real person who lived in Israel in around first part of the first century?

      May 23, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
    • Travis


      There's no way of knowing if Jesus existed, or if he did, whether or not he was the man he's been made out to be. As a Christian, I would like to think so, but I can only speculate.

      May 23, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
  17. marie

    I believe the bible as much as I do in Grimms Fairy Tales. I've read it twice and really think of it more as a scary horror story in most parts. I find it sad that people need religion to be a decent person or do the right thing, or love thy neighbor. Be a decent human being first, not because you are scared into it.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:27 am |
    • Ismael

      my friend, I want to let you know that the devil's argument is the same thing: we don't need God to be good. That is a dangerous argument because it is not true.

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

      Decent human being? Can you please define that? Decent according to whose standard?

      May 23, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • Kevin K in TX

      doesn't matter ismael, reason is god = nonexistant and thus devil = nonexistant.

      May 23, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
  18. musikpal

    Prophecy of a false prophet is not new n will always b, but here's a
    thought 4 u.....

    R u REALLY SURE there's no God? It's not legitimate 2 say there's no God. Take a moment to ponder about infinity then I'll show u. 1st let me ask, R things we r living in absolute? Will science like Newtonian Mechanics always work on a large scale object below the speed of light? It appears so in our dimension, but is this it?No, of course we can't say this is it because we have a limitation, that limitation is we can never understand Infinity. Infinity isn't matter nor energy. For us to try to understand infinity would b like a fish confined in a fish tank who knows all the detail inside the fish tank, but have no comprehension about the things it see through beyond the 4 glassy walls (which is its limitation). If u live on a straight line, can u understand a life on a plane? NO. If u live on a plane, can u understand a 3D life?NO. So if we live in this 4D life with boundary (we r bounded by infinity, just like a plane is an infinity to a straight line, n so on), how can we then say there's no more dimension beyond this infinity?How can we say,then,there is no God?

    May 23, 2011 at 10:27 am |
    • Harry

      Keep plugging the holes in your sinking ship

      May 23, 2011 at 11:01 am |
  19. Joyosity

    Why is this Evans guy apologizing? Like anyone with an ounce of sense believed this garbage. What happens happens in this life. If you have been a stand up person–take care of your family, help the downtrodden...etc. Just be a good all around person then you have nothing to worry about. Besides–it isnt like you can do anything about it. This Evans guy is typical of when State Budgets cut Mental Health funds.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:25 am |
    • hsjdhf

      I think he should apologize, regardless of whether you or I believed anything this looney had to say, some people did. A women that was a part of their group killed her son, to save him from the disastors of the end of the world. Unfortunately there are some very impressionable minds out there that will take whatever is given to them, including, and usually anything that is labeled the word of God. I wish everyone in the world had the kind of common sense that most people have, but they don't. Harold Camping and his followers raised a lot of unneeded panic, if only among their group.

      May 23, 2011 at 10:41 am |
  20. David

    The nature and the intent of God is the greatest mystery of all time, and I say let the mystery be.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:25 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.