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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. Zargoth

    "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.”

    & here is where all those who are "afraid of the dark" go wrong: they should be completely ashamed to have abandoned the only demonstrable reality for the fantasy of what they desire to assuage their poor feelings.

    Imagine the world that could be created for us all if all this energy were focused on positive things in thehere & now....

    May 22, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
  2. Dennis

    Thanks to the media, we now get a daily dose of religious fanaticism every time we view the news. If it's not Muslims and their stone age antics, it's dellusional Christians or Jews or whatever in our own neighborhoods. Why can't we just set aside the fairy tales and start living our lives as common sense human beings?

    May 22, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • Scott

      Amen

      May 22, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
  3. raberyleti

    If they believe in the Bible and read it, I guess they missed these two verses! lolol

    Mark 13:32 (King James Version)
    But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.

    Matthew 24:35-36 (King James Version)
    But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.

    May 22, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • JOregon

      People keep bringing up those verses but if you had been paying any attention at all they felt they had a reasonable explanation for those verses.

      May 22, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
  4. j

    What a hot scoop! This just in! Christians are morons! More at 11.

    Your god is proven fake. Your bible is proven garbage. Self-fulfill the prophecy and suicide, please. Do the rest of us a favor.

    May 22, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
    • airwx

      Remind me never to grow old around you.....do you also believe in euthanasia?

      May 22, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @J

      A bit 'harsh' wishing them to commit 'suicide' don't you think, -j...?

      Peace...

      May 22, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
    • Scott

      Well if I’d been one of them I’d be dying of embarrassment right now. And god help them tomorrow back at work and school (especially school. These wack jobs should be shot for what they’ve done to there children) On the other hand it might help the children see the truth about religion (or at least con-men)

      May 22, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
  5. Zayrina

    I know I was disappointed. I was hoping all the religious fruits would be gone.

    May 22, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
  6. Sheny

    I don't understand how these "believers" say that they studied the bible from front to cover to find out the date of "doomsday", when the same text says that not even the angels in heaven know the date!!.. Why try to find out when he's coming for us? that's the whole point to be believers, is to have faith that He will come one day and everything else that the bible says will happen.. that's it! if we keep believing in what men say instead of what God says then we are not believers of God but, Believers of Men.

    May 22, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
    • svann

      Its a cult. They didnt read the bible they just figured that he must have and took his word for it.

      May 22, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
  7. liz

    Well Well the gangs still here.we are all here,but when our time comes we are not leaving here alive.God Bless!

    May 22, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
  8. Soliloquy

    CNN, when you state that Camping's people said the "Bible guaranteed this date", why not include the fact that the Bible DOES NOT state any date for a rapture? Why not actually distinguish this fringe group from the majority of Christians who actually read their bible and never believed any of this familyradio nonsense? The only people giving this tiny minority group the time of day is atheists who really have nothing better to do than call a horse a horse. They must be breathing a sigh of relief that us Christians are still here, because how boring and pointless would their lives be without their favorite punching bags?

    May 22, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • NoSoliloquy

      Hey Soliloquy, if all you christian wingnuts disappeared and stopped ruining everything for us here on earth in order to better your chances to your grifter made up god, I doubt any of us would really be too sad. It would give us more free time to dedicate to doing things that aren't trying to pull our modern culture out of the clutches of an antiquated and unnecessary belief system that is holding us back in the dark ages.

      You clown.

      May 22, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
    • NoSoliloquy

      Oh and I read Lord of the Rings pretty extensively, it's a way better read than your bible and I'm not trying to destroy Planned Parenthood and send America back to a cave because of it.

      Aragorn 1, Jesus 0

      May 22, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
    • Scott

      Yes, It’s amazing that god made Tolkien a so much better writer than himself (Tolkien’s books hang a bit better together than god’s books too)

      May 22, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
  9. Rick

    Probably the saddest thing about this entire delusional event is this one truth... WAY too many people spend so much of their lives worrying about what's going to happen to them after they die that they completely miss out on living the only sure thing they have- their own life.

    May 22, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
  10. coflyboy

    Oh well... maybe next time. 🙂

    May 22, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  11. Aezel

    I'll save all you dumb-f***s some trouble about 2012. That won't be the end of the world either.

    May 22, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
  12. John

    the bible is TRUTH? well, only if you have been brought up to think so. The bible is a great piece of story telling. AND, it delivers some pretty good lessons ("truths") and lets lots of people know what is a good way to treat others. I give it credit.
    The Bible might contain real historical elements. But it was written by men, not by god. And in the second part, there likely WAS a Jesus. He might have even been righteous, and turned the other cheek. But he was never the son of any god, any more than the rest of us.
    Enjoy the bible, it has much to give. Learn it's lessons. Then pay attention to science and make science the primary learning of your children.
    If there was a real religious revelation, I would want to be in on it, promise.

    May 22, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • Cristian

      Whether you think the Bible is truth or not, that depends on how you've been brought up. Whether the Bible IS truth or not has nothing to do with your upbringing.
      Also, you thinking that Jesus was not the son of God does not confer you absolute truth status, or the power to override the Bible with your statements. It's funny how important we get to think we are.

      As far as the prediction goes... oh well. Many people before this (and probably many after) have tried to push the Bible to extract information that isn't there. They have also conveniently ignored the Bible itself in order to get those personal results. When the Bible states that nobody (not even Jesus Himself) knows the exact date and time of these events, how self-absorbed must someone be to announce to the world that he has obtained that information (while claiming to believe the Bible)?

      May 22, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  13. Scott

    We need to save ourselves and quit waiting for a man or god to do it for is. We need to step up and do what we know is right.

    May 22, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
    • Sparky101

      So Scott, is it right for you to denigrate people who think differently than you? I mean, is that a good start for your pathway to a better world?

      May 22, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
  14. Justthefacts

    And just think.....this was just a Practice Run. Get ready for all the Weirdo's, Oddball's, Fanatic's, and Nut-job's. They'll all come out, come Jan. 1st 2012. The Count down begins.

    May 22, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  15. Thomas

    .... “Of course there’s disappointment. There’s no getting around that,” said Tom Evans ... Let me get this 'right' 98% percent of the population is going to be sent to hell, the world is going to be totally destroyed, suffering and grief but this man is "disappointed" because he did not get to meet 'his' God on that day?

    May 22, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • JOregon

      Under their belief Hell was just a synonym for Grave.

      May 22, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
  16. FedHead

    It truly sickens me that people would actually want to believe in any theory that would result in the world ending. Religious or not, be happy with your time on this planet. Stop looking for selfish excuses of "salvation," man up and live your life just like the other 6 billion+ people in the world.

    May 22, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
  17. RightturnClyde

    The only time I have seen them (CNN Belief Blog) milk a topic more than this one was when a bullied teenager from New Jersey jumped off a bridge. Well sad as that may be there are many teen suicides and so that teen wasn't any different than the others. The military (mostly teens) loses more soldiers and sailors to suicide than to enemy action. Back to Camping - I do not think he was so well know BUT CNN Belief BLOG worked this topic to into the ground. Whew. End of the world is not a new topic. All kinds of non-Christians are betting on the Mayan date or 12-21-12 as an end date (not Christian). There is a large audience of UFO-ers who think plant X or Y is going to crash into the earth. Many think that happened before (and killed the dinosaurs). Others imagine global Tsunami's and quakes and catastrophes - global warming .. AL GORE .. Michael Moore. All end-is-near people. Then there is "The Hot Zone" author and bird flu advocates and the movie with Dustion Hoffman .. all end or world-ists. All making millions. All full of **** and making millions. So maybe now this can go back to sleep until next year when the Mayan calendar is the culprit.

    May 22, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • AS

      You do realize that there is a difference between the weather and climate, right? Probably not. Oh well, go buy tickets from the next carnival barker.

      May 22, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
  18. Guitpack

    140 million dollars spent on advertising for this rediculous prediction. Think of what that money could have been used for. Cancer research, help our schools, feed children, help the homeless and shelters. Harold Camping is a fraud and a slime ball. With all of the Beauty we do have in this world, the God I pray to wants us to help preseve it, not destroy it.

    May 22, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • RightturnClyde

      Almost as bad as a Michael Moore global warming movie. Judging from last winter we can put that to rest (now that it is melting and causing Louisiana to be under water. (Where is Al Gore these days?). Another social hysteria.

      May 22, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • i wonder

      RightTurnClyde,

      So, you think the middle section of the U.S. is the definition of global, eh?

      There is no question that climate change is occurring around the Earth. How much man has contributed to it, or can do to keep it from being devastating, are the only questions here.

      May 22, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @RightturnClyde

      Yeah... as the population grows and we continue to make more synthetic products and compounds that take a millenia to break down, if ever... of course, you must be right, man and what we how we are contributing to the Earth in that sense has -0- effect.

      I'm going with @ i wonder here.

      Peace...

      May 22, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • JOregon

      Meanwhile actors, musicians, athletes, investors, etc will drop $140 mil on a vacation home.
      At least he was sincere and thought he was doing a good thing.
      He never got one penny of the money and spent most of his awake life trying to do what he thought was good and moral.

      May 22, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @JOregon

      Hey ther JOrg...

      So... here we are. We talked about this the other day, about whether Camping was right or not. You seemed to be a big believer in his work, while I understand you hedged your bets by saying 'may' be right. But the tone and style of your writing was inferring that he most likely would be accurate.

      So, where do we go from here...?

      Peace...

      May 22, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
    • Cristian

      @Peace2All
      Maybe we should go to paying closer attention to the Bible, instead of inferring calculations from it and then ignoring the obvious. That is, 1. nobody knows the exact date and time of these events and 2. believers should live their lives prepared for these events to come at any time (i.e., in permanent good standing with everything in their life, spiritually, morally and otherwise).

      May 22, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
    • JOregon

      @Peace
      I never gave a thought to whether he was right or not because for me it didn't matter.
      I quit listening even casually about 10 years ago. Since then I only listened to very short bursts maybe 1-2 times a year. I found him to of grown very arrogant. Still I respected his knowledge of the bible, and figured his prediction could have been right.
      Once upon a time he was much more mainstream and was quick to say he could be wrong because no one has perfect understanding of God's word.
      In the end he claimed he had perfect understanding and couldn't be wrong.
      I believe his heart is sincere but he has become too arrogant, hopefully this will humble him.

      May 22, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
    • Scott

      @ JOregon HE NEVER GOT ONE PENNY???!!!! He owns family radio. He got all the pennies!!!

      May 22, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Cristian

      You Said: "Maybe we should go to paying closer attention to the Bible, instead of inferring calculations from it and then ignoring the obvious. That is, 1. nobody knows the exact date and time of these events and 2. believers should live their lives prepared for these events to come at any time (i.e., in permanent good standing with everything in their life, spiritually, morally and otherwise)."

      Seems to me that you can throw out the bible and obviously recognize that the world and life as we know it 'will' end at some point. That is a fact. Whether it be in a billion years when our sun goes super nova, or through our own wars, disease, etc...

      Point being, one doesn't need the bible to recognize that living one's life to the fullest every day, (is) the best and most sound advice we know of.

      Peace...

      May 22, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
    • JOregon

      @Scott
      He does not "own" Family Radio as I understand it.
      He is the Founder, he is the President, but he has never taken a paycheck. Pat Robertson takes paychecks from his media empire.
      Camping doesn't even get a housing or car allowance. Never gotten a penny.
      Meanwhile he is a full time volunteer, donating a major portion of his non-sleeping life to the network.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
    • Cristian

      @Peace2All
      Yes, it is generally agreed upon that the world as we know it will end someday, and that living life to the fullest is the best choice.
      What you would need the Bible for though, is to define what "fullest" should mean, particularly in the context of the world (and your life) ending – after all, Bonnie and Clyde also lived their lives to the fullest, did they not?
      Something else you'd also get out of it is, that there is a purpose in this world (and our individual lives) ending, and that we are to make a choice before that happens, in order to determine what happens to us afterwards.
      Closing your eyes doesn't make the sun go away, and in a similar fashion, deciding not to believe in God or the Bible doesn't make you have the correct answer. It's called faith for a reason: science hasn't proved or disproved it this far.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
  19. Tim Hart

    What a joke .... only we as humans control our fate. All these doomsdayer people don't plan for the future and are destructive to the future planning of this nation. All these end-of-times people are responsible for our national debt and sending a very bad signal to our yonger generation. Our forefathers planned a great future for the US for many years to come, however it seems so many Christians are jepordizing our nation for a hunger of end times. Get real ....

    May 22, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
    • airwx

      Dear Tim....what correlation is there between the National Debt and ANY religion????

      May 22, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • RightturnClyde

      Christians? What have you got against Christians? You sound like a bigot.

      May 22, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • Sarah

      please don not generalize all christians

      May 22, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • Scott

      @RightturnClyde: Did you even read the story. Crap like this is exactly (one small part) what I have against christians

      May 22, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
  20. Pat

    Soooooo crazy people who followed this delusional 89 year old with possible dimentia or Alzheimer's: next time don't fall for cult leaders! Nothing wrong with believing in the Lord but watch the morons on this earth that you decide to follow! A little common sense next time people! Now go get a freaking job, put your lives and families back together and be productive members of society not crazies!

    May 22, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
    • RightturnClyde

      Oh .. go get a pet rock or a hoola hoop. Get solar panels or hybrid car. Brace yourself for bird flu, swine flu, mad cow, ebola .. the planet is heating up. Get ready for the Mayan Calendar event, planet Nibiru, the alien lizards, UFO triangles, Armageddon, the Nostradamus comet .. it's all about to pounce on us. I guess people like that stuff and not necessarily Christians. Atheists too. Area 51 .. it's all right there .. Art Bell, George Noory, CIA viewers, police psychics ..

      May 22, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @RightturnClyde

      And...I believe that you have stated before in other posts that you believe in the bible, you believe in the 'end of days' as described in the bible. So, what's your point...?

      Other's are just as crazy as you for believing in these end of days scenarios...?

      But wait... the bible 'is' 'the' 'truth'... and Jesus 'will' come a-swoopin' down and slay all of the non-believers, and whisk the good christians to heaven...?

      Peace...

      May 22, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
    • Terre08

      It takes one to know one.

      May 22, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
    • Scott

      What makes you think these crazies were ever productive members of society?

      May 22, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
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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.