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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. 12-21-12

    THEY'RE NUTS...THEY'RE NUTS I TELL YA...THEY KNOW NOTHING.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:46 am |
  2. stefan

    Religion: The biggest hoax every played on man, but we still desire it.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:45 am |
  3. Sagebrush Shorty

    Another religious con game and yet people continue to fall for the drivel spewed by these false prophets. Personally I would rather have freedom from religion than freedom of religion. All churches should be taxed on their income.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:45 am |
  4. Joshua Ludd

    Actually READ your bible, kids. It tells you quite plainly that no one will know when the rapture is going to happen. I know that and I'm not even a christian. Read the book you claim to believe in.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:44 am |
    • 12-21-12

      The Bible says even Jesus and the Angels don't know...only God knows! Anyone that thinks they know the date is brain-dead!

      May 23, 2011 at 10:48 am |
  5. Dave

    Religion is the root of all evil...

    May 23, 2011 at 10:44 am |
  6. Sha' Boy

    HE WAS RIGHT!
    IT ALMOST HAPPENED!
    Thankfuly we had "A Friend" that stoped it from happening
    This footage proves it!
    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xd5n_1Nk0uE&w=640&h=360]

    May 23, 2011 at 10:43 am |
  7. sga

    I do wish people would quit grouping all Christians together with this group. They are a sub-group of Christians who I would almost dare to consider extremists. Just like any other religious extremists, they don't represent the whole of the faith. I am a Christian, and I personally think this group made a major mistake and huge disservice to believers worldwide. It's a shame that the hugely public mistakes of such a small group of Christians has led to more overall disapproval and disrespect towards Christian believers as a whole.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:43 am |
  8. STANTON

    ONLY GOD KNOWS THE EXACT TIME OF THE END OF THE WORLD AND HE IS'NT ABOUT TO TELL THE LIKES OF US WHEN THAT TIME IS!!!!!

    May 23, 2011 at 10:43 am |
  9. jagr

    they should all kill themselves. bye.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:43 am |
  10. Really?

    It's easy to criticize one's beliefs. As Evans said, every Christian is awaiting the rapture. The fact of the matter is that Camping is a false prophet, among many described in the bible. But everything happens for a reason. These people went across the country to save souls. Misguided as they were, many people stopped to think, and as such they turned to the Lord for salvation.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:41 am |
    • 12-21-12

      But once they realized that they were lied to, how many kept that new born faith?

      May 23, 2011 at 10:50 am |
  11. James March

    I don't know, I always fealt like the point of faith was to have faith. Trying to decipher the intent of another mans prophetic visions is kind of like trying to count worms in a bucket. The word of GOD is not meant to be crunched like some kind of accounting ledger.Simply put, there are no answers only the search for them, no destination only the journey that our lives and our GOD given free will takes us on. the BIBLE is the set of guidelines given to us by our creater, it's not a calender. Perhaps we should focus more on living life than on when it will end.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:40 am |
  12. conoclast

    If there only were a way that the "not-of-this-earth" religious zealots could go somewhere and absent themselves from discussions concerning saving the planet, leaving them to us long-termers.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:40 am |
  13. EMERSE

    If you are a true christian and believe in the bible then you should know better then to buy into idiotic crap like this! Even if there is a god, I truly boubt he left a bunch of numbers and signs for us to put together! I don't believe in the bible the least bit. All this wonderful magical events happend way back in the day and today, NOTHING! Im sorry but if you believe in a book based off of symbols with lost meanings then you are pathetic and gullible!

    May 23, 2011 at 10:39 am |
  14. MGoo

    The scary part is that most if not of of these folks vote. Good to know they have a voice in how this country is run.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:38 am |
  15. Julie

    I watch these CNN articles and read through the comments. They cover the entire range, but nothing seems to get people hot and bothered quicker than an article about faith or God. Why is that? On other subjects people seem to be "live and let live," but this subject brings out the wrath in people.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • amos

      Because religion is based on if you dont follow 'us' then your doomed to a fate of misery and you are not as good as we are. Religious people have hate for people that dont believe in their way of thinking, which is why almost every war is stared. Jews, christians and muslims etc,etc, its all over what we believe in is better than yours and if you dont like it will will make you like it.

      May 23, 2011 at 11:13 am |
  16. Ashley

    Cognitive Dissonance at its finest.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:37 am |
  17. nazarchman

    To all of the Doomsday people,

    "If you can read this, God hates you"

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

      You mean there's no internet access in heaven??

      May 23, 2011 at 10:38 am |
  18. James

    What about about the science of plate tectonics? Earthquakes do not ripple through time zones.

    These Christian-republicans are pretty messed up in the head. Scary people.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • Really?

      Where in the article does it say they are Republican?

      May 23, 2011 at 10:42 am |
    • Dave

      Sound more like mindless Obama Zombas...

      May 23, 2011 at 10:44 am |
    • Landruu

      They can ripple through time zones if the Enterprise is in orbit trying to relieve tectronic stress. Get your facts straight eh..:^)

      May 23, 2011 at 11:56 am |
  19. OnlyIdiotFellforThis

    Where are the fed? They should arrest this con artist Harold Camping.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:36 am |
  20. Jimbo-Bob

    They wanted the end of the world to happen, they wanted 2% to be saved and the other 98% to die a horrible death. They sound like great people that are really doing good for this world.

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

      I completely agree with you Jimbo-Bob! What even amazes me more is that ALL these predictions for destruction includes NATURALLY occuring events that we experience on a DAILY basis! Another thing, all these "great" books have been written by men. Sounds like a social group trying to control other social groups.

      May 23, 2011 at 10:48 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.