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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. Jeffrey

    We need to quit counting the days and make the days count.

    May 23, 2011 at 11:06 am |
  2. amos

    TO JULIE. Your thoughts on a 'peace agreement and a temple being built are just as nutty as the guy that said the world will end on the 21st. You made my point for me loud and clear about where you head is. Stop reading a book written by men stating that things will happen because its written as truth and you have been scared into that way of thinking. You can choose and you have, to live that way but thats a pretty sad way to spend your life with some big hand that can swoop down and take us all away. PLUS how can that be a good thing to always be scared about a 'doomsday'??? Please think about what you have been brainwashed into thinking. It makes no difference to me how your life goes, I am just sad that you let someone somewhere trick you into thinking that there is a "day" that it will all end by some higher power.

    May 23, 2011 at 11:00 am |
    • Pete

      And I feel sad for you, Amos, that you where tricked into believing that all religions are crazy and that there can't possibly be more to life than what you find on this one little rock in the universe.

      May 23, 2011 at 11:08 am |
    • Todd Packer

      TO AMOS: As if Julie is really going to use her time to go on this website and read your unecessary comment....dumba$$

      May 23, 2011 at 11:16 am |
  3. LinCA

    Oh no!. The calendar on my refrigerator ends on December 31st, 2011. The end of the world is near!

    May 23, 2011 at 10:58 am |
  4. billp

    There's a sucker born every minute. Unfortunately, when they claim divine guidance they often cause harm to others.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:58 am |
    • belief

      he did not claim divine guidence.....it was his MATHEMATICAL calculation.

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

      @belief, well he calculated wrong didn't he? Maybe he should go back to elementary math and brush up on a few things.

      May 23, 2011 at 11:15 am |
  5. ronna

    Who ever listen to this pastor sholdn't be on this earth period now that is a sin

    May 23, 2011 at 10:57 am |
  6. jl

    Maybe we should treat each day like it could be the last one.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:57 am |
  7. mlrt

    I think all of these "predictions" are made by quacks and the one's that believe in these predictions are quacks themselves.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:55 am |
  8. Harold Camping

    Whoops! My bad!

    May 23, 2011 at 10:53 am |
    • Trey

      You sir, have just won this comment thread.

      May 23, 2011 at 11:16 am |
  9. MostlyLurking

    I do feel sorry for anyone who believes in something so strongly, and then is completely disappointed. It must be emotionally painful.

    The end can come for any of us at any moment, either individually or as a whole. We should live our lives as if every minute is our last. We should not wait to be good, honorable people until just before we end, as if we could cram for a test. Frankly we do not know when we will be tested.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:53 am |
  10. pat

    religon was created to keep people civil thats all is

    May 23, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • Gnodges

      not to keep them civil, but to keep them controlled........

      May 23, 2011 at 10:58 am |
  11. STANTON

    JUST LOOK AT THE REPUBLICAN RECORD OF SCREW UP'S STARTING IN 1980 AND THEN IT JUST GET'S WORSE!!!!!

    May 23, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • Dave

      You know, man, I agree with you 100%. Problem, I have trouble seeing how this has anything to do with this article or discussion.

      May 23, 2011 at 11:15 am |
  12. Awan A'Fuqya

    And these charlatins get tax free status & do nothing but stir up the weak minded into a hysterical frenzy so-much-so that they commit suicide after following these fake churches.

    Time to remove tax free status from churches.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:51 am |
    • jaime c f

      thats it... HURT the good and humanitary majority of churches because of a few nut jobs... NOW WHY DIDN'T I THINK OF THAT?

      May 23, 2011 at 10:56 am |
    • WildmanBill

      I agree. All religions are businesses and they should be taxed as anyother business would be.

      May 23, 2011 at 10:57 am |
    • Someone

      That would be awsome. Could we also sterilize them while we are at it?

      May 23, 2011 at 11:01 am |
    • Pete

      People who profess to predict the end of the world to a specific place in time are not nessesarily Christians. Don't group all Churches into one catagory.

      May 23, 2011 at 11:03 am |
    • WildmanBill

      @Someone,
      We could only hope that we take the ability for these people to breed away from them. They are seriously weakening the gene pool.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
  13. 95Jagman

    And the leaders of all Christian faiths wonder why Church attandance is dropping. REALLY?? I do not want to be associated with this kind of lunatic.

    I believe in God, period. I don' need anyone ( they call themselves "True Christians", whatever that is) telling me how to believe, what sin is, what I have to do to be "saved", etc, etc, etc to conform to THEIR beliefs and interpretations of the bible. I have read the bible many times. It is basically a history book, though I am not sure that al of the events mentioned actually took place. I do believe that there was a very remarkable being (Man or GOD, not sure) that had a profound impact on all almost everyone he came in contact with. That I am sure of.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:50 am |
    • Carlton

      If you believe in God, then you'll know that everything in the Bible is true. In John 1:1, it says that God is the Word. Everything that happened in the Bible was true and that it coincidide with God. I am not judging you or condemning you, but the Bible says that all have sinned. We all need to repent daily and to resist temptation from the Devil. May God Bless you, in Jesus' Name...Amen

      May 23, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • WildmanBill

      @Carlton,
      Your funny.........................

      May 23, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
  14. Danny White

    It amazes me that anyone who has ever read Matthew Chapter 24, could ever try to make a prediction of this kind.
    The Bible is very plain about the time of Christ's return. Jesus said that no one, not the angels, nor even he himself knows the time of his return, only God the Father knows. The Bible tells us how it will happen, but not when.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:48 am |
    • Lonnie

      You have pretty well said it all.......whomever believes GOD is going to reveal to them something He has not revealed to the LORD JESUS......is quite frankly on a fools errand........period....end of discussion.!!!!!!

      May 23, 2011 at 10:55 am |
    • amos

      AND that my friend is why religion has all its followers scared #%^&&*. No truth, just scare tatics. Do as I say or I will come and take you away to a place thats really hot and nasty. Please think about the reality of what religion does, keeps its followers scared to break some rules or you will be banished to some really bad place.

      May 23, 2011 at 11:04 am |
  15. WildmanBill

    Once again we have the mentally ill believing in stupid fables from the past. Religion was the best was of controlling the masses when people were largely uneducated and unable to research things for themselves. We see the same things being done in areas of the world where most people are illiterate and unable to challenge the teachings of their religious leaders. All religion is about the control of people,projecting power and controlling money. Nothing more.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:48 am |
    • Jerry1970

      If you are so "enlightened" why do you feel the need to ridicule others who believe differently? I guess the "truth" that you have found doesn't have room for anything but your condescending arrogance....

      May 23, 2011 at 11:00 am |
    • WildmanBill

      @ Jerry1970. Because if you start looking at history and look at the change going out of a expiring century and the entering of a new century, you will find an increase in doomsday professors. This behavior is nothing new. I would say that the tales of the end of time are fabricated up to enrich a few. I am sure Mr. Camp and his klan are far from living in poverty now. The fact that people get caught up in this furor and begin to exhibit a mob mentality in their actions is really quite fun to watch. Sadly, many have destroyed their lives believing in these so called spiritual leaders. Now that these people are confused that the end did not come, they have created a new set of problems that will make their lives even more hard then they are now. Many spent their live savings because they felt they would not need it after the 21st. Many quit jobs and no longer have a means to support themselves. Left stacks of unpaid bills. Influenced children with their whacked out beliefs. So now what are these broke religious nutjobs going to do, file for public assistance. I see these nuts no differently than people that blow themselves up on the belief that 72 virgins will be waiting for them to deflower when they get to heaven. These are all mentally ill people.

      Am I arrogant? Yes I am.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • Dave

      Jerry1970, ALL religions are a sham. Of God, I am uncertain and at least have room enough for him should evidence present itself. But, even if God does exist, I surely need no religion to speak to he/she for me.

      May 23, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
  16. Alison

    Well, that was awkward...

    May 23, 2011 at 10:47 am |
  17. Mr. Collodi

    😦 I wanted a zombie apocalypse.... looks like I have to wait until December.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:47 am |
  18. Bible Clown

    Next up: "Planet X will come from the Moron Nebula and destroy us all in October. No one wants to tell you about it because the elites are all leaving in a rocket to Saturn and you might want to go."

    May 23, 2011 at 10:47 am |
  19. Dave

    Follow the money...

    May 23, 2011 at 10:46 am |
  20. jetblasters

    CRAZY FOR CHRIST

    May 23, 2011 at 10:46 am |
    • LinCA

      I believe the "CRAZY" part

      May 23, 2011 at 11:00 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.