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. Largencharge

    For those looking for Rapture, you can find it at Victoria Secret's for $24.99 for a 6oz bottle.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
  2. Not All Docs Play Golf

    Geez, and I was looking forward to Heaven....a place with NO LAWYERS.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
  3. The Jackdaw

    What if the rapture occured and nobody was worth taking...

    May 23, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
  4. Michaeltantino

    And once more, just like everything before this... the world and the Universe continues to be consistant witha Natural Universe, one without Divine Beings. Earthquakes, tornados, tsunamis, etc all continue to operate indiscriminately according to a Natural World killing the old, the young, the weak, the strong, females, males, christians, jews, muslims, etc, etc, etc indescriminately. Consistant with a Natural Universe and inconsistant with a Divine Being. But of course the religious justify the inconsistancy as "God has His reasons" or "God works in mysterious ways we cannot comprehend." Justifications, like an addict justifying their alcoholism or an abuser justifying his abuse.

    Here is a prediction for you. The world and the Universe will CONTINUE to operate according to a Natural Universe. Amputees will never have miracles to regrow limbs, the dead (brain death) will stay dead, natural disasters will continue to affect all people regardless of any distinguishable differences, Churches of all faiths will still get flattened by tornados, earthquakes, etc. Everything will continue on to correllate with a Natural UNdivine Universe.

    However... along with this there will still be brainwashed and intellectually lazy people who will make divine claims, look for divine purpose in the natural (claiming a devastating car accident survivor or overcoming a disease was a Gods miracle while ignoring that miracles always seem limited to things that CAN happen as opposed to miracles not being able to regrow amputated limbs...)-and so on. People such as these, such as those this article is about, do not get swayed by reason and logic with their mental illness. They-like those in this article-will justify everything to fit within their baseless beliefs.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • Tim

      well said

      May 23, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
  5. atypical

    I resonate with the belief that the "end of time," is a metaphor for the ending of things the way we have known them to be (i.e., social systems, traditions, economic inequalities, etc. . . ). it will take some time, of course, for such major changes to occur, but we have already begun to step on to a new path that will help to shape a new way of thinking and being: a new paradigm.
    and these changes won't come in the form of some salvation orchestrated by some divine being outside ourselves, but rather through divinity from within, through the hearts and minds of each individual: it is and will continue to be an inside job.
    it is the time of the Nunti Sunya, the era of transparency and expansion.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
    • 1nd3p3nd3nt

      a metaphorical sense of the 'end of the world' is probably a reasonable approach to such discussions. However, in the Bible, there's no such interpretation as it goes into great detail explaining the end of the world as raining fire and people suffering. That's usually the crowd that ends up talking about 'end of the world.'

      Your view, however, seems more in line with Native American cultures, where the end of the world is more kin to an end of an age, revealing a new world on the other side, or a new state of being. I wanna say we're on the fourth or fifth world as of now, if I remember reading the material correctly.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
  6. sanjosemike

    What will Camping do with his millions of donated cash? (According to the papers here, about 100 million)

    May 23, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
  7. Not All Docs Play Golf

    Flip their crazy signs around and on the back side are Tea Party slogans. Same crowd.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
    • sanjosemike

      I am also a doc who is conservative. Why should I be forced to pay for other people's children? Conservative people simply believe in personal responsibility. They are not evil. Medical school is expensive. If I save enough money (by not going on vacations) to send my kids to college, why should others be rewarded for having children they can't afford–by my paying more taxes and welfare for them?


      May 23, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
    • 1nd3p3nd3nt

      sanjosemike, historically, when a society does not attempt to help its less fortunate, or lazy, populations, what do you think happens? Do you think they just decide to roll over and die? Where do you think crime comes from? Part of the cost we pay as citizens and people trying to advance our civilization is the burden of looking out for all the other humans as well.

      Maybe you should be advocating birth control? As a doctor, I'm surprised you have such a rather simple view of the world. Is it fair, probably not, but no one ever said life is fair. I mean, our entire economy is built around a pyramid concept, in that for one CEO to be at the top, you need a thousand people in the mail room sorting.

      Of course, if you're advocating personal responsibility and productiveness, maybe we should get rid of family inheritances, keeping the field level for the next generation, giving no one an unfair advantage and allowing the poor to truly compete with the rich.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • Serenity Now


      The problem with that reasoning, however, is that conservatives strongly oppose methods that would help to give people personal responsibility and prevent them from having children they don't want/can't afford – namely, affordable birth control. I just can't take someone seriously when they complain about welfare in one breath and talk about cutting funding for Planned Parenthood in the next. The only way to have it both ways is to have an educated society wherein the people can afford birth control and use it responsibly without shame – which will never happen.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
  8. Bruce

    So here is what I've learned about Christianity from the comments by Christians on articles like this one:

    Jesus dying on the cross and rising from the dead was just not enough for salvation. It's not enough that it is true that Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead, at the end of the day salvation is in our hands.

    If I personally cannot overcome my own personal sense of incredulity when it comes to believing a specific series of events happened about two thousand years ago, then all the blood, sweat, and tears of their so-called "Savior" is not enough to save me. If I cannot, by sheer force of will, change my personal opinions from "I don't believe that happened" to "that most-certainly, without a doubt, happened," then I don't get the prize.

    Because salvation is, apparently, a prize won by the deserving, and the deserving earned their prize by the act of forcefully willing their opinions from incredulous to believing. If you are incapable of doing so, you will be damned to hell for all of eternity. (This is true in spite of at least one solid scriptural counterexample of a fellow named Thomas who was not blessed in a way making him capable of believing without first seeing for himself.)

    May 23, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • Chris

      Something did happen 2000 years ago. Something happened in 1776 in the American Colonies, that's why we have an independent nation. You just have to figure out what really did happen and how it now affects your life or has no purpose for your life. It is up to you. Just do not say you did not have the chance to investigate and make a rational decision.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • Bruce

      @Chris: We are an independent nation whether or not I personally believe the history recorded that relates to the late 18th century.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:12 pm |

    bunch of crazy christian religious wacks!

    May 23, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
  10. Awesome

    Thank god our political leaders aren't influenced by their faith. Oh wait. Nevermind.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
  11. guest

    @doug, your right, im a liberal and from the nonsense that i just heard come out of your redneck mouth, i wouldn't mind if you got harmed. stfu

    May 23, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
  12. ProudJew613

    This fool was a false prophet just like Jesus. The prophets have long left this world. The Torah specifically leaves out the section of Yacov's blessing to his sons regarding the End of Days. When Moshiach comes, the world will know, until then, be a good person and stop listening to these fools.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • The all potent one

      This fool, that fool, me thinks you all fools

      May 23, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • Chris

      Your Messiah came and you rejected him; just like the Jewish nation rejected all their prophets from Moses to Malachi. Your people were stuck in the desert for 40 years because of unbelief. The nation of Israel was three times destroyed and the people scattered because of the rejection of the word of Yahweh. Jesus is the only Messiah the Jewish people need and you rejected and killed him, like you killed your other prophets. Yet Yahweh still holds His love out to you. Don't mess it up this time.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
  13. fallen

    bible clearly states no man shall no, not even our lord Jesus. Anyone that spouted this nonsense, or followed it surely have not read the bible regarding the matter. To me this is the media highlighting a few idiots to further portray christianity as fruity. This is not the end, but it is the beginning of the end. If you can't get that from looking around you, you never will.

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

      Jesus also said that he would be back before the generation he was talking to, died.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
  14. BobZemko

    How do we know the end DIDN'T come on Saturday? We could all be in hell and not even know it.

    May 23, 2011 at 11:59 am |
    • Kevin K in TX

      You're right dude, i am at work on monday morning... i am in hell.... darn it.. i should have repented... i would be at... welll...um.... well crap i'd still be at work today...

      May 23, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
    • Iheartyou

      Wel,l I don't know about you guys, but I did ascend. And guess what??..... they have internet access up here! And pie! (I love pie).

      May 23, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
  15. mizh

    Dang it. i was hoping to get a new car

    May 23, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • Kevin K in TX

      me too, darn... now i have to wait a year and a half for those crazy mayans....

      May 23, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
  16. CLW2

    This is just another thing to drive his crazy. Mr Camping used this as a way to stir up the people and if you fell for this attempt , just read your Bible more and go to church to get a real understanding of the Word of God. People will follow things that seem right or good to their beliefs. Becareful and use wisdom. You can't let every wind and doctrine sway you.

    May 23, 2011 at 11:57 am |
  17. Mike in NJ

    I'll meet you in the Restaurant at the End of the Universe. Order me up a PanGalactic Gargle Blaster.

    May 23, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • derp

      Make it two!

      May 23, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
    • Christy

      That is awesome! The hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy definitely tells the truth. I will join in the restaurant for a gargle blaster sir.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
  18. Doug

    These people are sick no doubt but an honest, objective, unbiased person would find them no sicker than your average liberal Democrat.

    The Democrat believes that Obama is the Messiah, that they along with Obama are incapable of being wrong or making a mistake (drive in the ultra blue, they slam into your lane running you off the road and look at you as if it is your fault-or just watch 'dem on Jersey Shore and shows like that). They also believe that one is a racist who should be met with violence and harm if they dare question Obama on anything.

    Think about just who the Democrat really is, then read their posts here calling these people crazy. Hypocrisy is just so funny, and I thank each and every Democrat for the unlimited amout of it they supply us with each and every day. Almost makes up for them wanting me and my family harmed for not accepting their ideology and Messiah.

    May 23, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • Mike in NJ

      Hey Doug, get bent. Nobody's forcing their messiah on you – except maybe people who express ideas in the way that you do.

      May 23, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • sbp

      Brought to you by the party that worships Ronal Trickle Down Economics Reagan! What an ignoramus. Yeah, liberals are cutting you off in traffic. You sound as dopey and paranoid as the rapture believers.

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

      Time to take your meds, Doug.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
    • 1nd3p3nd3nt

      the only people I've ever heard referring to Obama that way are Republicans. Sounds like you are Obamaphobic to a very large extent. Which, of course, probably means you are a closeted Obama lover, most of the Republican party is, they just don't know how to express it : )

      May 23, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
    • DB

      Hey, the only people forcing their ideolgy on people are the conservative repulicans. Hence pro-life, evangenlical groups, tea baggors. You got your facts wrong, so go back to your church and pray some more, you lost person!

      May 23, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • Kevin K in TX

      your a moron doug... i am a democrat, and i am a firm believer that Obama is the PRESIDENT.. Not the messiah like you conservative morons think GW is... THE WORST PRESIDENT IN THE HISTORY OF THE US. Harrison was a better president in his 3 months than GW ever was.. Idiot... Fool me once shame on you, fool me again, blah blah blah, i can't ever repeat his moronic statments cuz HE NEVER MADE SENSE!

      May 23, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
    • Bruce

      Exactly. Everyone who thinks objectively realizes that lowering taxes on the rich creates jobs, and gutting the federal government and laying off thousands of government workers creates jobs, and destroying the right to collectively bargain with your employer creates jobs, and destroying a woman's right to choose what to do with her own body and destroying her rights to any sort of privacy in medical treeatments creates jobs.

      It's obvious.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
    • Kaitlyn

      Hey Doug. Get a grip, for goodness sake. You're about to loose your mind trying to drive anyone around you crazy! What's wrong with you? Come on now!

      May 23, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • terry

      Hi Doug. I'm a 24 year old black male. First off I do not for one instance think of Obama as the messiah. The only 'messiah' was Jesus Christ and our Lord Savior. I believe in God but far from religious. Obama has made some good decisions and bad, just as I would say for President Bush. I don't take everything The Prez says as right and no wavering. I agree with some republican ideas as well as democrats. So the fact that you think every democrat is hanging off Obama's balls is ridiculous and you know it. Your unthoughtful rant only proves you ARE everything you said a democrat was in your comment. Good day.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
    • listen to Doug

      since he voted for Bush twice. #idiotX2

      May 23, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
  19. Marty in MA

    Jesus is not coming back, neither are Elvis or any of your other favorites. Please go away religious kooks.

    May 23, 2011 at 11:53 am |
    • RS

      Actually, Jesus is going to return someday to judge the world. The difference being, we cannot know when that will be, as noted very clearly in His Word, the Bible. We need to have our sins forgiven, and our hearts ready for whenever that is. Jesus has promised all of us eternal life with Him, but we need to accept His death on the cross as payment for our sins by confessing them and walking a new life in obedience to His Holy Spirit. Yes, there is a cost, but nothing in comparison to the joys that await the faithful!

      May 23, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • derp

      One group of religious nutbags, calling another group of religious nutbags a nuttier group of nutbags.

      The only difference between the apocalypse jesus people and the other christians is that they at least have the guts to call out a date.

      How convenient that the bible says that no man can know the date of the rapture. Not knwoing the date of something that will never happen makes explaining why it never happened really easy.

      "why has the rapture never taken place?"

      "because it hasn't been the day yet"

      "well, then what day is it going to happen?"

      "we don't know"

      "how will you know it's hapening?"

      "you will know because it will be rapture day"

      "what day will be rapture day?"

      "we don't know"

      You have to love religion.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • Iheartyou

      Sorry, Marty – but I'm with RS on this one. Actually, Santa is coming to reward the good. The difference being, we cannot know when that will be, as noted very clearly in the song Santa Claus Is Coming To Town. He’s making a list AND checking it twice, so we need to be good for goodness sake! Santa has promised all of us toys and other good things, but we need to accept that he is real and that he actually does come down a chimney to leave gifts under a tree we put up in the middle of our living room. Yes, there is a cost (after all, he will find out who’s naughty and nice), but nothing in comparison to the joys that await us when we open up that box Christmas morning and see that brand new Snuggie we’ve been hoping for!

      May 23, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
  20. Casual Observer

    well another soul led down a blind alley by relying on the bible as the end all (no pun intended) of information for all of mankind
    .....swing and a miss trike 3
    it would have bee wonderful if JC had showed and rid the world of all the religious crazies

    May 23, 2011 at 11:52 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.