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)

    I DID get raptured this Saturday night, but when I got to the pearly gates, St. Peter turned me around. I failed the breathalizer test....

    May 23, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • Jessica

      Me too dude.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • Jessica

      Me too dude. (: hehe

      May 23, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
  2. reality check

    If I had possession, over judgment day
    Lord, the little woman I'm lovin' wouldn't, have no right to pray
    And I went to the mountain, lookin' as far as my eyes would see
    Some other man got my woman, and these lonesome blues got me
    And I rolled and I tumbled and I, cried the whole night long
    Boy, I woke up this mornin', my biscuit roller gone

    – Robert Johnson

    May 23, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
  3. Alexander

    In the Old Testament if a prophet was wrong, he was to be taken out and stoned.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
    • Jo

      Harold Camping needs to be arrested and charged with public mischief. He terrorized the whole world. There are gullible people out there.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • kmdguy

      Wasn't stoning basically the remedy for everything from dandruff to mouthy women?

      May 23, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
  4. Voltairine

    Aren't there laws against public fraud, not that I'd agree with such laws at all, but are they not in place and if so, why wouldn't the "justice" system take action? O.o This is a sincere question. Are there such laws and why wouldn't they be prosecuted?

    May 23, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
    • Jo

      I completely agree with you. On Saturday a 17 year old boy was so happy the rapture did not happen, that he and his friends celebrated by jumping gleefuly into a river. The 17 year-old boy misjudged the current in the river, and he drowned. Harold Camping is directly responsible for his death. Mr. Camping should be arrested and charged with public mischief for causing so much grief for so many people all over the world. There are laws against that. I thought Americans had anti-terrorism laws. What this man did was terrorism.

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

      So there are laws huh. Now the question is, are they not prosecuting because the perpetrators are Christians? O.o If a bunch of crazy Muslims or Buddhists or Hindus or whatever did all of this, would they prosecute at that point? If they don't prosecute these yahoos then WHAT'S THE POINT OF THESE LAWS?? O.O (Note: I'm an Anarchist, so I'm playing devil's advocate here.)

      May 23, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
    • Aidan

      All religion is public fraud.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • Voltairine

      @Aidan: Ah! There isn't enough prison space for all of THAT fraud LOL!

      May 23, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
  5. Hannah

    Hahahahahahahaha.............so much idiocy in the name of religion.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
  6. Cuso

    I need to come up with a good scam to milk a 100 million out of these religious people.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
  7. Michaeltantino

    To the people who constanty say; "The Bible says..."

    Do you not have a brain, or does thinking for yourself appear so daunting a task that you prefer not to do it? What a life to constantly have to say to yourself; "Hmmm, don't know what to think here... let's turn to this 2000 year old collection of stories from uneducated goatherders to see what they have so say... hmmm, very abstract.... I will take it to mean _________ and live my life by that..." Yeesh. The Bible and all other "holy books" are for the intellectually LAZY.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
    • Alicia

      It is people like you who are uneducated and don't believe in the bible.....You honestly need GOD in your life

      May 23, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • razmataz

      @ Alicia: No, Alicia, it's people like you whose entire education comes from the bible, and don't have the first clue how to look at the world objectively.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • Steve

      I have to ask you, does what you say imply that if a person who does not worship God mean that they are uneducated? If so, which God are you talking about? What if you are a pious individual who believes in God (or gods, goddesses, etc.) but believes in the wrong one? Does that still qualify as ignorance?

      May 23, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • Michaeltantino

      Why Alicia? All you have is Faith, and faith without reason or evidence is baseless. You are drawing specific conclusions about things without any actual support other than your own confirmation bias. Faith is the most ridiculous way of thinking in everything we do in our lives EXCEPT for some reason when it comes to religion... then for some weird reason, it's okay. I don't drive to a friends house in a distant city I've never been to without directions. I don't hop into a car and begin driving having FAITH I will magically find his house among the millions of possible locations. If I did that people would say I was a moron. But I had FAITH I would find it! No, what we do is recognize the logical way would be to gather evidence and use that evidence to find that location. I would get the address, use Map Quest, familiarize myself with the streets and land marks. I would ask my friend questions about how to get there. Once I have compiled enough evidence I would be fairly confident that I will at least get close to his residence. That's using reason and logic to determine an answer that is most likely. That is how everyone would say the best way to find the house would be. Faithing my way to the true location would be RETARDED. Yet again, we operate like this on everything and recognize its quality in everything we do except for some reason when it comes to religion. Then... wow... it's actually WISE to make grand conclusions and wander around with my head in the clouds "just believing".

      The truth here is that you are brainwashed by non-thought. You didn't come to your conclusions through reason and logic. You abandoned them and that's how you came to believe in magic despite all the evidence we have that we live in a purely Natural Universe. 100% of the evidence says Natural Universe, but that's not how the brainwashed will see it. They will magically connect the dots and create an answer that fits within their delusion.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
  8. Jessica

    @Zia, You have the best comment ever. You are the only one on this page who is sane. Obviously(:

    May 23, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
    • Jessica

      Zia said: All the people who wrote the bible were probably on mushrooms and were all like "Shoot man lets make this book thing about a unicorn that everyone will love." and the other man was all like "nah man lets make it a purple man that everyone will follow and believe he created the earth." the both agreed and wrote the book but both were too messed up and forgot to put god as a purple man so hes just a man. Darn shame.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
  9. jed

    I cant believe that I slept right through the non-ending of the world. I mean how often does the world not end, and you sleep right through it?

    May 23, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
    • razmataz

      Well, jed, so far, every day of my llife!

      May 23, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
  10. victim of democrat hypocrisy

    There are no gods or goddesses, demons or devils, ghosts or goblins. Religion was invented by man to control the masses.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
    • Hillbilly

      You should back up and re aim..The dems are not the ones spreading the famblyvaoos(sic) and the hypocrisy of passing anti gay legislation then getting busted in the mens room in airport. I can look at myself honestly and live by the Golden Rule as best I can and I am 8 generation liberal dem from the hills. Im not religious maybe agnostic.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
  11. Gilbert

    I hope that Camping and his followers can forget the past, as the Lord does, and look towards their blessed future. God still loves them, as I hope we all do. Everyone gets lost and made a fool by their own wants and needs, and everyone of us should be forgiven these things so that we can become better. I believe the Bible asks us to promote only the fruits of the Holy Spirit so that everyone is saved. Stray from the Word and you are teaching your own personal beliefs, not the Lord's. That hurts the Lord and everyone who is more convinced against the existence of God.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • Lucifer

      There is one problem with your argument– there is no god

      May 23, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
    • Alverant

      Does that mean Camping will give back all the money?

      Does that mean God will heal the wounds and raise the dead of the people who killed or tried to kill themselves and others out of fear of this phoney rapture?

      No? Then we should NEVER forget the past.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
    • Babdbat

      Where did the "WORD" come from?

      May 23, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • razmataz

      The "WORD" came from the Council of Nicaea, a bunch of church elders who were PAID by Emperor Constantine to produce a single canon for the "Christian" church from the many texts available. Get it: Men, PAID, produce; nothing god-inspired about it.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • GoAskAlice

      @ Lucifer......You're something that never should of happened, you even make your grandma SICK!!! HEH! HEH! HEH! HEH!

      May 23, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
  12. Michaeltantino

    ProudJew said: "The prophets have long left this world."

    Wrong, prophets still exist, only we are better able to recognize them as mentally ill, predators of the weak minded, etc that they really are. Education and free thinking for the win.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
  13. keith

    you owe me a refund!!

    May 23, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
  14. The all potent one

    Yet another mis calculation Mr Camper?

    How long befire we get the revised date?

    May 23, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • Michaeltantino

      Not long at all I am sure. That's the great thing about Faith, it requires no evidence at all to justify it, and as such you can fit ANYTHING within it. I could believe in a invisable all powerful turtle and anything anyone says contrary to my believe I can fit their rebuttal into my belief because I "know" my invisible turtle is all powerful and can do whatever he wants. Don't see him? Well he is invisible of course. Don't believe in him? Well you're just not seeking him and if you don't start soon he will put your soul on his shell for eternity while the real party takes place in His belly. Don't understand the logic of my invisible turtle? Well that's because he works in mysterious ways and you with your human mind simply cannot comprehend it. It's so easy to justify EVERYTHING when you "just have faith" in some version of an almighty being.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
  15. chris w

    Hey you.... Can I have my stuff back??? You know who you are. I'll give it back on the next doomsday prediction.

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

      Is your last name warren? I KNOW YOU.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
  16. Babdbat

    Riddle me this
    If no human can communicate with God, and the bible was written by humans! Where did the information in th Bible come from? It was made up by humans to control humans, so your book of fairy tales will take you where ever your little mind wants to take you and if it doesn't, change it. Who is going to challenge you, It has been rewitten numerious time to change it direction as it need to.

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

      Well said, sir!

      May 23, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • believe me

      But you CAN communicate with God!

      May 23, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • believe me

      And this is why we need the Book of Mormon, to help overcome the confusions of the Bible.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • Madtown

      believe me
      But you CAN communicate with God!

      Please spell out specifically how we can do this.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • Babdbat

      Yes Believe Me Do tell how one communicates with god

      May 23, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
  17. Vince

    I'm kind of sad this didn't happen....I was really hoping all the nuts would be raptured away to leave the rest of us in peace.

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

      If this is hell, then I'm a-ok with that.

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

      Dont worry Vince you will be left alone on the day of the rapture because you dont believe in God Like most of the people on here

      May 23, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • Madtown

      Dont worry Vince you will be left alone on the day of the rapture because you dont believe in God Like most of the people on here

      And, what will become of you?

      May 23, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • eviltwin

      I'm totally with you Vince.

      @Alicia: "Dont worry Vince you will be left alone on the day of the rapture because you dont believe in God Like most of the people on here".

      You make no sense. According to your beliefs, Vince wouldn't be left "alone". He'd be left back with all the rest of us non-believers.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
  18. brad-ash

    I feel sorry for the followers who thought this. I hope they get the mental help they need.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
  19. Jesus

    Guys – the book written by my apostles was written and rewritten over hundreds of years....by humans. It doesnt predict the future, it provides my framework for being Christian.

    I should have had Mathew add a couple verses re: common sense, maybe then you would all be able to make your own desicions based on your own beliefs. I apologize for my Dad, sometimes he even creates dumb people.

    Carry on....

    May 23, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • Hell Yes

      This is the word of the Lord...

      May 23, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
    • Left Behind

      Your Dad created a bunch of people who did not study for the final.
      Matthew 24:36
      "But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone."
      It's all right there in the book.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
  20. mjd

    Sorry Doug. Its the REPUBLICANS who think their choice is the Messiah. And like the Doomsday Sayers, they too are wrong.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
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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.