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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. TG

    So, where is this IDIOT now???? Calculating NEXT END OF THE WORLD, or counting Dollars that he collect???

    May 22, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
    • paul

      I told you already he went to heaven last night at 6pm (PST local time of course, God doesn't mess with time zones), see previous note. Don't expect to hear form him anymore.

      May 22, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • SB

      Is "he went to heaven" a metaphor for "left the country"? Because that's probably what happened.

      May 22, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
  2. Bobl

    Idiots.....just plain idiots

    May 22, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
  3. shane

    ajd this ridiculuos notion created you

    May 22, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
    • AJD

      Sorry man...all signs point to "no"

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

      All available evidence says, uh unh...not even close...The Big Book of Nonsense tells us zippo

      May 22, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
    • Ryan

      Shane,
      I love the fact that you are trying to argue the ignorance and shortsightedness of the people who do not agree with your views, but how is anyone supposed to take you seriously when you are obviously far from educated. You are just spouting off a bunch of unsubstantiated claims in a language that looks to be on par with a third grader. Learn to have a clear arguable point before you continue to discredit your cause any further.

      May 22, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
  4. toshmaster1

    "Family radio" Why is it called family radio – wanting most of the people in world to be killed while a few go to heaven. this sounds more like the wishes of a mad man and not a family man.

    May 22, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
    • shinden58

      Couldn't agree with you more. Isn't if funny how all the christians are hoping for the end of the world. I guess they have not taken into consideration that a lot of people might die, or if they have they don't care about the rest of us. Sounds like a fine example of a caring christian.

      May 22, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  5. livingon

    first of all, the Bible's Book of Matthew 11:36 JESUS said"But of that day (Judgement Day) and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only." Basically, no human will ever know when Judgement Day will come.
    secondly, the Mayans built their calendar so that there was a specific position unique to every day until December 21, 2012. They couldn't have built their clock to infinity that way, so it will just stop counting days. Our clocks cycle so that they will go on as long as they are kept in working order. we will be just fine.

    May 22, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
  6. Litmus Boogliner

    You humans....

    May 22, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
  7. Helena

    Only 2-3% of the population was going to be taken to heaven and they were soooo sure they were on the list.???

    May 22, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
    • shinden58

      They were so gullible they thought they were on the list.

      May 22, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
  8. Jake

    I don't understand how people could get disappointed when a doomsday doesn't occur. Oh and about the Noah floods. They were probably the Scabland floods (or Missoula floods), as they happened at the same time period as the Noah floods.

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

      Except there were no Christians in Montana during that time. The local event most often attributed to Noah's flood was the Black Sea glacial rupture, but although it's in the right location and occurred at the about the right time, the evidence is not entirely supporting of a deluge. The story of Noah's flood probably doesn't represent any one event, but rather an extrapolation on floods in general. Humans are very good at this sort of thing and it was well within the experience of the writers of the Talmud to extrapolate from flash floods and imagine a one that covered the world.

      May 22, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
  9. AJD

    man it would be great if they took those 144,000 up to a mountain somewhere....take 144 million for all I care....leave us alone w/ all your nonsense...the rest of us will stay here and party...y'all can drift around in white robes and sing and prasie or whatever it is you do...

    May 22, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
  10. Tatiana Covington

    Dear Mr. Camping:

    I fart in your general direction!

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

      that guy is a silly english kanigit

      May 22, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
  11. Randy

    Are you sure you escaped the rapture?
    http://tinyurl.com/3pp827g

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

      Yeah dude..I'm sure...get a life

      May 22, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
  12. shane

    the bible is truth god and jesus are real the bible warned of the false profits the bible is not a science book but it explained science before there was sciece and if john discounts god being responsable for sciense or the universe we live in he is dissalusioned

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

      I find it hard to respect someone's opinion about science when they misspell it twice.

      May 22, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • shinden58

      The bible fairy tales for adults.

      May 22, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • shinden58

      If you do not believe in science can we deny you modern medicine, modern sanitation, your auto, consumer electronics, including cell phones and your computer, all created by SCIENCE. Or are you going to be selective in how you just deny science when it conflicts with your values. Hypocritical isn't it.

      May 22, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
    • Scott

      The Bible has been used for centuries by Christians as a weapon of control. To read it literally is to believe in a three-tiered universe, to condone slavery, to treat women as inferior creatures, to believe that sickness is caused by God's punishment and that mental disease and epilepsy are caused by demonic possession.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
  13. windrider2

    The entire purpose of life is to Live it, not spend every waking moment praying for the hour when you will leave it. For all the blather about eternal life, far too many squander the precious life they are given at first breath. End time prophecies become particularly prolific on those great cusps of change when the world is moving on, maturing, evolving, growing "in wisdom and understanding", and they simply cannot allow themselves to move on with it. People who fear social, political, and technological change more than anything would literally rather be dead than go through it. Religious conservatism is the rejection of life, with its challenges in the present and its hopeful promise of a better future.

    May 22, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
    • 21stcn

      amen

      May 22, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
    • taraterm2

      You are so right. First off, all of us will die eventually, doomsday or no doomsday and what happens happens. And truly religious people should be concerned with God's wants, ostensibly, loving our fellow man, raising strong happy families, helping those in need. Some dope spent his life savings of 140,000 on billboards aanouncing the Doomsday...pity he didnt give it to a shelter for the homeless, or a camp for disadvantaged kids, or autism research or SOMETHING!!!

      May 22, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
    • shinden58

      Glad to see someone gets the point.

      May 22, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  14. NoSoliloquy

    Hey Soliloquy, if all you christian wingnuts disapeared 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 5:11 pm |
    • AJD

      Right on...silly believers, trix are for kids

      May 22, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
    • toshmaster1

      Amen!

      May 22, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
    • doiknowu

      +1000 man. These fools live hoping to die. The sooner they die, the better off the world will be.

      May 22, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
  15. erinm

    it's the end of the world as we know it... and i feel fine!

    May 22, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
  16. free2do

    I really wish that we could live life like a dog. They don't worry about when they are going to die. They just bark, eat, poop, lick, and have fun till they die. Oh yea!

    May 22, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
  17. AJD

    AHHHHH..these fools..they keep making themselevs look more and more foolish while science continues to answer the questions that necessitated the need to make up a god in the first place...its not that i don't believe in god, as this suggests that there is "something" to believe in, it's that god is a rediculous and childish notion on par with Super Man and Santa Claus...good luck with your faith

    May 22, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
  18. paul

    You all have it all wrong. The Rapture actually occurred. All the people who qualified for Heaven went to Heaven at 6:00pm local time Saturday, in accordance with internationally agreed upon time zones. For us people who are left behind, it seems to us like they never existed. That is why it seems like nothing happened. We just don't remember. That is why some who really believed in the rapture are strangely silent, after all they went to heaven at 6:00 last night. How would they say anything now? If you are here right now, it means you did not qualify and your soul will be consumed along with the rest of us when the ball of fire arrives on October 21st.

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

      U mad bro?

      May 22, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @paul

      LOL... Well, I guess we have a bit less than 5 months left to party hardy and live our lives to the fullest... which I do anyway.

      Peace...

      May 22, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
    • lu

      Paul, if your theory is correct, aren't you frightened?

      May 22, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • paul

      I am fine, just a bit of sarcasm, but strangely founded in perfectly sound logic. If the Rapture really occurred as predicted, logic says the people left behind would not notice it.

      May 22, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
    • Jake

      I believe he is being sarcastic. At least, if I were to make a sarcastic response that would nearly word-for-word be it.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
  19. fuzzy

    And a Round of Kool Aid for All.

    May 22, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
  20. sean burns

    I wonder if ANY of them will now realize that their bible is a book of myths and lies put together by people barely out of the cave. Probably not.

    May 22, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • AJD

      yeah, people who didn't understand why the sun came up or why the seasons changed or what a germ was...yeah let me live according to their ideas

      May 22, 2011 at 5:18 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.