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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. Steve

    The world is coming to an end real soon but the actual time is only Known by God.

    All the Propheceis have come true line apon line Exept one.

    When America merges church and state, and enact legal legistraion endorseing the lord god popes false Sunday
    Sabbath, This country then becomes the false prophet , America and the world will be, no more. thats the book of Rev.

    Its not real popular, but the truth never was.

    May 23, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • UncleM

      Please seek psychological counselling before you hurt yourself or your family.

      May 23, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • Bible Clown

      When you finish picking dingleberries off your can, try finding the word "America" in the Bible. Then tell us how God didn't know what this country would be called.

      May 23, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • Over It

      Steve,

      Follow UncleM's advice.

      until then...

      Do not respond to any e-mails from former Nigerian princes.

      May 23, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • C-LIST

      Steve,
      Drink the kool-aid, drink it now, please?

      May 23, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • Nicole

      Clive? That you?

      May 23, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
  2. derp

    Am I the only one who finds it laughable that christians are making fun of this guy Camping and his ilk.

    I hate to break it to you, but the only difference bewteen you and him, is that he guessed the day. You both believe in the same far fetched hocup pocus story. At least he had the guts to commit to a date.

    May 23, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • Nightwyn

      Because it goes against what the bible says... and he used numerology on the bible, instead of the bible's words, makes about as much sense as atheist who believes in creation theory.

      May 23, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • Bible Clown

      Right, numerology makes some sense when your language uses letters as numbers, gematriya-style, but nothing in the Bible would lead you to think it was full of secret messages! Nightwyn's dead right, it's magical thinking of the most childish kind.

      May 23, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
    • Free Ride

      Saying that the false prophet Harold Camping is just like all Christians would be the same as saying that all Italians are just like Al Capone. That would offend most Italians I would think. Mr. Camping takes the Bible out of context more than trying to teach it. That is why we are opposed to him.

      May 23, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • Scott

      Jesus said that “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."

      Selling your house, giving ALL your money away and walking away from family that don’t believe (including children). If that isn’t more faith than a mustard seed, I don’t know what is; but, their prayers were not answered.

      May 23, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
  3. Barry

    JohnR,

    My philosophy professors would take exception to what you said, from both a secular and religious perspective.

    I have yet to see where you have offered any shred of your wisdom or knowledge of Greek philosophy or any other philosophical schools, for that matter.

    As Joseph Barnett once wrote: “Any old mule can kick down a barn, but very few can build one.”

    May 23, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • Troy

      Barry – it's simple...the philosophers you name were Greek pagans, and would have rejected the god of the Jews (who were the only followers of Yahweh around at the time).

      May 23, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • JohnR

      You can start here: http://plato-dialogues.org/email/960211_1.htm

      May 23, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  4. Steve

    The world is coming to an end real soon but the actual time is only Known by God.

    All the Propheceis have come true line apon line Exept one.

    When America merges church and state, and enact legal legistraion endorseing the lord god popes false Sunday
    Sabbath, This country then becomes the false prophet in Rev.

    May 23, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • Bible Clown

      Yeah, you said that about four times already. You still haven't shown us the Bible verses about America. I think you are crazy.

      May 23, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • Free Ride

      Steve,
      I have studied the Book of Revelation many times, there is no verses to support what you are saying. The coming of Christ is near, and we are told to keep our focus on Him until the day comes. But nothing in Revelation speaks of the church and state in America.

      May 23, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
    • Steve

      In RESPONCE to BIBLE CLOWN

      Do you think God left America, the most powerful nation ever, out of the Bible ?

      Here are the verses, but you gotta know the symblism and have a spiritaul mind. ( A 5 year old can understand it)
      Rev. 13: 11-18 I beheld anther beast coming out of the earth ( A beast in prophecy is a kingdom, a country Dan.7:17 and 23).
      Coming out of the earth means a sparley populated place like America was early. Rev 17: 15 says water equal lots of people. This country rising out of the earth equals USA. 2 horns like a lamb. (We were Christ like and gentle. Escaping the religous persecution of the papacy.) verse 11 and spoke like a dragan. ( Satan) We now support the papacy . This counterfeit christian system says its above the Bible. Satan operates thru surrogates (pope) and receives worship thru him. Decieving many Thats what the devil does. He decieved 1 third of supereior angels. were just putty.

      May 23, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Steve wrote : "A 5 year old can understand it"

      Most 5 year old children also believe in Santa Claus...

      May 23, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
    • Scott

      You are just as bad as Camping and his end of the world club. You wish Jesus would return, the world would end and all the non-Christians get what’s coming to them. You just don’t have as much faith as they did because you won’t set a date.

      May 23, 2011 at 10:10 pm |
  5. branden

    I sought out Harold Camping online and listened to a bit of his radio show. He's definitely odd but also endearing.

    I believe in God and Jesus....and I'm gay and I practice yoga and etc.! so my understanding is in a holistic loving creator which guides us all in our unique discovery of existence.

    The insight about Camping is his misinterpretation of the concept of the world in his prophecy. I believe its possible that world may be attributed to how injustice seems to trump justice and how evil often prospers while the good are demeaned. That is this "world," that is the fallen "world" that we've come to know.

    So my hope is Camping was able to partially decipher that the end time transfer of wealth has begun and the constraints of this "world" have been released on the faithful.

    May 23, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
  6. Barry

    Darren,

    My post was not intended for you. I don't know why you took it upon yourself to comment about this,or why you would spend what little time you have on this earth to concern yourself with such matters.

    My post It was for those who believe and those with open minds, not those with hard hearts.

    "Instruct a wise person, and they will add this to their understanding..."

    (Proverbs)

    May 23, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • Eric G

      "A flute with no holes is not a flute. A donut with no hole is a danish."

      Ty Webb

      May 23, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • Nightwyn

      Reading the bible and going to church makes you a Christian as much as standing in a garage makes you a car.

      May 23, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
    • Bible Clown

      "Make up a wise saying and your name will live forever." – Anonymous

      May 23, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
  7. Barry

    Sergio,

    In answer to your question—I do not propose to speak for God, I leave that up to him. He does not need me or anyone else to defend him or speak on his behalf, as you can see from the Scripture below.

    “Do not be quick with your mouth,
    do not be hasty in your heart
    to utter anything before God.
    God is in heaven
    and you are on earth,
    so let your words be few.
    A dream comes when there are many cares,
    and many words mark the speech of a fool.”
    Koheleth (Ecclesiastes 5:4-8)

    I will say this: To accept monotheism and to believe in the one God of Israel is to accept that God is responsible for everything in the universe and that he is in absolute control of his creation.

    We who are Jews, Christians and Muslims believe this.

    Incidentally to reject belief in God places one at odds with some of the greatest and most gifted people, who ever lived, including the likes of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.

    May 23, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • JohnR

      Still haven't done your homework on the Greek philosophers, eh, Barry?

      May 23, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • Troy

      I second JohnR's observation. I doubt they were Jews, and I see a big problem with them being Christians, lol.

      May 23, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • Den

      Socrates believed in his "daimonion" or personal spirit. He didn't believe in one god.

      There isn't a god you people will do anything to convince yourself of that. I really don't care what you believe... just quit spreading it around as if it is true.

      May 23, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • Bible Clown

      "accept that God is responsible for everything in the universe and that he is in absolute control of his creation" God kinda made you a bit slower than the rest of us, huh?

      May 23, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • Lycidas

      @Bible Clown- And yet it took you about an hour to come up with that scathing and clever comment.

      May 23, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • Bible Clown

      L, naah, about ten seconds. I came in late. Also leaving again soon. I'm like a rabbit: hop on, hop off.

      May 23, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
  8. SHUYINX

    Damn you americans are a bunch of idiots for believing this crap. No one know when the world will end. If you want to know study some science you might, maybe, find the answer.. THE WORLD END WITH YOU.. DONT BELIEVE IN WHAT AN OLD MEN HAS TO SAID FOR YOUR MONEY..

    May 23, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
    • Artist

      We do have a lot of dumb people here lol

      May 23, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • asrael

      Those not quite in control of the language should probably forego the caps lock button...

      May 23, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
  9. Reality

    "For us to say it was absolute, I think that’s where we went wrong." as per Tom Evans

    What Mr. Evans failed to mention:

    As with Camping, Jesus was also a bit "touched". After all he thought he spoke to Satan, thought he changed water into wine, thought he raised Lazarus from the dead etc. In today's world, said Jesus would be declared legally insane.

    Or did P, M, M, L and J simply make him into a first century magic-man via their epistles and gospels of semi-fiction? Most contemporary NT experts after thorough analyses of all the scriptures go with the latter magic-man conclusion with J's gospels being mostly fiction.

    Obviously, today's followers of Paul et al's "magic-man" are also a bit on the odd side believing in all the Christian mumbo jumbo about rapture and bodies resurrecting, and exorcisms, and miracles, and "magic-man atonement, and infallible, old, European, white men, and 24/7 body/blood sacrifices followed by consumption of said sacrifices..............................
    ......................................................................................................................................................................................

    May 23, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • airwx

      Hi Reality... Just wondering, do you have OCD???? Your repeated posting of the same message without engaging in a meaningful dialogue makes me question.... do you have the same problem with light switches of hand washing?

      May 23, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
    • asrael

      Go, airwx! Although it may be an improvement over reading the same tired quotes - no man knows, like a thief in the night, etc.- from a great variety of commentators...

      May 23, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
  10. Artist

    I was wtching Rollerberby when 6 pm rolled around. I thought I was going to hell because I was stil there. How do we know it relaly did not happen? Can we prove it didn't?

    May 23, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • airwx

      As someone who looks forward to seeing this world change I can offer you my personal opinion....you didn't miss it!

      May 23, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • Bible Clown

      Both real Christians were taken up to heaven, and we'll miss them.

      May 23, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
  11. Golo

    For all of you that quit your jobs, sold your homes and went on the road talking about the world ending, how about going to Joplin, Missouri and doing the real Christian thing .....HELP your brothers and sisters in Joplin!

    May 23, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • Over It

      Their muscle power would be appreciated, if they can keep their freakin' mouths shut.

      May 23, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
  12. Up Your Rear Admiral

    On May 21, we gave the nose chains in the rapture capsule a good hard yank, but the people in the capsule were just way too obese, so we couldn't get it off the ground to uplift.

    The rapture group should keep their nose rings on and visible until further notice, and should remain in a ready state. Exercise classes for dropping some weight before the next rapturous uplifting opportunity will begin soon.

    May 23, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
  13. Artist

    Classic ignorance from religo-nutjobs...."Many followers said the delay was a further test from God to persevere in their faith."
    .
    People are so weak and pathetic they can't see the bs in front of them.

    May 23, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • airwx

      Hello Artist, I see you survived your birthday!

      May 23, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • Artist

      airwx

      Hello Artist, I see you survived your birthday!

      ---------
      Yes, it was non-eventful. 41 is not a big deal. Kind of like 5/21 lol

      May 23, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • airwx

      Yeah..5/22 was a much worse day, especially for the folks in Joplin....

      May 23, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  14. Eric

    I was at the Aladdin musical at Disney's California Adventure on May 22. When Princess Jasmine rebuffs Aladdin, the Genie tells him "Awww Al, it's not like it's the end of the world. That was yesterday...".

    May 23, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • jody

      good one!

      May 23, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
  15. Jarno

    The people who believe that the rapture is going to happen – that one day god will "beam up" all those who happen to believe the right flavor of Christianity, and they'll float up into the sky to be with God while the world is destroyed – are only marginally less kooky than the likes of Harold Camping, who set a date on the whole circus.

    May 23, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • Scott

      The only difference is that Camping’s group has more guts and more faith. Unlike most Christians they did put their money where their mouths were.

      May 23, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
  16. jesse

    I hope these ugly belief systems will one day end. These people are badly sick and need alot of help. We need to start reaching out to our family first to tell them what is wrong with them and then aid them to help. We need to also do this for our neighbors. The religous and mythical believers need medical systems for help. All the the churches need to start taking most of thier greedy money and put towards building hospitals and homes.

    May 23, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
  17. Danbo

    The Family Radio website is now active again. The website changed considerably since it's pre-rapture incarnation, which I would assume took some planning to do. There is no mention (as of yet) of their utter failure, but it is interesting to note the website update message:

    "Graphical Homepage updated on: 05/22/2011 17:39:22"

    The day *after* the "rapture." I suppose all of those web designers are hellbound heathens 😉

    May 23, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
  18. David Johnson

    @Lycidas

    Do you think Jesus actually likes you? Why would He?

    Ewwwwwwwww!

    Cheers!

    May 23, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • Lycidas

      Why wouldn't he? Hmmmm?

      May 23, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • Ol' Yeller

      Jesus Loves You.

      But, I'm his favorite.

      May 23, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • Bible Clown

      "Why wouldn't he?" You don't follow His teachings. Does the Bible mention trolls? Maybe Gog and Magog are the trolls?

      May 23, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • Lycidas

      Lol

      May 23, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
  19. jesse

    If all you believers of " heaven" want to leave so soon and don't like it here then why is it taking so damn long? Please leave quickly so the rest of us can enjoy and be humble with the "here & now reality".

    May 23, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • Bruce

      The world is billions of years old. A couple thousand years is not that long, no?

      May 23, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
  20. Philo Cafe

    Wishing hard for the world to end won't make it end.

    Let's instead work to make it better, and by so doing bring an end to some of the suffering in the world...which I think we all can agree is something we would all like to see less of.

    May 23, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • Bruce

      I can think of a ton of ways for a person to bring the world to an end by sheer force of will. From the easiest way on a personal level (suicide) to the more tricky get-yourself-in-a-position-and-push-the-red-button universal level, it would seem to me that wishing the world to end is not necessarily 100% non-efficacious.

      May 23, 2011 at 3:00 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.