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. Mike

    Religion: The longest running most successful can game in history. It works because the victims never realize they have been taken. They die first.

    May 29, 2011 at 10:26 am |
  2. Steve

    Failed Bible Prophecies:

    May 27, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  3. 7ths1gn

    this is the kind of false prophets that gives any religion a bad name. His follower of blind faith donated millions of dollars and yet he is still in denial and claim no responsibitilites for the action. Having faith is good but blind faith on the other hand is a big no no, GOD have gives us the best wonderful gifts of all which is our brain but it seems his follower does not have it. Kind of strange that the federal government have not taking action against him and his network as he destroy the lifes of so many people that listen to his preaching on his network, does the staff that works for his network ever tell him honestly that he is delusional and beg him to seek professional help?

    Where's our government when we need them to clean up this mess that have been done and life have been destroyed by this guy that is trying to play GOD himself and is still being able to be ignorant and arrogant.

    For a preacher that read the bible, he should remember the scripture of Matthew 7:15, Jeremiah 23:16 and 1 Thessalonians 5:2-4. Now i'm just waiting for him to proclaim himself that he is GOD!! stay tune guys and see what happens next on oct 21st and please expect another ignorant, crappy and arrogant explanation with his miscalculation reasoning again.

    May 26, 2011 at 3:15 am |
  4. Steve


    May 25, 2011 at 10:25 pm |
  5. Joe

    Doesnt everyone realize, GOD will not end the world until after the World Cup in Brazil in 2014...duh, people are so ignorant. He's been waiting for this since 1950.

    May 25, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
  6. KingdomWork

    Just a question to ponder...Could it be that Jesus Christ is returning differently than we expect Him to? Everyone is expecting Him to return with the rapture... The word "rapture" isn't in the bible. Did you know that?
    In the New Testament, the religious people of the day crucified Jesus because they didn't recognize who Jesus was; as well as, His new Kingdom teachings. (Era of Grace) The Pharisees couldn't accept Him or His new teachings. They wanted to continue under the old era of Old Testament Law; thus, they had Him killed because they thought He was a false teacher.
    Maybe Christ is returning in the form of His Holy Spirit? Living through His believers? Our bodies are His temple, where He can live through us? Have you ever looked at what He taught? He taught The Kingdom of God/Heaven. The kingdom is supposed to already be here now! Interesting, right?
    Could it be that no one knows the time or hour of His return because we receive His spirit/return at different times? Just a thought?!?!

    May 25, 2011 at 9:48 am |
  7. Terry

    I hope all of you understand that Jesus will return. I have seen many pictures that people have staged making fun of that, and it didn't happen on May 21, but it will happen. I have never seen evil like it is in the world today, and the Bible says "as it was in the days of Noah, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be." They were just going on about their business, with Noah preaching to them every day, and they just laughed.....until it started to rain. The Bible is true from Genesis to Revelation, Jesus is the only way to Heaven, and I hope all of you stop laughing, and get yourselves ready.

    May 25, 2011 at 9:43 am |
    • Winning

      i hate people like you the bible is not supposed to be taken literally if you honestly think a man from thousands of years ago is going to come back to life and end the world you might as well believe that narnia exists

      May 25, 2011 at 10:47 am |
  8. Chi Tran

    Who believe, is still believed and who don't believe, never believe and it is your problem and not mine! The dangerous ones who is the deceiver...

    May 24, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
    • claybigsby

      wow go back to 2nd grade grammar class.

      May 25, 2011 at 10:00 am |
  9. MyName

    1 word... IDIOTS!

    May 24, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
  10. JenBem

    By no means am I incredibly religious but one teaching from the Bible seems to stick out in my mind: "Beware the false prophet." Or was it "laugh at?"

    May 24, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
  11. robotmonkeyhands

    No one on earth will predict the rapture "those dates are not for you to know" so just stop trying you are a moron and those who follow you are dumber than you it will happen when and as it is supposed to and it will be a surprise so live every day as your last praise God be good to each other and you will be ready in the meantime stop being morons. Stupid morons

    May 24, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
    • rofl

      thats exactly what i was telling people. If there was such a date, no mortal would know it, and anyone who believes someone knows it is dumber than the idiot preaching that they know it.

      May 24, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
  12. Jesse Broberg

    Hey Harold ******* Camping, read this bible verse:



    May 24, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
  13. meyling caseres

    this people.. are idiots !! good is LOVE and not destruction

    May 24, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
  14. Victoria

    The real shame is that there are likely so many innocent victims in this all. There are children who's parents gave away life's savings, their childrens' college funds, etc., who are now basically screwed. Camping owes at least these innocent bystanders all of that back. If only he could be made to take all of the money he made off of this and start a charity fund for these kids.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • claybigsby

      lol its not like he held a gun to their head and stole their money...if you are dumb enough to believe this stuff and give your money away that's your problem.

      May 25, 2011 at 10:03 am |
  15. Margroks

    Idiots! It's a cult, nothing more. And as far as the "Rapture" it's made up and inserted later into Bibles so people don't realize (although any reasonably intelligent person should) that it's totally phony. About 400 years ago a 16 year old Scottish girl claimed to have had a vision describing the Rapture. Start using the brains God gave you and see this for the total scam it is!

    May 24, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • Lycidas

      Ah..the clear thoughts of a rambling angry person. My gosh...we should listen to him..lol.

      May 24, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • chris stone

      at least there was no poison koolaid this time....I believe these people would have drank it willingly

      May 24, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
  16. Reality

    Camping is insane as was Jesus.

    May 24, 2011 at 7:40 am |
    • Lycidas

      Ty Reality for making an unfactual statement.

      May 24, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • Reality

      Actually, Jesus was 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 24, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
    • Lycidas

      Thank you for the more copy/paste....with it all I am starting to think you are the one that is wanting to touch Jesus. You seem so focused on it.

      May 24, 2011 at 7:56 pm |
    • Reality

      Added focus on Jesus:

      The Apostles' Creed 2011: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians during the past 200 years)

      I might believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
      and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
      human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven.

      I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
      preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
      named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
      girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

      Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
      the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

      He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
      a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

      Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
      many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
      and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
      Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
      grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
      and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
      called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.


      May 24, 2011 at 11:24 pm |
    • Free

      Jesus could have simply been mistaken or, from a page not in Camping's book, he never said anything about himself being God. Maybe all that was Paul's invention for his gentile churches?

      May 24, 2011 at 11:30 pm |
    • Lycidas

      Ah, Reality adds a few words so the automated moderator doesn't kick his copy/paste message away. How refreshing, in that...it's really not.

      May 25, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • Reality

      Refreshing the neurons of Christians with respect to the Great Resurrection Con Game:

      From that famous passage: In 1 Corinthians 15 St. Paul reasoned, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."

      Even now Catholic/Christian professors of theology are questioning the bodily resurrection of the simple, preacher man aka Jesus.

      To wit;

      From a major Catholic university's theology professor’s grad school white-board notes:

      "Heaven is a Spirit state or spiritual reality of union with God in love, without earthly – earth bound distractions.
      Jesus and Mary's bodies are therefore not in Heaven.

      Most believe that it to mean that the personal spiritual self that survives death is in continuity with the self we were while living on earth as an embodied person.

      Again, the physical Resurrection (meaning a resuscitated corpse returning to life), Ascension (of Jesus' crucified corpse), and Assumption (Mary's corpse) into heaven did not take place.

      The Ascension symbolizes the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and the beginning of the Church.

      Only Luke's Gospel records it. The Assumption ties Jesus' mission to Pentecost and missionary activity of Jesus' followers The Assumption has multiple layers of symbolism, some are related to Mary's special role as "Christ bearer" (theotokos). It does not seem fitting that Mary, the body of Jesus' Virgin-Mother (another biblically based symbol found in Luke 1) would be derived by worms upon her death. Mary's assumption also shows God's positive regard, not only for Christ's male body, but also for female bodies." "

      "In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit (angel/demon) or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him."

      The Vatican quickly embellished this story with a lot CYAP.

      Of course, we all know that angels are really mythical "pretty wingie talking thingies".

      With respect to rising from the dead, we also have this account:

      o An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue,
      o p.4
      o "Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."
      o p.168. by Ted Peters:
      1. Even so, asking historical questions is our responsibility. Did Jesus really rise from the tomb? Is it necessary to have been raised from the tomb and to appear to his disciples in order to explain the rise of early church and the transcription of the bible? Crossan answers no, Wright answers, yes. "

      o So where are the bones"? As per Professor Crossan's analyses in his many books, the body of Jesus would have ended up in the mass graves of the crucified, eaten by wild dogs, with lime in a shallow grave, or under a pile of stones.

      May 26, 2011 at 7:52 am |
    • Lycidas

      How is copy/pasting refeshing?

      May 26, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
  17. Gaunt

    Did harold Camping make a mistake in his calculations? No, harold Camping's maths skills are excellent. He can count the over $100 million dollars in donations his Family Radio company has recieved in the last decade, including over $13 million in just the last year. he can count the value of his 'family Radio' media empire, estimated by the IRS to be worth $72 million dollars. His maths skills have been trained by sitting counting his money every day, laughing at the gullible and the desperate who KEEP sending him thier money, and giggling over the fact that, because he hides behind religion, its unlikely he will ever be charged with fraud.

    What is worse, according to the IRS, Camping and Family Radio have over $30 million dollars invested in long term bonds and stocks, which produced a profit of just over a million dollars last year. LONG TERM stocks and bonds. Think about that for a second.

    Camping and Family Radio are con-men, this isnt about religion, its about milking foolish people out of tens of millions of dollars. No wonder he keeps revising his doomsday date backwards: if he just admitted he was wrong, the money might stop pouring in...

    This man and his entire clan should be rotting in jail.

    May 24, 2011 at 3:25 am |
    • rofl

      religion. legal scams in the USA, they shut down madoff, but they let this guy get away with it!

      May 24, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
    • rofl

      its because we have freedom of religion as one of our laws
      we also have freedom of stupiditiy

      May 24, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
    • Jil

      Ironically the same law that allows freedom of religion allows atheism. So if that law goes, the powers that be gets to dictate which religion we get to practice. I wonder what they would choose probably whatever is the majority favored.

      May 25, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
  18. Jane and Jill

    You all relax. We'll continue to go around and around on this planet for a long, long time. Quit freakin' and start drinking.

    May 24, 2011 at 2:03 am |
  19. HaloFlies

    The word is out. We shall continue to exist for the next 100,000 years. See ya all then.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:53 am |
    • Jil

      Unless those people who are upset over Osama get their hands on a nuke and start WW3, right?

      May 25, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
  20. JuneBug

    To the believers (bible thumpers) as well as the Atheists (monkey believers). All this will pass.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:28 am |
    • Al

      This makes you, what, a know-nothing?

      May 24, 2011 at 11:26 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.