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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. minsc

    Who knows, maybe the rapture DID happen, and nobody qualified.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
    • Sheesh

      Yeah, I was thinking the same thing, but then I realized I must have missed the massive earthquakes that were hitting each time zone at exactly 6pm. And the massive tsunamis they must have generated.

      I was following a Porsche Cayenne on the freeway yesterday, and its bumper sticker said "In case of rapture, this car will be empty" and I have to admit, I kinda felt myself hoping for the rapture because I could really use a Porsche Cayenne.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
  2. NL

    Hum... looks like there is big money in this false profecy thing. Mr. Camping proved it! Maybe I should get into this business. Who's with me. Lets set the "end of the world" date for... hum let me think... Oh I predict Oct 20, 2012... I set up a radio show and ask for donations. Once Oct 21, 2012 comes, I will say sorry I made a calculation mistake and move the date like 10 years later. Before I know it I could make millions. So who's with me? I can make you co-owner or some CEO if you want... split things 50/50... :-p

    Thank you Mr. Camping!!!

    May 22, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
  3. cvd1230

    To Mr. Camping: It's time for you to give back the millions of dollars you scammed from your gullible yet faithful followers. These people gave you everything for a promise of nothing. You are the Bernie Madoff of Christianity and should be arrested and brought to justice. You make Christianity laughable, a joke. Your message and mission is completely opposite of that of Christ. You lack the courage and humility to admit your error and to give back what you have taken. You will go to bed sleeping on top a over 100 million dollars while those who believed you will go to bed with nothing but the clothes on their backs. You will one day have to explain your actions to your Creator. What will you say? Best to do the right thing while you are alive. By your own rule so shall you be measured.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
  4. jim

    What do you expect from a fictional book

    May 22, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
  5. Russ

    If CNN and other Media Outlets would stop taking these guys seriously and not give them anymore time, they'd go away. I'm sure everyone or 99% of the CNN employees were in private thinking "this is so dumb, nothing is going to happen and we know it" yet you feel the need to promote and write this crap in the news. Maybe next time you should just say "ya ya.. sorry but I've got real news to report"

    May 22, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
  6. Liv

    Such absolute nonsense. Why do we give these people all the media hype?
    Guess they don't have anything better to do with their time.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
  7. juicyjuicy310

    the bible states "like a thief in da nite" so I dont get why u supposed believers put a date on dooms day(i guess where ur from thieves schedule....)

    May 22, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
    • elliemae

      Camping explained away the thief in the night quote on his website.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
    • Sheesh

      Not sure why anyone would believe anything in a work of fiction.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
    • abz2000 dot com

      if he was really a preacher – he would’ve read the bible…………
      But of that day and hour knoweth no [man], no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.
      Matthew 24:36
      But of that day and [that] hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.
      Mark 13:32
      i am a Muslim, and i do not believe Jesus (May Peace Be Upon Him) is the son of God but a significant messenger of God and the Messiah
      Read john 20:17-18 for that
      Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and [to] my God, and your God.
      Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and [that] he had spoken these things unto her.

      And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? 18And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good?
      there is none good but one, that is, God.
      Mark 10:17-18

      but give credit where credit is due,
      the bbc comes out with “Believers baffled as world doesn’t end”
      as if to make a mockery of anyone who doesn’t believe the party line that their ancestors were apes.
      when anyone who is a believer would have most likely read their book – especially a “preacher”.
      here’s what the Quran says to the Prophet (May Peace Be Upon Him) when people inquire about the time of the hour:
      They ask you about the Hour (Day of Resurrection): “When will be its appointed time?” Say: “The knowledge thereof is with my Lord (Alone). None can reveal its time but He. Heavy is its burden through the heavens and the earth. It shall not come upon you except all of a sudden.” They ask you as if you have a good knowledge of it. Say: “The knowledge thereof is with Allah (Alone) but most of mankind know not.”
      Quran 8:187
      the prophets were only given indications of it’s signs and portents, not the dates.
      And he said also to the people, When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say, There cometh a shower; and so it is. And when ye see the south wind blow, ye say, There will be heat; and it cometh to pass. Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?
      Luke 12:54-56
      seems like they’d have you oblivious, and begin their mockery every weekend when many get time and opportunity to reflect, friday, saturday, sunday,
      i’m noticing a pattern for the past few years.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
  8. Devin

    Dumb people will believe dumb things. I don't know why we're all surprised that there are dumb***** out there.

    May 22, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
  9. W

    Robin

    The Bible clearly states no one knows the date nor the hour in which Jesus Christ will return... no one means no one.....and anyone who claims to know the time frame is a false prophet. Flee from him !!! Or just have him examined for mental issues. hat all this tells me, is 80 million dollars, tax exempt is a nice retirement. Maybe I will figure out how to start a religion, be tax free and come up with a end of the world statement. Then fly off to some tropical island to live for the rest of my life.

    May 22, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
    • elliemae

      You do realize Jesus isn't literally returning, right? It's a shift in consciousness in humanity, not an actual person.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
  10. adam

    I should've left old shoes out in public places filled with dry ice, all these nutjobs would have seen vapors comming from empty shoes and thought they missed the "rapture"

    May 22, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
  11. Andrew

    The rule is: "We pray to the Good Lord but he does not speak." When someone tells me God spoke back to them, they are wrong even though they might believe they heard God speak back. When people use a 'dream' or 'fantasy', or a 'lie' to convince others that God spoke back to them, it breaks the rule.
    Fact is, God has never spoken to a single human who has ever lived. He revealed himself through the scriptures and that's that. Nobody gets to engage in private conversation with God – he didn't even acknowledge Jesus on the cross.
    And when a false prophet preacher – like this guy – drums up lies about the world ending in exchange for piles of cash donations, we should simply remember the rule and know he's lying; it's that simple you know.
    You may want God to 'speak back' to somebody but he will not. he never has and he never will.

    May 22, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
    • wtaguy

      @Andrew:

      You might want to check with Moses about that God doesn't speak assertion.

      May 22, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
  12. David Johnson

    The salty tears of the doomsdayers taste mighty good.

    I assert, they weep for believers everywhere. Faith and belief only survive, when it is not challenged. I can claim I have fairies in my shoe, only as long as I leave my shoe on.

    I hear the Christians cry, "We knew the doomsdayers were wrong! No one can know the time and date!"

    Yes, they are glad of that. Each of them is content, that the veracity of their beliefs do not depend on a mark on the calendar or the tick of a clock. Their god is safe. Hidden in other dimensions. Made of stain resistant "spirit". Mysterious. Not discernible to humans.

    When reading the posts of the believers, keep in mind this day. The day after. The day after is a day of truth. The day after washes away all stupidity. It restores clarity.

    Cheers!

    May 22, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
    • airwx

      @ David...The day after only proves that a small group can allow themselves to be led down the primrose path....It does not prove anything of substance. Their error is no worse than ours if we think ourselves any smarter....for we have no more certainty than they, that is, the end will come for each of us, sometime, somehow

      Peace

      May 22, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @airwx

      You said: "The day after only proves that a small group can allow themselves to be led down the primrose path....It does not prove anything of substance. Their error is no worse than ours if we think ourselves any smarter....for we have no more certainty than they, that is, the end will come for each of us, sometime, somehow"

      Yep. And aren't you happy to have this position to fall back on. LOL

      I maintain this group soiled their britches for believers everywhere. The rest of the Christians just haven't picked a date. LOL

      But, I say unto you, the outcome is the same whether it was yesterday or 10,000 years from now. Jesus won't come. There is no god. Believers are idiots.

      When you and others babble this rhetoric, I want the people sitting on the fence to visualize the day after. LOL

      Cheers!

      May 22, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
  13. elliemae

    Also – keep in mind that these books were written before space travel, the Hubble telescope, and flight, when nobody could see above the clouds and all sorts of myths could be created about what's on top of them. Please adjust your beliefs accordingly.

    May 22, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  14. Sheesh

    Quote from the article:

    “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.”

    WOW. That quote alone tells us why religion and the belief in the man with the white beard sitting up in the sky is so dangerous. These fools really want the world to end–forget about the rest of us who are just minding our own business and doing just fine. And to all those who say "I'm a christian but I don't believe in all that," I say YOU are the ones who are providing the air cover and the patina of legitimacy for this unfounded, dangerous, backward, anti-intellectual way of life.

    Wake up!

    P.S. To all those who will undoubtedly tell me I'm going to hell and send along some bible quotes, don't bother. It's your hell, you can burn in it. And I've read the bible from stem to stern many times. As a work of literature it's mostly second or third-rate, as a moral guide it's mostly repugnant (what with all the killing, raping, and looting), and as a history book it doesn't even deserve a mention.

    May 22, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Sheesh

      Yes! You have spoken pure truth. I salute you sir. I could not hope to make a better comment than you did.

      Cheers!

      May 22, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
    • James

      No-one could say it better!

      May 22, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
  15. steward of stuff

    Who's to say that some great calamity was not meant to occur but was averted because of prayers? The true mark of spiritual growth is admitting to weakness, vowing not to repeat, and trying again to go forward. The arrogance of the absolute and rigid beliefs of fanaticism are a weakness. There is great strength in unknowing, but faith in the great wisdom of G-d. Only G-d knows what shall come to pass. And that goes for the amount of prayers need to tilt the balance.

    May 22, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
  16. Dave

    Yeah... wow.. bummer.... horrible things did not come to almost all of the worlds population.... I mean they were hoping that 98% of us would go to hell to burn forever... but it didn't happen... gee too bad they need to ponder their future now that most of the people did not die..

    What kind of sick individuals are these guys to wish something like this on the rest of the world.

    Isn't this sort of like Al Queda without the weapons... We want you all to die!!! Oh crap it didn't happen.

    How do these people sleep at night??

    This is really sick...

    May 22, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
    • Chase

      Dave, you're an idiot. What do you think they did for the past year? They went out spreading the message they believed in and called everyone to repentance. They didn't hope ANYBODY would die. Naturally I don't agree with this group, but you have major problems yourself.

      May 22, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
    • Sheesh

      @Chase

      Had they spent the year doing something useful for humanity, I'd have a lot more respect.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
    • Cristian

      @Sheesh
      "Useful" is in the eye of the beholder. If you believe that people will very soon die horribly unless they take action to become saved, and go out to tell everyone about it, you are obviously convinced that it's very very useful.
      You should indeed have respect for someone who is willing and able to give up his daily comfort to go out and try to help everyone else – even though they were wrong about the date of this event.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
    • Well Said

      @Dave, I couldn't agree more.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
    • Mike AK

      @Chase

      The simple fact that they were disappointed that the world didn't come to an end is the same as saying they wished we had all died....in which case, the majority of us would wind up in hell. Sure, they went out spreading the word that the end was coming, but most people knew it to be BS. Are you faulting people for not buying into this insane doomsday prophecy?

      May 22, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
    • Sheesh

      @Cristian:

      OK, useful meaning doing something beneficial for humanity. So as far as I can tell,, this "man of god" stirred up some controversy, separated a lot of people from some cash, wished the end of the world on EVERYONE, and created mass disillusionment among the sheep.

      Useful? Not so much, IMHO. Next time volunteer at a free clinic or a refugee camp or something.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
    • Scott

      They sleep just like all the other Christians who wish us the same thing; but, don’t have enough faith to set a date

      May 22, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
  17. fierybuddha

    "we’d be changed and spend eternity with God." I'm truly hard pressed to believe ANYONE alive today actually believes that. I think you're all just afraid to admit – you don't believe in that God anymore. It's just VERY politically incorrect to say it.

    And if you do believe in THAT God? Well, then – God help you.

    May 22, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
    • Robert Richardson

      Almost everyone who has ever lived has been intelligent enough to acknowledge that there is a God. Atheism is a very tiny religion that is in worldwide decline.

      It is quite impossible that the universe created itself out of a steady state of absolute nothing. It is quite impossible that the universe is eternal. The observations of the COBE satellite and Hubble telescope prove the universe had a beginning and the laws of thermodynamics show the universe could not create itself out of a steady state of absolute nothing and can't be eternal. Atheism is an irrational religion.

      May 22, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
    • naturally skeptical

      Robert, cite your source please. I'm prepared to keep an open mind if you can show me a study that indicates a decline in atheism.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
    • Cristian

      You could, of course, google "decline in atheism" to find a few good starting points.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • Scott

      @Robert: Almost everyone who has ever lived thought the earth was flat. The 4 elements were earth, air, fire and water. They also believed sickness was caused by evil spirits and burned thousands of people to death for being witches. I do not hold their natural intelligence is such high esteem

      May 22, 2011 at 10:10 pm |
  18. Robert Richardson

    Jesus said no one will know the date of his return. Christians need to read the Bible and follow Jesus rather than follow someone else. It is great to respect your pastor but if your pastor contradicts the Bible your pastor is wrong, not the Bible.

    Mat 25:13 Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.

    May 22, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
  19. elliemae

    These people were eagerly anticipating the genocide of all of us. They're disappointed that we weren't killed. Where, exactly, does that fit into the pro-life mantra? Without repenting, do they stand a chance to be forgiven by the rules of their faith?

    May 22, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
    • aliashw

      Hey they look forward to saying "I told ya so I told ya so, neener neener neener". Simple minds are easily entertained.

      May 22, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
    • Chase

      Yeah, they totally kept it all a secret and didn't tell any of us what they believed was going to happen to give us a warning so we could get our lives in order and repent if needed. Facts are right in front of your face, but you refuse to acknowledge the important ones so you can make some ignorant comment about these people. Open your eyes.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
    • elliemae

      Come down off your cross, Chase. We can use the wood. If you would educate yourself about the rapture, you would know that there is a set number of people allowed in. If you would listen to Camping (bet you didn't think I have, did you?) you would know that he believed no one could do anything to change their fate. So, yes, they eagerly anticipated the genocide of mankind. You've been educated.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
  20. Elan Remford

    There's just one flaw in the rationale of those who are content to throw stones – those who truly "believed" (and while I didn't believe rapture was likely to occur May 21, I certainly don't dismiss that even a broken clock is right twice each day) had carefully thought through what they believed – and did so with absolutely no intent to profit from it, not even Mr. Camping.

    I take umbrage at the implication of any kind of "hoax". These were people who believed and their beliefs were incorrect – nothing more. I'm very sad for them. And while I certainly am not cheering-on any apocalypse, I'm a bit sad to have not been raptured too.

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

      You are as dumb as them if you believe in a 'rapture'. You are similarly arrogant that you think yourself morally superior that you would be raptured while all other suffer torment. And tell us how that makes you morally superior again?

      May 22, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
    • elliemae

      So, you believe that there will be a day when human bodies are floating in the sky up into – where? Space? And you are sad that billions of people were not killed yesterday.

      That type of literal belief is quite primitive in the grand spectrum of consciousness. I urge you to evove up the ladder rather than affix to welcoming genocide.

      May 22, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
    • grafixer

      Camping didn't profit from this? Are you kidding???? Massive coverage for a religious right extremist. Millions poured into his organization. He made... millions. MILLIONS... While his followers sold off their belongings, and went to California to await the "rapture". The only thing that "WENT UP" was Camping's bank account. Sham. Religious sham. Extremism exists in all religions. Some ask that people give their lives... literally. Some ask that they give money, or give up their possessions. Either way... It is all about control and power... greed and money. It is disgusting that people do this in the name of a "god". IF... IF... IF they EVER meet their "maker" they are in for a rude awakening.

      May 22, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
    • Cristian

      "I urge you to evolve" and "You are dumb" are just comments showing that you, the ones replying to the post, consider yourselves superior, even though you state that of the original poster.

      @UncleM: If you had taken the time to read, or at least research the Bible, you would have the answer to your question. Being saved does not rely on being morally superior, but in finding the humility to accept that you are morally inferior and need external help in becoming saved. I'll leave finding the details as an exercise to you.

      @elliemae: Please enlighten us in "the grand spectrum of consciousness", as I don't even know how that begins to be related to the concept of rapture.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
    • Scott

      “and did so with absolutely no intent to profit from it, not even Mr. Camping.” Camping brought in 80 million dollars to family radio with this scam. And he owns family radio. He is swimming in money because of this

      May 22, 2011 at 10:27 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.