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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. Riffmeister

    Well we should find out who actually believes this stuff and have them give us their material possessions since they aren't going to need them obviously. Next we should also take away their right to vote since they're too stupid to make such decisions. Then we should also be sure that none of them have jobs that could put others at risk. They can make fine burger flippers, dog catchers, pro wrestlers, or street vendors; however they should never be allowed near children or any object sharper than a spatula. Keep them away from the heavy machinery or electrical equipment, too.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • BJB

      Yes, maybe we should make them all wear crosses on their clothing so we easily distinguish them. That should help keep these crazies out of important societal functions and bring about the "final solution" don't you think? Hitler couldn't have said it better himself, right Riff?

      May 22, 2011 at 9:23 pm |
    • Scott

      Well perhaps the gene pool could use a dose of chlorine?

      May 22, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
  2. biblicalaaronc

    I'm still waiting to hear any creative excuses. Come on, it shouldn't take this long. Here's a freebie. Maybe the holy crapture did happen, but God did it invisibly and replaced the bodies of the raptured christians with zombie look-alikes that have no soul. For more hilarity look up biblicalaaronc.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • Scott

      Maybe the world did get rapture back in 1994 like Camping said it would. And all of the religious, right wing and GOP are nothing but soulless zombies? This would explain a tremendous amout

      May 22, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
  3. Peace2All

    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.”

    On (one) level of analysis, I believe that Mr. Evans' sentiments sum up a total self-centered arrogance. For him to 'want' this to happen, infers that if he is correct, then that would most likely mean (given the current model of the rapture when Jesus supposedly returns), that billions of people would be sent to an eternal fiery torment in...hell.

    I guess it's oh well... you 'non-believing heathens' had your chance to believe.

    Unbelievable.

    Peace...

    May 22, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
  4. Jamm

    This really should serve as something of a wake-up call to those who believe in gods. And, please notice just how the world with a god looks exactly the same as a world without one.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
  5. Riley T.

    The Atheist troll religious articles, because Christians troll gay/lesbian articles. When will it end?

    May 22, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
  6. diane

    the bible is a joke book written by The Flavian Caesar family...

    May 22, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
  7. Skip

    I scratch my head wondering how anyone with half a brain could think they knew when the earth was going to end. Must be the same half wits that think they know when it started with a big bang. I think a good dose of George Carlin religion is BS is in order here at least he worships the sun and prays to Joe Pesci, something we can see and someone we can talk to..............

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

    This is so dumb. I mean really, theres about a 0.0000001% chance of doomsday happening. Seriously, religion is like a path to the dark side. Only instad of dark side, its mental illness.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
  9. Mr. Magoo

    The "Rapture" is a wad of crap.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
  10. TERRY from WI

    The story of the "boy who cried wolf" comes to mind. Of course, the Family Radio folks were mistaken, second time. However, we will be sadly remiss if we believe the end of the world WILL NEVER COME. It will, but no one knows, not even Jesus Christ himself. The unfortunate consequence of Camping's mistake, just like the moral of the "boy who cried wolf" story, when it really comes, people will not believe it. That is the worst consequence of Camping's 0-for-two attempts.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
    • Cristian

      Very true... That, and the fact that people like to extrapolate from this that all of Christianity is simply a wrong choice or belief.

      If I claimed to be a scientist and "cheated" on my methods to get some result I was after, would anyone conclude that all of science is a bad idea?

      May 22, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
  11. W

    Here is my prediction....on the 21st of December...this year, the sun, will appear to die, and be at the lowest cycle it has been, For three days, it will stay there, then it will be Born again,,,to rise from the lowest point, three days later, the sun is born rising up, to bring the warmth of spring time on spring equinox. the star constellation that is right above the Sun form a t cross at this very lowest point when it ascends again into the heavens, the sun passes over this cross, this is the foundation of the SON.sun SUN SON.....Don't believe it, go look it up, If you understood this...the mystery of the SOLAR dieties...

    May 22, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
    • i wonder

      Yup, providing you are in the Northern Hemisphere 🙂 It happens every year. Nothing mystical there.

      Flip the dates 1/2 year for the Southern Hemisphere.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
  12. quackbuster

    LA has many wackos – check out MacArthur Park. I'm glad I moved out 50 years ago

    May 22, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
  13. VA Resident

    It was unforturnate that so many people believed this was going to happen, especially when the Bible very clearly states that the Rapture cannot be predicted. On the other hand non-believers, this topic came to you for a reason. You can choose to laugh this non-event off as many of you have, but ask yourself, what if this is true? What does this mean to me and my family? Do your own research and make your own decision, don't dismiss this so quickly.

    The Rapture will be a real event, but MAN cannot interpret the day or hour only God decides when Jesus is to return. Also, it will be at a time that is least expected.

    This can be found in Matthew 24: 36-44

    "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh."

    May 22, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
    • Patrick

      The rapture will not be a "Real event" the bible is a work of fiction. Written by men... over the course of 2000 years it has been modified and changed. It is nothing more than a system of control... to control people who are sheeple.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
    • Cristian

      @Patrick
      Pretty self absorbed there, to argue against absolute truth with your own absolute truth, aren't you?
      Remember, you don't know anything either, you just chose to believe something else.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
    • Jake

      @Cristian

      No Christian, wrong. He is not replacing that belief with another, he is simply pointing out the flaw of originally believing in something that has the potential to be flawed in so many ways. By mathematical probability mainly, with an added dose of history, we can (with much evidence) conclude that the bible has VERY likely been messed with and changed to suit those in power and to influence those for the purpose of greed.

      His statement is a evidence-supported, very-likely to have occured, guess. To believe the bible exists today in a pure form that is the literal word of god... Well, no Cristian, that is not the same at all. The chance of that happening, mathematically and with the aid of history, is laughably low.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
    • Jake

      In fact, I would to add this.

      He is not providing an absolute truth. In fact, I would argue he is rejecting the very premise of believing in absolute truths.
      You on the other hand, clearly believe in one. Many people call themselves athiests, but they are wrongly interpreted: Atheists think the bible and religion is highly fallible, and given that extreme volatility it is silly, maybe even dangerous (as has been shown) to believe in the unclear texts of primitive corruptable people who had no knowledge of the universe. They don't reject god, but think it's silly to believe in a single god when there are multiple other gods; that adds an extra layer of rediculousness. On top of that, we don't believe there isn't a higher power; or more accurately more intelligent being(s – plural) who had some part in our existence. Just as our intelligence grows, it is possible we are not at that stage in scientific understanding. But we have not yet proven it. And thus, unlike the religious, do not revolve our lives around this "faith," this belief in something unknown; that, my friend, can be dangerous or might just be a shield for the feeble-minded (not that its their fault if they were born into that type of family). Sometimes religion can be good, as it can teach important lessons to being a good human... But, we should be able to do this via other avenues. And as we continue to develop as a human race, hopefully we will be able to gracefully shed this skin of unguided belief and be able to exist as good humans without the need for a mental shield.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:34 pm |
  14. KlondikeBar

    My feet stink

    May 22, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
  15. stgrlee

    Have mercy! Read your Bible. All this about the end of times. If you really belive it–may be the time is near. But I think its in Gods time. get off it and live the best life you can.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
  16. Tim

    The Bible says No man knows the hour when the Lord will return. Its funny to me that this man who claims he has studied the bible for so long would miss those few verses. As Christians we are assured that the Lord will return and to be ready but we do not know the hour so it is important to always be ready.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
    • tman

      Lol. Iknow right. I was thinking the same thing. It's sad..Real sad.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
  17. John

    The Rapture DID occur yesterday. All people worthy of getting into heaven, all FIVE of them, have been removed from the earth.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @John

      ROFLMFAO....!!! Excellent !!! 🙂

      Peace...

      May 22, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
  18. JD

    This is a slight tangent but I think a misstatement by a major mainstream news source ought to be pointed out for the sake of historical accuracy. Toward the end of this report, in the quote by Professor DiTommaso, CNN inserted a reference to the "Mayan 'Long Count' Calendar". This is a common historical misrepresentation of cultures, in that the so-called Mayan Calendar did not originate from the Mayans at all but rather was passed down to them from the far older and more mysterious Olmec civilization by which they were preceded. I've found that CNN and other mainstream news companies have repeatedly misspoken on this known fact many, many times, which reveals a tendency on their part to play around with mainstream references without having done thorough research. This sort of fallacy might be accepted in a grade-school research paper on the grounds that it's "pretty close to accurate" but I for hold far higher expectations for a company like CNN. Maybe I'm just being nit-picky but, conceptually speaking, this sort of fallacious assertion is precisely why people get caught up in these ridiculous biblical doomsday movements at all; a small number of people misrepresent the facts (either intentionally or due to shoddy research) and portray an inaccurate set of pseudo-truths, which in turn "leads people astray"...be that in a sense of false prophecies or historical distortions. My challenge, both to CNN and these wannabe latter-day prophets, is to do some in-depth research and get the facts straight rather than touting inaccurate mainstream/pop-culture references. Beyond what CNN injected into his statement, DiTommaso made some great points.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
  19. Ed gomez from chicago

    Only god knows when its goin to happend.
    "or" maybe we got another chance to change our world.
    Everybody these days need to show a lot of love and respect to each other, our kids are growing without this two important things in their lives.
    Ed.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
    • RosieRocket

      I agree...I'm so glad you put that out there 🙂

      May 22, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
    • you Idi0t

      ONLY idiots would believe in God.. look at what you so called "God" been doing to this world.. war, warth, million of people died.. hilter killed jews.. man used the word God to kill people.. Good for you... thinking that God exists and only God knows when is the end of the world...

      May 22, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
    • Cristian

      Only idiots would use any excuse to point the finger at God and wrongly conclude faith is all wrong.
      None of the things you mention were God's fault (though, one could possibly argue that mankind deserves punishment for striving to become worse with every breath). Instead, they stemmed from greed and other similar attributes, using religion as a pretext. All these things would have happened regardless, people would have used any other excuse just as well.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
  20. Kevin Byrd

    My question or concern is that if God the Father has not told the angels in heaven or either Jesus Christ, the Son of God, when Jesus is to return for the 'rapture', why would He tell someone on earth when Jesus will come? Also, if Jesus is to come as a thief in the night, why would we be looking for a certain day for His return? We as believers are always to be ready for Jesus's return. Eld. Kevin Byrd

    May 22, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      If he's going to arrive as a thief in the night, he'd better not do it in Texas (or Florida, or Wyoming, Arizona, etc.), or else he may get himself shot... And then people would have to walk around with little replica guns on their neck chains...

      May 22, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
    • Jennipher Williams

      AMEN, Elder Byrd! The Word of God is QUITE clear on the matter. I have always found it fascinating (and I'm sure God has, too) that people will be believe the 6 o'clock news, weather forecasters, doomsdayers, and even gossip but take God's Word so ljghtly...if at all.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @PraiseTheLard

      LOL...!!! Now THAT was just too damn funny...! 🙂

      Peace...

      May 22, 2011 at 6:20 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.