May 23rd, 2011
05:04 PM ET

Preacher now says end of the world will happen in 5 months

By Kim Hutcherson and Dan Gilgoff, CNN

(CNN) - Harold Camping is sticking to his apocalyptic guns.

In his first radio broadcast since his doomsday prediction failed to pan out in a spectacularly public fashion, the California preacher insisted his was an error of interpretation, not fact.

What's more, he has another calculation for the day the world will end - October 21, 2011.

Camping had kept a low-profile since Saturday, the day he had forecast for the return of Jesus Christ to Earth. He and his devoted followers have been warning for months that on May 21, a select 2% to 3% of the world's population would be taken to heaven. Those left behind would face months of tribulation before perishing in the Earth's destruction, which Camping said would happen on October 21.

This is the basis for his new prediction, which Camping claims is not new at all. He told listeners on his Family Radio broadcast Monday that God is "loving and merciful," and had decided not to punish the humanity with five months of destruction.

But he maintains that the end of the world is still coming.

"We've always said October 21 was the day," Camping said during his show. "The only thing we didn't understand was the spirituality of May 21. We're seeing this as a spiritual thing happening rather than a physical thing happening. The timing, the structure, the proofs, none of that has changed at all."

However, Camping said his group would not be mounting another advertising push. In the months leading up to May 21, Family Radio billboards popped up across the country, warning that the end was near.

"We're not going to be passing out tracts," Camping said. "We're not going to put up any more billboards. We're not going to be advertising in any way. The world has been warned. We did our little share and the media picked it up. But now the world has been told, it's under judgment."

Fred Store, who led one of four RV caravans that toured the country in recent months to spread the word about judgment day, said he and other followers heard Camping's broadcast "and we were quite happy - it will be interesting to see what the next couple of months will bring."

"It appears as though this whole [rapture] thing happened in a spiritual, rather than a physical way," said Store, 66. The retired electrician said that he and the other nine members of his five-RV caravan were still at an RV park where they waited for the rapture to arrive on Saturday.

He said the park was within 100 miles of Boston, Massachusetts, but didn't want to disclose the specific location. He said the caravan was waiting for word from Camping's ministry, Family Radio, about arranging the return of the vehicles to the broadcaster's Oakland, California, headquarters.

Store said he and the others in his caravan were not disappointed that the dramatic events associated with the rapture had not come to pass.

"We think that judgment day did happen," he said. "It didn’t result in an earthquake, and there were a number of things that weren't exactly the way we said they would be, but we were only reading from the Bible.  We’ve been humbled by the whole experience."

Camping founded Family Radio, a nonprofit Christian radio network with about 65 stations across the country, in 1958. It received $80 million in contributions between 2005 and 2009.

He first inaccurately predicted the world would end in 1994. Despite his poor track record, he has gathered many followers. Some gave up their homes, entire life savings and jobs because they believed the world was ending.

Reporters who were allowed to ask questions during the broadcast Monday pressed Camping on this issue, but he would not admit that he bore any blame for his followers' predicaments.

"I don't have any responsibility," Camping said. "I'm only teaching the Bible. I'm telling ... this is what the Bible says. I don't have spiritual rule over anybody ... except my wife as the head of the household."

Experts in apocalyptic movements said that reinterpretations like Camping's are not uncommon in the wake of failed doomsday predictions.

“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,” said Lorenzo DiTommaso, author of the forthcoming book “The Architecture of Apocalypticism” and an associate professor of religion at Concordia University in Montréal, Canada. 

“In short: The math was off, and it’s back to the drawing board,” he said. “If the logic seems a bit self-serving, recall that in the apocalyptic mindset, faith precedes theory, and theory informs the evidence."

–CNN's Jessica Ravitz contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • End times

soundoff (4,998 Responses)
  1. Jay

    A huge number of believers – not just Camping and his crew – believe this end times hogwash. Camping was simply incautious enough to set a date to it.

    May 24, 2011 at 5:28 am |

    Glenn Beck has been retained to cover the event live again with his colorful blather of the event.
    Glenn will also be promoting his new paper back only for Fox Viewers for a mere $19.95 detailing his take.
    Free aluminum hat is enclosed with the book to guarantee proper tv reception.

    May 24, 2011 at 5:28 am |
  3. Rich Dali

    "The only difference between myself and a madman is that I am not mad'. Salvador Dali

    May 24, 2011 at 5:26 am |
  4. DrMabuse

    Can the media not give this lunatic Camping any more publicity? He is mentally ill and needs psychiatric help, not media attention. In October, he'll just redo the "math" and set another date, and on and on.

    May 24, 2011 at 5:26 am |
    • SB

      If we didn't respond in droves to this dribble then there wouldn't be market it and CNN would focus more on real news. Unfortunately we, the readers, bear a lot of the blame here. You might say, well what about journalistic integrity? I don't think that's existed since the 60's.

      May 24, 2011 at 5:47 am |
  5. Nick

    Its always the same thing. The idiot makes a prediction, and of course is proven wrong, but then backs up his error with some other prediction which too will be proven wrong at some future time......These fools are all the same, yet there will always be the lemmings who will follow them......Can someone please pass me the kool aid.

    May 24, 2011 at 5:20 am |
    • William

      And a cup for me also please!

      May 24, 2011 at 5:36 am |
  6. John In England

    I love this part...

    "In his first radio broadcast since his doomsday prediction failed to pan out in a spectacularly public fashion, the California preacher insisted his was an error of interpretation, not fact."

    None of its fact. even his line of "The bible guarantees it" as the bible is also not fact

    May 24, 2011 at 5:19 am |
  7. Mike


    May 24, 2011 at 5:18 am |
  8. PToy

    Owe May Goad, moved to 10 21 2011? Now, the guy who bet to cut his penis if the prediction comes true
    has a reason to be jittery again!

    May 24, 2011 at 5:18 am |
  9. mkub

    Also, I don't think this guy gives a rat's *ss that he was "wrong" and now he's the laughing stock of the country. He's the one laughing all the way to the bank!

    May 24, 2011 at 5:16 am |
  10. Pointing_And_Laughing

    So the world didn't end. "Ooops. MY BAD. No seariously I was just kidding about that." I have always wondered what the "Sky is Falling" nut jobs say to their family and former friends the day after the "End of the World" is supposed to happen. You know that everybody that heard these people preach at them is looking them in the eye and thinking the same thing..."Dumb *SS"

    May 24, 2011 at 5:15 am |
  11. KATE

    I am a believer ,christian, whatever you call me I call him stupid.Bible says no-one knows except the Father,sweetie.

    May 24, 2011 at 5:15 am |
  12. Aaron

    Standard behavior. When the prediction fails, all they can come up with is "god changed his mind". I remember Oral Roberts back in the '80s telling everyone they needed to help him raise $8 million dollars by some date or god would "call him home". They are, at worst, duplicitous snakes out to rob you blind, and at best, self-deluded crazy people who actually believe what they are doing is good for you. Those are the choices; crook or crazy.

    May 24, 2011 at 5:14 am |
    • Hillcrester

      Well put. I can't assess his motives. He may be well-intentioned, but just a scoche more delusional than most "believers," or he may be a con artist. I suspect the former, but how can we tell? They look so similar.

      May 24, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
  13. Greg

    Camping provides a bit of absurd humor as a self proclaimed prohet of doom. While there are countless ideas of how judgement day will unfold among Christians...those with even a child's understanding of the faith know that our main concern is not the dreaded day Camping paints....but our own personal day of judgement. If I die tomorrow then my day of judgement is tomorrow.....I have little concern for October 21st.
    God is not in the business of secret decoders and magic math...sadly most Christians will continue to follow leaders who decide that they have discovered some new truth about God. Do yourselves a favor....go see a Catholic or Orthodox priest....a Rabbi....an Imam....who preaches about the condition of your soul....not the end of the world. If you die tomorrow Camping....and his type could not care less....that does nto fit into their self revelation

    May 24, 2011 at 5:13 am |
    • SB

      Better yet? Ditch religion entirely. Free yourself from the psychosis.

      May 24, 2011 at 5:26 am |
    • Hillcrester

      Better than visiting other brands of delusionals and semi-delusionals, read Rousseau, Paine, Thoreau, et al. Religion is the black-sheep-child of philosophy.

      May 24, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
  14. Happyfrenchman

    I wouldn't laugh too hard at this guy. The only difference between this guy and any other garden variety preacher is that this guy thinks he knows the date.

    May 24, 2011 at 5:13 am |
  15. OompaLoompa

    I wonder if he's going to get away with saying he is his wife's spiritual boss. Don't think I'd get away with that....

    May 24, 2011 at 5:12 am |
    • asrael

      But that's OK, because he doesn't "have any responsibility"...

      May 24, 2011 at 5:15 am |
  16. mkub

    HA, the very last line is my personal favorite: ..."I don't have spiritual rule over anybody ... except my wife as the head of the household." Thanks for clarifying man. It's like the author saved that little gem for the people willing to read her entire article about this looney toon 🙂

    May 24, 2011 at 5:12 am |
  17. phil_177

    amazing what 20/20 vision will have on the preacher, eh ... !!!

    May 24, 2011 at 5:06 am |
  18. greg8174

    ok,,,ok,,, he was wrong....but are we still on for Dec 21, 2012?

    May 24, 2011 at 5:04 am |
  19. Africa

    Surely with such kind of hallucinations, this man called Camping should have by now been sent to a mental hospital for check-ups.

    May 24, 2011 at 5:01 am |
  20. Harry

    Why would ANYONE who is not psychotic, foolish, irrational, or deranged actually follow someone who has been wrong so many times about the end of the world? I suppose my question answers my question. Think about it.

    May 24, 2011 at 4:58 am |
    • BaggedCat

      Religious? or is this encompassed within irrational?

      May 24, 2011 at 5:37 am |
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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.