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. GRHippie

    I think he also came up with the slogan "Free Beer tomorrow". Very clever.

    May 24, 2011 at 5:57 am |
  2. Daniel

    Nice spin job (yes that is called sarcasm). He had a perfect opportunity with the volcano eruption in Iceland and the tornado in Missouri, not that I'd buy it but he'd be a little credible. How many will still believe him?

    May 24, 2011 at 5:56 am |
  3. Halleluljah

    I'm positive he will have to recalculate as many times as he can possibly guess. But he does fulfill prophecy by what he does. Matthew 24:11 "And many false prophets will arise and mislead many"

    May 24, 2011 at 5:55 am |
    • A Random Guy


      May 24, 2011 at 6:01 am |
  4. Katie

    This idiot has lost all credibility.. Quit with the BS and admit you don't know shart....

    May 24, 2011 at 5:54 am |
  5. das272

    What I'd like to know is where in the heck does this guy get off saying the world will end on 10/21/11? The Bible does say in Revelations that the end will happen with the next coming of Christ following the Rapture of all those who believe in Him. But it does not say when this will occur. It says that no one knows when this will happen, not even the Father in Heaven. This Camping guy needs to get a clue and maybe a life while he is at it! His track record sucks to begin with. Just another cult following like those of Jim Jones, David Koresh, and Heaven's Gate. Sad.

    May 24, 2011 at 5:53 am |
    • A Random Guy

      Well said.

      May 24, 2011 at 5:58 am |
  6. Steve

    This guy needs to stfu. hes like 90, every day is the rapture for him.

    May 24, 2011 at 5:51 am |
  7. vralmond

    How bout the media stops giving him attention? Why do you continue this crap?

    May 24, 2011 at 5:51 am |
  8. mattgordonmd

    Jeebus won't get past TSA.

    May 24, 2011 at 5:50 am |
  9. A Random Guy

    No one knows when (or if) the world is going to end. This [prediction] is (and has always been) ridiculous. When it's time for the world to end, EVERYONE will know it. Until then, why don't we just live our lives. Hmm?

    May 24, 2011 at 5:49 am |
  10. John

    I would love to put a bullet in that old codger! Maybe he'll be dead by October 21 and we won't have to hear about him again

    May 24, 2011 at 5:48 am |
  11. Aaron

    You'll notice how Christianity itself escapes all blame. The bible always comes out smelling like a rose. People will never question the book that brought Camping to his crazy conclusions. There are several places in the bible where Jesus tells those around him that they won't die before they see the "Son of man return in his Kingdom", or "this generation shall not pass" before they see Christ return. Even Jesus predicted his own return and it failed to come true 2,000 years ago. Yet, modern Christians refuse to accept that. They rationalize and interpret the whole thing away in an effort to preserve the bible and keep the faith alive. "oh", they claim, "Jesus was talking about the transfiguration, not his second coming" or "if you look at the original Greek, what Jesus meant by 'generation' was..." blah, blah, blah. They have an unlimited number of ways to weasel out of it. That's how the whole thing has lasted 2,000+ years. The people who followed Camping will not take a serious look at their Christian beliefs, but instead will find a new interpretation of the same book to follow.

    May 24, 2011 at 5:46 am |
    • MQ

      Aaron, please do read and study the Bible and then see if you come to the same conclusion.

      May 24, 2011 at 5:51 am |
    • A Random Guy

      I agree with you to a certain extent. However, I'm a Christian myself; but I also do my own thinking. The bottom line is: NO ONE KNOWS WHEN THE END IS COMING. People should stop trying to predict it... Do I think the world will end? Eventually, yes. Will I pretend like I (or any human) knows when that will happen? No.

      May 24, 2011 at 5:55 am |
    • Jes

      I don't see how you can blame the book itself. That's ridiculous. Any fervor is always stirred up by the men who interpret a religious text. If someone were to follow your argument, then they could blame the 9/11 attacks on Islam and the Qu'aran and not the crazies themselves.

      May 24, 2011 at 5:56 am |
    • daggerstab


      May 24, 2011 at 6:02 am |
    • didyouknow

      maybe MQ needs to study the bible. Maybe MQ needs to read the history of the christian church to see that many of it's beliefs were nothing more than political decisions to keep peace among rival christian sects. Maybe MQ needs to go back and look at the different councils that were used to remove sects that did not think like the majority. The history of the bible is known and it has nothing to do with anything spiritual. great site to see the numerous contradictions and facts about the bible – http://www.evilbible.com

      May 24, 2011 at 6:02 am |
    • Aaron

      MQ; I assure you, I have read and studied the bible. I was steeped in it. Grew up in the thick of it. If the doors were open, we were there. National denominational conventions, several week-long camps each summer (regional, state and national camps). I have an inside and outside view of the whole thing. I'm not some dilettante who read a few secular forum posts and embraced agnosticism out of convenience. A genuine struggle brought me to where I am. I know why I don't believe it.

      May 24, 2011 at 6:10 am |
  12. Sic Semper Tyrannis

    Maybe someone should take it upon themselves to ensure Harold Camping's world comes to an end on October 21st. At least let him partially right once in his miserable life. Can we take up a collection and hire a hit man?

    May 24, 2011 at 5:44 am |
  13. Anonymous

    Somebody please, please, kick Harold Camping's ass

    May 24, 2011 at 5:43 am |
  14. ProChoiceAtheist/Wife2AtheistSteve

    You had to have known October 21 would be his back up plan! Unbelievable! I'm just wondering what his excuse will be in October when once again his delusions don't come true.

    May 24, 2011 at 5:42 am |
    • SB

      The same thing will happen. Camping's nothing if not consistent. Predict a date, date passes, feign confusion, post excuses, predict new date, rinse repeat.

      May 24, 2011 at 5:52 am |
  15. TM

    How many times will his guy be wrong before we can all stop paying attention to his delusional ranting. This guy and his fantasies aren't news. He's just another con man who has found a way to separate very gullible people from their money and possessions.

    May 24, 2011 at 5:40 am |
  16. Adonis

    He is what i like to call an "religous idiot"

    May 24, 2011 at 5:39 am |
  17. save the date 14/10/2011

    Pls, everybody save the date 14/10/2011
    I don't know what will happen
    But definitly a memorable incident will occur in the world
    I m not joking, Pls pray everybody for peace of our world

    May 24, 2011 at 5:33 am |
  18. shannon

    Look people! The bottom line is that he's real funny!

    May 24, 2011 at 5:32 am |
  19. atvrider98

    has anyone noticed this guy looks like the preacher from poltergeist

    May 24, 2011 at 5:31 am |
  20. frank burns

    Watching this guy I'm reminded of Freud"'s analysis of religion as a collective neurosis - if just one person thought they were possessed by a tri-headed spirit, you'd call him/her crazy. If the majority thinks it, they are wise and good Christians.

    May 24, 2011 at 5:29 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.