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. cor

    Nice to see Christians and Atheists agreeing on something for once... Harold needs to keep quiet!!!

    May 24, 2011 at 2:28 am |
    • Cassy

      I was also surprised to see the mainstream Christians agreeing this dude is a nut job..

      May 24, 2011 at 2:32 am |
    • Frogist

      @Cassy: I'm not surprised. There's a fine line of crazy between thinking the world ends someday and the world ends tomorrow. It's just like most Christians will not believe you if you tell them Jesus literally speaks to you at 7 pm every night. But will gladly accept that Jesus can speak to a person through prayer. What draws that line? I'm sure there must be a psych textbook somewhere to explain that, but I don't know.

      May 24, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
    • Nightwyn

      Frogist –

      Think more in terms like art 'speaking' to you. You don't have a conversation with it, or invite it over for tea. But you feel something. Like when I hear the barney theme song, I am struck with the sudden urge to mute the tv.

      May 24, 2011 at 11:15 pm |
  2. nat ecs

    So it isn't too late for me to quit my job, sell my house and all of my worldly possessions so my wife, my son and I can join the church of the family radio and help spread the word?


    May 24, 2011 at 2:28 am |
  3. Jerry Springa

    lol. where are these inbred preachers from?

    May 24, 2011 at 2:22 am |
    • Cassy

      Backwoods of some podunk town in a southern state or the Ozark mountains...lol

      May 24, 2011 at 2:29 am |
    • Ed

      They are kept in moon prison until the are 71 then released upon the world to spread the word of loons.

      May 24, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  4. Friend

    He should give up. There is no way to calculate that date.

    May 24, 2011 at 2:22 am |
  5. Cassy

    Are you freakin kidding me? Give it up old man...you'll be dead before it ever happens. Nice to know you have idiots following your every word and draining their bank accounts...good job. *thumbs up*

    May 24, 2011 at 2:19 am |
  6. ophu

    Oh God... Harold, shut up. Just, for the love of God, shut UP.

    May 24, 2011 at 2:18 am |
    • Cassy

      *sigh* If only the rapture took him...lol. That will shut him the hell up...lol

      May 24, 2011 at 2:20 am |
    • Nightwyn



      May 24, 2011 at 2:22 am |
  7. Thinkman

    The world is going to end in a billion plus years when our sun burns out. Long before that humans will muck it up for themselves in the next thousand years or so if we are lucky maybe we'll out 1500 years for "humanity".. Keep driving your SUVs, Hummers, and burning the candles at both ends. No one is going to suffer for an hundred years yet... party on!

    May 24, 2011 at 2:17 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      No SUVs and No Hummers .... You have caused me to change my world outlook Thinkman


      Now, I gotta go to my moms house and find my dads old dashiki,

      May 24, 2011 at 2:28 am |
    • Frogist

      @Thinkman: It's hard to get people to change what they do. Easier for them to pretend climate change doesn't exist. It's a lot like your old grandpa who has high cholesterol but has convinced himself that steak and eggs is all just protein. Sad, but true.

      May 24, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
  8. Thinkman

    People complain about the "New Math" but I don't think it is any worse than Camping's old math. "God" is hogwash and so is the rapture. We are all just a bunch of self serving consumers hellbent on using up more than our share faster than the next guy.

    May 24, 2011 at 2:16 am |
  9. Brian Ellis

    Unfortunately, people who believe this guy are breathing perfectly good air that was destined for actual human beings...

    May 24, 2011 at 2:14 am |
  10. Vik Tomar

    this guy is nuts. All those people who believe him and did all that stuff to prepare for the world to end are idiots. This is worse than the "hey look someone wrote gullible on the ceiling..." prank.

    May 24, 2011 at 2:13 am |

    Just dont forget to bring the Kool-aid this time

    May 24, 2011 at 2:12 am |
    • Cassy

      or the freakin wine coolers!

      May 24, 2011 at 2:33 am |
  12. XD

    This guy has spent the better part of his life hoping that the rest of us die horribly. Screw him.

    May 24, 2011 at 2:11 am |
  13. realist

    Hey, let the rapture cull the gene pool. Take the moron, mainstream, NASCAR-watching, bible beaters to the ethers. I need to upgrade my phone, car, and TV from what they leave behind. In Portland, OR. funny people left clothes laid out at bus stops like their inhabitants' had been disintegrated in the rapture. So cracked me up on the way to work...drink the Kool Aid, rapture folks- it worked last time....

    May 24, 2011 at 2:06 am |
  14. KidCanada

    Will somebody please put this guy out of his misery so we can stop listening to this bull.

    May 24, 2011 at 2:02 am |
  15. Aeroman

    When his prediction for September 6, 1994 failed, btw, he set a new date for October of that year... See any similarites here?

    May 24, 2011 at 2:02 am |
    • Bresson

      None whatsoever, what are you talking about?

      May 24, 2011 at 2:06 am |
    • Aeroman

      Lol you're right, idk what I'm saying.

      May 24, 2011 at 2:33 am |
    • Jenn

      You mean that there is proof out there that this guy is a quack and should be locked up in a padded cell for the rest of his days? Say it isn't so.....LOL

      May 24, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
  16. Liquid Ocelot

    Just skimmed the article to find the date and skipped the rest. Can CNN just stop covering this idiot's pathetic quest to be hated even more than Westboro?

    May 24, 2011 at 2:02 am |
    • stevo


      May 24, 2011 at 2:08 am |
    • BroNate

      I agree that this guy should be ignored, but I'd be surprised if anybody could beat out the Westboro Baptist folks on the fecal roster.

      May 24, 2011 at 2:20 am |
    • Frogist

      This guy and the WBC... no comparison. Camping only said the rapture will happen. WBC puts on a campaign of hate against gays and their supporters. Not to mention their vile picketing of mourning families. Next to them, Camping looks like your old slightly senile grandpa. Absolutely no comparison.

      May 24, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
    • Kimbherlith

      Posted on I have had a herniated disc ( L5-S1) which I have lived with rlifay well since 2005. At the present I have low back pain and severe weakness in my left leg. I cannot squat down and if I do I cannot get up as left leg is so weak. Had an MRI in 2005. Could this all be caused by the back injury I know you are not Doctors but your thoughts mean a lot to me?

      March 3, 2012 at 11:56 pm |
  17. Joe R

    The world won't end in five months...but I have serious doubts that he will make it that long...

    May 24, 2011 at 2:01 am |
    • Mike in PA

      You and the rest of us have no guarantee of a sunset, either. It's the end of the world for each of us when we close our eyes on it for the last time.

      May 24, 2011 at 2:24 am |
    • Cassy

      he sure is pushing his luck in that area. He and Fred Phelps should just drive off a cliff and leave us all the hell alone..

      May 24, 2011 at 2:41 am |
  18. Roland

    Judgement day will come but only God knows about the time and day. Human predictions are against Gods law. Its not biblical.

    May 24, 2011 at 2:01 am |
    • nawab

      u are right sir. Only God knows, what happens when?

      May 24, 2011 at 2:11 am |
  19. Q

    I'm surprised a guy with balls that big can walk...

    May 24, 2011 at 2:01 am |
    • Bresson

      The money keeps flowing to him...

      May 24, 2011 at 2:07 am |
    • Q

      "And blessed are the large-testicled, for they shall inherit the pensions of the gullible..." Episiotomy 13:6

      May 24, 2011 at 2:18 am |
    • beelzebubba

      RE: "Bresson-The money keeps flowing to him..."
      Bernie Madoff must be so jealous of the 71 million this shyster has swindeled. I'm guessing Bernie will convert soon. But if this nut helps turn voters away from electing any more evangelical incompetents like Bush and Carter who think an invisible friend is their co-pilot, something good will come out of this. Can I hear an ayyyyyyyyyyyyymen?

      May 24, 2011 at 2:23 am |
  20. Sad

    80 million donated? Think of all the children that could be feed with that. Add the hundreds of millions wasted by the Catholic and Latter Day Saints churches pursecuting Gays, and you could wipe out hunger in this country. Makes me SAD.

    May 24, 2011 at 2:00 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Or think about how many we could help for each tomahawk type missile fired into Libya .... or the cost to keep Guantanamo Bay open..you know that place the president said he would close about 4 years ago.

      Oh ... also ... Sad .... the other day with our country deep in debt, folks out of work ... the President promised 5 billion in aid to Eygpt. Not, pay our debt for our kids generation... no he just decided to give aid to a country that they just did a BBC poll on how they view us and its still unfavorable.

      Sad, churchs like mine give and serve the community on a regular basis. But the next time you want to talk about children being fed, think about how many American kids and adults could be fed with the 5 billion dollars that Obama just gave away.... to folks that don't like us.

      May 24, 2011 at 2:12 am |
    • BK

      Hey Mark. Making every article about Obama is annoying as hell.

      May 24, 2011 at 2:21 am |
    • beelzebubba

      "Mark from Middle River- Or think about how many we could help for each tomahawk type missile fired into Libya "
      Ayyymen... but think about the trillion that a George born-a'gin-my-invisible-friend-is-my-co-pilot Bush wasted that helped destroy our economy because he was led from above to bring on the apocolypse in the middle east. Can I hear an ayyyymen?

      May 24, 2011 at 2:28 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Beel .... and For Obama for keeping many of G.W.'s people in their positions and staying the course. For celebrating proof of his citizenship by tossing the Republicans a treat to say "no hard feelings...here is the head of Bin Laden". Notice McCain has been silent, I do not think they threw him overboard ...I think they dropped him in in Arizona and McCain is still chewing on Osama dead carcass.

      BK, its more annoying when folks try to speak about on folks they do not know a thing about. Now if you said I made everything about Hitler, yeah I can say recently a bit. But Obama, not so much, the man caves to the us Republicans, embraces our bills, and gave us another place to fire weapons in Libya. I give it one more question, into his presidency ,and I think we might be heading back to Vietnam.

      May 24, 2011 at 2:39 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.