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. Shane

    He should be put in jail, and every dime of the millions he's bilked off his ignorant followers should be given away to deserving charities.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:35 am |
  2. Annie Pants

    I cannot believe people are SO stupid as to listen and believe the rantings from a senile old man with $72 million in his back pocket. This so-called 'Family Church' should be torn down brick by brick – then again, I feel the same way about the Catholic church. Organized religion is evil to the core and should be abolished.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:35 am |
  3. john

    andrew is a ch0de sucker

    May 24, 2011 at 10:35 am |
  4. Jamesgang

    Someone please forward this to Mr. Camping...

    Matthew 24:36

    “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father..."

    May 24, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • rich

      Yes a myth to disprove a myth.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • Stevie7

      Someone please forward this to all Christians: Matthew 24:34 Mark 13:30 and Luke 21:32? That seems pretty clear. Maybe Jesus needs to redefine his own predictions.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:40 am |
    • Bruce

      Jamesgang: Do you really think that Camping never saw these verses, never addressed them in any of his writings?

      May 24, 2011 at 10:42 am |
  5. Brian

    October 21st is a Friday, and no one, NO ONE, works that hard on a Friday. Furthemore, if God is a football fan (he is, says it in the Bible..in one of the Appendices) and the NFL lockout is resolved, there's no way He would destroy the Earth in the middle of the season (unless He's a Redskins fan and they have eliminated themselves from the playoffs already)! So lets revise this and say..the third Tuesday in February of 2012. That work for everyone?

    May 24, 2011 at 10:35 am |
  6. Non-believer

    This guy is not stupid, he is smart. He has gotten away with raising millions of dollars from stupid people that believe in this nonsense. The people are the stupid ones for believing all this c r a p. The sad thing about it is that even after several false predictions the people STILL believe him! .

    May 24, 2011 at 10:35 am |
  7. Amy

    ooops, he did it again. The question is who's the bigger fool? The fool, or the fool who follows the fool?

    May 24, 2011 at 10:34 am |
    • Help Him

      Ah Amy, shad-dup already! You know you're just itching to reach deeply into your purse and write him the biggest check ya can and then run to the bank and withdraw your life's savings to send to him aren't you!

      May 24, 2011 at 10:55 am |
  8. Bernie

    Good thing I didn't quit sniffing glue

    May 24, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  9. Gary

    This Harold Camping character is a false prophet and absolute phony.

    "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is" (Mark 13:32-33).

    Read the Bible people and the words of wisdom and truth is directly from the Lord, Jesus Christ and not from some phony who said this specific date.....

    May 24, 2011 at 10:34 am |
    • Bruce

      @Gary: Why is it that, in spite of the exaggerated example of Camping and how this "read the bible for yourself and see what I'm saying is true" technique failed both him and his followers, many Christians still insist that the answer to everything is precisely this technique?

      May 24, 2011 at 10:41 am |
    • John Richardson

      This verse that you all keep quoting to refute Camping also debunks the notion of the trinity from within christian scripture. But christians are experts at ignoring what they want to ignore, which explains the belief in the trinity AND Camping in one fell swoop. Occam;s razor strikes again!

      May 24, 2011 at 10:43 am |
  10. midogs2

    If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  11. Liz

    Stop! Please!

    May 24, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  12. Really?

    You know what, I know what these doomsdayers need: a more accurate end of the world date. So here it is:
    The world will end on August 16th at noon, in the year 1,341,043,000 AD. Actually funny thing is it still may actually be there :).

    The planet itself will be destroyed in about 3-4 billion years depending on if we get swallowed into a supermassive black hole when 2 galaxies collide or if we get incinerated by the SUN when it cools and expands to a Red Giant. Save the date: 4,00,000,000 AD, end of the world.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  13. areukiddingme

    this article says he is a preacher but he is not. he is an engineer by trade, a true preacher/pastor wouldnt say things like this. there might not be many common threads in any domination, but one thread is clear throughout all organizations, no man know the day.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  14. markus

    If you fail at first, try, try again.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  15. skykink

    From the looks of him, I think he'll croak before Oct. 21.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:33 am |
  16. Mark

    The only thing that Harold Camping stated that is correct is: "But he maintains that the end of the world is still coming." The world will end one day but no one can predict that. NO ONE.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • Bruce

      At most there are 366 days in the year. There are 24 hours in a day. I can guess both the day and the hour completely at random and have a 1 in 8,784 chance of being correct. If I happen to guess correctly, it doesn't mean I know the day and the hour.

      What Camping did with his 5x5x10x10x17x17 = 722,500 is the theological equivalent of guessing at random. If the world did end last Saturday then the scripture that says no man knows the day or the hour would still be true, because Camping didn't "know" anything. Nor does he now know.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:40 am |
  17. Gustavo

    Why do you still call it a "preacher". He is a con man, making millions in donations from not-so-educated people. He should go to jail.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • Stealthrt

      So true.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • Nemesis66

      I wish God would do everyone a favor and just rapture this idiot and his wife. I would be happpy with that.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:41 am |
    • LinCA

      How is he different from any of the thousands of preachers that do that every week? Millions of people get fleeced every week when the collection plate is passed around, yet they willingly go back for more the next week.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:42 am |
  18. Andrew

    Wait a sec....

    This just came to me. If the good book states that no Man will know what day the rapture will happen, what happens if someone thinks the rapture will be tomrrow and always tomorrow....that would mean the rapture would never come.....interesting....

    May 24, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • Paolo

      If someone thinks it's always "tomorrow," clearly they have no idea when it actually is...

      May 24, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • DavidR

      The Bible says no one will *know* when the end will come. But we can still guess. I could say that I think the world will end in 3276. And I could have scriptural reasons for saying that. But I cannot say that it is a fact...I can't claim to *know* that it will happen then. All I can do is theorize. This is where some people go astray...they try to figure it out, and when they think they have, the claim that they can't be wrong. That conflicts with scripture. We cannot know the date. It also denies our own humanity. If we say we can't be wrong, we are saying that we are perfect. Camping needs to take a serious look at what he is teaching.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:45 am |
  19. Jim

    Beware of FALSE PROPHETS!!!!!!!!

    May 24, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • rich

      False prophets = redundant

      May 24, 2011 at 10:38 am |
    • Greg Smith

      How about just "Beware of prophets."?

      May 24, 2011 at 10:38 am |
    • John Richardson

      @Greg Smith and Rich: You got THAT right!!!

      May 24, 2011 at 10:45 am |
  20. Bruce

    Seriously, people... Why is it that, in spite of the exaggerated example of Camping and how this "read the bible for yourself and see what I'm saying is true" technique failed both him and his followers, many Christians still insist that the answer to everything is precisely this technique?

    May 24, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • Smoore

      Because the Bible says no one can know when the end will come; it will come as a thief in the night; and so on. Camping ignored those and other similar sayings and pulled a few verses WAY out of context to pinpoint a date. He tried using the date of Noah's flood (which cannot be dated to a precise year anyway) and extrapolated off that. Obviously, since he misinterpreted Scripture, his misinterpretation didn't pan out.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:46 am |
    • DavidR

      I don't think his followers really are reading it for themselves. Or, if they are, they are reading verses in isolation, and ignoring context.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:47 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.