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. Smokey Waterrz

    II always liked Camping. But the mosquitoes are terrible this time of year.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:26 am |
  2. Bruce

    You know, Jesus was different from Camping in that he actually predicted something that came true. He predicted that all of the bad things and the good things (war, him coming back) would happen before his generation had passed. Within the next 40 years all of those things did come to pass. The Romans sacked Jerusalem. Jesus came back from the dead.

    Of course, this assumes (1) that the account of these prophecies is accurate and unaffected by the fact that the gospel was written after the facts of history actually took place, and (2) that Jesus actually rose from the dead.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:26 am |
  3. Lando

    He needs to go to jail for influencing these poor week minded people. If someone can go to jail for saying aliens are coming on the radio and acting it out. Than why does this gentleman get a Pass. What he is doing is worse than saying your a loser to a kid his whole life. Grown folks need to act grown and dont control my life through your prvate agenda. He is supposed to help Inspire peopl not bring them dow. Plus when he says 2 or 3 percent. that actually is a group of people who are called 5 percenters there not Chirstian.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:25 am |
    • Sam

      couldn't agree more...

      May 24, 2011 at 11:26 am |

    That is when he is going to die

    May 24, 2011 at 11:25 am |
  5. Whatevs

    I'm in the wrong business. $80 million? Now, to conjure up something feeding off the fears of idiots....

    May 24, 2011 at 11:25 am |
  6. Jim

    Wait, I must have misplaced a decimal! Actually, the end might very well be near, as the Rapture prophecy calls for the appearance of the False Prophet, and it seems like this guy is it.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:24 am |
  7. Litmus Boogliner

    The Rapture actually DID happen on Sat, God just didn't take any of these idiots.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:24 am |
  8. Ziltoid

    Oh Come on!!!!! Give it up already...moron!

    May 24, 2011 at 11:24 am |
  9. Lilydaisy

    Just because this character is a "preacher" doesn't mean he has any credibility on the subject. But, frankly, I blame the news media that perpetuates this kind of nonsense. I think the "preacher" borders on real abuse to be able to get this sick and erroneous message out through our non-descriminating media whenever he gets an itch! Shame on him, but shame on the media too for invading the lives of normal people with false prophesies from an obvious nut-case.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:24 am |
    • Jake

      Contrary to popular belief, the media,by and large, reports on what the public perceives as interesting, not vice-versa. There is some agenda-setting out there, sure, but the fact of the matter is that CNN and all other news outlets would have stopped reporting about this issue had they realized that the page views and activity on comment boards was dull. It most certainly was not – thus setting the stage for even more coverage. Fact of the matter is, this stuff sells.

      May 24, 2011 at 11:32 am |
    • Jake

      Contrary to popular belief, the media,by and large, reports on what the public perceives as interesting, not vice-versa. There is some agenda-setting out there, sure, but the fact of the matter is that CNN and all other news outlets would have stopped reporting about this issue had they realized that the page views and activity on comment boards was dull. It most certainly was not – thus setting the stage for even more coverage. Fact of the matter is – this stuff sells.

      May 24, 2011 at 11:33 am |
  10. Me

    I agree with him only in that he does not bear any blame for his followers' predicaments. They deserve to suffer the consequences for their actions, for they have the right in this country to be blind fools.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:23 am |
  11. Richard Cheese

    Yes! Fleece them for another five months, THEN run with the money. What a dope, and anyone who believes him.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:23 am |
  12. Roman

    This is always the problem with long division. Carry the two, drop the zero, borrow a one……

    RULE: 284
    When calculating the end of the world, check your math.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • Honestly!

      LOL Roman!

      Actually...when calculating the end of the world...check your Bible!

      May 24, 2011 at 11:28 am |
    • Judy

      GREAT comment!! I just took a math class and wasn't allowed to use a calculator. All I heard all semester was "check your math". Your soo right!!

      May 24, 2011 at 11:40 am |
  13. I vote for Trump (2012)

    The only reason this is such a huge deal is because everybody is making it such a big deal. If you all just grow up and forget about it and find something better to do with your life we will be able to focus on what's actually wrong with our country. The liberal media always tries to play up the lamest stories to take our mind off actual issues, and the sad thing is that often times it works. If there was as many people supporting changing our ever declining economy as there were wasting there time commenting on this story, it would be one bigger step forward than Obama could ever hope to accomplish.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • Me

      Reread your first sentence. Maybe you did not mean to contradict yourself?

      May 24, 2011 at 11:26 am |
    • Whatevs

      Then go to FoxNews's website where they're bashing a rapper in ridiculously non-fact based ways....

      May 24, 2011 at 11:28 am |
    • Kelly

      I'm sorry, the "liberal media" is tryin to play this up? Didn't this whacko's group put up signs about the end of the world happening on May 21? Somebody did–I passed one on my way home for a month. I love the way you rightwingers try to blame the "liberal media" when one of your own fruitcakes publicly screws up. Amazing.

      May 24, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • Ken

      Ironically, you have just commented with one of the longer comments of them all 🙂 Pot and kettle...

      May 24, 2011 at 11:32 am |
    • reallydude

      maybe you should take your own advice.. aren't you wasting just as much time. You read the article.. then read the comments.. then commented yourself.. don't hold yourself above when your no better

      May 24, 2011 at 11:33 am |
    • I vote for Trump (2012)

      @me- you're right, i did contradict myself. I meant that the media realizes they can waste their time with this story and take our minds of the real issues.

      @whatevs- I generally don't spend my time watching the news, or reading it, but I was looking at the massive tornado that just happened.

      @kelly- maybe you should get your facts straight. Camping was a liberal, not all Christians are conservative. So he is DEFINITELY not "my people'.

      @ken- It probably took you just as long to think of a comeback to my post, as it took me to actually write my post.

      @reallydude- same to you. and yes I did take my time to write something, big fuc*ing deal.

      May 24, 2011 at 11:43 am |
    • Ken

      @ I vote for Trump (2012)
      Actually it took me about 3 second to think of that comeback since you made your contradictions so obvious. Now, you're spending more time defending your idiocy. Take your own advice: find something better to do with your life.

      May 24, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
    • Ed

      HaHaHa HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa
      I laughed so hard I spit up a little...

      May 24, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
  14. Bible Scholar 2

    How about this guy putting his money where his mouth is? Put his financial/broadcasting empire into an irrevocable trust, which writes him out of the picture, and benefits charity on the new date. I suspect he maintains his own investment holdings .

    May 24, 2011 at 11:23 am |
  15. ThePreacher2

    Ah OK, good thing, for a minute there I though Campbell was just full of horse-doodoo...

    May 24, 2011 at 11:22 am |
  16. Bruce

    Camping hires a lot of people. Since he seems to be unphased by this, it is likely that they will stay employed for at least another 5 months. Maybe he'll hire more people because he doesn't need all that money for signs and leaflets and RV's and such any more.

    Copy this model and franchise it, and it will solve our unemployment problem!

    May 24, 2011 at 11:22 am |
    • Sean

      unfased. Not unphased.

      May 24, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • Sean

      Stupid typo. Unfazed.

      May 24, 2011 at 11:28 am |
  17. cassxdy

    I hope someone's convinced Family Radio followers that voting in elections is sinful/demonic. There are some big issues coming up next year, and I would rather they opt out of participatory democracy. ...Okay, maybe "American Idol" and "Dancing With the Stars," but that's it.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:22 am |
  18. Don

    Senility takes many forms

    May 24, 2011 at 11:22 am |
  19. Roscoe Chait

    He set a new date for the end of the world not because of a mathematical miscalculation, but because he still has thousands of tee-shirts to sell that say: "The End of the World is Coming," "Embrace the End," "You Poor Suckers Who Ain't Christian," and "The Horror, the horror..." (quote from Apocalypse Now)

    May 24, 2011 at 11:22 am |
  20. amy

    And let me guess-Camping paid no taxes on that stolen 80 million, because it is a "religion". What a crock.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:21 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.