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. Michael

    "I don't have spiritual rule over anybody ... except my wife as the head of the household." Saying he rules over his wife shows what kind of guy he is.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • D

      Saying he follows the bible shows what kind of guy he is. The hierarchy stuff just shows he's true to his beliefs.

      May 24, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • kevin

      You obviously are very ignorant. The Bible gives the guidance that the man is the head of the household and that women are to be submissive to the man in said household. Of course this is under conditions that dont threaten her well being. This is standard in many belief systems and while it can be easily abused, there is nothing morally, ethically, or religiously wrong with this line of thinking as she reserves the right to leave or not subscribe and so do you. So I advise you not to criticize what you know nothing about.

      May 24, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • Dennis

      Actually, we know a lot about it, and we'll continue to criticize backwards, irrational fairy tales that adults should long ago have left behind.

      Shame on you for defending, and presumably falling for this stuff yourself!

      May 24, 2011 at 11:59 am |
  2. fred flinstone

    I shall win the lottery on December 7th, 2011. All Hail me. Everyone report on that.

    Why does this guy even get the publicity?

    May 24, 2011 at 11:35 am |
  3. kayaker247

    I'm kind of hoping this guy, and his nutty followers, "rapture" themselves off a bridge before some actual innocent people get hurt.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:35 am |
  4. Damion Houston


    May 24, 2011 at 11:35 am |
  5. enough already

    I wish people would stop entertaining this fool. No one knows when the rapture will happen, only God Himself

    May 24, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • Dennis

      And you're somehow not a fool for believing all the same nonsense except for the predictions?!

      May 24, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
  6. Roedy Green

    The good side of this is it will engender a bit more skepticism about the absolute truth of the bible and of various interpretations of it.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:35 am |
  7. Corbijn

    This church was given $80 million in donations between '95 and '09? He admits that he isn't responsible for anything he preaches? Am I missing something here? This is a verified and proven snake oil salesman but not only does he keep plugging away, people keep supporting him? I should have been a preacher!

    May 24, 2011 at 11:35 am |
  8. Dean

    well I hope he has a lot of money because I'm going to sue his ass for the emotional stress that my 13 year old went through until 6pm Saturday. Children should not have to go through this all of the time.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:34 am |
    • Nick

      Amen to that, Dean. This troll Camping needs to be squashed. I don't recall the bible stating, "I will terrify your little children."

      May 24, 2011 at 11:37 am |
    • Corbijn

      Here is an easy solution: tell your kids that it's a fairytale just like Santa. If you tell kids there is a hell is a real place where people burn and suffer for eternity you only succeed in terrorizing and traumatizing your kids.

      May 24, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • Dennis

      Interesting. I have a 13-year old daughter, and she and I had a good laugh over all this.

      But then, I've raised her to question things and be skeptical of stories about magical beings watching over us.

      May 24, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
  9. wyciwyg

    Harold Camping please do us a favor: SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP! your false prophesies traumatized so many people who liquidated their assets on the strength of your sillines. Children were needlessly frghtened at the idea they might be left behind because of some childish misbehavior.
    Camping, U R an idiot !!

    May 24, 2011 at 11:34 am |
    • Corbijn

      Its not his fault people are gullible to believe him. I'd say he's doing quite well in fact. If people are dumb enough to follow him, they get what they deserve.

      May 24, 2011 at 11:36 am |
  10. Roedy Green

    This con man has already made tens of millions from his scam. Put him in jail so he can't do it a third time as he has announced he is going to do.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:33 am |
    • 900-foot-tall Jesus

      What he's doing is not illegal in this country, and he doesn't even have to pay taxes! He's a smart man who makes his money by grinding up little people and eating them.

      May 24, 2011 at 11:37 am |
  11. kayaker247

    Please stop giving this LUNATIC attention!

    May 24, 2011 at 11:33 am |
  12. Scott

    Isn't their a home or facility we can put this wackjob in ...... He is showing signs of severe demensia

    May 24, 2011 at 11:33 am |
  13. Victor


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


      Oh, and please stop abusing caps-lock.

      May 24, 2011 at 11:34 am |
    • Victoria

      I'm really Victor in drag. Woo-hoo!

      May 24, 2011 at 11:38 am |
  14. Damion Houston


    May 24, 2011 at 11:32 am |
  15. swampman61

    The scary part is there are people that buy this crap hook line and sinker or stinker people stop with the BS please it is crowd control nothing more nothing less

    May 24, 2011 at 11:32 am |
  16. steward of stuff

    So, let's say for the sake of argument that he is correct about Oct. 21st. Of course, second guessing G-d's intention for the next 5 months is risky. But if He is merciful, then it stands to reason that we've been given a tremendous blessing in knowing we have to get it together spiritually. The second coming might very well carry with it a second chance to refine our temperments and come into allignment with a higher way of conducting ourselves. There are worse ways of spending the next 5 months.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:32 am |
  17. Allen

    Does this guy know how to plan parties or what?

    May 24, 2011 at 11:32 am |
  18. Marco

    I really truly hope that those followers who gave up their homes, life savings, etc per the article, are dead broke and in the gutter now. There's your god.

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

      They wont be in the gutter, maybe the unemployment line, but not the gutter.

      May 24, 2011 at 11:43 am |
  19. Russ

    Face Palm

    May 24, 2011 at 11:31 am |
  20. Jason

    Camping, hopefully your end is coming in 5 months. You are an embarassment to the church of Jesus Christ and a stumbling block. Revelation is clear that there is a 7 year tribulation and that no man knows the day or the hour, and not even the Son knows! ONLY God the Father. Now, how about you take the money you raised and help rebuild some of the lives you helped destroy!

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

      Too bad you're yet another nut case who is so brainwashed you can't see the truth yourself.

      Your kind will realize one day your man made god doesn't exist and that you're being deceived by the words of a book that was written by men and women. A book that has been changed so many times it bears little resemblance to the original writings.

      And no, the bible isn't the word of a god, but words of humans. Get used to it. The truth will set you free.

      May 24, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • Kelly

      Good Point!!

      May 24, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • IslandBum

      Read Plato's Myth of the Cave. It explains how humans are and how the bible affects them

      May 24, 2011 at 11:45 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.