The End, again? If it is, we thank you for your time
This time around, there are no RVs or signs carrying the "awesome news" of the end of the world.
October 21st, 2011
06:00 AM ET

The End, again? If it is, we thank you for your time

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

(CNN) - In case you are reading this, might we suggest you read really fast?

The world may end any minute now, if the latest doomsday prediction is on target.

We realize October 21 didn’t get the shout-out that May 21 did, so our apologies if this comes as a surprise. But if you had heard the complete message the first time, you would have known.

“The warning is out,” Dennis Morrell, 44, of Jacksonville, Florida, reminded us a couple of days ago. “There’s nothing else you can do.”

Earlier this year, and with the backing of the Christian broadcasting network Family Radio, billboards touting May 21 as Judgment Day dotted the landscape. RVs plastered with the fateful date crisscrossed the country as believers wearing T-shirt announcements and waving fliers sounded the alarm.

That was to be the day when a select 2% to 3% of the world’s population, predetermined by God, would be raptured up to heaven. Everyone else, the story went, would endure months-long judgment amid chaos, destruction and unspeakable suffering. A massive earthquake would ravage the land, bodies would be tossed about and terror would reign for the duration.

Five months or exactly 153 days later, it was said, the world would disappear – which brings us to today.

This was the schedule laid out by God’s word in the Bible, the faithful said. It was the plan deciphered and shared by Harold Camping, now 90, the founder of Family Radio, based in Oakland, California.

Camping, who has an engineering degree, had spent more than 50 years combing through his Bible and crunching numbers embedded in scripture. Sure, he’d made a similar end-of-the-world prediction for September 6, 1994, but who hasn’t been tripped up by biblical verses? With additional studying, calculations and new signs that would be revealed later, he said earlier this year that he had no doubts this time around.

“I know it’s absolutely true, because the Bible is always absolutely true,” he told CNN before May 21. “If I were not faithful that would mean that I’m a hypocrite.”

Problem is, May 21 came and went, and the world remained the same. Soon the billboards disappeared. The T-shirts and hats worn by believers got tossed. The RVs were quietly parked, tucked away in storage yards, possibly sold.

Camping came forth, two days later, with an explanation - and his last news conference. October 21 would still be the end, he said, but a “loving and merciful” God had opted to spare humanity the five months of turmoil.

A couple of weeks later, Camping had a stroke. He is said to be recuperating at home after a hospital and rehab stay and has only made a handful of radio addresses in the months since. Family Radio declined our requests to interview him.

Fred Store, a 66-year-old retired electrician and longtime Family Radio listener, dedicated seven months of his life to sharing the “awesome news” that was the May 21 message. He led a caravan of believers, five RVs strong, on a tour of the United States for Family Radio. He was in Boston in May when he expected to be raptured up to heaven.

When nothing happened, “We were caught by surprise. ... But we realize now that it’s very possible that we misunderstood some of the things we thought were true,” Store said this week from his home in Sacramento, California, where he has put up a number of caravan friends.

“I believe that October 21 is the end, and I trust in God. Whatever way he chooses to end things will be perfect.”

On the Family Radio website, the May 21 events, or nonevents, have been clarified.

“What really happened is that God accomplished exactly what he wanted to happen. That was to warn the whole world that on May 21 God’s salvation program would be finished. ... For the next five months, except for the elect (the true believers), the whole world is under God’s final judgment,” the statement reads.

As for that massive, body-flinging earthquake anticipated by believers, well, it turned out to be less literal.

“We always look at the word ‘earthquake’ to mean the earth, or ground, is quaking or shaking violently. However, in the Bible the word ‘earth’ can include people as well as ground. ... Therefore we have learned from our experience of last May 21 what actually happened. All of mankind was shaken with fear. Indeed the Earth (or mankind) did quake in a way it had never before been shaken.”

No one was raptured on May 21, but that’s just because “universal judgment” will come on the last day. “The elect” or “true believers” are still guaranteed their day of rapture, and everyone else will be “annihilated together with the whole physical world.”

For Paul Anatiychuk, 36, of Charlotte, North Carolina, the way this played out has been a relief, a blessing. A husband and father of two children, ages 8 and 9, he wasn’t sure if his own family members would be saved. The thought of leaving them behind on May 21, to suffer what would come over the next five months, troubled him.

“God tortures them while we’re hanging in the clouds?” he said this week. “It didn’t completely fit.”

Now, Anatiychuk said, he can take solace knowing that when he’s saved, sinners will simply die.

“Of course (the world) has to be destroyed and burned up by fire,” he said. “But it’s going to be very quiet.”

Finding a way to save faith, and face, is part of the process when a prophecy fails, said Lorenzo DiTommaso, an associate professor of religion at Concordia University in Montreal, who has been studying apocalyptic worldviews for a dozen years.

He said those who become disillusioned aren’t quick to talk, and the rest find a new way to spin what has transpired.

When nothing happened on May 21, Camping was left with a choice, said DiTommaso, whose book, “The Architecture of Apocalypticism,” is scheduled for publication next spring.

Camping could have admitted he was wrong. He could have said the calculations were off and needed further analysis. Or he could have spiritualized the apocalypse, which is exactly what he did, DiTommaso said.

That tack, that way of looking at the apocalypse, has a long history, he said, and dates back to early Christian theologians. Tyconius, in the late fourth century, took this approach, as - more notably - did Augustine in the early fifth century.

Augustine “preferred to understand the millennium predicted in the Revelation of John in spiritual and metaphoric rather than literal terms,” DiTommaso said. He “sought to diminish the emphasis on hard calculations.”

The obvious advantage of this sort of interpretation for a man like Camping, who has prided himself on his numbers, is that he can “divorce himself a little bit from the fact that he was so darn wrong.”

What Camping will say - if anything - come Saturday, assuming there is a Saturday, is anyone’s guess.

But DiTommaso said a new explanation, perhaps a new doomsday date, may be on the horizon. It would be just another in a long line of end-time predictions across the ages.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we see another attempt” by Camping, he said. “If he were an artist, this is his masterpiece, his life work.”

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Belief • End times

soundoff (2,353 Responses)
  1. conoclast

    One of the lessons we're being taught by the Occupiers is that Glitzy Busses Are Only For The Fools Riding In Them!

    October 21, 2011 at 11:12 am |
    • MarkinFL

      O K . . . . .

      October 21, 2011 at 11:14 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Like those kids in the Patridge Family and Mystery Inc. Cults...
      Microbuses are the Devil's transport!

      October 21, 2011 at 11:16 am |
  2. God

    Religious people give religion a bad name.

    October 21, 2011 at 11:12 am |
  3. Mick

    "And when the Anti-Christ rises and says YOU will worship him – what will you do then?"

    Same thing I do now...laugh at the ridiculous idea of invisible supernatural beings. What makes you think I would worhip an antichrist if I don't worship anyone now?

    October 21, 2011 at 11:12 am |
  4. Doomsdayer

    I sure hope he gets it right this time.

    October 21, 2011 at 11:11 am |
  5. K-Man

    I like how these die-hard Christians keep guessing when the end of the world is. If they were all that dedicated to their religion then maybe they would have read the Bible, if they had read the Bible then maybe they'd have caught that significant little part about Judgement Day "for no man shall know when I return, no the day, the week, or the month"

    October 21, 2011 at 11:10 am |
  6. Nathan

    The funny thing is that a lot of Christians will call Camping crazy but he is really just par for the course. If you believe in miracles, immaculate conception, and resurrection who may as well toss some mathematically determined rapture in their as well. Once you toss your brain out the window anything becomes possible.

    October 21, 2011 at 11:09 am |
  7. Henry

    The sad part of his failed prediction is that he and other religious nutcases are still here. If we could just get rid of religion, the world would be a far, far better place.

    October 21, 2011 at 11:08 am |
    • Barney

      You are right, but man made religion. That's why there are so many kinds, and so many folks that make their own rules. Here's the deal, Jesus Christ came and died for us, to show us what true love is so that we could follow him and have a real relationship with God. Without Christ, that relationship falls short. Christ was God in man. Read his ministry and you cannot deny the truth. As for the nut-jobs, there are a lot of them out there. Think about it....let's say you were the Devil. What would you want to do? You would want to prevent us from knowing God at all costs. Discredit God as much as possible. And guess what? You do it through people who are weak and foolish. Even the Devil can quote the Bible. Remember that. Don't follow man, follow Christ and you will find peace, joy, and love and be forever changed for the better. Who wouldn't want that? Stop putting your stock in man, and worshipping mankind and all his foolish ways. We are all sinners, but those of us who want to grow in righteousness, happiness, joy, peace, and love can only do so when our focus is on God and Jesus Christ, not some pastor that gets in trouble for adultery, or a money-making televangelist, or a priest whose sins are awful. Look to God my friends. Research it just like you would before you buy a new house or car. That's ok to do you know. It's ok to say "I'm going to see what this Jesus dude is all about". It doesn't hurt God's feelings. He WANTS us to look into everything. But if you don't look into HIM, you have no right to discuss HIM.

      October 21, 2011 at 11:18 am |
  8. John

    Every time this guy makes a prediction then backs out of it I keep waiting for "Yeah, yeah, that's the ticket."

    October 21, 2011 at 11:08 am |
  9. Moron

    Yawn. More religious nutbags.

    October 21, 2011 at 11:08 am |
  10. Arkat

    Ah...more dipstickery from HC and his dolts for followers.


    October 21, 2011 at 11:06 am |
  11. Colin

    The extraordinary thing is that they will go on believing in their sky-fairies, totally nonplussed by the latest embarrassment to their Iron Age dogma. You can’t fix stupid.

    October 21, 2011 at 11:05 am |
  12. sulden

    Thought it ironic, that as soon as I start reading the posts, Brain Damage by Pink Floyd comes on the radio. Me thinks the Goddess has a sense of humor.

    October 21, 2011 at 11:05 am |
  13. Howard

    I neither believe nor disbelieve. If there is no "Supreme Being," then even if everyone worships him, it will not make him real. If there is a "Supreme Being," then my inability to believe in him will make the fact of his existence no less real. Finally, does anyone really think that a "Supreme Being" capable of creating everything we can see, and probably a lot we can't see, really gives a rat's patootie whether inconsequential humans worship him? Humanity is to the Universe less than a single grain of sand compared to that on all the beaches of the world. If there really is a "Supreme Being," he/she/it has got far bigger fish to fry.

    October 21, 2011 at 11:04 am |
  14. 13JB24

    the lesson he (Camping) needs to learn.... stop spending so much time looking at the numbers in the Bible and start paying attention to the actual message: Mark 13:32-37 -
    32 "But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
    33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come.
    34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake.
    35 Therefore stay awake-for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning-
    36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep.
    37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake."

    October 21, 2011 at 11:04 am |
    • steven harnack

      Why can't you see that the whole thing is a product of man's imagination, in no way different than the creation stories that our ancestors told while sitting around the fire 100,000 years ago. The differences and the similarities of all of the stories in all of the different cultures that have come and gone are ample proof.

      October 21, 2011 at 11:18 am |
  15. Coming Out

    I've got world series tickets. I'm betting I will get to use them.....

    October 21, 2011 at 11:03 am |
  16. Vulpes

    Yes!! More religious nonsense from zealots ... YES!!

    October 21, 2011 at 11:03 am |
  17. Chiangshih

    The Idea of the Apocalypse Has Never Been So Wrong


    October 21, 2011 at 11:03 am |
  18. Eric

    So it came & went.................... this guy is giving Christians / true believers a bad name.

    October 21, 2011 at 11:02 am |
    • Tom

      true believers? Whats the difference between "true believers" and them?

      October 21, 2011 at 11:04 am |
    • caw

      Christians give christians a bad name. In fact anyone who believes in fairy tales a mythical beings give the human race a bad name.

      October 21, 2011 at 11:21 am |
  19. Chris

    People who beleive this stuff are ridiculous. I'm embarrassed to call them a part of the same species that I am.

    October 21, 2011 at 11:01 am |
  20. TheGodMyth

    When nothing has changed by tomorrow these fools will still have 100% faith in their mythology. That's what faith is. Blind devotion despite the contradicting reality staring them right in the face.

    October 21, 2011 at 10:59 am |
    • Tom

      Cognative dissonance, my friend, cognative dissonance

      October 21, 2011 at 11:02 am |
    • conoclast

      Yep. And that's also what "insanity" is.

      October 21, 2011 at 11:15 am |
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About this blog

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.