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. stanton


    October 21, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • ialsoagree

      No, it's Christians believing in magical invisible sky daddys that give Christians a bad name.

      October 21, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
  2. theMightyThor

    OMG WAIT WAIT WAIT...I feel something....I think i am Being raptured........BURP..nope just gas, damn you coke Zero !! 😛

    October 21, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
  3. PraiseTheLard

    I have a bridge for sale in Brooklyn... if anyone's interested...

    October 21, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • Lycidas

      With or without spoiled liberal protesters? Oh..that's wall street..nevermind.

      October 21, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
  4. The Woof

    Matthew 24:36, “Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father." Anybody else professing to know when the world will end is just talking to hear themselves talk.

    October 21, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
  5. ggargoyle

    Have you heard? It's in the stars, Next July we collide with Mars!
    Well, did you evah? What a swell party this is!
    (I believe in Cole Porter...)

    October 21, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
  6. JBoss

    “I know it’s absolutely true, because the Bible is always absolutely true" ROTFL Bahahahahahaha

    October 21, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • Lacking Evidence since 14 Billion BCE

      Yeah, i couldn't say that with a straight face either. 🙂

      October 21, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
  7. Smolly Smith

    The Book the Bible is the Word of God. Jesus is real and this generation and Revelation is still happening. I Believe in Jesus the only One who matters. It is a relationship. Knowing Him is what it is all about. Knowing that He died for Me to be saved. He is always there and Nothing can separate this relationship. Whatever and whenever the end of this world comes. God will be there with me through it all. All things work together for good in God's Kingdom. Jesus Loves Me this I know for the Bible tells me so. I pray for our Nation and all who truly know what the Bible is all about. God Loves US !!

    October 21, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • Lacking Evidence since 14 Billion BCE

      and you think the bible is true because.....?

      October 21, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • Get Real

      A 'relationship' entails the participation of at least two parties. There is no-one there, Smolly. You are talking to yourself.

      October 21, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
    • ThinkForYourself

      If the bible is the word of god, you'd think he could have been a tad bit more clear in his message. And maybe contradi.cted himself a bit less.

      October 21, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • Logic Fail

      “I Believe in Jesus the only One who matters”

      Let me guess, you are ugly and overweight aren’t you?

      October 21, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
  8. D

    Why do people still believe this Bronze Age mythology nonsense?

    October 21, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • Nah

      d: "Why do people still believe this Bronze Age mythology nonsense?"

      It's from the "bronze age" and it's "mythology" therefore it's "wrong".

      That's not circular at all.

      Whether a god exists or not is not dependent on whether or not a belief in a god came up in primitive society, anymore than the validity of geometry is dependent on it coming up in the same.

      October 21, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • Lycidas

      Thank you Nah. Seems like a bunch of idiots think that just because something comes from the past (and they usually get the Age wrong too) it must therefor be incorrect.
      Under that thinking, as the centuries roll by....the current population of the 21st century will just keep getting dumber and dumber. Ppl like "D" must have got a head start.

      October 21, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
    • Logic Fail

      In the Bronze Age they believed the Earth was flat and illness was caused by demons invading your body or a punishment from some compassionate sky father. In short their beliefs were born of ignorance. Yet you think they got this one SMALL aspect right? …sigh.

      October 21, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
  9. Tony S.

    This entire story intrigues me — not just as a resident of Earth, but as a data analyst. Separated from their original context, Camping's facts and figures are meaningless. It's the ultimate fear-inducing word jumble. In fact, let's see what we get when we jumble the letters of Camping's backer:

    F A M I L Y R A D I O = I M A O I L Y F R A _ D

    Maybe their slogan should be: Family Radio, where the only thing missing is U. Because, you see: This is just a slick little fraud, nothing more. The real sin is the time and effort — including my own — that's been given to addressing Camping's deeply flawed, "look-at-me" antics. The phrases, dates, and percentages underpinning these apocalyptic claims are Biblically-inspired cryptography for which Camping is constantly re-writing the key.

    October 21, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • Weekend hurrayyyyy

      How on earth did you come up with that one, genius? 😮

      October 21, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
  10. Barking Alien

    The end is near....for these religious nutcases. They need to find something useful to do with their time because before you know it it will be your end time as it is for everyone.

    October 21, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
  11. teepee

    Missed it again huh Harold?

    October 21, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
  12. BVN

    How many more times can these doomsday people expolit vulnerable sheep into giving them money, and not delivering said doomsday? The rest of the moral world calls this type of exploitation FRAUD. Granted I'd have no problems what so ever if each of these false prophets sign a contract to return every penny to the exploited when their fakery is exposed, but we have no such moral protections. I wonder if this liar even knows he's destined for the lake of fire?

    October 21, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Not any more of a fraud than any other religious organization's past and present practices...

      October 21, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
  13. zoundsman

    Negative, negative, negative. Think of the bright side: A deceased human race my one day be fossil fuel for a new
    developing earth inhabitant, millions of years from now ... glad to give back.

    October 21, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • ggargoyle

      Yup, and they'll have evolved from insects this time!

      October 21, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
  14. mort

    Paul Anatiychuk, 36, of Charlotte, North Carolina – I live in Charlotte too. Since you're on your way out, can I get any cash you have in the bank? Just get it from the bank and I'll come meet you someplace to pick it up. Maybe a McDonalds parking lot. Or maybe a Harris Teeter – they're all over the place. And while we're at it, you probably don't need any of that gold jewelry you've got laying around...

    October 21, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
  15. Chris

    zombies everywhere!

    October 21, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
  16. Gary Busey

    OMG what-EVER!! Same crap, different day. Blah blah blah.

    October 21, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
  17. joe

    My question is who wrote this article? Are there no editors at cnn anymore?

    October 21, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
  18. Lacking Evidence since 14 Billion BCE

    there's probably no gods, jesus probably didn't exist, there won't be a biblical end of the world, when you die you go to the same place you were before you born, no where. Let's enjoy and live this life as it's the only one we know we're going to have. I makes me sad that people waste this life trying to get to the next that doesn't exist.

    October 21, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
    • Logic

      amen brother

      October 21, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • Nah

      lacking: "Let's enjoy and live this life as it's the only one we know we're going to have. I makes me sad that people waste this life trying to get to the next that doesn't exist."

      And if there is no god and no afterlife, then you ought to live "this" life as it pleases you. So why are you worried that some people are "trying" to get to an afterlife, when it quite obviously makes them happy and brings them peace?

      'lacking evidence since 14 billion bce'

      That's a pretty categorical and arrogant statement, isn't it?

      October 21, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • Jared Wainwright

      um... its historically proven that Jesus actually existed. Idiot.

      October 21, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • Get Real

      Jared Wainwright
      "um... its historically proven that Jesus actually existed."

      Not so much...

      October 21, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • secondhalf

      Jesus didn't exist? Then you are at odds with almost every secular and religious scholar.

      October 21, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • Nah

      getreal: ""um... its historically proven that Jesus actually existed." ... Not so much..."

      Nah. He did. And yet his actual historical existence has no bearing on whether or not he was "divine".

      I'm sorry you're too logically illiterate and dogmatic to understand that.

      October 21, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • Shadowflash1522

      If by Jesus you mean Josh Carpenter, the hippie boy from Nazareth who got in over his head with the Romans then yes, there is historical evidence that *that* man existed.

      Superhero Jesus who can walk on water, cure blind guys with mud masks, make free booze for everyone from water, and raise the dead? Not a shred.

      October 21, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  19. Paul

    I can understand why this guy keeps getting his dates wrong. The Bible, as it stands today, is missing about 1/3 of the Gospels the Catholic Church a long time ago determined were "blasphemous".

    I believe in God, and I think when He decides to wrap things up it will be a complete shock to everyone.

    October 21, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
    • Lacking Evidence since 14 Billion BCE

      a 1/3rd is the understatement of the year. there are some 500 books left out since they're all fiction anyways I guess it really doesn't matter which ones were kept as "official".

      October 21, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • mort

      Paul, he's coming...go wait outside.

      October 21, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • Yeah right..

      I wouldn't look to the Catholics for answers... they are all considered still "lost". A lot of people who are Catholic who become Christian (and there is a difference) realize the error of their ways.

      October 21, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
  20. Maria

    This guy should be a politician just LIES LIES!!! all of them ! he should pay back the money this morons give to him !

    October 21, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
    • Lokari

      "Lies" implies malice, or at least intent to deceive. I think it's far more reasonable to attribute this case to plain old rampant, overwhelming, unmitigated stupidity.

      October 21, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
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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.