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.”
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.
Oh it's this doomsday thing again? But...it's Friday, can't this wait until after the weekend? I mean, I have a full weekend of drinking, drugs, passionate hedonistic lovemaking with my girl, surfing, skydiving (if the weather clears up), maybe adopting a couple of kittens, and sushi ahead of me. I mean, I've been thoroughly planning this out, so can the Apocalypse hold off until Monday? I don't think that is too much to ask. No one really likes Mondays. And you're going to deny me my Sunday's worth of NFL? Come on. Give me a couple of days of wild youthful abandon before I am condemn to the fire that awaits me. I mean, I think seeing fire rain from the sky will be cool and all. And the four horseman (dingos in Australia) will be neat. And perhaps I will take up a sword and die in combat, finally attaining Valhalla, that I might sit with my warrior ancestors in the halls of Odin. So come on Apocalypse, hold of for forty eight hours. I will buy you seven topping pizza!
Ok, Maximus, for you, I will wait til Monday....but no longer!
How many of you believe that I exist?
How many of you worship me despite the fact that I haven't disproven God?
BLAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH....*SNARL*.....Death by Stay Puff Marshmellow Man!!!! HAAHAHAHHAAHAHAHAH
I find it very sad that there are people here in America so uneducated and ignorant enough to believe in something so ridiculous...
Wait. Are we talking about Obama voters who thought CHANGE would actually happen, or this Christian-end-of-days nonsense?
The Guy had an Engineering Degree. He must not be uneducated......maybe foolish is the right word.
Fox should carry his radio station to complete the circle of broadcast loons.
I was scooped up and taken away .. Heaven is beautiful ... I just came back to let you folks who didn't make it > you all are actually dead and don't know it yet .....
Darnit, I had my bags packed and everything....
We don't know what will happen 2 mins from the present, how on heck does this lot purport to know when the end of the world is upon us? Amusing entertainment, and that's all.
What I find funny about all of this is that so many Christians are saying "This guy is crazy and gives Christians a bad name!!" because he believes the end of the world is at hand and gave a date for the event. The only difference I see between other Christians and Camping is that he proclaimed the date of the event. Period. Thats it. He put a date on what ALL CHRISTIANS believe will happen someday. Are you wrong that he is crazy? No. Does he give Christians a bad name? Only if you as a Christian fear being found out as the crazies you really are.
Not all Christians believe the hyperbole and parables in the End of Days mythos. Us free thinking Christians choose a relationship with God built upon faith, hope, and love, not scary stories formed in an apostolic dream.
Science says the same thing but you believe that. Maybe if you didn't take things so literally you'd see things differently. Super Nova...Global Warming...Comet Strike. Guess what, one day YOU will die. Argue that.
I don't believe in Harold Camping's date setting. And yes, it does get generalized to ALL Christians because more people hear about this nonsense rather than miracles happening in other countries and small parts of the US. Now can you tell me why Christians are crazy? I fail to see any reason why you would come to that conclusion.
@Mark R if you don't really believe in what the "stories" say are true then why don't you call yourself what you really are...a deist, if you don't know what that is look it up it may suprise you.
"Science says the same thing but you believe that. Maybe if you didn't take things so literally you'd see things differently. Super Nova...Global Warming...Comet Strike. Guess what, one day YOU will die. Argue that." Sure thing.
First, no atheists are claiming that human's won't die, quite the opposite. Second, when science say's that the sun will burn out in about 4 billion years they are using data that has been gathered about our sun as well as many other star's to come up with their theory, not an ancient manuscript written by nomadic goat herders.
Does seem odd that your God would make star's that can live for billions of years but still eventually die but some humans think that their soul's are immortal and will exist for eternity. Silly wabbits.
I just rubbed one out for the last time. I didnt even clean it up. I am just going ot lay here and wait. Do I need to shower or doesnt it matter?
Congratulations! You have just condemned yourself to an eternity of torment and pain. have a nice day 🙂
The sun will burn out in about 4 billion years. Probably safe to set the end of the world then...
That is a bet I am willing to take.
For those Christians that are laughing at Harold Camping, saying that his claims are unsound and unhealthy, saying that he should not be allowed to influence those around him... For those Christians who I have actually heard say, "This guy is crazy", and mock the concept as something you can't believe people actually bought into ... Now you know how we, the nonbelievers, feel about you.
That's so nonsensical as to make me LOL. You are comparing a sick cultish belief, which has PROVEN to be false, with a ancient religion that is built upon sound, moral, and loving tenets, and faith. If you want to bash a Christian sect, go to Irmo South Carolina and find a Baptist Church...those people are sick...lol.
"a ancient religion that is built upon sound, moral, and loving tenets, and faith."
You haven't actually read the bible, have you? Or do you think owning slaves and stoning disobedient children is moral and loving?
Yeah, I've read the Bible chief, and it's full of parables and stories. Any Christian who cannot decipher the ultimate meanings in the old and new texts is called a fundamentalist. Not all of us Christians were born with robot brains doofus.
I agree completely.
@ Mike R
Show me the verse that says: Don’t take this literally but…
Fact is this modern trend to turn these ‘stories’ from actual event to simple moral tales is just a desperate attempt at keeping this nonsense alive.
"Yeah, I've read the Bible chief, and it's full of parables and stories. Any Christian who cannot decipher the ultimate meanings in the old and new texts is called a fundamentalist. Not all of us Christians were born with robot brains doofus."
So you cherry pick to ignore the parts that you don't like. Got it.
By the way – where's the parable in telling people to stone their disobedient children? How do you spin that one in your head to make you sleep better at night?
Why do you continue to report on this garbage? Is there not enough liberal ideology to spread around in a news cycle today?
I guess you didn't detect the facetiousness from the article, especially the first several sentences... 😉 I don't think they take any more seriously than the rest of us do.
This just in!! The people who believed in Leprechauns are upset that the rest of the world that has yet to acknowledge their favorite tiny magical creatures!! What will they do? Will the pot's of gold they are claiming the Leprechauns have promised them ever materialize? Will the non-believers ever even consider the feelings and emotional states of the believers and accept that belief is just another valid world view we need to embrace and not attack?
Now however, many believers are attacking one of their own!! Harold "Lucky Charms" Camping claims that his pot of gold is coming and even gave a date for the event, though he is unclear as to whether it will entail rainbows or not. Other believers say this is just crazy because no one can know the day or the hour that the Leprechaun King will give the command to pay out on all the promised pots of gold. Stay Tuned for more updates and a possible rainbow sighting, though most believers don't think this is the big one since it seem's to end in San Francisco's Casto district...
this guy is a complete idiot. ANYONE that follows him really needs to have their head examined. It's sad that time and effort have to be wasted on covering him.
As my mother would say, their brain is like oatmeal. I do not believe in the rapture but I believe in the particular judgement when I die and the general judgment when the world ends. I also do not believe in reincarnation, but for those of you who do, I intend to come back as a Queen Ant.
BTW-is this end of the world on October 21 just for us Americans? Because as I type this it's already tomorrow. So...what's going on on the other side of the world? Is it the end for them? Can someone just help me out here please?
Looks like Latisha got taken already.. It has started
Is today realy th
The END is near!
Send me your money because you can't take it with you but...if you do send it to me I'll have it waiting for you ON DEPOSIT when you get there.
How's that for a deal?
Didn't happen? It's Obama's fault.
Well, it sure's hell was the end for that Gaddafi goon, wasn't it?
LOL...Yes, somehow the Tea Party will blame this on the Democrats and the "Libtards" lol.....
Camping is an idiot
I disagree. He is drunk on power, and knows how to feed his need by spreading rubbish. The needy people that believe his rhetoric are the fools.
Let's just be thankful these strange people are not a bunch of confrontational m0r0ns like the Westboro bunch!
No man knows the day nor the hour. Harold Camping = False prophet.
The world won't end again, and hopefully people wake the heck up.
1. I predict the world will end tomorrow.
2. If endofworld="no" goto 1. If endofworld="yes" goto 3.
3. See? I told you.
Instead of that prediction, you could try to be holy like Jesus is holy. That way you won't have to worry about such things and when it is time for Jesus' return, you will meet Him instead of being turned away due to uncleanliness from sin.
The worst thing about this whole thing with Camping is that ALL Christians get the repercussions of it. While Camping has some followers, that doesn't mean that ALL Christians believe what he believes. The man just wants to see Jesus. He can see that wickedness is growing in the world. But date setting is not the answer. The answer is to seek Jesus while there is time left and have Him guide our paths. If people start setting dates, and they aren't from God directly, it is prone to fail and the devil just creates more and more division. People who are not Christian, realize that this is a small group who believes Camping and ALL Christians don't follow his teachings. If you are curious, read the Bible and you may just understand why there are many Christians that are upset with date setting. Thanks for understanding.
and yet Camping, Paul and Jesus all predicted the end of the world within their or their immediate audiences lifetimes.
Oh, I believe the world will end and a new one will be created. And that Jesus will return. My concern was more that because Camping is setting dates, it then causes others to generalize to all Christians when only a small percentage believe Camping.
Also, I'm not really sure how you get a FALSE out of what you said? Just because something hasn't happened to you yet doesn't mean it's not true.
Typical Christian selective comprehension.
That you want to believe a 1st century sci-fi/horror/fantasy story is your business... but to proclaim that it is truth is ridiculous.
Have you climbed the top of Mt Everest? For the sake of this argument let's say you haven't because it's not something most people do. People who have climbed it would tell you that it is hard. But how would you know since you haven't climbed it? Until that day when you climb it, that will be the day you realize that it was hard.
No-one has verified proof that they have "seen Jesus" - NO-ONE!
And you have proof that Jesus doesn't exist? If what Jesus said in the Bible is truth, then we would see people in this world today performing miracles like He did. If you look for it, you will find that is true, which then validifies that He existed. Don't tell me that they are all fake miracles and tricks until you have experienced it for yourself.
What do you have to say about a people who have been dead for hours, even days. They even have a death certificate made and signed by doctors and they end up waking up saying that they've seen Jesus and been to hell or heaven. There have been many instances of that occuring as well. Just because it hasn't happened to you up to now doesn't mean it isn't true.