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.
religion is stupid. Anyone who believes in magical creatures is a moron.
Is raptured like an orgazm that last forever? I wouldnt mind having some rapture here and there but I doubt I will get any of it tonight. Probably tomorrow night. We always try to make eachother rapture onSaturday nights
Another rapture?? I'm still unpacking from the last one! This is exhausting.
it is, ain't it? why is everyone obsessed with the end of the world anymore? we've got the people and the Mayan calendar, this nut job and of course, Nostradamus predicted the end of the world a time or too... I'm guessing I'm leaving a few people out. Y2K was supposed to be this huge thing too...
Someone tell me why we are paying attention to this bull?
Are you kidding? It's fascinating! The cognitive dissonance, the cult-like followers, the psychology behind such a phenomena – fascinating!
To all women who believe they are done today... Can you go around give us some?
Why is anyone paying attention to this jerk?
PEOPLE....it's already October 22 on the other side of the world! And so...........
I know! Sitting here in Melbourne... either the world didn't end or Australia broke away from Planet Earth and is no longer part of the cosmos or something
That's right! Love to hear from Camping and his followers now.
Remember these predictions came from the land of Fruits and Nuts.
I just cheated on my wife, ran my credit card up & smoked a bowl.. Now just goin to sit and wait to get raptured
hahaha smoked a bowl
This is the same religion that says a child raping murderer who truly repents will go to heaven, while a Buddhist monk who has spent his life in meditation and serving others will go to hell. Sorry, I don't buy that and if there is a God, I'm pretty sure he hates being affiliated with Christians.
Your time has past. Thanks for the persecutions, the genocide, the wars, the greed, the hate, the judgements, and the laughs.
I love you.
Come the rapture...can I have your car?
You can have mine...1988 Toyota Van...Runs Great!
I have a 2000 Ford Focus. Cavet is you cannot remove the pro-life stickers from it...sorry.
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I live right round the corner from this bloke. It's not kind to mock the afflicted. Leave the poor old bloke alone and stop drawing attention to him. You don't draw the rest of the insane to people's attention like this do you? So why is it OK when some delusional old fool manages to convince a few other idiots?
If he wanted to be left alone he wouldn't have sought the media attention for his dumb talk show and predictions in the first place. He has no one to blame but himself.
for that exact reason, he managed to convince some idiots. And then proceeded to have a national campaign about it. If that were all, it would warrant some ridicule. But in reality, he is NOT insane. He is intentinally manipulating these morons for money. THAT is the real sin here. That he is not in jail.
Sick or not, he's an adult and acountable for his actions. Some of the families involved blew their childrens college funds thinking they'd be living up in the clouds. Kids can't control if their parents are idiots, they are the innocent victims in all this. If keeping the attention on this guy has any chance of making people rethink doomsday prophecies then so be it. All the explaining to news crews will be good practice for when he gets to explain to his supposed Maker why he went around misrepresenting Him.
A CERTIFIED NUT . . .AND A LOUSY Mathematician
SOMEONE SHOULD SEND "DRACULA" AFTER THIS Fruit Loop
I completely disagree. The world did end Oct 21st. Get your facts straight...geesh
no man or women knows.........he is and idiot for trying
"Camping, who has an engineering degree"
Obviously he wasn't very good as an engineer as he is now a theologian.
Who's up for some apocalyptic looting?!
Ahh yes, how the admitted do so easily lead the flock of sheeple.....BAAA BAAA idiots, BAAA BAA. I have a end of the world prediction those that want to be raptured are to take a fresh pinapple and shove it up you @$$ sideways and if you can endure that you will be raptured by God. He told me so himself.