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.
...And I feel fine!
If the entire body is Raptured, leaving only the garments behind, I wonder about the cremated. Would'nt the EPA have something to say about the giant cloud of ash?
I always thought the definition of the word rapture was ecstasy. I've already been there and done that though I'm not adverse to the experience again, lol.
Hello.. the term "Rapture" has been given to this event by theologians. In the Koine Greek of the New Testament the term is actually "Translated" or "Changed" meaning the dead in Christ shall be resurrected in their immortal eternal bodies, and those still alive will then experience the same change, and be caught or taken up together wih them to be forever alive with Their Lord, Jesus. Some may say this is not fair or just, and I understand. May I just say that if He is not your Lord, which you have the free will to so choose, then this would not apply to you. Sadly, the whole end time scenario has been so mis-interpreted that the result is all this negativity.
No where in the Bible does it say the earth or universe will be destroyed or annihilated. The Cosmos will be changed in phases. The word mistranslated for "world" is actually "age" as in a period of time. We are at the closing of this age, being prepared for the age to come. The Bible speakes of ages of ages. We say "Eternity" of "forever and forever".
The earth will be changed dramatically, and there will be a "new Heavens and a new Earth". However, even this will not happen for a millenium after Jesus returns. (1000 years) I already know how many will scoff at this, and show h8. That's OK, I understand, and I would not fault you after all this flim flamming by unlearned or deliberate liars and false prophets.
I agree "religion" is a waste of time and dangerous. It is man-made. My last point for now is simply what got lost in the mish mosh once Constantine assumed control of the early Christian Community, is the message (Gospel) of Christ about "The Kingdom of God" . Jesus did not start any new religion.
Another example of how humans confuse passion with validity.
These people are UTTERLY DELUSIONAL. Of course, I think that anyone who believes in gods, or anything else supernatural, is at least a tad delusional. But these kooks take the cake. I know that faith is belief without evidence, but how much CONTRARY evidence can these people ignore before they give up? Religion is all psychological. People believe it not because it's true or because there is evidence to support it, but because they NEED to. These people will never give up their delusions because it will require them to admit that they've wasted their lives on fairy tales. Sad. And I can't decide if I'm happy that CNN spends so much time reporting on this group. On the one hand, we're treating them like they are important, when in fact they are just a small group of crazies. On the other hand, I think it's important that everyone else see how self-mocking and foolish their beliefs are.
Sadly most people dont understand human psychology and they dont understand how powerful the brain can be.
Let's say you do believe. The craziest thing about this is the bible spells it out, it says no man will no when judgement days comes, so if you "know" what the date is doesn't that automatically mean it CAN'T be the day you think it is? Don't try to predict it and find codes in the bible people. There's no need to look for some false hidden meaning, bible makes it very clear we will never know the date.
Well, for Libya's former dictator...the end of the world came a day early. ASK NOT FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS.....
That was a great Metallica song
Camping needs to be decamped.This is ridiculous!
This kind of racket should be outlawed to protect the ignorant and the weak-minded who believe in these impossible fairy tales and end up falling prey to these pseudo-prophets. Put the scoundrels in jail. Freedom of religion should not be a vehicle to enrich con-men and charlatans.
I think you should be jailed for saying such a stupid thing. Let me ask you, which "superior mind" is going to be in charge of deciding which minds are too "weak" and thus should be controlled?
Umm...Jonathan, judging by your reaction...it's safe to say you're not going to the Mensa picnic anytime soon.
It's already after midnight in Australia making it October 22nd there. I'm pretty sure the continent is still sitting there.
Are you SURE you are still here ? Ever see the Matrix movies ? This could be a dream . It is for Camping .
When is someone going to locking up con men like camping up?
you mean i should have paid the bills?!
hilarious! well written article. nice to smile while reading.
You know I noticed that all of my neighbors disappeard at the end of May.
Poof!! They were gone. I thought they all just went to Florida early this year.
Well. Goodbye world!
Darn! forgot to wear a clean pair of undies
You might want to re-read your bible, Mr. Camping, starting with Jeremiah 49:16.
...just throw the book in the trash where it belongs.
You're all invited to a party tomorrow at Harold Campings house. Be there or be square. I'll bring the chips and dip. Somebody bring a muzzle for Campings' mouth, PLEEEZZZEE!!!
Where are the zombies? If I'm going to Hell, I'm going out big.
Don't forget the double tap
Remember rule one; Cardio!
#4: Always wear your seat belt.
@richunix – I thought that the first rule of the rapture is that you do not talk about the rapture?
and always remember to limber up before doing any physical activity. if you pull a muscle, it will be harder to out-run the fatties.
Since this day has come and past with no end, we all need to sit back and wait until Dec 2012... Funny thing...I learned in Engineering school those years past: Change is the only constant in this world.
Stephen F Roberts: “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”
Atheism is not a religion nor is it a belief.
What day will be chosen after December 2012 comes and passes with no problems? I like to write these things down so that I have interesting anticdotes to tell at parties about crazy people.
Well, since the Mayans, who were apparently pretty bad about predicting their own demise, haven't been around for a while, I don't think we at least need to worry about them.
The subconcious mind of Man and the Creation of a God.
When are we going to stop believing religious nonsense and just be good to each other and our family?
It almost seems the human race hasn't enough self esteem to believe in themselves enough to tackle the hard questions/events life throws at us. We are willing to pass the buck onto a deity and let them decide our fate and then play the blame game by announcing it must have been said deity's will.
Yep. You're absoutely right. But I think it may have some plausible explanation.
It's almost like the fearful ego and mind builds a belief to explain its own demise. Since part of the mind is responsible for automatic life sustaining functions, such as breathing and a heart beat, it has in addition, built a belief system to help it deal with death. It's almost like it cannot accept its own death, and therefore builds a belief in an afterlife as a way of continuing. Just like it will do anything it has to keep us breathing.
Ah, like the splintering of personalities being the mind's way of coping with horrific abuse, etc. Interesting concept. Evolution usually knows what's best for us.
Finally, the Rapture!
Now that all of the good, pious, humble, charitable, non-judgemental Christians have ascended bodily to heaven, I'm sure we'll miss both of them.
If I knew for sure they were all leaving today I would stand outside and wave at them as they left. Good riddance!
You forgot to mention "non-hypocritical"; that narrows the number down to zero.