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. Capiers

    It's been 1000's of years; Can we evolve past all this now...

    October 21, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
  2. JoJo

    If the rapture happens today noone will even know about it because the amount of people who deserve to go to the magical heaven and streets of gold wouldn't even take up the side of a milk cartoon.

    October 21, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
    • Pyrrho

      I going. I got my picture on the side of a milk carton right next to Elsie. I'm gonna tear up them streets of gold. I'll be the richest angel in heaven. I do hope I find something to spend by gold on.

      October 21, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  3. harold camping here

    peace, peace, peace, I need peace to calculate the new date...

    October 21, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
    • Scott - other

      Preferably another peace of my income?

      October 22, 2011 at 9:23 pm |
  4. Curious Oyster

    Now, I'm no Christian but I have read the Bible. Doesn't it state that the Day of Judgment is eternally unknown to mankind?

    October 21, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • harold camping here

      oyster go back into your shell and make more pearls...

      October 21, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Amazing, you found something in the bible that isn't a lie designed to enrich and empower the clever men who wrote it. In this case yes, the day the earth ends is unknown. End of story.

      October 21, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • everettreb

      Yes it does.
      In fact it says that Jesus him self does not know the day nor the hour.

      Also the bible does not say that the world will be destroyed.
      In fact it says that it will not be destroyed.

      October 21, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  5. Kevin

    Harold camping was right, May 21st was the rapture, for some people it was also the end of this world for them. Harold Camping was right when he predicted that May 21st was the "beginning" of the end, and so was May 22 and the 23rd, every new day is the beginning of the end. October 21st will be the end of the world, maybe not 2-3 % but for some it will be. For no one knows the hour or the day, except for God.

    October 21, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • Ally

      I submit that the rapture did happen in May but nobody was qualified to go.

      October 21, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Oops, you made a slight typo there, let me correct you. "For no one knows the hour or the day."

      October 21, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  6. Ray E. Georgia

    The Bible was written by imperfect people. Any more questions?

    October 21, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • Logic Fail

      And later rewritten for political and cultural reasons.

      October 21, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
  7. Jason K

    This a$$hat has no idea what the ancient Hebrew and Greek that the bible is written even translates as in English

    October 21, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
  8. Fairy Tales

    Crazy Christians! Thank you for your years of entertainment and joke material! Us sane science and reason oriented folks sure appreciate a good laugh at your expense. Always remember, we are laughing at you, not with you.

    October 21, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • Marina

      That's OK – we pray for you...

      October 21, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  9. Tripp

    I predict that Harold Camping will be dead of a heart attack tomorrow the 22nd. Just saying...

    October 21, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  10. Bible Clown

    Actually Jesus came back in 1000 AD and collected the ten faithful Christians and they all went to heaven. Didn't you get the memo?

    October 21, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  11. Love for Neighbor

    I Cry for this group??

    This is really a sad situation. The "group" may lose faith all together when the prophesying of two Men does not prove to be true.

    October 21, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • MrEee

      Get real, they're morons, they're not going to stop believing crazy stuff just because it's wrong. They've already proven that.

      October 21, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
  12. HeatherFoo

    Rapture this....

    October 21, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • MrEee

      Lol. I've got your rapture riiiiight heeeeere! 🙂

      October 21, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
  13. AintNoChristian

    If "god" created ALL mankind, then why are there Atheists? I'm really sad to learn from all of my obsevations from this article and many posts in support of this fraud and worthless idiot Camping, that some of you people are free to walk this planet without theraputic intervention. Who let you crazy people out of the asyleum? Your "god" is evil! Read your bible! Your "god" is a murderer of men, women and BABIES! Read your bible again! Your "god" allows men, women and BABIES to suffer! Then and even now! If "he" is so almighty, if "he" has the devine power to change what his "children" have done to his beautiful world.. why won't he? Imagine the rapture... a world with out christianity. I'm ready. Bring it on Oh Evil One!

    October 21, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • Chuckles

      duh.... we exist because we're tools of satan, which god could kill anytime but he hasn't gotten around to it yet. Anyway don't you know that whenever anything "good" happens, even at the expense of others, god did it, if I can't answer a question, god did it, hear a voice in my head? That's right! It's god.

      Something bad happens though, well clearly satan, that big ole meany! He's such an evil jerk, who was also an angel that god created, but was like "nope I'm evil!" and went down to hel.l where he now resides to go after some christians because he's such a bad guy. Oh, I forgot to mention, if something bad happens and its not Satan, well it was god, but only because you were bad and brought it on yourself. That naked woman you thought of? SINNER! you got angry with your mom because she embaras.sed you? YOU GO TO HEL.L!, you disagreed with someone politely but thought of a couple of choice things to say later? GET YOUR SUNSCREEN BECAUSE YOu"RE GOING TO FRY!

      It's not that hard, dumby.

      October 21, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      Obviously, you are calling your God evil as well.....shame on you! Okay, so, put the bible aside...all the killings of men, women, and children of the past and present generation....WHO DO YOU BLAME....GOD? Because for all I know, we ARE NOT IN THE BIBLE. God did not create Atheists, he created mankind in His own image and did not seperate us by group.

      October 21, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • Jason K

      Just because God says something is not for man to do like kill, does not make it so for God. If God created, He has the right to kill for any reason that pleases Him. You and most people, ESPECIALLY "christians" have no idea what the word sin means. I'll give you a hint, its not something "bad"

      To sin means this
      If God says "don't do this" and you do it...its a sin
      If God says "do this" and you don't do it...its a sin

      Murder, adultry, idolatry, etc are all sins only because God specifically said "don't do these things"

      God is not held to the standard He holds men.

      Why does God do what He does? For His good pleasure.

      To quote Bender, who was god for a short time "I'll bend what I want, when I want, who I want!"

      October 21, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • tim

      no atheists exist the same as any other person with whatever belief they believe in. god gives you the choice and the power to do what you want. it's your choice. he doesn't control people. you have the will to do as you please. if you want to murder 100 baby kittens go for it. you have the choice. just like any believer in the christian faith we made that choice. it's in the bible. if you read it or knew anything about the bible instead of being ignorant you would know that. the simplest mind knows satan was cast out of heaven. WHY>??? oh because he made that choice. understand?

      October 21, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • Chuckles

      riiiiiiight, like I said, couldn't be gods fault you don't believe in him, its your fault right? I also forgot the whole "you're choice thing"

      It isn't "follow me or burn forever" it's "you can choose to follow me and if you don't then you'll burn forever, but hey! no pressure or nothing, I mean I am the only god out there that has a proven track record of genocide against my enemies, and my followers for that matter. Dude, you TOTALLY have the choice, and meanwhile I'll give you another choice too. You have two options, you can either take this bowl of ice cream and enjoy it forever but only if you follow my rules. some might be crazy but hey, TRUST ME! It's a good thing to have blind faith and trust, really. Oh yeah, and you won't get this bowl until after you die, but honestly I totally swear to give it to you because you were such a rockstar in life, even after I let satan screw with you. Oh yeah, you want to hear option b right? Well option B is you get to live however you want, have fun , party whatever but as your loving god that you chose to not follow, I totally get it and understand and I love ya, but I guess you're just going to have to eternally burn. Hey, you made the choice buddy, I didn't force you or anything, but since you thought my rules didn't really make sense or mesh with current society in which you have to operate thats all on you."

      Sounds like an awesome choice tim, why don't we have more christians?!

      October 21, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • AintNoChristian

      Oh Tim. I am so sorry. How long have you been brainwashed? Don't say "since birth", that would be a lie. You were born an atheist, it was someone else's choice that you become religious. You choose to stay that way because you don't know any better. Here's part of the problems with chrisians. As an Atheist, I have made it a bit of a hobby to read your bible, so I can better educate myself with all the fables we must assume are truths and not coming from the creations first drug addicts. But ask a christian to sit down and read from Richard Dawkins book or educate themselves in any way to what it is they are disputing, does not happen. It only shows your ignorance, sir. Christians are afraid to open their eyes. What ever will happen to you if you finally open your eyes...??? My life got no worse and it got no better. Does that mean I having nothing to lose? I think I just felt a load of stress fall right off my shoulder. Good luck getting in on that Rapture thing. I hear they aint taking a lot of people with them. Or maybe you are one of the elected. Can I have someones house when you're gone? I already have one, but since you won' be needing it... I'm just askin' I got dibs people!!

      October 21, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • Scott - other

      @ HeIsGod: “Obviously, you are calling your God evil as well. .....shame on you”
      "I form the light, and create darkness: i make peace, AND CREATE EVIL: I the LORD do all these things." (Isaiah 45:7)

      October 22, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
  14. Bill Clinton

    Nooooooo. I need to bang more fat chicks

    October 21, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • Jason K

      You still got time

      October 21, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  15. Bible Clown

    "All of mankind was shaken with fear." Liar. Where does the Bible give you permission to tell whoppers like that? We were convulsed with laughter at you lame-brains, not frightened. You want to scare us, get Herman Cain to sing.

    October 21, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • B-b

      "You want to scare us, get Herman Cain to sing." -very funny

      October 21, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
  16. Nonsense

    Id like to meet the nice old d1ck that keeps terrifying my niece and give him the good news that in a way today is the day he was looking forward to because Id toss him off a cliff.

    October 21, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
  17. Clint

    Yay! Now I don't have to take my calculus exam! Thank you.....

    October 21, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
  18. God

    You people are all on the list now.

    October 21, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • Bible Clown

      You're on my list too, buddy. You don't like it, come over here and tell me to my face.

      October 21, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • HeIsGod


      October 21, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • Jason K

      But you preordained your list in eternity past. If you are absolute, sovere!gn, and unchanging, then you are now a conundrum and have just undone existance by being what you are not.

      Thanks a lot...d!ck!

      October 21, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  19. harold camping here

    I am back from my camping trip and what's all this going on in my fiefdom...

    October 21, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
  20. Reality

    Camping is insane as was JC. JC's family and friends had it right 2000 years ago ( Mark 3: 21 "And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself."

    Said passage is one of the few judged to be authentic by most contemporary NT scholars. e.g. See Professor Ludemann's conclusion in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 24 and p. 694

    Actually, Jesus was a bit "touched". After all he thought he spoke to Satan, thought he changed water into wine, thought he raised Lazarus from the dead etc. In today's world, said Jesus would be declared legally insane.

    Or did P, M, M, L and J simply make him into a first century magic-man via their epistles and gospels of semi-fiction? Most contemporary NT experts after thorough analyses of all the scriptures go with the latter magic-man conclusion with J's gospel being mostly fiction.

    Obviously, today's followers of Paul et al's "magic-man" are also a bit on the odd side believing in all the Christian mumbo jumbo about bodies resurrecting, and exorcisms, and miracles, and "magic-man atonement, and infallible, old, European, white men, and 24/7 body/blood sacrifices followed by consumption of said sacrifices. Yummy!!!!

    So why do we really care what a first century CE, illiterate, long-dead, preacher man would do or say?

    Then there is more insanity in the Book of Revelation:

    "Nineteenth-century agnostic Robert G. Ingersoll branded Revelation "the insanest of all books".[30] Thomas Jefferson omitted it along with most of the Biblical canon, from the Jefferson Bible, and wrote that at one time, he "considered it as merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy nor capable of explanation than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams." [31]

    Martin Luther "found it an offensive piece of work" and John Calvin "had grave doubts about its value."[32]

    October 21, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • Jason K

      The same could then be said of any piece of literature older than the currently oldest living human resident on this spinning ball of mud. The fact is to believe in the book of any spiritual doctrine, or religious dogma takes faith. Faith being a trust in something one cannot perceive with one's senses. You obviously do not have that...and that's fine. To each their own. I cannot however, laugh at the irony that your handle is "Reality" because there are many things that have been proven to exist that one cannot touch, smell, see, hear or taste.

      October 21, 2011 at 4:05 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.