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. Sam

    There is no cure for stupid.

    October 21, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
  2. Anastasia

    LMAO -___- smh

    October 21, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
  3. J.W

    Every atheist in the world has been on this blog today.

    October 21, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
    • leecherius

      Oh, just wait , there will be tons more ,you can bet on it.

      October 21, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • Chuckles

      It's because they heard me blow the conch and yell "ATHEIST UNITE!"

      It also doesn't hurt to report a story about Camping it put it on the front page of CNN

      October 21, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • harold camping here

      Thou shall not pass judgement on folks you dont know, angels banish him from my kingdom or fiefdom

      October 21, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
    • PulTab

      Here's one now!

      October 21, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Yep, and you'll be hearing from more and more of us as the years go on. The days of christian domination are over. We are allowed to speak, we will speak, and there's nothing you can do about it. You might as well get used to it.

      October 21, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
  4. harold camping here

    Whoa !

    October 21, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
  5. gaylord fokker

    Peace to all...of you

    October 21, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
  6. Louis Tully

    Zuul will be among us by days in

    October 21, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • Ray Stantz

      If someone asks you if you're a god...say 'yes'.

      October 21, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
    • Scary

      I think I saw the Stay-Puff Marshmallow man outside the window

      October 21, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
  7. northshoresurfdog

    There will always be guys like this. People believe all kinds of garbage.

    I however, will put my faith in God's word. Period.

    But of that day and hour no one has knowledge, not even the angels in heaven, or the Son, but the Father only.

    October 21, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • Hasa Diga Eebowai

      Where is god's words written. There only exists the stories of men.

      October 21, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
    • Richard Conn Henry

      The world ended three weeks ago. If you haven't noticed, well, sigh, you were left behind.

      October 21, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
    • leecherius

      Hasa Diga Eebowai..I believe it is largely contained in a museum in Israel , print in several languages and known as the Dead Sea Scrolls.

      October 21, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
    • PulTab

      I however, will put my faith in The Flying Spaghetti Monster! Long live Pastapharianism!

      October 21, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
  8. icufoolish1s

    He should of ended it two thousands years ago. It hasn't improved since your Jesus showed up. WHAT MAN NEEDS INSTEAD IS A HUMBLING THOUGH A PLAGUE OR SOMETHING WORSE. THE ONLY REALISTIC FIX FOR A BETTER WORLD.

    October 21, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Dude, take it easy.

      October 21, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
  9. annie

    The last time the world was supposed to end I was returning from a heavenly vacation to Smokey Top National Park in TN and horse farms in KY. I'm glad i got the update today ... I won't be skipping the cheesecake for dessert tonight!!

    October 21, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
  10. Kerry

    Ho Hum. People who are worried the world is coming to an end haven't been living their lives to the fullest. Pathetic that there are these charlatans who exploit the weak.

    October 21, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
    • bob

      You won't be saying that when acension skips you

      October 21, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
  11. bob

    The end is coming you all better repent!!!!

    October 21, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • harold camping here

      Father [or Mother] please forgive boob [oops bob] for he no knows what he says. angels go get the mada

      October 21, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
    • Kerry

      And I'm a monkey's uncle too. Repent for Evolution. Never!

      October 21, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • Peter

      What did Jesus say about false prophets?

      October 21, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      And we know that Jesus wasn't a "false prophet" for what reason?

      October 21, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
  12. Kristal

    why does cnn give this guy credability (why) his life could be over b4 this letter is written

    October 21, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • The Bobinator

      Ummm, they're not?

      The world won't end and then he'll be seen as a fool by everyone.

      The real question is if Christians will be smart enough to ask "Well, Camping was wrong with his faith and he was totally convinced. Is it possible my faith is wrong?"

      But that's just silly of me to think that. They never question their thoughts, only the thoughts of others.

      October 21, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
  13. Justin


    October 21, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
  14. harold camping here

    Father [or Mother] please forgive icufoolish1s for he no knows what he says. angels go get the mada

    October 21, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • Hasa Diga Eebowai

      Zeus, Apollo, Rha, Allah, Thor,
      Forgive Harold for his small mind that he cannot comprehend that you are just as real as his sky fairy.

      October 21, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
  15. leecherius

    Matthew 24:36 But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.
    .....so much for the fortune tellers.

    October 21, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • The Bobinator

      The bible has a wonderful way of protecting itself from being questioned. It's called "no one can know this".

      October 21, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • harold camping here

      Father [or Mother] please forgive the leech [parasite] for he no knows what he says. angels go get the mada

      October 21, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • Beelzebubba

      Reciting text bubbles from your comic book only says that you are someone whom is unable to think for themselves.

      October 21, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • leecherius

      Don't you just love how these types of topics are atheistic magnets. ROFL

      October 21, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • Kerry

      The Bible is a wonderful book of tales. It is no different than any other past civilization's creation myths. Happy Halloween.

      October 21, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • leecherius

      Kerry...all fairy tales? Go back to history class , look up Josephus.

      October 21, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
  16. Hasa Diga Eebowai

    You have no soul and only a few 1,000 days of existence left (if you are lucky). You are not important and this time in history is only important as a stepping stone to the future. I think the plague and WWII were far better candidates for the hypothetical end times.

    October 21, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
  17. icufoolish1s

    Religion is the most evil thing that man has fabricated!

    October 21, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
    • Kristal

      the truth should not hurt

      October 21, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
  18. jim

    //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//.-- It is a waste of time to write the book - there will be nobody to read his book by spring.

    October 21, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
  19. Timtim

    it's that time again

    October 21, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  20. Daniel

    Beginning today let the world of religion/graft come to an end!

    October 21, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
    • harold camping here

      Danielle, please don't stop the fun...please...

      October 21, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • leecherius

      It'll never happen because man will never be able to know or explain everything.

      October 21, 2011 at 5:01 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.