Apocalypse Believers Await End, Skeptics Carry On
OAKLAND (CBS/AP) — They spent months warning the world of the apocalypse, some giving away earthly belongings or draining their savings accounts. And so they waited, vigilantly, on Saturday for the appointed hour to arrive.
When 6 p.m. came and went at various spots around the globe, and no extraordinary cataclysm occurred, Harold Camping followers took it in stride.
The May 21 doomsday message was sent far and wide via broadcasts and web sites by Camping, an 89-year-old retired civil engineer who has built a multi-million-dollar Christian media empire that publicizes his apocalyptic prediction.
According to Camping, the destruction was likely to have begun its worldwide march as it became 6 p.m. in the various time zones, although believers said Saturday the exact timing was never written in stone.
Many followers said though the sun rose Saturday without the foretold earthquakes, plagues, and other calamities, the delay was a further test from God to persevere in their faith.
“It’s still May 21 and God’s going to bring it,” said Family Radio’s special projects coordinator Michael Garcia, who spent Saturday morning praying and drinking two last cups of coffee with his wife at home in Alameda. “When you say something and it doesn’t happen, your pride is what’s hurt. But who needs pride? God said he resists the proud and gives grace to the humble.”
The Internet also was alive with discussion, humorous or not, about the end of the world and its apparent failure to occur on cue. Many tweets declared Camping’s prediction a dud or shared, tongue-in-cheek, their relief at not having to do weekend chores, pay their bills or take a shower.
The top trends on Twitter at midday included, at No. 1, “endofworldconfessions,” followed by “myraptureplaylist.”
Camping’s radio stations, TV channels, satellite broadcasts and website are controlled from a modest building sandwiched between an auto shop and a palm reader’s business.
Camping also predicted the end back in 1994. That time, he says, he simply got his math wrong.
“I’m not embarrassed about it. It was just the fact that it was premature,” he told The Associated Press last month. But this time, he said, “there is…no possibility that it will not happen.”
Camping has preached that some 200 million people would be saved, and that those left behind would die in a series of scourges visiting Earth until the globe is consumed by a fireball on Oct. 21.
Christian leaders from across the spectrum widely dismissed the prophecy.
“People are always concerned about when the end of the world is going to come because people want to have something they can hang onto,” said Fr. George Reynolds of St. Barnabas Church in Long Beach.
As the day drew nearer, followers reported that donations grew, allowing Family Radio to spend millions on more than 5,000 billboards and 20 RVs plastered with the doomsday message. In 2009, the nonprofit reported in IRS filings that it received $18.3 million in donations, and had assets of more than $104 million, including $34 million in stocks or other publicly traded securities.
(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)