• judgment day
    (Photo: Reuters / Shannon Stapleton)
    A volunteer from the U.S. religious group Family Radio, a Christian radio network, holds a sign with warnings of an impending Judgment Day at Times Square in New York May 13, 2011. The designation of May 21came from Family Radio president Harold Camping, who predicted that date through a series of mathematical calculations and the unraveling of codes behind the Bible story of the great flood.
By Ray Downs, Christian Post Reporter
October 21, 2011|8:55 am

The world will come to an end today, Harold Camping has said. However, if it does not, don't blame him – he did say "probably," after all.

Months after Camping's second prediction of a May 21 Judgment Day, the doomsday "prophet" said that no one noticed it because it was a "spiritual" judgment and that the physical end would "probably" come on Oct. 21. Camping, 90, added that people might not even notice because "there will be no pain suffered by anyone because of their rebellion against God. Unbelievers might just fall asleep and never wake up."

However, according to an expert on doomsday cults, Camping gave himself an easy, linguistic way out.

Catherine Wessinger, who studies doomsday groups at Loyola University in New Orleans and is the editor of The Oxford Handbook of Millennialism, told NPR that Camping is using a common trick among doomsday leaders.

When prophecy fails, she says, "the person making the prediction can give themselves a way out, sort of a backdoor way of getting out of the prediction. Or on the other hand, when nothing happens, the event can be spiritualized."

This technique was in full display after Family Radio “explained” what happened when the world did not end on May 21.

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"What really happened this past May 21?" a statement on the Family Radio website read. "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 on that day. For the next five months, except for the elect (the true believers), the whole world is under God's final judgment. To accomplish this goal God withheld from the true believers the way in which two phrases were to be understood. Had He not done so, the world would never have been shaken in fear as it was."

Although some might find that explanation hard to understand, Camping still has a loyal following with people who believe right along with him that the world will end today. NPR noted that Camping's church was still full of loyal followers getting ready to be raptured on Friday.

Brandon Tauszik, a documentarian who has been following the movement, told NPR: "The congregation was still very much excited about the approaching date and the sermon was entirely about Oct. 21, which really surprised me."

Not everyone amongst Camping and Family Radio's legion is buying it, however.

"I don't believe in any of this stuff that's going on, and I plan on being here next week," a receptionist at Family Radio's Oakland headquarters told CNNMoney during the May doomsday prediction.

In fact, the receptionist said at the time that 80 percent of her co-workers do not believe in Camping's predictions.