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so what time is the world supposed to end tomorrow?


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OAKLAND -- If the universe started with a big bang, Saturday's non-rapture qualifies as a big whimper -- or maybe just a big bust.

Though the tremendous earthquake and ascension into heaven of the faithful predicted by Doomsday prophet Harold Camping did not happen, there were lessons to be learned from the most-hyped non-event since Y2K.

"For those who were invested in this prediction, their world did end Saturday," said Rev. Jeremy Nickel, the minister at Fremont's Mission Peak Unitarian Universalist Congregation. "They thought they were going to heaven, and they didn't. They may have donated all their money. They're going to be in a world of hurt."

Billboards guaranteeing the end of the world Saturday were almost as ubiquitous as Starbucks outlets in the Bay Area and the world and just as galvanizing to followers, who donated more than $100 million over the past seven years and drove RVs all over the United States to alert people of the coming rapture. Oakland-based Family Radio, with 66 radio stations across the globe, was uncharacteristically quiet Saturday, its website down.

The Alameda home of Harold Camping, president of Family Radio, was deserted Saturday and he was not answering his phone.

The only pilgrims at the station's Hegenberger Road office Saturday morning were media and Keith Bauer -- who hopped in his minivan in Maryland and drove his family 3,000 miles to California for the Rapture.

"I had some skepticism


but I was trying to push the skepticism away because I believe in God," he said in the bright morning sun. "I was hoping for it because I think heaven would be a lot better than this earth."

Bauer, a tractor-trailer driver, began the voyage west last week, figuring that if he "worked last week, I wouldn't have gotten paid anyway, if the Rapture did happen." After seeing the nonprofit ministry's base of operations, Bauer planned to take a day trip to the Pacific Ocean, and then start the cross-country drive back home Sunday with his wife, young son and another family relative.

Meanwhile, in downtown Oakland about 200 atheists attended the American Atheists convention commemorating (mostly mocking) the rapture.

"Here's the takeaway," said Richard Hodill of San Mateo, who staffed the registration table at the atheist convention. "Learn to be a discriminating and critical thinker. Base your life on evidence-based reasoning. Religion exploits people to their detriment."

Indeed, the ever-irreverant Bay Area reacted to the non-Rapture in its own unique fashion, with End of the World garage sales, a Zombie crawl to raise money for Oakland libraries and a gathering at Family Radio headquarters that was a cross between a Raiders tailgate party and a Grateful Dead parking lot celebration.

"I came here because I am interested in cognitive dissonance, or how people react when their prophesies fail," said Peter Persoff, of Piedmont, as he stood in the Family Radio parking lot, where locked glass doors revealed only a darkened, silent interior. "I hoped to be around with these guys as the news came in and nothing was happening."

"What better place to observe the Rapture than in a bar with a drink in your hand?" said Rebecca Auerbach, who organized a party at Jerry's Cocktail Lounge in her Richmond neighborhood.

Less than a mile from Camping's Alameda home, a UC Berkeley anthropology graduate student held a rapture moving sale, advertising on Craigslist: "If you are not planning on getting raptured tomorrow, then you might need some stuff."

"I think people are still into private possessions," said Mather, who declined to give her last name. "The sale went great. I'm feeling lighter already, although I'm not levitating anywhere."

There was a happy resolution in Boyes Hot Springs, a town near Sonoma, where a Family Radio believer William Tinker relinquished his cockatoo, Senegal parrot and cat to a county animal control officer. Tinker had threatened to kill his pets in advance of Judgment Day, but with the help of the Mickaboo Companion Bird Rescue, he turned his pets over to authorities, said Mickaboo volunteer Vincent Hrovat.

There was one thing Christians and Muslims, Unitarians and Catholics all seemed to agree upon with regard to Camping's prediction.

"In my view it just doesn't square with Biblical revelation, which clearly suggests that according to the 25th chapter of Matthew's Gospel we neither know the day nor the hour that the end times will begin," said Gregory Chisholm, pastor of St. Patrick's Catholic Church of Oakland.

"So if one were really trying to help people prepare for the end times, one would counsel people to minister to the sick and feed the hungry and visit those who are in prison, because that's exactly what the Lord says to do," Chisholm said.

A Muslim spiritual leader agreed.

"Our understanding is the same as the Christian understanding in the Bible. No man knows when the end will come," said Khurram Shah, president of the Contra Costa County chapter of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Bay Point.

Given that Camping already unsuccessfully predicted the end of the world in 1994, Shah's words seemed to ring true.

"I don't think people should live in fear. If I didn't think positive, I wouldn't be able to do what I do," said Lisa Chichard, who has been Camping's neighbor for more than 50 years and was standing at the gate of her home next door to Camping Saturday. Chichard is a special education teacher at Oakland High School, working with severely handicapped children.

"I grew up with the Campings. They are hardworking people and I respect his Biblical scholarship," said Chichard, standing at the gate of her home. "But I don't necessarily think in such apocalyptic terms."

"If you live every day to its fullest and do the right thing, when the world ends, you'll be all right."

Sue Espinoza was planted before the television, awaiting news of her father's now infamous prediction: cataclysmic earthquakes auguring the end of humanity.

God's wrath was supposed to begin in New Zealand and then race across the globe, leaving millions of bodies wherever the clock struck 6 p.m. But the hours ticked by, and New Zealand survived. Time zone by time zone, the apocalypse failed to materialize.

On Saturday morning, Espinoza, 60, received a phone call from her father, Harold Camping, the 89-year-old Oakland preacher who has spent some $100 million — and countless hours on his radio and TV show — announcing May 21 as Judgment Day. "He just said, 'I'm a little bewildered that it didn't happen, but it's still May 21 [in the United States],'" Espinoza said, standing in the doorway of her Alameda home. "It's going to be May 21 from now until midnight."

But to others who put stock in Camping's prophecy, disillusionment was already profound by late morning. To them, it was clear the world and its woes would make it through the weekend.

Keith Bauer, a 38-year-old tractor-trailer driver from Westminster, Md., took last week off from work, packed his wife, young son and a relative in their SUV and crossed the country.

If it was his last week on Earth, he wanted to see parts of it he'd always heard about but missed, such as the Grand Canyon and the Painted Forest. With maxed-out credit cards and a growing mountain of bills, he said, the rapture would have been a relief.

On Saturday morning, Bauer was parked in front of the Oakland headquarters of Camping's Family Radio empire, half expecting to see an angry mob of disenchanted believers howling for the preacher's head. The office was closed, and the street was mostly deserted save for journalists.

Bauer said he was not bitter. "Worst-case scenario for me, I got to see the country," he said. "If I should be angry at anybody, it should be me."

Tom Evans, who acted as Camping's PR aide in recent months, took his family to Ohio to await the rapture. Early next week, he said, he would be returning to California.

"You can imagine we're pretty disappointed, but the word of God is still true," he said. "We obviously went too far, and that's something we need to learn from."

Despite the failure of Camping's prediction, however, he said he might continue working for him.

"As bad as it appears—and there's no getting around it, it is bad, flat-out—I have not found anything close to the faithfulness of Family Radio," he said.

Others had risked a lot more on Camping's prediction, quitting jobs, abandoning relationships, volunteering months of their time to spread the word. Matt Tuter, the longtime producer of Camping's radio and television call-in show, said Saturday that he expected there to be "a lot of angry people" as reality proved Camping wrong.

Tuter said Family Radio's AM station in Sacramento had been "severely vandalized" Friday night or Saturday morning, with air conditioning units yanked out and $25,000 worth of copper stripped from the equipment. He thinks it must have been an angry listener. He was off Saturday but planned to drive past the headquarters "and make sure nothing's burning."

Camping himself, who has given innumerable interviews in recent months, was staying out of sight Saturday. No one answered the door at his Alameda home, though neighbors said he was there.

By late afternoon, a small crowd had gathered in front of Camping's Oakland headquarters. There were atheists blowing up balloons in human form, which were released into the sky just after 6 p.m. in a mockery of the rapture. Someone played a CD of "The End" by the Doors, amid much laughter.

There were also Christians, like James Bynum, a 45-year-old deacon at Calvary Baptist Church in Milpitas, holding signs that declared Harold Camping a false prophet. He said he was there to comfort disillusioned believers.

"Harold Camping will never hand out poisoned Kool-Aid," Bynum said. "It's not that kind of a cult. But he has set up a system that will destroy some people's lives."


If nothing else, guess you gotta give him credit for the balls on him. I'd be nervous to venture out so far out on a limb as to suggest that it may or may not rain on any given day.

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