Sociology professor Charlie Sarno’s work featured on 10-year anniversary of Harold Camping's doomsday prophecy
May 21, 2021, was the ten-year anniversary of the day Harold Camping predicted the world would end. Camping, now deceased, was a resident of Alameda, a Christian radio personality, and the head of Family Radio, a 65-station network based in Oakland. HNU sociology professor Dr. Charles Sarno has followed Harold Camping and his legacy for over a decade and has published a number of articles about the fascinating story of his failed doomsday prophecies.
Camping first predicted September 6, 1994, would be the likely date of Jesus’ return. When it didn’t, he revised his predictions a number of times, ultimately determining that May 21, 2011, would be Judgment Day. He broadcast this prediction internationally, using the Family Radio network and spending $5-10 million on billboards and other outreach. He enlisted volunteers around the world to spread his message and gained considerable attention. In fact, documentary crews from the BBC and other European networks came to cover events in the months leading up to Judgment Day. And on May 20, all the major American news networks ran segments about Camping and his ‘May 21st Movement’. ‘May 21’ was the leading Google search in English for that day.
Of course, the day never came. And after the failure of Camping’s predictions, Family Radio was left with devastating losses in assets, revenue, and staff, and Camping’s followers were left disillusioned.
Dr. Sarno believes this story is particularly important to reflect upon today. Says Sarno, “I think the Camping story provides a cautionary tale about the processes by which we human beings–all of us at various times–can fool ourselves into believing things that are patently untrue, thereby doing harm to ourselves and others. Becoming aware of those processes might allow us to do less damage–and perhaps actually do greater good–moving forward.”
Sarno was interviewed by San Francisco Chronicle reporter Matthias Gafni on the ten-year anniversary of the May 21, 2011 prediction: He spent $300,000 to promote an apocalypse theory. 10 years later, he still has ‘no regrets’.
His work is also heavily quoted in Christopher Hutton’s article published on the Religion Unplugged website The Legacy Of Harold Camping, Who Falsely Predicted The World’s End, Lives On.
Sarno himself published an article entitled Harold Camping in the Critical Dictionary of Apocalyptic and Millenarian Movements.
The Holy Names University community celebrates the work of Dr. Sarno and the well-deserved recognition it received on May 21, 2021.