Nightly News | May 21, 2011
LESTER HOLT, anchor: As you have undoubtedly heard, this was predicted to be our last day on Earth , a doomsday scenario from a California minister who spent millions of dollars in contributions from his followers to advertise the end of days all over the world . NBC 's George Lewis reports now on what did and did not happen.
GEORGE LEWIS reporting: Times Square , New York , at precisely 6 PM tonight. Nothing out of the ordinary happened. The world did not end. That had been the prediction of Oakland , California , Pastor Harold Camping , spreading the doomsday word through billboards, pamphlets and radio and TV broadcasts .
Mr. HAROLD CAMPING: It will begin when a huge earthquake in -- probably on the other side of the world, where the day begins.
LEWIS: But on the other side of the world in the Philippines , Camping 's followers waited, and again nothing happened.
Professor ANTHEA BUTLER (University of Pennsylvania Religious Studies): There's a long history of people making prophetic statements about the end of the world , and Harold Camping is just in a long line of failures.
LEWIS: It's easy to make fun of this doomsday business. People had a field day in the social media, posting pictures and video of empty suits. On
Twitter, these comments: "This is my first rapture. I'm trying to figure out what to wear." And, "People are making rapture jokes like there's no tomorrow."
LEWIS: But recent events might lead some to believe the world is indeed
ending: the tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan , the onslaught of tornadoes in the South , all those floods along the Mississippi , disasters of biblical proportions. The movie " 2012 " was based on what some believe is a doomsday prediction for next year in the ancient Mayan calendar . Now there are questions about how the followers of Reverend Camping will react.
Prof. BUTLER: I think it's important to watch out for people who were in the midst of this group, to make sure that they don't harm themselves, or that they don't harm others.
LEWIS: In Oakland they remember another local religious leader, the Reverend Jim Jones , and how he led his followers to commit mass suicide in Guyana . Nobody's saying that'll happen this time, but those who cashed in their life savings believing the world would end today are bound to be crushed. George Lewis , NBC News, Los Angeles .