“I don’t know where we went wrong other than that we obviously don’t understand the Scriptures in the way that we should.”

I had profiled several believers before May 21. The day after, most didn’t answer the phone. Those who did wouldn’t talk on the record. But one man, his voice quavering, said he was still holding out hope that they were one day off. Another believer asserted that their prayers worked: God delayed judgment so that more people could be saved, but the end is “imminent.”

Tom Evans was contrite. Evans is on the board of Family Radio, the organization led by Harold Camping, who calculated and promoted the May 21 date.

“I don’t know where we went wrong other than that we obviously don’t understand the Scriptures in the way that we should,” he says.

It’s very hard for us to say, ‘Boy, was I stupid!’ The more committed a person is to their prophecy, the more likely they are to justify that action, and to try to convince people that their belief was in some way right or good. – Elliot Aronson, psychologist

Camping has yet to make a statement, but Evans hopes they will not recalculate and announce a new date for Judgment Day. After all, they’ve done that at least once before — in 1994 — and he believes they’ve learned a lesson.

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Freedom of religion also includes the freedom to be wrong.

“My concern is for the people that have bought into his lie and have sold their belongings, quit their jobs, left their churches and their families and now they are sitting at home listening to Family Radio and waiting for the end,” Mr. Nederhood said. “I’m terribly concerned.”

Although the Family Radio headquarters were mostly abandoned on Friday, the company’s flagship station — KEAR, 610 AM — continued to broadcast religious music, interspersed with sermons and biblically flavored life lessons.

There were also a few curiosity seekers who had made the pilgrimage, including one woman who refused to give her name but peered into the darkened building.

“Is this where,” she asked, “the world is going to end?”

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