When Doomsday isn’t, believers struggle to cope
2011 05 27

From: MyJoyOnline.com / AP

If you’re reading this, Harold Camping’s predictions that the end of the world would start Saturday (May 21) failed to pan out.

That’s good news for most of us, but Camping and his followers were looking forward to the end. After all, they believed that they were likely to be among the 200 million souls sent to live in paradise forever. So how do believers cope when their doomsday predictions fail?

It depends, said Lorenzo DiTommaso, a professor of religion at Concordia University in Montreal who studies the history of doomsday predictions.


’Consulting The Oracle’ (1884), John William Waterhouse. Priestesses sitting in a ’Temple of Prophesy’.

"If you have a strong leader, the group survives," DiTommaso told LiveScience. "Sometimes the group falls apart. Most often, the answer given by the group is that the prophecy is true, but the interpretation was wrong."

In 1994, Camping predicted a September doomsday, but hedged his bets with a question mark. On his website (familyradio.com), Camping wrote that he had misunderstood a key biblical passage, but since that time, biblical evidence for a 2011 end had "greatly solidified."

Doomsdays without doom

The classic study of "doomsdays gone bad" took place in 1954. A Chicago woman named Dorothy Martin predicted a cataclysmic flood from which a few true believers would be saved by aliens. Martin and her cult, The Seekers, gathered the night before the expected flood to await the flying saucer. Unbeknown to them, however, their group had been infiltrated by psychologist Leon Festinger, who hoped to find out what happens when the rug of people’s beliefs is pulled out from under them.

Festinger’s study, which became the basis of the book "When Prophecy Fails" (Harper-Torchbooks 1956), revealed that as the appointed time passed with no alien visitors, the group sat stunned. But a few hours before dawn, Martin suddenly received a new prophecy, stating that The Seekers had been so devout that God had called off the apocalypse. At that, the group rejoiced — and started calling newspapers to boast of what they’d done. Eventually, the group fell apart. Martin later changed her name to "Sister Thedra" and continued her prophecies.

Other failed doomsday prophets have struggled to keep their followers in line. One self-proclaimed prophet, Mariana Andrada (later known as Mariana La Loca), preached to a gang of followers in the 1880s in the San Joaquin Valley of California, predicting doomsday by 1886. But Andrada was not consistent with her predictions, and believers began to defect. Trying to keep one family from leaving, Andrada told them one of them would die on the journey. Sure enough, the family’s young son soon fell violently ill and passed away. The family accused Andrada of poisoning him. She was arrested and found not guilty, but never returned to preach to her followers.

Searching for explanations

How Camping’s followers will cope with a failed doomsday prediction depends on the structure of the group, said Steve Hassan, a counseling psychologist and cult expert who runs the online Freedom of Mind Resource Center.

"The more people have connections outside of the group, the more likely it is that they’re going to stop looking to [Camping] as the mouth of God on Earth," Hassan told LiveScience. "Information control is one of the most important features of mind control."

In his experience, Hassan said, about a third of believers become disillusioned after a failed prediction, while another third find reason to believe more strongly. The remaining group members fall somewhere in between, he said.

Doomsday groups in history have run a gamut of responses after failed predictions, said Stephen Kent, a sociologist at the University of Alberta who studies new and alternative religions. On occasion, a leader will admit he or she was wrong; other groups will come up with a face-saving explanation. Some groups may blame themselves, rationalizing that their lack of faith caused the failure, Kent told LiveScience. Other groups blame outside forces and redouble their efforts.

"One of the options is for the group to say, ’Society wasn’t ready, Jesus felt there weren’t enough people worthy of rapturing. Hence, we’ve got to go out and convert more people,’" Kent said.

After the apocalypse

Often, a failed prediction leads to splinter groups and re-entrenchment. After Baptist preacher William Miller predicted the end of the world on Oct. 22, 1844 — a date thereafter known as "The Great Disappointment" when nothing happened — his followers struggled to explain their mistake. One subset decided that on that date, Jesus had shifted his location in heaven in preparation to return to Earth. This group later became the Seventh-Day Adventist church.

Sociologists and doomsday experts agree that Camping is likely convinced of doomsday rather than perpetuating a hoax or running a scam. A con artist, Hassan said, would never set himself up for failure by giving a firm date.

A belief in doomsday gives followers a clear sense of the world and their place in it, Kent said. Those comforting beliefs are difficult to maintain after the world fails to end.

"This could be a fairly sad day for these people," Kent said. "There will be some greatly disheartened people who may be terribly confused about what didn’t happen."

Article from: news.myjoyonline.com






Related Articles
Preacher Who Predicted May 21st Doomsday Gives NEW Date
End Times Math: The Equation That Predicts May 21 Judgment Day
Edison’s Predictions for the Year 2011
Canadian Scientists predict DOOM!! in the year 3000
Why Failed Predictions Don’t Stop Apocalypse Forecasters
Perus "shamans" make their "predictions" for 2011
Vanga predicted break out of "Third World War in 2010"
Retired NORAD Officer Predicts A Worldwide UFO Display On October 13, 2010 (Don’t hold your breath)
Arthur C Clarke predicting the future in 1964 (Video)
Dire Predictions from Clif High from the Web Bot Project Concerning BP Oil Volcano
Summer Streets Of Rage Predicted For Europe & U.S. (Didn’t they Say this Last Summer Also?)
Computer Software decodes emotions over the phone, predicts behavior
Human behaviour ’93 per cent predictable’
Derren Brown correctly predicts National Lottery numbers
Solar Cycle 24 predicted to peak in May 2013
Model Predicts Mob Behavior
May 28, 585 B.C.: Predicted Solar Eclipse Stops Battle


Latest News from our Front Page

Gene That Once Aided Survival in the Arctic Found to Have Negative Impact on Health Today
2014 10 23
In individuals living in the Arctic, researchers have discovered a gene variant that arose thousands of years ago and most likely provided an evolutionary advantage for processing high-fat diets or for surviving in a cold environment; however, the variant also seems to increase the risk of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, and infant mortality in today’s northern populations. {snip} “Our work ...
The Ebola hoax: questions, answers, and the false belief in the “One It”
2014 10 23
“The Reality Manufacturing Company doesn’t just sell ‘fake paintings’ that are easy to spot. No. They also sell images that are geared to mesh with people’s deeply held instincts and thereby produce rigid false beliefs. People are sure that if they gave up such beliefs, their world would fall apart and blow away in the wind.” ...
New Controversial Theory Suggests "Hobbits" Were Not Human - Who Were These Mysterious Beings?
2014 10 23
The origin of the Hobbit species remains a challenging subject to scientists. The Hobbit’s discovery confirmed the view that the Earth was once populated by many species of human, but new research the Hobbit’s were not human at all! So, who were these mysterious beings? Where did they come from? The idea that our species, Homo sapiens, was the only species of human on ...
Right into enemy hands? ISIS shows off new weapons allegedly airdropped by US (VIDEO)
2014 10 23
Islamic State has published a new video in which a jihadist shows off brand-new American hardware, which was purportedly intended for the Kurds they are fighting in the Syrian border town of Kobani. The undated video, posted by the unofficial IS mouthpiece “a3maq news”, sees a jihadist showing several boxes of munitions with English-language markings, with a parachute spread out on ...
STAGED INFECTION: Has The Ebola ‘Outbreak’ Narrative Fallen Apart?
2014 10 22
Over the past month, the ‘pandemic’ propaganda surrounding the deadly Ebola virus seemed to reach vitriolic levels – raising serious questions about the validity of this current viral outbreak… On Monday of this week, it was reported that 48 people were released and cleared after a 21-day quarantine due to their contact with the now deceased Ebola-stricken patient Thomas Eric ...
More News »