Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Paradoxical Effects of Unfulfilled Prophecy

Inevitably in following a self-proclaimed "prophet" there will be prophecies that will not be fulfilled. One would think that an obvious unfulfilled prophecy would enlighten the followers that something was amiss. Not exactly.

Initially, yes. Something unexpected occurred. The predicted event didn't happen. This didn't fit our concept of what should happen. The inconsistency of it strikes our mind with discomfort. Imagine the mental dissonance that is clamoring to be resolved! Enter rationalization - usually in the form of another letter from our founder explaining how the Lord had changed his mind, due to our prayers, or whatever self-serving reason he came up with.

Since we'd all already "burned our bridges" (a requirement for members which equalled cutting ties with former friends and family), we were deeply committed to the cause. We were true believers, and as such, we unconsciously wanted to believe.  And as we know, we see what we believe. (The confirmation bias is ever with us.)

The COG is just one among many cults and religious groups that have dealt with unfulfilled prophecies in this way. Reasons given for why the prophecy didn't come true can really be any ridiculous explanation, such as, "It did happen, but it was a spiritual occurrence invisible to us." Or, "It didn't happen because God saw your faithfulness and decided to reward your prayers by bestowing mercy on the world," fitting right in with the illusion of group importance.

Then, in order to further decrease the discomfort of the dissonance that we had earlier experienced, a new proselytizing campaign would begin, spreading the word of God's mercy to mankind in sparing them from whatever catastrophe didn't occur. 

So paradoxically, what would seem like a wake up call to reality actually serves to galvanize the faith of the true believers in the prophet and the group.

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