When Prophecy Fails

By Joseph Strong

Authors Note: This is a post designed to promote discussion. It represents the author's opinion only.

In the 1956 book "When prophecy fails" (Leon Festinger et al), Festinger outlined his theory of cognitive dissonance. I do not intend to discuss the full book here, but I recommend looking at the reference and if possible reading it in full, the Kindle download is less than $1. Some of the references below are directly from the Wikipedia page-they tally with the book.

"Festinger and his colleagues saw this [the subject of the book]as a case that would lead to the arousal of dissonance when the prophecy failed. Altering the belief would be difficult, as Keech and her group were committed at considerable expense to maintain it. Another option would be to enlist social support for their belief. As Festinger wrote, "If more and more people can be persuaded that the system of belief is correct, then clearly it must after all be correct."In this case, if Keech could add consonant elements by converting others to the basic premise, then the magnitude of her dissonance following disconfirmation would be reduced. Festinger and his colleagues predicted that the inevitable disconfirmation would be followed by an enthusiastic effort at proselytizing to seek social support and lessen the pain of disconfirmation."
One of the observations that Festinger made was than when a group with a common belief were disappointed after a failed prediction, dissonance is relieved for the believer by proselytizing (converting) others.

Festinger stated that five conditions must be present if someone is to become a more fervent believer after a failure or disconfirmation:

1. A belief must be held with deep conviction and it must have some relevance to action, that is, to what the believer does or how he or she behaves.

2. The person holding the belief must have committed himself to it; that is, for the sake of his belief, he must have taken some important action that is difficult to undo. In general, the more important such actions are, and the more difficult they are to undo, the greater is the individual's commitment to the belief.

3. The belief must be sufficiently specific and sufficiently concerned with the real world so that events may unequivocally refute the belief.

4. Such undeniable disconfirmatory evidence must occur and must be recognized by the individual holding the belief.

5. The individual believer must have social support. It is unlikely that one isolated believer could withstand the kind of disconfirming evidence that has been specified. If, however, the believer is a member of a group of convinced persons who can support one another, the belief may be maintained and the believers may attempt to proselytize or persuade nonmembers that the belief is correct.

Myself, Geri, Mancott and EJK, are all able to testify, to some degree or another, that the above observations are true. We all went along with Christadelphian beliefs after we ceased to believe. For Geri the cost of leaving was to be shunned by family, Mancott stayed away for a while and, outside of the convinced group, ceased to believe. For me it was massive dissonance, a failing marriage and abuse that made me leave.

Christadelphians suffer severely in this respect. For 170 years they have fallen prey to failed predictions and disconfirmations. They have grown used to it and have retreated into their own dissonant world. It is a belief system that has slowly but surely become cornered. Along with the failed prophecies, scientific progress has shown beyond all reasonable doubt, that their beliefs are flawed. The Creation/Evolution debate is a possible fatal blow to the belief, because it risks dissonance so great that even ardent believers give up.

The Christadelphians have all but given up proselytizing those outside. The beliefs are now seen as so absurd and easily debunked, that normally educated people in the western world will not entertain them. They proudly boast from their platforms that they only want simple minded people, not intelligent ones. Their only hope is to do it from within, and this brings me on to the main subject.

Sunday School

It's "Spirit", NOT "Ghost"
In my time with the Christadelphians, I did not see one person converted by what I would loosely term evangelism. It did not work. Every person came in by love interest or by being brought up in it. In 10 years the only outsider I saw walk into the lecture was a tramp looking for warmth. Proselytizing ones own children by means of chreches, Sunday schools, CYC, youth camps, Swanwick Bible School and the like, is the easy way out. Kids trust their parents and their parents friends.

Tricking them into belief is easy (the Christadelphians are by no means alone in this). The benefit of a full Sunday School is not to those who are made to attend. It is to the Christadelphians who ease their dissonance by converting those least able to resist.

It is my belief that Christadelphian Sunday schools force children into a belief system in a way that they cannot resist, for the benefit of others. Bible camps and the like do just the same, as do Swanwick Bible Weeks, where it is known to the author that some children have been forced to attend against the will of their parents, never mind themselves.

Faith Schools

Soak up the CD BS Sponge!
The somewhat pathetic attempt to force the UK taxpayer to fund a Christadelphian school in Birmingham UK,acknowledges this fact in this video, referring to children as "sponges", to be kept away from outside, undesirable,influence.The rest of the site (Which has recently been updated to make it appear as a Christian denomination site) confirms that children will be bussed in, bussed out, that whenever possible lessons will be modified to be relevant to Christadelphian beliefs.


My hope is that the Christadelphian's follow their current path of making more and more crazy predictions, because this is the only way that some of the older ones will be jolted out. It will also shake a few young one out too.

I think our commitment here must be to spell out, even if it sometimes offends, how this crazy religion functions. It's rapid destruction can only be achieved by making plain simple facts available to the young.


Please discuss the above. What does everybody think of Heritage College Birmingham and the new "hiding in plain sight" style?  I think it has become more dangerous and that we must somehow move to cut the head off the snake.

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