If you're reading this, you survived the Rapture

What Festinger failed to understand is that prophecies, per se, almost never fail. They are instead component parts of a complex and interwoven belief system which tends to be very resilient to challenge from outsiders. While the rest of us might focus on the accuracy of an isolated claim as a test of a group’s legitimacy, those who are part of that group—and already accept its whole theology—may not be troubled by what seems to them like a minor mismatch. A few people might abandon the group, typically the newest or least-committed adherents, but the vast majority experience little cognitive dissonance and so make only minor adjustments to their beliefs. They carry on, often feeling more spiritually enriched as a result…

In fact, so many studies have been conducted on unfulfilled prophecies from religions large and small that they were compiled into a fascinating book from 2000, Expecting Armageddon. None of the groups described reacted to the unexpected persistence of the world with a zealous drive for new members, and most made just minor adjustments to their beliefs. If Harold Camping’s followers remain steadfast in their devotion come Sunday afternoon, don’t be surprised—it’s merely a testament to the human spirit.