posting is not working for me tonight
Doctrines that make no predictions are less compelling than those which make correct
predictions; they are in turn more successful than doctrines that make false predictions.
But not always. One prominent American religion confidently predicted that the world
would end in 1914. Well, 1914 has come and gone, and -- while the events of that year
were certainly of some importance -- the world does not, at least so far as I can see,
seem to have ended.
There are at least three responses that an organized religion can make in the face of
such a failed and fundamental prophecy. They could have said, "Oh, did we say '1914'?
So sorry, we meant '2014'. A slight error in calculation. Hope you weren't inconvenienced
in any way." But they did not. They could have said, "Well, the world *would* have ended,
except we prayed very hard and interceded with God and He spared the Earth." Instead,
they did something much more ingenious. They announced that the world *had* in fact ended
in 1914, and if the rest of us hadn't noticed, that was our lookout.
It is astonishing in the face of such transparent evasions that this religion has any
adherents at all. But religions are tough. Either they make no contentions which are
subject to disproof or they quickly redesign doctrine after disproof. The fact that
religions can be so shamelessly dishonest, so contemptuous of the intelligence of their
adherents, and still flourish does not speak very well for the tough-mindedness of the
believers. But it does indicate, if a demonstration were needed, that near the core of
the religious experience is something remarkably resistant to rational inquiry.
? quote from "Broca's Brain" by Carl Sagan, p. 332, twelfth edition