How Prophecy Lives


Taking its inspiration from the 50th anniversary of the publication of Festinger et al.'s 1956 seminal and controversial volume When Prophecy Fails, which introduced the notion of "cognitive dissonance" as an explanation for how a small group of flying saucer devotees handled the failure of a predicted visit from space aliens, this volume looks at both theoretical and empirical studies of religious groups for whom space beings and civilizations provided an inspiration to prepare for the nearness of events that would trigger "the end of the world." Rather than examining merely the rationales adopted to account for the disappointments associated with such "failures," the core of the present volume seeks to explore the dynamics that inspire not only such beliefs but also the vigorous participation in activities in which adherents engage to prepare for the coming of (or transport to) alien civilizations from "outer space."

Contributors include: Lorne L. Dawson, Arthur L. Greil, Ralph W. Hood, Jr., Benton Johnson, Salvador J. Murguia, Jon R. Stone, Bradley Whitsel, and Stuart A. Wright.

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Diana G. Tumminia received her Ph.D. in social psychology from UCLA. She is author of When Prophecy Never Fails (Oxford 2005) an intensive ethnographic study of the Uranius Academy of Science, and Alien Worlds: Social and Religious Dimensions of Extraterrestrial Contact (Syracuse 2007). She is Emerita Professor of Sociology at the University of California Long Beach.
William H. Swatos, Jr. is Executive Officer of the Association for the Sociology of Religion and of the Religious Research Association. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Kentucky and is currently a Senior Fellow at the Center for Religious Inquiry Across the Disciplines at Baylor University and teaching at Augustana College (Illinois).
"The volume presents a gripping discussion of cognitive dissonance theory and failed prophecies. Festinger’s original theory is described and thoroughly evaluated: it is clear that the authors advocate a more sociological approach to social psychology, studying phenomena in the real world rather than the laboratory." - Remco Robinson, Utrecht University, in: Journal of Empirical Theology 28 (2015), 281-282
All those interested in so-called "flying saucer cults" or movements and the attraction of extraterestrial beings and worlds that were particularly generated in the second half of the twentieth century; also the wider constituency of students of new religious movements (NRMs).
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