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Meditation 483

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In the classic agnostic essay republished as Meditation 480, we find Marilla Ricker applying her wicked wit to the sect she refers to as Millerites or Second Adventists. By sheer coincidence, I received as a submission for this same update Dr. Derrick Norbert Morris's Biblical proof of the age of the world. And Dr. Morris uses one of the dates William Miller saw as the end of the world as a key date in his theory.

In 1831 William Miller, a New York farmer, started preaching that the prophecies of Revelations were about to come to pass and prophesied that the second coming of Christ would occur in 1843, and when that did not transpire, amended it to 1844.

In spite of the failure of his specific predictions, he can be considered the inspiration for the end times mania that still grips so many North American protestant denominations and sects. His own followers went through countless schisms. Among the major offshoots surviving today are the Seventh Day Adventists and the Jehovah's Witnesses. A minor group split from the Seventh Day Adventists in the mid 20th century with an updated second coming prediction of 1959. These were the Davidian Adventists; and when this sect went through its own schism, one group became the infamous Branch Davidians.

None of Miller's predictions of a second coming came true. Numerous further predictions were made by the sects that he inspired. None of these predictions of a second coming has come true. And yet his followers carry on in their various ways, reinterpreting his prophecies to make more doomed predictions.

It's pure chance that two writers of disparate views should, in the same week, remind me of William Miller and the gullibility inherent in some forms of religious belief. If there is an agnostic deity, then that god's name is serendipity.