In the spirit of the "Doomsday Cults" and their adherents, and the infamous Harold Camping and his failed prediction of Judgement Day being May 21, 2011, I find it interesting that people continue to put their faith in such predictions, when over the centuries literally hundreds of such predictions have been made which have all turned out to be bogus. Even the predictions made in the bible about the "Second coming" were unfulfilled. Karl Marx and Fredrich Engels explains the phenomenon in their work "On Religion."
Engels and Marx reveal the "beast" of the book of Revelations as Rome, and the seven heads of the beast are the seven hills which surround Rome. Revelations refers to the war between the Caesar Nero, (represented by the Jewish numerical code 666) and Jesus, where Jesus was to return and overthrow the tyranny of Rome. This was the prophecy of Revelations.
When the "failed prophecy" of Jesus coming back in a "twinkling of an eye" (1 Corinthians 15:52, ) did not happen, people started laughing at believers, so they changed tactics and had him coming back within their generation. This didn't happen either, so then they said "no one knows." (Matt 24:36) This, however, hasn't stopped Christians from making failed prophecy after failed prophecy, because they can always find suckers willing to buy their schtick--and hand over their cash. It's unfortunate that some of these believers (such as the Heaven's Gate cult) have also lost their lives as a result of these unfounded beliefs.
Doomsday predictions are nothing new. People have been making such predictions for literally centuries now--but when they keep failing, why do they continue to do it? Most believers in such nonsense would not put their "faith" in science, and volunteer to be guinea pigs in a science experiment, so why do they, oh so willingly, believe the end is near without any evidence? How can people continue to be so pessimistic about our natural world, and so gullible as to believe the world will end without any evidence?
Cognitive Dissonance. Cognitive dissonance results when a person holds conflicting ideas simultaneously, which they uphold by blaming, justifying and denying whatever they need to in order to maintain their conflicting beliefs. Didn't win the lottery? Just say god has different "plans" for you.
One of the most famous examples of cognitive dissonance was described in the book "When Prophecy Fails." In this example, a religious group that expected the imminent "end of the world" (sound familiar?) grew, instead of faltering when their predictions failed. Because of this, we should not be too surprised to hear that Camping's group is still around in the future making more lame excuses for the no-show of their gods--and continue to come up with even more bizarre predictions.
Cognitive dissonance certainly is a force to be reckoned with, so if you see anyone wearing a sandwich board warning that the "end is near"--smile and walk away knowing you have absolutely nothing to worry about. After 2000 years of failed predictions, I don't expect the prophecies to end anytime soon....:)