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At the beginning of last year, I mentioned a prediction made by Pat Robertson:

As reported by Americans United, Pat Robertson has joined in the fun, predicting “mass killings” to occur on American soil due to a terrorist attack sometime this year. (Robertson said he expected this to come in the form of a nuclear attack, but emphasized that this was only his educated guess – as opposed to the rest of this prophecy, which was clearly straight from God’s mouth and not at all just made up.)

The video of this prediction can be viewed here. The prophecy in question comes around the two-minute mark, where Robertson forecasts “very serious terrorist attacks” against America, resulting in “mass killings… possibly [of] millions of people”, and “major cities injured”.

By now, I think we can safely assume that this is another prophetic failure. The only question is, was Pat Robertson making up prophecies on his own initiative and attributing them to God, or was it God himself who blew it?

In either case, Robertson does not have a good track record as a fortuneteller. This latest embarrassment joins a long string of failures chronicled by AU (see also):

  • In 1980, Robertson predicted the start of World War III, telling his audience that God said the year would be full of “sorrow and bloodshed that will have no end soon, for the world is being torn apart, and my kingdom shall rise from the ruins of it.” He also prophecied in the same year that the Soviet Union would invade the Middle East to seize its oil reserves.
  • In 1988, Robertson claimed that God told him to run for president. He did not win the Republican primary.
  • In his 1991 book The New World Order, Robertson forecast that U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller would be elected president in 1996.
  • In 1998, Robertson threatened that, as punishment for flying rainbow flags during Disney World’s annual Gay Days event, the city of Orlando would be struck by “earthquakes, tornadoes and possibly a meteor”.
  • In 2004, Robertson predicted that George W. Bush would win reelection in “a blowout”. Although Bush was reelected, it was by 50.7% to 48.3% – the closest ever margin for a sitting president.
  • In January 2006, Robertson forecast that the U.S. midterm elections would leave the Republican party in control of Congress. He also predicted that the Iraq war would “come to a successful conclusion” that year and U.S. troops would begin withdrawing.
  • Robertson also predicted in 2006 that devastating storms and hurricanes would lash the U.S. coast. He must have thought this a particularly safe guess, but in fact no hurricanes made landfall in the U.S. in that year.

Of course, Robertson has suffered no fallout from these repeated failures. Like most religious phonies, he can count on his followers never doing any follow-up work. He can make whatever absurd guesses he likes, and his devoted true believers will oblige him by forgetting about all the ones that fail to pan out. (Or, like many other failed apocalyptic prophets, he can claim that the disaster was going to occur but was averted just in time by the prayers of his followers – a time-tested excuse hinted at in the video.) The usual pattern is, if any prophecies do come true, for the prophet to endlessly remind his followers of that fact and counting on their being awed and amazed. However, I’m not aware of any major predictions made by Robertson that turned out successful.

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DAYLIGHT ATHEISM Adam Lee is an atheist author and speaker from New York City. His previously published books include "Daylight Atheism," "Meta: On God, the Big Questions, and the Just City," and most...