False facts that actually changed the world

The world didn’t end in 1844, so we founded new religions

Details are good but being too specific can be dangerous. That’s exactly what William Miller discovered on October 22, 1844. He had preached as fact that Christ would be returning to Earth that day, and according to Grace Communion International, somewhere in the neighborhood of 100,000 people gathered to see the spectacle of the Second Coming. Night fell, and no one came. Miller’s fact had been proved not-so-factual in a spectacular way that the religious community later called The Great Disappointment.

The Adventist News Network says the revelation was hugely out of the ordinary for the belief system at the time. While most believed the Second Coming was a figurative thing, Miller kick-started a belief — and hope — in the actual, real, physical return of Jesus. After the Second Coming didn’t happen on the proclaimed date, Millerites debated about what it meant and formed entirely new religions based on the failed prophecy. The Jehovah’s Witnesses started from one branch of the group, and so did the Seventh-day Adventists. They believed the date was significant but Miller had gotten the event wrong, instead choosing to make that the day of the final phase of Christ’s heavenly ministry. Miller may not have predicted the end of the world correctly, but he did launch a few religious movements — not an insignificant legacy.