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Doomsday, destructive religious cults

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Webmaster's note:

This article was originally written during the 1990's when destructive religious cults were a major concern in North America and elsewhere. These groups have since become much less of a problem.

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We define Doomsday/Destructive/Apocalyptic cults to be religiously based, very high intensity, controlling groups that have caused or are liable to cause loss of life among their membership or the general public.

It is important to realize that out of the tens of thousands of new religious groups worldwide, only a very few meet these criteria.

We do not include terrorist groups in the above definition, because their goals are primarily political, not religious. However, groups like Al Qaeda (The Source) and ISIS do have some points of similarities with destructive religious cults.

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What is behind the death of members of destructive cults?

No consensus exists concerning the motivation for the loss of life within this handful of cults:

bullet Some in the Anti-Cult Movement claim that much of this loss of life among cult members was the result of mass suicides ordered by the group leadership. That opinion fits well with their now-discredited belief that cult memberships have been the victims of mind control techniques. Having little self-will, they have been willing to follow any order from the leadership -- even one leading to self destruction. 

bullet The loss of life by the Heaven's Gate membership was definitely a suicide. The members were convinced that they would be transported, at death, to a space ship where they would evolve to a higher level of existence.  There is overwhelming hard evidence that all of the deaths within the Ugandan Movement for the Restoration..., and many of the Solar Temple deaths were actually murders to cover financial fraud by the leadership. This may have been the motivation for the Jeffrey Lundgren murders as well. All of the Branch Davidian victims appear to have been murdered by their leaders -- either by being shot or as a result of the arson-set fire. Many, perhaps most, of the People's Temple victims were also murdered. Details are sketchy because of the advanced state of decomposition of the bodies when investigators arrived.

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Details of destructive doomsday cults:

bullet Homicides directed against the public:
bullet Aum Shinri Kyo
bullet The Family (Charles Manson)
bullet Suicides or homicides of their own members:
bullet Branch Davidians 
bullet Heaven's Gate
bullet Jeffrey Lundgren
bullet Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God (Uganda)
bullet The People's Temple (Jim Jones)
bullet Solar Temple

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Religious groups with the possible potential to be destructive:

bullet Concerned Christians

House of Yahweh: Part 1  Part 2

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White supremacist groups: 

These do not fit the mold of the destructive cults listed above. However, they do preach hatred of gays, lesbians, African-Americans, communists and other minorities. Even though the group may preach non-violence, their message of hate appears to inspire some of their members to commit murders and serious terrorist acts:

bullet The Creativity Movement (formerly called the World Church of the Creator)
bullet Essays on the Aryan Nation and similar white supremacist groups will be described at a future date.

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Other related topics:

bullet Common Factors Among Doomsday Cults
bullet Predictions of the end of the world:

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Site navigation: Home page > Cult menu > here

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Copyright © 1996 to 2020 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Last updated 2020-AUG-19

Author: B.A. Robinson
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