10 of the World’s Most Infamous Cults


1
The People's Temple
Empty bottles of cyanide found at the commune known as Jonestown.
Empty bottles of cyanide found at the commune known as Jonestown.
Matthew Naythons/Liason/Getty Images

The epitome of the charismatic cult leader, Jim Jones was a preacher from the Pentecostal tradition. Although white, Jones attracted a large African American following because of his preaching style as well as dedication to integration and racial equality. His teachings were influenced by liberation theology and socialist beliefs.

Jones began the People's Temple in the 1950s in Indianapolis. After reading in Esquire magazine about places to survive a nuclear holocaust, he moved his congregation to Ukiah, Calif., in 1965. In the next five years, the People's Temple membership went from less than a hundred to thousands. With thriving churches in San Francisco and Los Angeles, Jones also built up a significant amount of political clout.

Meanwhile, Jones began building a commune called "Jonestown" in Guyana, a socialist-led country in South America. In 1977, when Jones heard that New West magazine was to publish an expose on life in the People's Temple as "a mixture of Spartan regimentation, fear and self-imposed humiliation" he and his congregation quickly fled to the commune [source: Kilduff].

Convinced by former members and relatives of members to go, U.S. Congressmen Leo Ryan flew down to visit Jonestown to learn more about it. Just before Ryan was about to leave on Nov. 18, 1978, Jones's men arrived at the airstrip and killed the congressman, as well as several others. That same day, Jones convinced his congregation to kill themselves. More than 900 people died, including 276 children.

Related Articles

Sources

  • Bromley, David G., J. Gordon Melton. "Cults, Religion & Violence." Cambridge University Press. 2002. (Sept. 30, 2011) http://books.google.com/books?id=Qj6TchXa9b0C
  • Browne, Sylvia, Lindsay Harrison. "End of Days: Predictions and Prophecies About the End of the World." Penguin. 2009. (Sept. 30, 2011) http://books.google.com/books?id=bAAOiMl1BIcC
  • Clarke, Peter Bernard. "Encyclopedia of New Religious Movements." Psychology Press. 2006. (Sept. 30, 2011) http://books.google.com/books?id=KLipBC05pF8C
  • Cyriax, Oliver, et al. "Aum Shinrikyo and the Tokyo Subway Attack." Encyclopedia of Crime. André Deutsch. 2009.
  • EB. "Sun Myung Moon." Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica. 2011. (Sept. 30, 2011) http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/391346/Sun-Myung-Moon
  • Goldwag, Arthur. "Cults, Conspiracies, & Secret Societies." Random House Digital, Inc. 2009. (Sept 30, 2011) http://books.google.com/books?id=DDbM5GeMgXIC
  • Jenkins, John Philip. "Charles Manson." Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica. 2011. (Sept. 30, 2011) http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/1245941/Charles-Manson
  • Kilduff, Marshall, Phil Tracy. "Inside People's Temple." New West Magazine, Aug. 1, 1977. San Diego State University. (Sept. 30, 2011) http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/AboutJonestown/PrimarySources/newWestart_text.htm
  • Larson, Bob. "Larson's Book of World Religions and Alternative Spirituality." Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. 2004. (Sept. 30, 2011) http://books.google.com/books?id=vnAk9WefhfwC
  • Lewis, James. R. "Cults: A Reference Handbook." ABC-CLIO. 2005.
  • Melton, John Gordon. "Aleph" Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica. 2011. (Sept. 30, 2011) http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/701460/Aleph
  • Melton, John Gordon. "Branch Davidian." Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica. 2011. (Sept. 30, 2011) http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/77526/Branch-Davidian
  • Melton, John Gordon. "The Family International." Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica. 2011. (Sept. 30, 2011) http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/701799/The-Family-International
  • Melton, John Gordon. "Heaven's Gate." Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica. 2011. (Sept. 30, 2011) http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/701760/Heavens-Gate
  • Melton, John Gordon. "Order of the the Solar Temple." Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica. 2011. (Sept. 30, 2011) http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/1418448/Order-of-the-Solar-Temple
  • Melton, John Gordon. "The People's Temple." Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica. 2011. (Sept. 30, 2011) http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/450697/Peoples-Temple
  • Melton, John Gordon. "Unification Church." Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica. 2011. (Sept. 30, 2011) http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/614516/Unification-Church
  • Mikuk, Chris. "The Cult Files: True Stories from the Extreme Edges of Religious Beliefs." Pier 9. 2009. (Sept. 30, 2011) http://books.google.com/books?id=SItnjHh8voEC
  • PBS. "Jonestown: The Life and Death of People's Temple." American Experience. Public Broadcasting Station. 2006.
  • Rubinstein, Murray. "New Religious Movement" Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica. 2011. (Sept. 30, 2011) http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/1007307/new-religious-movement-NRM
  • Sreenivasan, Jyotsna. "Utopias in American History." ABC-CLIO. 2008. (Sept 30, 2011) http://books.google.com/books?id=RnrBO-O_HvcC
  • Strokes, Jerry. "Changing World Religions, Cults & Occult." Jerry Stokes. (Sept. 30, 2011) http://books.google.com/books?id=DTPJpanTizwC

UP NEXT

Jim Roberts and the Cult of the Garbage Eaters

Jim Roberts and the Cult of the Garbage Eaters

Who is Jim Roberts and those who follow his prophecies? Stuff They Don't Want You To Know looks at the Brethren (aka) cult of the garbage eaters.


More to Explore