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Cultist groups have pervaded society since individuals were able to communicate and share ideas in large numbers, however, modern cult experts frequently disagree over what exactly constitutes a cult. What one expert considers a bizarre or quirky group is typically regarded by others as a religion or sect, names that carry a less societal stigma. Whatever the best workable definition is, we showcase some of today’s weirdest cults in popular culture.
Temple of the People
Reverend Jim Jones founded the Peoples Temple to assist homeless, unemployed, and sick individuals of all races, but former members reported pervasive mistreatment within the organization. To avoid further investigation, Jones established a colony in the jungles of Guyana, where he planned to create a tropical utopia. When a congressman and three journalists went to the commune to investigate the abuse allegations, they were shot and killed as they tried to flee. Following the gunshots, 913 commune members died after drinking poisoned Flavor Aid, including hundreds of youngsters.
Aum Shinrikyo (Aum Shinrikyo)
Aum Shinrikyo was founded in the mid-1980s and is best known for using Sarin gas to assault Tokyo’s subway system in 1995, killing 12 people and injuring over 5,000. The cult’s ideas are frequently described as a mash-up of harmful components of numerous religions, and while many adherents expected to obtain supernatural powers, others welcomed the opportunity to combat Japanese consumerism. Also, you must try to play this Are You In A Cult Quiz.
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The Gate to Heaven
The Heaven’s Gate cult, led mostly by Marshall Applewhite, claimed that the Earth and everything on it was about to be “recycled” to a clean slate and that catching a ride on comet Hale-Bopp in March 1997 would allow them to survive. Thirty-nine people (including Applewhite) poisoned themselves in shifts while donning Nike sneakers and armbands that said “Heaven’s Gate Away Team.”
The Manson Family
In 1968, Charles Manson, who learned to play the guitar in prison, founded his infamous “Family” of criminals. Manson predicted an apocalyptic racial conflict between whites and blacks in 1969, following which the commune would dominate the new world. When that didn’t happen, he sent his followers on a spree of murders to “teach blacks how to do it,” but the victims Manson chose were people who had not assisted him with his music career.
Branch Davidians are well-known for a 1993 FBI raid on their Waco, Texas, complex, which resulted in the deaths of 76 people. The event essentially led to the abolition of what many regards to be a cult that believed in an impending apocalypse.
Communities of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh
Throughout the 1980s, Indian mystic Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh built multiple cultist towns in Oregon — curiously, communities replete with Rolls Royce vehicles. Shree allegedly poisoned hundreds of people in Dalles, Oregon, with Salmonella germs in 1984 in order to manipulate local elections in favor of his sect. It is widely regarded as the first bioterrorist attack in the United States.
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The Solar Temple Order
According to reports, Luc Jouret, a Belgian religious leader and neo-Nazi, founded the group in 1984 under Christian guises, especially the Second Coming of Christ and the Knights Templar. In 1994, Jouret and other leaders in a Swiss town allegedly sacrificed a kid they believed to be the antichrist before committing suicide with hundreds of followers. Today, the French regard the group to be criminal.
Villa Baviera, also known as “Colonia Dignidad” (Dignidad Colony in English), is a commune of German immigrants built-in 1961 by Paul Schäfer Schneider, a former Nazi party member. Human rights groups claim Chile’s secret police tortured and interrogated people at the site, and former members have publicly apologized for assaulting children as well.
Cults of Cargo
If you’re an islander cut off from contemporary culture, seeing an AM/FM radio – or a boat full of symbol-clad troops – might be jarring. Many societies develop a cult-like devotion to technologically improved “cargo.” In rituals, some South Pacific islanders are said to carry wooden weapons and paint “USA” on their chests in order to attract more of the mystery items.