Enough about music, films and TV. Serious times call for serious topics.
This is day 7 of my apocalypse challenge. Over 10 days, I’m posting about catastrophes and almost-armageddons which had a big influence on me personally, and that also nearly destroyed the world.
The Apocalypse Challenge:
Day 7 – Doomsday Cults
Join my new doomsday cult. It’s easy. All you have to do is…
separate yourself from your family and friends, abandon your earthly possessions and recognize me as the ultimate authority in your life on all matters personal, financial, spiritual and sexual. (That sexual one is important. It’s why I really started this cult).
Anyway, once you do all that, I’ll tell you the exact day, time and method in which the world will end. It’s very soon! But don’t worry, you’ll be spared because you’re with me.
You do trust me, don’t you? Good. Because even if the end of the world doesn’t come on the exact day I predicted, it won’t be my fault. It’ll be yours. Or it’ll be something like the theta waves projected by our enemies. Don’t worry, I’ll pick another date and we’ll try again.
Doesn’t sound very appealing, does it? But this formula works surprisingly well, as there are a lot of lonely and vulnerable people out there looking for answers. These cults are always run by confident and charismatic men, who feed on the apocalyptic energy that already exists in our society. They offer people a counter to all that – absolute certainty – which is very appealing in these uncertain times. Who doesn’t want some sense of control over their destiny?
The Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo believed that the world was going to end in a nuclear war for everyone, except members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult. When the planet didn’t get destroyed fast enough for their liking, they tried to hurry things along by developing a stockpile of nerve gas, some of which they used to mass-murder Tokyo subway commuters.
The Heaven’s Gate cult in California sought to escape this doomed planet by hitching a ride on an extraterrestrial spacecraft, which they convinced themselves could be reached via an elaborate mass suicide ritual.
Part of what makes these stories so tragic is that all of those doomed cult-members thought they were engaging in a legitimate religion and not a dangerous death cult. They thought they were being devout, not deranged.
It makes you think of that old joke, that cults+time = religion. These modern doomsday cults would do better to follow in the footsteps of the more well-established faiths, like Christianity, which is pretty big on doomsdays too, but has been quite careful not to commit to a precise day and time for the end of the world.
Call it cult or religion, it just seems to work out better for everybody involved when the end is not nearly so nigh.
Tomorrow’s armageddon will be brought to you by: