Doomsday or the day of reckoning is a concept believed in by most people around the world. While the rest of us sit and wait patiently for it, others decide to create their own or at least claim to know it. Most of these prophecies fail, but the price can be very high. Exaggerated ideas about the end of the world have led to the rise and fall of some of the most dangerous religious sects around the world. It is quite interesting how many of them believe that hiding in a cave or a bunker is a great way to escape the wrath of the Almighty. Others, however, decided to hasten the arrival of doomsday themselves committing some of the most brutal mass murders in history.
This is the cult responsible for the deadliest terrorist attack in Japan. They packed bags filled with Sarin gas into the Tokyo subway killing 13 people and leaving 5,800 others with life-threatening injuries and defects. The man behind the cult was Shoko Asahara who claimed to be the only enlightened man after the Buddha himself. His religion incorporated Christian apocalyptic prophecies into Buddhism and claimed that World War III was about to begin and that everyone would die except members of the cult. They, however, turned violent kidnapping and beating up people that opposed them. In 1995, they went on a rampage attacking the Tokyo subway with Sarin gas and cyanide. It was declared a terrorist organization while Ashara was arrested and executed alongside some members. Some people broke away and formed different non-violent sects still subscribing to Ashara’s ideas.
The Russian Doomsday Cult
Pavel Kuznetsov was a doomsday preacher from Belarus that went through Russia preaching the “good news” of the coming apocalypse. In 2005 after gathering a sizeable following, he settled in the village of Nikolskoye, in Penza Russia and started a radical church that didn’t believe in using electricity. He predicted that the world would come to an end in May 2008 and so he planned with the church elders to prepare a local cave for a bunker to hide in until the rest of the world was wiped out.
In September 2007, the group members buried themselves in the cave and threatened to blow themselves up when the authorities attempted to get them out. Of course, the apocalypse never came, so in May 2008, after two members had died, Kuznetsov attempted suicide while the rest of the members decided to finally come out of the cave when the authorities advised them that the fumes of the bodies would infect them.
This cult migrated from India into Oregon in the 1980s after running into problems with the Indian government. They are solely responsible for the worst biological agent attack on US soil. At first, the cult which was believed to be nothing but a meditation school directed by Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. Rajneesh’s ambitions were however more political than spiritual, and he turned homicidal in a bid to get members of his cult to control the county government in Oregon. First, he poisoned Salad bars with Salmonella distributed to more than 700 people in the town causing mass sickness to prevent the people from going to vote.
The cult then hired hundreds of homeless people and used them to gain votes for their members in the county election before drugging all of them and dumping them in Portland. As if that wasn’t enough, they went ahead and tried to kill the District attorney of Oregon. Their crimes released in the TV Show, Wild County depicted them as an extreme sex cult that forced marriages for members to gain US citizenship. Rajneesh died in 1990, and the cult disintegrated although they still retain an online presence.
The Movement for Restoration of the 10 Commandments
This is still considered the most dangerous Extremist Catholic group in history. It started when a group of people claimed to be seers in communication with Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. They approached Joseph Kibwetere, a devoted Catholic from Uganda and told him that Mary had instructed them to recruit him as their leader. Together, they created a branch of Catholicism that sought to restore the world to a life that adhered perfectly with the 10 commandments. They became too radical leading to their excommunication from the Ugandan Catholic church although they gained international support from some senior Catholic clerics in Italy and the US.
Their cause shocked the world when they declared that the end of the world would occur in 1999 and that only members of the cult would survive. In Early 2000 however, the church leaders lit a fire on the whole congregation killing more than 300 people. It was believed that they convinced members that they would be delivered to Mary wrapped in flames. More dead bodies were found in Kibwetere’s compound including 52 children. It was not clear whether it was a mass suicide or a mass murder because the authorities never found the leaders’ bodies.
The Manson Family
Charles Manson is still considered a terrorist by many in the US after the gruesome murders committed by his so-called family. His cult was the last thing he created after a difficult life in and out of prison and a failed career in music. He had created a society with some members of the Beach Boys band, but the producer rejected their records. In revenge, Manson ordered his “family” to kill Hinman who had introduced him to the band. He also sent them to attack Melcher, the producer that had rejected his record but he had moved out of his home. The “family” killed the pregnant actress Sharon Tate alongside four members of her family. The cult went ahead to kill more people robbing all their victims in the process. He was arrested in 1969 and has been denied bail more than 20 times since then. He, however, continued to gain a following in prison.
Order of the Solar Temple
Joseph Di Mambro was a well-known cultist in the 80s having started many failed orders until he met Luc Jouret, another doomsday believer from Belgium. The two started the cult that came to be known as the Order of the solar temple which believed to hold onto the beliefs according to the Knights Templars. Their teachings attracted a global following leading to thousands in membership by 1994 which although leadership wrangles arose as the cult leaders became power hungry. Most of the people had been convinced to give all their possessions to the cult which now had many properties in Canada, France, Switzerland, and parts of the U.K.
Jouret and Di Mambro soon predicted the end of the world and told their members to prepare for a voyage to a distant star Sirius to escape the doom. Members started committing mass suicides in Quebec and later Switzerland and France. The mass suicides involved people including children being drugged before being suffocated in plastic bags and in some cases, shot dead. Others used sedatives before burning themselves to death including the two founders of the cult. By 1997, 73 members of the cult were killed leading to an international ban on membership.
On Feb 28, 1993, ATF agents raided Carmel compound in Waco Texas attempting to arrest David Koresh, a self-proclaimed doomsday prophet of the Branch Davidians, a radical order that broke off from the Adventists. The compound had more than 100 people including children who had stockpiled guns, and grenades awaiting the apocalypse. They had no room for the Federal agents, and so a shootout ensued leading to the death of six Davidians and four ATF agents.
The FBI them surrounded the compound with more than 600 agents, tanks and surveillance equipment leading to a 51-day standoff as the Davidians refused to leave the compound. The Standoff ended in one of the saddest days in US history as the breach of the siege by FBI agents ended in a fire that killed more than 80 people including nine children. Investigations later confirmed that David Koresh started the fire himself to prevent arrest. There were about nine survivors of the event which is now called the Waco massacre.
The Church of the Almighty God
This is mostly considered the most radical cult from China also called the Eastern Lightning. The church was started by Zhao Weishan who claimed that Jesus had come a second time in the form of a Chinese woman named Yang Xiangbin. The funny thing is no one except her has ever encountered this woman whom she claims has brought the apocalypse. The religion advises all members to leave their families behind and revolt against the Chinese Communist party calling them the red dragon.
They have recruit members through the internet and by using special cult books written by the founder herself. They are known for violent recruitments including a 2015 incident in which they beat a woman at McDonald’s to death when she refused to give them her phone number. Two members were executed in China while the leader fled to the US. The cult continues to enjoy a considerable following online despite being labeled illegal in China.
This remains the worst case of mass suicide in American history involving over 900 deaths. Jim Jones started People’s temple in the 1950s as the haven of the oppressed which included many African Americans at the time, mentally ill patients and homeless people. The group migrated from California to Jonestown in 1974 when their leader told them they needed to establish a haven away from the alcohol and oppression in America. They wanted to create a self-sufficient town, but this was difficult considering the 1000 immigrants who had to build all the infrastructure on their own. Rumors of overworked people and kidnappings reached the US as the group tried to work around the clock to establish their haven.
Concerned family members and journalists accompanied congressman Ryan of California to investigate the situation. The cult, trying to avoid negative information about the community reaching the US killed the congressman and all the visitors. Jim Jones had been preparing his followers for a possible mass suicide many times making people take a liquid they were told contained a poison. After the death of the congressman, he decided to actualize this mission convincing more than 900 people to take apples laced with cyanide. This resulted in what is popularly known as the Jonestown massacre.
After a near death experience, Marshal Applewhite, a music professor with a history as a pastor was convinced by his nurse Bonnie Nettles that he had received a message from God and he had a purpose to fulfill. Together, they formed Heaven’s Gate cult that believed an alien spaceship would come and carry them to heaven. Nettles died in 1985 and membership in the cult fell as the spacecraft seemed to take longer than expected. However, in 1990, Applewhite managed to convince around 40 new members that the comet Hale-Bopp which passed close to the Earth in 1997 was being accompanied by the spaceship. He convinced 38 members to commit mass suicide in 1997 believing they would leave their bodies and enter a spiritual body that would board the spaceship into heaven.