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Project 3 -Cults

Page history last edited by amy.schneider85 12 years, 8 months ago












Amy Schneider           


English 1020


“To me death is not a fearful thing. It's living that's cursed.” A quote from the infamous Jim Jones. Jim Jones was the founder of the People’s Temple which was a religious organization that turned into a mass suicide killing 918 people. The People’s Temple as well as many other organizations is considered a cult. According to Wikipedia a cult is defined as “a gathering of people or a collection of practices acting in a “bizarre” manner”. Merriam Webster’s dictionary describes it as “formal religious veneration”. Some people are describing the recent Occupy Wall Street movement as a cult. Cult is often considered to be a negative word, but when looking at the definition it does not say that it should not be used negatively.  A cult is a social experiment, and when we turn social experiments into the negative form of cults we are limiting our creativity, our potential to grow as a society, and even our democratic process.

 The true horror of turning a cult into a negative word is sadly shown in the Waco Texas Massacre. To understand the difference we need to look at the Jonestown cult and the differences between the two, and what the outcomes of Occupy Wall street could become if we take the cult in a negative way.

The Peoples Temple started in 1955 by a Pastor named Jim Jones. The church was a Methodist based church that accepted the African Americans and would preach communist ideas.  To bring in more income and people Jones faked healings with some of the people in the church. Jones would hold these conventions that would have these fake healings and reveal information about some of people that would show up by having private detectives find out the information. This brought in so many members and he would travel around Ohio and Indiana bringing as many as 11,000 attendees in during these conventions.  After the 1960s Jim Jones started to preach an apostolic Socialism concept, opening up his communist ideas. This is when he would tell the followers that he was the next Christ and the United States and its capitalism was the anti-Christ.  He then moved to Redvalley California where he soon preached that Christianity wasn’t right anymore and that the bible just explained how to enslave African Americans and treat women wrong. Still Jones continued to recruit by going on bus trips from L.A to San Francisco. He had about 3,000 followers and moved his church to San Francisco.  The cult had many establishments and did a lot of recruiting, and had continued to grow.  A group of eight had escaped the temple and Jim Jones sent out search parties to look for the eight. He went as far as renting an airplane. Many family members of the followers of Jones were concerned that Jones was holding people against their will. They had made an effort for the government to intervene but had been ignored. With all the allegations on Jones he soon moved to the jungles of Guyana establishing a new utopia for the temple. He called this utopia Jonestown.  The media was still talking about the abuse of the Jonestown members and Leo Ryan a congressman from California went to the town to investigate. While there he had members come up to him and express concern of needing to leave. Taking the members he went to his airplane and was openly fired on killing him and three reporters. The commanded was given to the guards by Jones himself. In massive paranoia he ordered a mass suicide of all the members. He would inject babies and children with cyanide into their mouth.  He ordered the adults to drink the purple kool-aid containing cyanide or be shot in the head. The suicide was of 918 people. This is often considered a cult because of the way that Jones recruited and brainwashed his members.  But when we look at the siege of Waco and the Branch Davidians which is also considered a cult we find that they are two totally different types of cults.


The Branch Davidians is religion based off the Seventh-day Adventist Church, just a sector off of Protestants.  The religion had a founder named Lois Roden. She had a son who she though was not fit to be the next Jesus.  She molded David Koresh or Vernon Howell as known at that time to be their prophet. Soon after Lois had died, her son George had taken control over the mountain kicking out David Koresh and his followers.   George soon challenged David to resurrection.  David took George to court for digging up a buried body and George went to jail giving full advantage of the mountain to David Koresh.  From there David would talk to God and describe how the end of the world was going to come to an end.  Oddly enough he said it would be a war between them and evil. The siege began with the ATF searching for firearms. The Davidians had gotten a tip and was ready for them. Shots were fired but no one is certain who started the shots. The siege lasted for 51 days and ended with a fire  started by the ATF killing the innocent people of the compound.

There are major differences between these two cults. When we study the people who were leading the cults we find some interesting differences. David Koresh had a hard childhood he was often made fun of. The things he really was interested was the bible and rock and roll. He wanted to be a rock star just like a lot of people.  When we look at Jim Jones we start to see a psychopath. His childhood friends say that he was obsessed with two things, religion and death. He would kill small animals and have funerals for those small animals. His childhood friend said that had stabbed a cat to death just to have a funeral.  He has a familiar ring to a murderer from Wisconsin, Jeffery Dahlmer. Jeffery Dahlmer, murdered 17 young men, and when he was younger used to kill and dissect dead animals. Another thing that is different between the two cults is the vocation of people. People tried to leave Jonestown but when the government was against the Davidians they stayed and not against their will. David Koresh also didn’t recruit people to join his religion like Jones did.

As you can see there is a big difference between the two cults. But they are still both considered cults. The recent Occupy Wall Street is being described as a cult. The Wall Street movement is a group of people camping out protesting the corruption in the government. The slogan “We are the 99%” is saying that we should do things for the 99% of the people and not just wealthiest 1%. People argue that it is a not a cult because it is not bizarre like Jonestown or Waco. But the Wall Street movement is a cult because they are a group of people expressing their beliefs in a bizarre way. Camping out in the streets is bizarre.  According to the book Godless the Church of Liberalism By Anne Coulter liberals have their own religion, and because most of the Occupy movement is liberal ideas they are expressing their religion.  If we take this expression and try to stop it like we did with Waco we will be going against the constitution. We as the American people have the legal right to express themselves as long as we don’t affect the safety of others. The Branch Davidians have the legal right to gather at their compound. They weren’t hurting anyone, but because of the lack of government involvement in the Jonestown cult they have to take extra caution with cults. What we should really do is pay attention to cults that are affecting peoples wellbeing. Like when Jones was brain washing and recruiting people, not when people are practicing a religion at their own will. When we limit the rights of the American people, lives are lost, money is spent, a bad reputation is put on the government, and ruing the democratic process.  The Occupy Wall Street is making a difference in the way we view our government. When we stop a movement like this we are limiting our country to grow as a society.  The positive possibilities from the occupy cult could be ruined if we stop this gathering.

The dictionary definition of a cult is correct but the way that Americans perceive the word is wrong. Cults aren’t always negative until we make them an infamous event. With the proper observations of any type of gathering whether it is “bizzare” or not, we can keep the rights of Americans safe and the lives.









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