Cult suicide

From ArticleWorld

Cult suicide is manifested when some religious groups known as cults order or encourage their members to commit suicide. When this occurs by many or all of the members, the media attention is enormous.

Mass suicides

Perhaps the most sensational mass suicide was that orchestrated by cult leader Jim Jones in 1978 in Jonestown, Guyana. In that year, 914 members of the People’s Temple cult committed what their leader called "an act of revolutionary suicide protesting the conditions of an inhumane world." Of the dead, 274 were children. While the exact circumstances are unknown, it would appear that the victims ingested poison.

In the year 2000, members of another cult – the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God – committed a probable mass suicide, this time the victims numbered between 780 and 1000. Members of another group - The Order of the Solar Temple – committed a series of mass suicides between 1994 and 1997. They left behind notes explaining that they felt they were moving on to Sirius and could no longer tolerate the hypocrisy of the world. 74 died because of these beliefs.

The appearance of the comet Hale-Bopp caused great excitement when it appeared in 1997. It was perhaps the most widely observed comet of the 20th century and very bright. It was also the reason 39 followers of the Heaven’s Gate cult committed suicide in California. They believed their souls would then go on a journey aboard a spaceship following the Hale-Bopp comet.

Suspected suicides

There have been numerous other cases where cult suicides have been suspected. The Branch Davidians in 1993 may have been involved in suicide and the Creativity Movement (a white supremacist group) believe that suicide is an honorable way to die once a decision has been made that life is no longer worth living. The leader of the group, Ben Klassen, did just that when he took his own life after the death of his wife.

The alleged self immolation of six members of the Falun Gong in Tiannemen Square in 2001 was proof for the Chinese authorities that the group supported mass suicide. Practitioners of the spiritual movement state that the group do not support such practices and the six people were either not members of their movement or they were killed by the government in order to garner support for their suppression of the group. An investigation by the UN Human Rights Commission into the incident supports the latter theory.