Doomsday cults the living end

Sunday Mail (Brisbane)/January 10, 1999
By David Bentley

Last time I made a prediction it was to suggest the war in Kuwait had taught Saddam Hussein the errors of his ways and that Iraq's strong man would devote his life to making Kurds feel good about themselves.

Since then, of course, Saddam has been busy stockpiling biological weapons, squirting the Kurds with germs and being less than cooperative with the nice United Nations inspectors sent to make sure he doesn't backslide.

It's very disappointing. You give a fellow the benefit of the doubt and he lets you down. I'm not sure I want to be a soothsayer and more- although being consistently wrong hasn't discouraged anyone else.

Entire civilisations have risen and fallen awaiting the sun to turn black and the moon to become as blood following the arrival of the riders of the Apocalypse. It's as if people genuinely crave an Armageddon.

A new scenario proposes that a spaceship will transport believers to the planet Sirius (seriously!) where blights such as overpopulation, global warming and fast food have been banished. Admittance to this distant Nirvana, unfortunately, is premised on a desire to self-immolate.

At last tally, 74 members of a group called the Solar Temple cult had torched themselves as a prelude to a one-way trip to Sirius. At this rate, membership must be dwindling. I mean, would you join?

Devotees whose commitment has stopped short of setting themselves alight may well be looking for inter-galactic reassurance before breaking out the lighter fluid.

So....why does it always have to end in death and destruction? Is it fear of embarrassment, an inability on the part of doomsday persons to admit they have made a mistake? If a spiritual leader convinces his followers the world will end at 6pm on Saturday - and then it doesn't - is that any reason for mass suicide?

Apparently so. At Jonestown in 1978, more than 900 followed their beloved leader into a mass poisoning. Another 90 burned to death in the Waco fire. In Israel last week a bunch of weird Americans called the Concerned Christians tried to trigger the Second Coming by staging mass suicides at holy sites. What's wrong with these people? What makes them think Jesus Christ would have anything to do with their screwball ideas? Why can't they be like everyone else - going to barbecues and buying useless stuff at summer sales?

The prospect of a new millennium frightens some people - and with reason. It signals 1000 years of reducing personal freedoms, increasing electonic surveillance, more numbers to remember and a creeping uniformity wherever you go.

"Here today.....and tomorrow......and tomorrow" went a piece of diabolically subversive graffiti that underlines the stultifying sameness of my daily routine as I commuted dutifully in London circa 1970. We were on the loop with no end in sight.

We had a beginning and a middle but no ending - at least, not one that anyone could reliably predict.

If it's any consolation, the Earth will come to an end in about eight billion years when the sun implodes engulfing the Earth in fiery plasma. For cultists, that's too long to wait. In this epoch of instant gratification, they will accept nothing less than Apocalypse Now.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.