Opposition To Cults Essay, Research Paper
“While every person is guaranteed freedom of conscience and freedom of belief, the freedom to act is not guaranteed. When belief is translated into action a person may be required to conform to regulations.” Argued the constitutional lawyer Alan Goldhammer in a trial with the Supreme Court (Andres 1-15). With the recent spread of eastern religions to the United States and the fabrication of unorthodox churches, there has been great opposition to these forces. The general term, cult, has been given to these groups; though not all of them fall into this category. A “cult” is defined as a (usually small) group of persons, who practice an unorthodox religion, usually with a charismatic leader. There are three types of cults: Communalists, these groups believe in the mutual sharing of the efforts of production and common decisions about the rate of consumption while living as their own community; Metaphysicians, these groups deny the metaphysical reality of evil and take as their mission the attainment of healh, wealth and happiness; Psychic-Spiritualists, these groups contact the spiritual world through mediums, live off the findings of parapsychology, and demonstrate the reality of the paranormal universe (King). There has been widespread controversy over whether or not organizations should intervene with cult activities. Organizations should be able to check up on such groups to make sure they are not interfering with peoples’ constitutional Rights. Interventions should occur, without them the repercussions can be great, as in the Jonestown Cult, the Branch Davidians, and the Heavens Gate followers. If an anti- or counter-cult group had stepped in, it could have saved hundreds of lives: men, women, and children alike.The Jonestown, Guyana mass suicide in 1978 is still the most widely known in cult history. Nine hundred thirteen members of the ‘People’s Temple’ died after drinking cyanide-laced Kool Aid. Members who refused to take the fatal concoction were shot down, according to survivors. The cult, led by Jim Jones, had practiced the ceremonial suicide preparing for the imminent apocalypse. Within the commune there were rumors of earthquakes that destroyed Los Angeles and that San Francisco being overrun by the Ku Klux Klan. Eighty-five members of the cult, including Jones’s three sons, survived the massacre (Observer). Some speculate that they moved their hub of operations to Guyana to escape persecution by the U.S. Government, anti-cult, and counter-cult organizations. They chose Guyana at that time due to the fact that it was a small developing country with a weak central government, with no established anti-cult factions. If U.S. officials had listened to the few people who had backed down and refused to follow the cult to a more “secluded” location, the mass suicide could have been averted. Willa Appel, a cult expert that works with the Cult Awareness Network, would have recognized this group as a “totalistic cult” or one that attempts to control every aspect of the individual and would have proceeded to infiltrate the group.The Branch Davidians are no longer in existence due to the Waco, Texas incident. They believed in an imminent Second Coming and were badly weakened when this failed to happen as predicted in 1959. David Koresh, formally known as Vernon Howell, took over the leadership of the Davidians in 1986 after ingeniously ousting leader George Roden. Once in charge of the Davidians, he began targeting Britain for recruitment with considerable success: 33 of the 82 followers who died at Waco were British. Koresh had also made recruitment trips to Australia and Israel prior to the tragic 50-day siege in 1993 (Observer). Koresh had stockpiled weapons and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and
Firearms were hot on his trail. Local religious and political leaders, fearing potential violence, from David Koresh, demanded his arrest. After all, he has said that his mission Was “not to bring peace, but a sword”(Epstien 1). He would not give up to the government, but burn in eternity before he let them infringe on his self declared divinity. If the ATF had realized what was happening at Waco, cutting off the supplies of weapons to the compound would have resulted in less death to both the members and the ATF teams. In this case there just wasn’t a quick enough response from the government. Thirty-nine members of a group called Heavens Gate; believed that the comet Hale-Bopp had strange companion, a spaceship, accompanying it. Members of the controversial group believed that the Hale-Bopp comet was bringing “closure” The members were “quite joyous” about “leaving this planet,” according to their web site. Adding to the controversy of the Heaven’s Gate Cult, is the background of the elder leader: Marshall Applewhite, called “Do” by his followers. He and his now deceased partner, “Ti” a.k.a. Bonnie Nettles met in a hospital where she was a nurse and he was a patient, according to Applewhite’s sister. The nurse then persuaded Marshall that he had been “sent by God,” and that he should lead a group; partly because of his near death experience in the hospital. Together, in 1975, Marshall and Bonnie started a movement called Human Individual Metamorphosis, which preached that death could be overcome through “physical ascension into another realm beyond the confines of planet Earth.” At their talks, according to former followers, they predicted various mass landings of UFO’s. The group became disillusioned when none of them ever ascended and the mass landings never happened on the appointed dates. After loosing their money, the group disbanded, apparently a core group continued on, believing that they would ascend, in time (Hale Bopp). The government should have recognized this as a potential hazard being that it was so well published, having web pages and open recruitment. Failure to intervene resulted in the death of close to forty people.”Most of the time cults in the U.S. rarely receive official scrutiny; they are commonly written off as catchalls for society’s outriders, those not smart or stable enough to know they are being exploited (Bayles).” If quicker intervention would have taken place in these three instances, possibly less casualties would have transpired, and a great deal of lessons would have been learned. Knowledge about cults should be exploited and used to lessen the chances that ignorant people fall into the hands of self proclaimed “Messiahs”.