It seems to me that the Pope's visit to Ireland, to try and fix the problems generated by sexual abuse claims against the clergy, are Bogarting the religious news spotlight. Is there nothing else interesting to report? Where have all the crazy cults and sects gone? How long has it been since a cult or sect has offered us a decent mass suicide? Here is a glimpse at what I consider to be some of the best in recent history:
Jonestown, 1978, Guyana Led by Jim Jones this American cult was formally known as the 'Peoples Temple Agricultural Project'. They practiced apostolic socialism in rebellion against the 'opiate' of religion. Death count: 914. Method: Cyanide poisoning.
Branch Davidians, 1993, Waco, TexasLed by David Karesh the 'Students of the Seven Seals' were a breakaway group from the Seventh Day Adventists. Essentially they believed the same as the SDA in that the arrival of Christ was imminent. Believed that Karesh was a prophet provided by God. Death count: 72. Method: single gunshot wounds to the head and death by fire (with a little help from the ATF and FBI)
Order of the Solar Temple, 1994, SwitzerlandLed by Joseph Di Mambro. The cult was a Protestant Christianity/New Age hybrid with Freemason rituals. Death count: 74. Method: Drugged, Smothered, Shot
Heaven's Gate, 1997, San Diego, CaliforniaFounded by Marshall Applewhite. Heaven's Gate was a UFO cybersect that believed that the Earth was to be recycled and the only way to survive this was to leave their bodies. The suicide was pre-empted by their belief that a UFO was trailing the comet Hale-Bopp. Death count: 39. Method: Cyanide and arsenic poisoning (with a vodka chaser)
Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, 2000, UgandaFounded by Paulo Kashaku. A breakaway cult from the Roman Catholic Church. The fundamental teachings of the cult were to follow the Ten Commandments strictly and to preach the teachings of Jesus to avoid damnation in the prophesied apocalypse of 2000. Death count: 778. Method: Poisoning, Death by fire. Not so much a mass suicide as a mass murder conducted by priests for monetary gain.
Okay they pretty much take up the top five spots because of the sheer number of deaths involved, but I think it's a tribute to those charismatic leaders that had the ability to sway so many feeble minded followers.