Cult suicide

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A cult suicide is a term used to describe the mass suicide by the members of groups that have been considered cults. [1] In some cases all, or nearly all members have committed suicide at the same time and place. Groups that have committed such mass suicides and that have been called cults include Heaven's Gate, Order of the Solar Temple, and Peoples Temple (in the Jonestown incident). In other cases, such as the Filippians, a group has apparently supported mass suicide without necessarily encouraging all members to participate.


Known cult suicides

Peoples Temple

On November 18, 1978, 918 Americans died in Peoples Temple-related incidents, including 909 members of the Temple, led by Jim Jones, in Jonestown, Guyana.[2] The dead included 274 children. A tape of the Temple's final meeting in a Jonestown pavilion contains repeated discussions of the group committing "revolutionary suicide," including reference to people taking the poison and the vats to be used.[3] On that tape, Jones tells Temple members that Russia, with whom the Temple had been negotiating a potential exodus for months, would not take them after the Temple had murdered Congressman Leo Ryan, NBC reporter Don Harris and three others at a nearby airstrip.[3] When members apparently cried, Jones counseled "Stop this hysterics. This is not the way for people who are Socialists or Communists to die. No way for us to die. We must die with some dignity."[3] At the end of the tape, Jones concludes: "We didn't commit suicide, we committed an act of revolutionary suicide protesting the conditions of an inhumane world."[3] The people in Jonestown died of an apparent cyanide poisoning, except for Jones (injury consistent with self-inflicted gunshot wound) and his personal nurse.[4] The Temple had spoken of committing "revolutionary suicide" in prior instances, and members had previously drunk what Jones told them was poison at least once before, but the "Flavor Aid" drink they ingested contained no poison.[5] Concurrently, four other members died in the Temple's headquarters in Georgetown.

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