The label 'Suicide Cults' has been applied to a wide variety of different alternative religions, from Jonestown to the Solar Temple to Heaven's Gate. Additionally, observers have asked if such group suicides are in any way comparable to Islamist suicide terrorism, or to historical incidents of mass suicide, such as the mass suicide of the ancient community of Masada. Organizationally and ideologically diverse, it turns out that the primary shared trait of these various groups is a common stereotype of religion as an irrational force that pushes fanatics to undertake acts of suicidal violence. Offering a valuable perspective on New Religious Movements and on religion and violence, Sacred Suicide brings together contributions from a diverse range of international scholars of sociology, religious studies and criminology.
’All the essays enhance understanding connections between religion and violence; each has a helpful bibliography. Of primary interest to sociologists and psychologists of religion. … Recommended. All readers.’ Choice
Contents: Introduction, James R. Lewis and Carole M. Cusack. Part I Historical Suicide Cults: The Sicarii suicide on Masada and the foundation of a national myth, Nachman Ben-Yehuda; Religious mass suicide before Jonestown: the Russian old believers, Thomas Robbins. Part II Contemporary Suicide Cults: Purification, illumination and death: the murder-suicides of the Order of the Solar Temple, Henrik Bogdan; Rhetoric, revolution and resistance in Jonestown, Guyana, Rebecca Moore; Individual suicide and the end of the world: destruction and transformation in UFO and alien-based religions, Carole M. Cusack; Apocalypse in Uganda: the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God one decade on, John Walliss. Part III Social-Political Suicides: A sociological analysis of Muslim terrorism, Jan A. Ali; So costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom: human bombs, suicide attacks and patriotic heroes, Mattias Gardell; Burning Buddhists: self-immolation as political protest, Katarina Plank; Dying to tell: media orchestration of politically motivated suicides, Lorenz Graitl. Part IV Faux Suicide Cults: Death by whose hand? Falun Gong and suicide, Helen Farley; The Mount Carmel Holocaust: suicide or execution?, James R. Lewis. Part V Screen Suicide Cults: Rescripting the past: suicide cults on television, Lynn S. Neal; Why Muslims kill themselves on film: from Hollywood’s racism to Girard’s victimage mechanism, Christopher Hartney. Index.
The popularity and significance of New Religious Movements is reflected in the explosion of related articles and books now being published. This series offers an invaluable resource and lasting contribution to the field.