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.
Table of Contents
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.
James R Lewis is a leading scholar of New Religious Movements. He has published a number of books including: Cults in America, and the Oxford Handbook of New Religious Movements which both won CHOICE book awards. In the area of New Religions and violence, he has edited anthologies on the Branch Davidians, the Solar Temple, and, most recently, a general collection on Violence and New Religious Movements. Carole M. Cusack is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Sydney. She researches contemporary religious trends and her books include Invented Religions: Imagination, Fiction and Faith (Ashgate, 2010) and The Sacred Tree: Ancient and Medieval Manifestations (Cambridge Scholars Publishing), 2011. She has published widely in edited volumes and journals, and is the editor (with Alex Norman) of Handbook of New Religions and Cultural Production (Brill, 2012).
’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