Cover image for How the millennium comes violently : from Jonestown to Heaven's Gate
How the millennium comes violently : from Jonestown to Heaven's Gate
Wessinger, Catherine, 1952-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Seven Bridges Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
xiii, 305 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Reading Level:
1490 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BL503.2 .W47 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



This is a survey of cult religious violence as associated with Jonestown, the Branch Davidians, Aum Shinriko, Montana Freemen, Solar Temple, Heaven's Gate and Chen Tao. The book presents case studies of contemporary millennial religions that either became violent, or had the potential for becoming violent. It sets out to reveal how outside pressures and internal forces affect the decision to use violence by new religious movements.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Since the 1978 Jonestown and 1993 Waco tragedies, dozens of books and articles have appeared concerning new religious movements, or NRMs (The Politics of Religious Apostasy, CH Nov'98, and Children in New Religions, CH Jan'00, for example). Wessinger (Loyola Univ., LA) now adds an exploration of the millennium and violence. She is obviously more knowledgeable about the Davidians and Montana Freemen but also includes Jonestown, Aum Shinrikyo, Solar Temple, and Heaven's Gate. She is at her best as a chronicler, but her interpretations are often simplistic, naive, and self-serving. She second guesses, is too defensive of academic religious studies, is too judgmental of law enforcement agencies (almost a diatribe at times), and uses the first person singular and references to her own works ad infinitum. There is no mention whatever about the dynamics of fundamentalism and millennialism, but there is a terribly loose use of Tillich's "ultimate concern" and a definition of "religion" that fits her particular pattern of thinking. Wessinger is absolutely correct, however, when she asserts that "Religion scholars cannot make predictions about what members of a religious group may do." Media coverage of NRMs is indeed "still far from perfect" and so are volumes such as this. Excellent chronicled sections, however. Undergraduates. G. H. Shriver; emeritus, Georgia Southern University

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. viii
Forewordp. x
Notesp. xiii
Chapter 1 Introductionp. 1
Notesp. 11
Chapter 2 How the Millennium Comes Violentlyp. 12
Notesp. 27
Chapter 3 1978--Jonestownp. 30
Notesp. 52
Chapter 4 1993-Branch Davidiansp. 56
Notesp. 112
Chapter 5 1995--Aum Shinrikyop. 120
Notesp. 151
Chapter 6 1996-The Montana Freemenp. 158
Notesp. 203
Chapter 7 Other Cases Briefly Considered: Solar Temple and Heaven's Gatep. 218
Notesp. 246
Chapter 8 1998 -- Chen Tao: Assessing the Potential for Violencep. 253
Notesp. 262
Notesp. 284
Bibliographyp. 287
Indexp. 295