Stories of the apocalypse and doomsday in religion go hand-in-hand. Premonitions of end times lead to cult-like gatherings. In post-apocalyptic fiction, cults often form as survivors try to make sense of what happened.
“Very near Auch, Lectoure and MirandeNostradamus, “Century I Quatrain 46“
a great fire will fall from the sky for three nights.
The cause will appear both stupefying and marvellous;
shortly afterwards there will be an earthquake.”
“Guyana in the cult of the damnedManowar, “Guyana“
Give us your word for the grand final stand”
A cult can be harmless or very dangerous. It can be limited to a small group of individuals or gain size and real mass. No matter what the features are, a cult is a specific movement clustered around an ideology, a charismatic leader, or a determined ideology.
Religious cults often incorporate an apocalyptic view of the future, related to the promise of salvation through the belief in a divine entity. They often result in septs, where only a limited number of adepts are accepted, and they are requested to bring on a specific proselytization.
History has been marked by the presence of cults that practice isolation, praying, faith, healing, and even self-flagellation; motivated by the frantic effort to lead to a personal improvement.
The adepts in these cults see their leader as an omniscient individual, a maestro who is able to teach them several practices like past or future-life experiences, rebirthing or hypnotherapy. In some cases, this happens through intimidations, humiliations, verbal abuses, and so on.
Who Join Cults?
It is not easy to profile the typical adept, as studies conducted over the years have demonstrated different personalities join, everyone considered “normal” to those with obvious psychological conditions.
Nonetheless, the new adepts often have some traits in common, such as lack of self-confidence, a desire to belong to a group/family, desire to be fulfilled, a frustration toward standard religions, etc.
Doomsday in Religion and Societies
The sociologist John Lofland introduced, for the very first time, the expression of “doomsday” back in 1966, while he was leading a study on some members affiliated to Unification Church of the United States. Later on, he reported his analysis inside “Doomsday Cult: A Study of Conversion, Proselytization, and Maintenance of Faith.“
The adepts believed in Apocalypticism and Millenarianism, as their Messiah predicted disasters: this would have lead to a separation from the world. This concept is intrinsically founded on Christian tradition: “Come ye out from among them and be ye separate” (2 Corinthians 6:17).
It is essential to underline that, according to some cults, doomsday is not the end of all: it is simply connecting the end of one era to the beginning of another.
It would be impossible to build a complete list of all the religions involved doomsday. There have been many, and many details on smaller groups remain unknown due to their secrecy. The list below is based on religious traditions and systematic beliefs related to the end of the world as we know it.
Most Christians believe in Armageddon, as mentioned inside the Book of Revelation in the New Testamentof the Christian Bible.
Armageddon happens to be like a prophesied location where armies will gather for a battle during the end times. This can be variously interpreted in either a literal or a symbolic way.
- Jehovah’s Witnesses – “Armageddon is the means by which God will fulfill his purpose for the Earth to be populated with happy healthy humans who will be free from sin and death” (“Armageddon—A Happy Beginning“, The Watchtower: 4–7, 2005”
- Seventh-Day Adventist (and Branch Davidians) – “Armageddon is the Day of the Lord” and “The Second Coming of Christ“
- Christadelphians believe in a huge climax of history “when the nations would be gathered together ‘into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon’, and the judgment on them would herald the setting up of the Kingdom of God” (“The Christadelphian“, Volume 107, 1970)
- Mormons – “adherents are shortly before the Second Coming of Christ […] they believe that there will be increasingly severe wars, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other man-made and natural disasters prior to the Second Coming” (“Doctine and Covenants“) (Mormons are also known for prepping.)
Hindu cosmology teaches that this universe will last as long 311.04 trillion years (the life of Brahma). Once passed, all material elements will return to a state of prakriti (unmixed, unmanifested).
It is intersting to see that inside Islamic theology, Armageddon is mentioned in Hadith as “the Greatest Armageddon or Al-Malhama Al-Kubr (the great battle)” (“Sunan Ibn Majah“). This is related to the Day of Judgment, known as “Yawm al-Qiyāmah“.
In Judaism, the end of the world and the beginning of a new Exodus is prophesied by pre-exile prophets.
Ragnarök (or Ragnarøkkr) is an old Norse word which refers to “Fate of the Gods” and “Twilight of the Gods“. Heathenry (also known as Contemporary Germanic Paganist, or Germanic Neopaganist) are mostly spread in Northern Europe.
Odinisti are an Italian branch of them.
Slavic Native Faith and Assianist are based in the Balcans and Russia.
The famous Mayan calendar originated back in 5th century B.C. and it ends on December 21st, 2012. The mystery-shrouded meaning of this date, some believed, could be related to a supposed doomsday they thought might arise (they made no such prediction).
Some adherents of more non-traditional religions believe that the arrival of alien civilizations, along with their technologies and a different kind of spirituality, will help humans overcome some of their sociological problems.
“[…] Issues such as hatred, war, bigotry, poverty and so on are said to be resolvable through the use of superior alien technology and spiritual abilities […]”(“When We Enter Into My Father’s Spacecraft“, Andreas Grünschloß, Marburg Journal of Religion, Vol. 3, No. 2, 1998)
Other Religions Involving Doomsday
- Aetherius Society
- Heaven’s Gate
- Church of the SubGenius
- Nation of Islam
- Universal Industrial Church of the New World Comforter
- Unarius Academy of Science
- Universal People
Between Politics and Religion
The People’s Temple of the Disciples of Christ (commonly shortened to People’s Temple), was a socialist-communist-religious movement founded by Reverend Jim Jones in Indianapolis in 1955 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The apocalyptic visions of Reverend Jones ended up in a mass suicide occurred in 1978.
Between Masonry and Religion
Order of the Solar Temple – In correspondence to the teachings of the Solar Temple, there was the belief that the Earth would face a worldwide catastrophe during the 1990s.
Prior to this apocalyptic event, some members decided it was mandatory to enter a higher spiritual plane. On Oct. 4–5, 1994, 53 members of the Solar Temple in the states of Canada and Switzerland were murdered or decided to commit suicide.
Later on, other 21 members killed themselves.
A lot of sects connected to Satanism, among them LaVeyan Satanism and to a lesser extent Unification Movement (also known as Moonies) believe in the coming of an Armageddon. Due to the illegal nature of their existence, it is extremely hard to describe their specific attributes and beliefs.
New Age Cults
The clearest example of preparation for Doomsday was given by Church Universal and Triumphant, an international New Age movement led by the charismatic figure of Elizabeth Prophet. Her prediction? On March 15th, 1990 would have occur a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union. In order to be prepare to face it, the adepts stockpiled food and built bunkers.
Religious Cults After an Apocalypse?
Should an apocalypse actually hit, it’s inevitable that survivors would emerge, hard hit by disaster, and eager to make sense of it all, to find meaning, and a path forward. Some will assume it was all the act of God, and we must learn from what happened.