As always, please stay on topic–in this case Jonestown and cults. Please no ad hominem attacks, and keep cross talk on topic as well, please. Additionally, while we may each have our own opinion about what a “cult” is–and I know some atheists believe all religions are cults–let’s not attack religion in a wholesale manner please. Religion and faith have played important parts, both good and bad, in worldwide cultures, and we do have people of various faiths here. This isn’t the place to debate whether not someone’s belief system–be it an organized religion or otherwise–is whack.

For warning signs of a cult/information on what a cult is, you may wish to check out

The People of People’s Temple

Using footage shot by NBC, David Gottleib and James Ruxin assembled a post-Jonestown massacre documentary, a chilling and cautionary tale of power, cult mindset and pure evil.

Survivors and escapees discuss Jim Jones’ prophecies and healing–some perhaps real, others faked–and his gradual decent into madness, the suicide drills, beatings and public humiliation.

While experts in this documentary, produced in 1979, link the cult of the People’s Temple to post-Vietnam, post-Watergate disillusionment, now post-Waco, post-Heaven’s Gate and still with cults amongst us–some huge multi-million dollar organizations–practicing the same forced labor and restrictive policies, we have to recognize that there is more at work in society to cause such a breakdown.

As one survivor points out, when people joined the People’s Temple, they had instant friends, they felt they were a part of something bigger, that they were doing good work for a greater good. It was only once they were deeply involved and it was too late did they realize how incredibly insane Jim Jones was–and once they were in Guyana, there was no way to leave and nothing to distract Jones. He had no politicians to woo, no new followers to recruit, no social battles to fight so he turned his attention to controlling his followers in minute ways.

What is a means for preventing people, “everyday people” form getting drawn into dangerous cults? Philip Zimbardo, a professor of psychology at Stanford University interviewed for the People of People’s Temple, says that by reaching out to others, simply connecting with those around us can help ease the feelings of isolation and feed our desire for human contact.

There is within so many a passion to do good for our fellows, to help one another, and to feel a part of something greater. These qualities are wondrous and beneficial to society. But when they are misused and twisted, as they were by Jim Jones, it is a very great evil.

Lisa Derrick

Lisa Derrick

Los Angeles native, attended UC Berkeley and Loyola Marymount University before punk rock and logophilia overtook her life. Worked as nightclub columnist, pop culture journalist and was a Hollywood housewife before writing for and editing Sacred History Magazine. Then she discovered the thrill of politics. She also appears frequently on the Dave Fanning Show, one of Ireland's most popular radio broadcasts.