Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Russian Doomsday Cult

I was impressed with myself when recently I was offered the opportunity to join a local religious cult. Yes, I have arrived.

I have long been fascinated by the belief systems of modern cults. I admire their tenacity and commitment to belief. Labeling a movement as a "cult" and all the implicit negative connotations that accompany the term is risky, since it is such a subjective label. And besides, all the characteristics of a "cult" are evidenced in early Christianity: Extremist (at least in perception), living in unconventional manner under the guidance of a charismatic leader, esoteric, apocalyptic focus...

With all the cults that have popped up in recent years (Koresh, Heaven's Gates, Jones), I think America assumes we own the market on all things cult-ish. Not so. Enjoy the pictures of the Russian doomsday cult that, until recently, has been holed up in a cave awaiting the end of the world, which they believe is coming in May. The group believes, among other things, that barcodes are evil--a sign of the beast, refuse to consume processed food, and believe that credit cards are from Satan. The group, a splinter sect of the Russian, are absolutely devoted to God, and left the bunker only after melting snow caused collapse.

Cult members leaving bunker with emergency workers.

Pyoder Kuznetsov, leader of the sect.

Cult members.

Inside the cave where members lived for six months.

Entrance to the cave.

Home where cult members now reside.

Crosses outside the cults home.


Anonymous said...

Maybe it's because we Americans have way too much time on our hands that we tend to think extravagantly when it comes to religion.

But at least extremists are fairly easy to spot and respond to, however unconvincible they may be. It's the moderately religious that are difficult to pin down. Sam Harris discusses this in The End of Faith.

Interesting . . .

nate said...

That second paragraph is awesome...I plan on using it at some point.

Moderate religious...self serving? (me too)

Extremist...committed, convinced, truth centered? (not saying the truth they perceive is legit, but the unwavering conviction is amazing)

Thanks for the comment...I love your way with words!

Vince said...

I love me some good cults

Becky said...

Hmmm ... I think one of the other characteristics of a cult would be something along the lines of "discourages members from questioning authority or seeking truth on their own, apart from the leadership."

And this is where, in my opinion, Christianity is vastly different. Not only does God want us to seek wisdom and knowledge and truth, but he tells us to do it.

nate said...

Thanks for the comment Becky, I don't disagree in the least. As I mentioned, defining a Cult is difficult, and I did leave out that important characteristic of the charismatic leader--that is they forbid second guessing.

Not only did Jesus encourage us to seek the truth, but Paul commended the Bereans on their do-diligence in examining for themselves whether his words were true.

But, should the russian doomsday cult be classified as Christianity (as you said is vastly different)? Should the FLDS cult be classified as such? I know both groups consider themselves Christian?

The Russian group, an offshoot of the Russian Orthodox Church believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and died and was raised for the atonement of their sins, so accordingly, they would, in my opinion be a branch of Christianity, as weird and authoritarian as their leader may be. The FLDS group differs from this orthodox view of Christianity, however.

Becky said...

Ah, excellent point, Nate. You're right ... I guess it's not so much the label of "Christianity" that makes us different as much as how we are interpreting what's laid out in the Bible. Our understanding of God's Word makes what I believe different than these other groups. What you said about Paul is a perfect example.

By the way, I like the way you think. Your posts are very articulate and well thought out.

nate said...

Thanks for the encouragement Becky! I think you are right...interpretation is the key, and I am so grateful I am given that freedom, even though it means I make mistakes at times!