So you want to start your own death cult …


The long summer means delving into the TiVo for non-reading, non-YouTube entertainment. One gem from April was calling me.

“Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple” aired as part of PBS’ compelling “American Experience” series. I wanted insights into cult behavior and group think.

Because my summer project is to start my own death cult.

You should, too. Get off your lazy ass and do something.

Jim Jones did. Now he’s a cult figure. Well, technically, he was a cult figure then.

Maybe you don’t have the charisma of a Jim Jones or a Wade Kwon, but it takes more than megalomania and aviator sunglasses to lure hundreds to their unwitting suicides.

I’m here to help.


• Check yourself: Believe it or not, you may already be in a cult. Look around. Are you shacking up in a South American bunker with other shaved heads? Does your gruel taste especially good today?

Maybe it’s a modern cult. Just how many “friends” do you have on MySpace? Has the one known as Steve Jobs asked you to hand over your life savings in exchange for care and feeding and an iPod Nano?

Only Steve could make death more expensive yet unflinchingly cooler. Try iDeathâ„¢! It will make regular death obsolete.

If you’re already in a cult, you’re likely to be unqualified to start your own. Also, you’re likely to be crossing over to meet the Great Piemaker who lives in the Cosmic Castle soon, shedding your Earth Body Shell for an Eternal Being Mantle. Enjoy the ride.

Promise peace: The documentary offers a good insight from one of its surviving (and therefore traitorous) members. Deborah Layton says, “Nobody joins a cult. Nobody joins something they believe is going to hurt them.”

The traitor has a point. If your pitch starts with the cyanide-laced Kool-Aid and the handover of worldly assets, back to the drawing board.

For example, my death cult will provide “a stress-free growth environment” for “overworked, unfulfilled citizens” seeking “their bliss in a loving community.” Each New Wadist will find their sole/soul purpose through my benevolent example and simple teachings.

We love you. You complete us. Help us to help you.

Bring your sexual appetite: Maybe you’ll impose celibacy at your compound. But as master of your domain, you are not only the rules, you are above them.

Jones frequently propositioned members, men and women, for one-on-one sexual encounters. He’d tell one man that he’d be happy to take him up the ass, or require a young woman to meet him in his office/bedroom on his bus.

The point is, if you can’t secretly molest your followers and gratify your every desire, you’re slacking as a cult leader. You can’t be their god without lashing out frequently and randomly.

Run drills: When the Special Ops forces and CIA agents and foreign spies come to kill everyone in your utopia — and they will come, as you remind them on the loudspeakers day and night — you and your followers need to be ready.

Jones would line up his folks, have them drink the Kool-Aid, then tell them it was poisoned. Naturally, hysterics ensued.

But he was upfront about it. He said that the day would come when they would drink the poison to avoid capture or death by Them.

How do you get to the comet carrying Jesus? Practice, practice, practice.

Get on message: It is the aughties (never did get a good name for this decade eight years in…), so marketing becomes crucial.

Death cult? Suicide group? No, no, no. Try “Spiritual Society” or “MyCongregation.” Organize street teams to build buzz. Send text messages with positive sentiments. Offer discounts for renewed membership.

Remember, you’re trying to lure individuals to their death, not annoy them with long-winded overly preachy diatribes. Hearts, and minds, people, hearts and minds.

• • •

A little love and a lot of tenacity will help build your following. Even if you can’t convince others to slavishly devote themselves to your teachings, we’ll always have room for you in Wadeville.

Crazy? You’re crazy for not signing up today.


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