Essay # 1 The Peoples Temple and Branch Davidians; In most people’s minds, the Peoples Temple and Branch Davidians represent quintessential cults: crazed leaders with a band of brainwashed followers. Your readings and the documentaries revise this perspective. In your essay, consider the following questions: (1) Was there a turning point or a series of turning points in Jim Jones and David Koresh and their followers that eventually led to the mass murders/suicides (Peoples Temple) and deaths (Branch Davidians)? (2) Were the earlier goals and ideals of the movements maintained throughout their history or were they revised or discarded? (3) There are plenty of cases where people give their lives for a cause, even to the point to risking death. Are the Peoples Temple and Branch Davidian deaths any different? (4) In what ways do Jim Jones and David Koresh fit the profile of a “charismatic prophet”? (5) What role did the media play in contributing to the public’s understanding of these groups?; ; Essay # 2 Scientology, Transcendental Meditation, Heaven’s Gate; Discuss the goals (be they salvation, self-fulfillment, self-realization, etc.) of each of these new religious groups. In your essay consider the following questions: (1) What is/was the attraction of these groups? That is, what do people think they get by joining them? (2) How is the “unseen order” defined or described by each of these groups? (3) What are the steps necessary to reach the goal of salvation, self-realization, etc. (here you will want to discuss the group’s beliefs and practices). (4) What are the results or rewards in attaining these goals?;
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