Feet of Clay: When Devotion Meant Death

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Aum Shinri Kyo

Believed to have been started in 1987, this cult was led by Shoko Asahara, and combines elements of Buddhism and Christianity. Group best known for the 1995 Sarin nerve gas attack on a Tokyo subway in which 16 people were killed and 5,000 injured. One of the cult members was sentenced to death for the atrocity.

Branch Davidians

Including leader David Koresh, most perished in March 1993 after a 51- day siege at Waco, Texas. Eighty members, including 21 children, committed suicide, were murdered or shot by FBI. The group, also known as Students of the Seven Seals, believes in the imminent return of Christ and that the lamb in Revelation 5:2 is not Christ but Koresh.

The Family

This group was created by Charles Manson, referred to as God and Satan by his followers in California. Manson believed he would lead the remaining black population after a massive race war. In 1969, he told his followers to murder high-profile people, including Sharon Tate Polanski and her house guests. Manson is still serving life.

Heaven's Gate

Thirty-nine members of this Californian-based cult committed suicide in March 1997, believing a spaceship was going to take them to "paradise". The cult was founded by Marshall Herff Applewhite and Bonnie "Ti" Lu Trusdale Nettles. The group's beliefs combined elements of Christianity with beliefs about UFOs, interpreting Gospel passages as references to a visit from aliens.

Solar Temple

This was started by Luc Jouret, who convinced his followers he was a member of the 14th-century Christian Order of the Knights Templar during a previous life. Mixing Christianity with New Age beliefs, he said that after death he would lead them near the star Sirius. In 1994, believing they had to die by fire, 53 of them perished in mass-suicide blazes in Switzerland, Canada and France.

The People's Temple

This was founded in 1957 by Jim Jones, a former Methodist preacher who turned from philanthropy to become a dictator. He established an agricultural community in Jonestown, Guyana, in 1976. Two years later, 638 of his adult followers and 276 children died after drinking cyanide-laced Kool-aid or being shot by his security guards as "an act of revolutionary suicide".

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