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5 20th Century Cult Leaders


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December 10, 2013

5 20th Century Cult Leaders

By Elizabeth Nix


In the late 20th century, a series of violent events involving nontraditional religious movements shocked the world. From the jungles of Guyana to the subway system in Japan to a mansion in Southern California, murder, mass suicides and mayhem prevailed. Find out about these controversial cults and their now-notorious leaders, whose influence led to often deadly consequences for their followers and, in some cases, the general public.

Shoko Asahara: Masterminded a deadly attack on Japan’s subway system
shoko-asahara.jpgOn March 20, 1995, members of Aum Shinrikyo (“Supreme Truth”), founded by Asahara in the 1980s, released the poisonous nerve gas sarin on five crowded subway trains during morning rush hour in Tokyo, killing 13 people and sickening thousands more. Aum Shinrikyo targeted the Kasumigaseki station, in the area where many of Japan’s government offices are located, as part of what they thought would be an apocalyptic battle with the government.


Born into a poor family in Japan in 1955, Asahara (real name Chizuo Matsumoto) lost part of his vision at a young age due to illness. He established Aum Shinrikyo as a religious organization that promoted Buddhist and Hindu concepts, along with elements of the Bible and prophecies of NostradamusScissors-32x32.png



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