Jim Jones of Jonestown 

Reverend Jim Jones of the People's Temple

913 The Call
God-Claims The Illuminati
God Talk Five Fundamentals
End Game Problem of Evil
Reincarnation Evolution


913 members of Jim Jones' People's Temple cult in Jonestown, Guyana, committed suicide or were murdered on November 18, 1978. Barring rivalry from east German towns overrun by the Red Army, this is the largest mass suicide in modern times. This was a deliberate act, a 'revolutionary suicide.' What were these people trying to achieve, and what did they believe?

From his early youth, Jim Jones was a Communist. Yet he also had a long history in and out of Christian churches, including 'Oneness' Pentecostalism: "First way, uh, because I was never accepted — or didn’t feel accepted — I joined a Pentecostal Church, the most extreme Pentecostal Church, the Oneness, because they were the most despised." (Jim Jones, Jonestown Audiotape Primary Project, Q 134). He would even speak of 'infiltrating' the church, as a Communist: "So on down the road, I became even more alienated by that event. I decided, how can I demonstrate my Marxism? The thought was, infiltrate the church." (Reverend Jim Jones, Jonestown Audiotape Primary Project, Q 134, The Jonestown Institute). His two touch-stones met in Acts: "Not only my brand of Marxism, but in Pentecostal tradition, I saw that when the early believers came together, they sold their possessions and had all things common. So I tried very hard to live up to that concept throughout my years." (Reverend Jim Jones, Jonestown Audiotape Primary Project, Q 134, The Jonestown Institute):

"And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." (Acts 2:44-47).

"And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need." (Acts 4:32-35).

One point about the Jerusalem church's practice not to be overlooked is that it was strictly voluntary: "Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God." (Acts 5:4). Paul's Gentile churches do not seem to have taken things to this extreme. The Jerusalem church's egalitarian sharing has mostly fallen by the way-side in the Christian church, though there have been revivals here and there, in monastic orders, in the radical Reformation. In common experience with similar institutions in the hands of fallen humanity, what results from a redistribution of wealth is not equality: the wealth does not fall equally into everyone's hands, but rather it is transferred from the prior proprietors, wealthy land-owners like Ananias and Sapphira, into the hands of the administrators of the new system, the nomenclatura. They may spend it in flamboyant conspicuous consumption in the face of a starving people, as did some of the radical Reformation communards, or they may allot it more fairly and equitably, but they now have effective control of the wealth, and so they are the new ruling class. In practice, failing the zeal of the apostolic age, people can feel like they are trading one form of oppression for another. The Jonestown commune had trappings of democracy, the bewildered senior citizens could vote; and yet they were powerless. All wealth was shared; and yet the people ate meals consisting of little more than rice and gravy, while the church sat atop a huge pile of cash amounting to millions of dollars. The 'new class' ran the commune.

Jim Jones' Marxist views came increasingly to the fore, though they were his bed-rock throughout his ministerial career: "The early years, I’d approached Christendom from a communalist standpoint, with only intermittent mention of my Marxist views. However, in later years, there wasn’t a person that attended any of my meetings that did not hear me say, at some time, that I was a communist, and that is what is very strange, that all these years, I have survived without being exposed." (Reverend Jim Jones, Jonestown Audiotape Primary Project, Q 134, The Jonestown Institute). Toward the end, they were discussing defecting to the Soviet Union, though the murders at the air-strip firmly closed that door. Some of the features of the Jonestown commune that strike observers as 'cult-like,' as if sui generis, are in fact standard operating procedure for Marxist-Leninist communes of the period, such as for example the self-criticism sessions. These were the same whether one was in the jungle with Pol Pot or in a trendy Paris commune.

The Call

This dyed-in-the-wool Communist just fell into the pulpit, apparently:

"I'm wandering down the street, stopped at a used car lot, and I meet a man. And I find out he's a Methodist Superintendent. And I think, "Oh shit, a religious nut." So I start knocking the church, just raising hell. He said, "Why don't you come to my office?" Here I am, raving against the church, knocking the church, ridiculing God, all this shit and he says, "why don't you come to my office?" I thought, "You f**ker. I'm not coming to your goddamn office." But I did. For some instinctive reason I did. He said, I want you to take a church." I said, "You giving me a church? I don't believe in anything I'm a revolutionary." He said, "Why don't you take a church, why don't you take a church?" And he appointed me, a f**king Communist, to a goddamn church. And I didn't even meet him through the Party. I met him in a fucking used car lot.

"This was 1953 I think. McCarthyism … Whatever, I took this goddamn church as a Communist who believed in nothing – that's how religious I was (and still am). And I preached to Marceline. I said, "What am I going to do with this goddamn thing? This guy, he's obviously, obviously a Communist or at least sympathetic and he wants me to do something with this goddamn church." That’s how the church wandered into it. The church fell in my lap. He's the one who started it. I hope he's dead. Martin was his name. He did die, yeah, he died.'" (An Untitled Collection of Reminiscences, by Jim Jones).

Once ensconced behind the pulpit, he tried to remold his congregation in his image: "And that's how the goddamn religious career got rolling. I was preaching integration, against war, mixing in a little Pentecostal crap – they're all shouting and hollering and raising hell – and I'm preaching integration, against war, and throwing in some Communist philosophy."  (An Untitled Collection of Reminiscences, by Jim Jones).


Even before the final cataclysm, controvery swirled around Reverend Jim Jones. There are recorded statements on tape in which he clearly identifies himself as God. What did he intend by these claims? Who was he claiming to be?:

  • “Truth is still in the Bible, but a prophet is needed to make it clear. . .There is a prophet in our day who unquestioningly proves that he is sent from God. He has all the gifts of the spirit as given in the Bible: Word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, working of miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, tongues and interpretation of tongues. (See I Cor. 12:8-10). We must have a prophet who is living the Christ life to direct us in this hour. . .I have come to make God real in the lives of people. My only desire is to establish the great work of Jesus Christ on our troubled globe. . .God and Jesus are as reincarnatable as a child's smile. Matthew 25 says when you feed a hungry person or clothe a naked child you have been doing it directly to Jesus Himself. Let me bring to your rememberance that after Jesus left the Body in the Sonship degree, not even those who had lived and worked with him for four years recognized the very same Jesus when he appeared in a different likeness on the road as His followers departed from the tomb. Imagine! they thought they had been speaking with a gardener. Can you not see the mystery? God never appears the same way twice.

  • "God is Love, therefore whoever reincarnates love more fully should be followed: As Paul the apostle related in yesteryear, 'follow me as I follow Christ.'"
  • (The Letter Killeth, by Jim Jones (original version)).

Some of the time he is claiming the same rank of godhood as Shirley MacLaine, who also said 'I am God.' At other times it's something darker, more megalomaniac. The argument runs 'we're all gods,' but the conclusion is, 'bow down and worship me:'

"He said, it's written that ye are gods. Said, I am just doing what you have had written. It's in the book. Don't look at me funny. Jesus said that every human being was a god. I'll give you the verse and scripture if you want me to give you the verse and scripture. I can give you the verse and scripture to the line, that you are God. I'm a god and you're a god. And I'm a god, and I'm gonna stay a god, until you recognize that you're a god, and when you recognize you're a god, I shall go back into Principle, and will not appear as a personality. But until I see all of you knowing who you are, I'm going to be very much what I am. God, Almighty God." (Jim Jones, Jonestown Audiotape Primary Project, Q 1035).

Jim Jones interpreted John 10:34 to mean that all the congregation, not only his exalted, returned self, were gods: "The truth sets you free. That's all Jesus came to earth to say. He said, you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. That's what I've come back to tell you. . .I'm gonna cause you to know that you are what Jesus was. Said, what good work do you stone me, Jesus said. We don't stone you because of good works, Jesus, it's because you, being a man, make yourself God. He said, well, isn't it written to those whom the word of God came, Scripture can't be broken. (Voice rises) He said, it's written that ye are gods." (Jonestown Audiotape Primary Project: Transcripts, Q 1035). Is this a sound interpretation in the first place?:

First he taught them that they were gods, and then he killed them, which some might take as evidence they were never gods in the first place: "Wilt thou yet say before him that slayeth thee, I am God? but thou shalt be a man, and no God, in the hand of him that slayeth thee." (Ezekiel 28:9). Some of his followers did not hear him say, 'I am a god and you can be too,' but 'I am God, bow down before me:'

"In Jonestown, this letter, written in the feeble and ungrammatical hand of a seventy-three-year-old woman, whose nickname was 'Grandma,' was found. The date of Grandma's letter was July 12, 1978.
'Dad, you are our God. I will never turn back. No matter what the cost, I am going all the way with you." ('Our Father Who Art in Hell, by James Reston, Jr., pp. 43-44).

In the end, on the death tape, he tells his people they can't live without him: "I'm going to tell you, Christine, without me, life has no meaning." (Jonestown Audiotape Primary Project: Transcripts, Q 042), as megalomaniac a concept as any other false god could formulate. Jim Jones found inspiration in Father Divine, and thought his people needed a god they could see, not a far-away, unknown god: "Bless your holy heart, father dear. Your children are happy knowing you are a god at hand, and not a sky god, afar off." (quoted p. 214, Walter R. Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults, Father Divine).

Prince of Tyre Salmoneus
Phya, the Tall Woman Saturn, King of Italy
Empedocles Zalmoxis
Menecrates Amulius
Demetrius Apsethus
Jesus of Nazareth Simon the Samaritan
Epiphanes, son of Carpocrates Little Gods
Jewish Messiahs Gaius Caesar
The Khlysty Muslim Gods
Wallace D. Fard Father Divine
Jim Jones The Maharaj Ji
Draftees Romulus
Apollonius of Tyana Ras Tafari
Jehovah Wanyonyi

Their adulation filled a hole in the heart of this neglected child of a violent alcoholic father: "I've lived with depression for many, many, many years." (Jim Jones, An Untititled Collection of Reminiscences, by Jim Jones). But from early on, he had enticed a sizable portion of his flock away from worship of the true and living God and into blasphemous idolatry. By his own admission, weaning people away from dependence on God was a significant motivator for his involvement in Christian ministry. Since this was an anti-Christ project from Day One, it is scarcely surprising it did not end well.

The Illuminati

Some organizations, like the Freemasons, maintain a secret hierarchy. New and strange doctrine is revealed at every step upward. Perhaps those at the bottom level understand where the organization is heading and towards what it is oriented. . .or maybe they do not. There was something of this structure in the People's Temple. Most of the people filling the pews started off believing more-or-less conventional Christian doctrine, beginning to warp toward the idea of Jim Jones as God. At a rising level, occupied exclusively by white, well-educated females and a few males who were occasional sex partners of the swinging Reverend, these naive ideas began to be displaced. Though racism filled Reverend Jones with sincere indignation, his own outfit was modeled after a plantation; the masses toiling in the fields were black, leadership white. These young people come across as cold, lacking the milk of human kindness, people who could fully believe that the end justifies the means. At the top-most level, the true doctrine was revealed at last: atheistic Marxism-Leninism:

  • “You can be your own God, not in condescension but in resurrection, in upliftment from whatever downtrodden condition you've had to endure. Within you rests the key of deliverance. We are looking to the key that is in every heart and breast. That I, the God that came from the earth of earth, from the dust of these toilsome fields, from hardship and labor, from the lowest of economic positions, from the poverty near the railroad tracks, I came to show you that the only God you need is withiin you. That's my purpose in being here.
  • “When the transition comes, there shall be no need for Gods, or for any other kind of religion, the opiate of the people or any other ideology. Racist traditions shall be removed from the concepts of mankind. There shall be no need for religions when freedom comes. No need for a concern for tomorrows because everyday will be heaven. We will have built the heaven that man has suppositionally dreamed about. We will have the heaven that the white masters have taught would one day be given us, so that we might shine somebody's shoes in the throne room. . .
  • “But in the meantime, I come in the phenomenon of religion to get people out of religion. Of the very God of heaven in all his might and fullness, all the power you say God has, I have come to make one final dissolution, one final elimination of all religious feeling. Until I have eradicated this appeal from the face of the earth, I shall do all those miracles you said your God would do and never did.”
  • (Jim Jones, quoted p. 54, 'Our Father Who Art in Hell,' p. 54, James Reston, Jr.).

God Talk

People who are not used to listening to theological 'liberals' often find themselves confused. Some of these people,— Bishop Spong, for example,— sound just like atheists; certainly they do not believe in the living God of the Bible. Yet they keep talking on and on about 'god.' They have church, even. How do they do this? They redefine the word 'god.' If you define 'god' as a pallid abstraction, then you can talk about 'him' or 'it' all day, yet say very little indeed. See how it's done:

  • “When all this is done, when I have eliminated all the condescending savior images, removed all the judgment hall concepts, expunged all the heavens in the sky and the Sky God concepts, People will know there is no God but what is in us. What is God anyway? God is perfect justice, freedom, and equality. The  only thing that brings perfect justice, freedom and equality and love in its beauty and holiness is socialism!
  • “In me, the twain have been married. In this dispensation, I have taken on the body, the same body that walked in the plains of Palmyra, of whom Solomon said his hair is black as a raven, and who, as Isaiah said, 7:20, would shave with a razor. I do shave with a razor. My hair is black as a raven's. I came as the God to eliminate all your false Gods. . .From time to time, I shall show you proofs, so that you will have no further need of religion. I have accomplished all you imagine your God to do, but has never done. I have repeatedly resurrected the dead before your eyes. . .
  • “I must say that it is a great effort to be God. I would lean upon another, but no other in the consciousness we are evolving in has the faculties that I possess. When they do, I will be glad to hold his coat. In the meantime, I shall be God, and beside me, there shall be no other.”
  • (Rev. Jim Jones, quote p. 56, 'Our Father Who Art in Hell,' by James Reston, Jr.).

If you have defined 'god' to be 'perfect justice' or 'socialism' or what have you, then you can continue to talk about 'god,' only without saying very much. There can be no question that you are denying God's existence; after all 'justice' and 'socialism' are perfectly meaningful categories, you have denied nothing. All you are denying is the God the church believes in, who is not 'justice' or 'the American way' or 'blue sky.' The true and living God is not an abstraction, nor an aspiration of mankind, nor in any way dependent upon us for His existence or realization. God exists in Himself, if He ceases to believe in us, then we disappear. Jim Jones did not believe in this self-subsistent God, who is the 'Sky God:' the living God who made the world.

"We don't have property. We believe God is love, and love is socialism. We cannot love unless there's equality. The highest worship to God is to serve fellow human beings. God is love, and love is God." (Rev. Jim Jones, 'Our Father Who Art in Hell,' by James Reston, Jr., p. 136); ". . .and what is your God: Communism!" (Rev. Jim Jones, quoted p. 143, 'Our Father Who Art in Hell,' by James Reston, Jr.); "What is pure love? Communism. . .In other words, Paul was saying, give your body to be burned. Set it afire, if necessary to convey a revolutionary message, but be sure you've got Communism in your heart." (Rev. Jim Jones, 'Our Father Who Art in Hell,' by James Reston, Jr., p. 268). If your pastor should ever reveal to you, Christian friend, that the hidden God you adore is 'socialism,' then flee, as if in fear the floor beneath you will melt into lava and dissolve.

Five Fundamentals

No fundamentalist, Jim Jones didn't think any more of the Bible than he thought of the Sky God therein depicted:

"With that, he would take the Bible and fling it before him, spit on it, and stamp on it with his feet. He would raise his bare arm to the roof of his Temple and shout, 'If there is a God in the sky, I say, F**CK YOU,'and when he was not struck dead on the spot, this was his proof of the silliness of the Sky God and proof of their superstition."" ('Our Father Who Art in Hell,' by James Reston, Jr., pp. 56-57).

Jim Jones wrote a brief pamphlet about the supposed errors and contradictions in the Bible. These were, for example, "God promises Abraham everything, and He said, I'll give you the seed, all the land of Canaan, for an ever-lasting possession. Acts 7:5, and he gave him none. Not any inheritance in it. No, not so much as to set his foot off it. He didn't get his foot on Canaan, much less get it all, he didn't even his foot in it. Lies, lies, lies. In Hebrews 11:9— now let's read this again. Genesis 15:8. I'm about through. And I will give unto thee, Abraham, and to thy seed after thee in all the land of Canaan for an ever-lasting possession. Acts 7:5, and he gave him none inheritance in it, not so much as to set his foot on it. . .Said, the Bible's the word of truth. I've already showed to you, the Bible's not the word of truth." (Jim Jones, Jonestown Audiotape Primary Project: Transcripts, Q 1035). That's a 'Bible contradiction,' folks:

As has been seen, Jim Jones was a life-long Communist. Not only was he devoted to Marxism-Leninism, but he remained loyal to the most hard-care faction, "I just loved this man of the people, but I couldn’t accept what the hell they would want to discredit Marshall Stalin for. I know I wasn’t there, I wasn’t there, but to it was too instilled, loyalties instilled, and I just could not reconcile that break. That loyalty is still deep down in me today. Stalin did great things for the Soviet Union." (Jim Jones, An Untitied Collection of Reminiscences). It might seem like the two poles of Jim Jones' theological world are as far apart as they might be: 1.) denying that there is a transcendent 'Sky God,' and 2.) claiming to be God. But they are a familiar legacy to the children of Ludwig Feuerbach. What's the inspiration for this way of thinking, for looking at religion as a stage to be overcome once the socialist paradise is achieved?:

Karl Marx, in his juvenile poetry, displayed a fascination with Satan. But no atheist can be a Satanist,— can he? In the German theology Marx and Engels inherited, God has been cast off His throne, but not yet thoroughly defeated. German philosophy going back to Immanuel Kant had allotted God a smaller and smaller island vanishing beneath the flood tide. Kant situated God, not where classical theology had left Him, sitting atop His pile of 'things as such' to create, play with, and know as they were, but over on our side: as an inescapable underlay to man's moral thinking. He is not out there in the unknown and unknowable real world, but over on our side: we hold Him hostage. Some German theologians were delighted at the renewed lease on life Kant had graciously allowed them and gratefully set up shop in these reduced quarters, religion now having been whittled down to an aspect of human psychology. Ludwig Feuerbach taught these by now established and accepted 'realities' to a new generation, and the thought began to dawn in their hearts: 'we made Him, we can unseat Him.' That this was Prometheus' ambition also did not escape their notice.

It is clear enough that it's absurd to claim that you are God. . .when you don't even believe in God! This point is so apparent, that even Rev. Jim Jones made it: "But I owe it to my friends to say. This is ridiculous. . .such charges as I have preached that I am God, when you don't even believe there is a damn God." (Rev. Jim Jones, quoted p. 117, 'Our Father Who Art in Hell, by James Reston, Jr.).

End Game

In Jim Jones' mind, he was a father to his people: "'Cause I'm a Father that looks after his own." (Jonestown Audiotape Primary Project: Transcripts, Q 1035). One is reminded, "And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven." (Matthew 23:9). We all know the end from the beginning in this case, we know that he led them to destruction. Though at first he had demanded their worship, he had a higher goal in mind: "I don't want you to worship me, I want you to be like I am. I want you to become what I am." (Jonestown Audiotape Primary Project: Transcripts, Q 1035). They were to become their own gods, and join him in blaspheming the Sky God. One hopes they did not all make this transition, but dug in their heels and hung back, and that this malignant spirit darted back down into Hell bereft of the full complement of the people he had come for. Certainly he lost the little children, innocent murder victims.

It was Huey Newton who coined the phrase 'revolutionary suicide,' but he never envisioned Jonestown. In the weeks following that event, those bloated bodies decomposing in the equatorial sun became the most familiar sight on television. No one saw anything in it but madness. Jones said it was a testimony: ". . .and the best testimony we can make is to leave this goddamn world." (Jim Jones, quoted p. 325, 'Our Father Who Art in Hell,' by James Reston, Jr.). A testimony of what, madness? He had said that he wanted to die: ". . .because I really have a strong desire to die." (Jonestown Audiotape Primary Project: Transcripts, Q 134). How can one man transfer such a feeling to a whole community? He said he wanted to shield them from suffering: "I want to try to give them uh, some relief of suffering." (Jonestown Audiotape Primary Project: Transcripts, Q 134). Perhaps in his bleak, atheist world-view, this could come only from suicide. Atheism does appear to be a risk factor in suicide.

Jim Jones took Father Divine as a role model, and Father Divine's assumption of deity was motivated, in part, by a perception that his rival to the position was a no-show:

"To a guest at the Peace Mission who publicly doubted his divine nature, the minister replied: 'Because your god would not feed the people, I came and I am feeding them. Because your god kept such as you segregated and discriminated, I came and I am unifying all nations together. That is why I came, because I did not believe in your god.'" (Robert Weisbrot, Father Divine and Struggle for Racial Equality, p. 8).

While atheism and claiming to be god might seem to be at opposite poles of the spectrum, this is paradoxically a case where extremes meet. And atheists are what was hopping off the assembly line at the People's Temple factory: "Second, the Russians became fascinated by Jones's unique method of using religious techniques to spread atheism and socialism. . .In another such discussion with Timofeyev, Sharon Amos said, 'I came [to the Temple] with a Bible in my hand and a white brotherhood card. I was very religious, but it is from that type of background that Jim has educated us to what we are today, and I'm a positive atheist." ('Our Father Who Art in Hell,' by James Reston, Jr., pp. 173-174). Timofeyev visited the Jonestown commune, though whether he was toying with them or seriously looking for ways to get this mad-man into the Soviet Union is open to question. Jim Jones for one thought he was genuinely impressed: "He said, 'Jim Jones took the church and used it to bring people to atheism! We haven't been able to do that with the Soviet Union's churches in fifty years, and we control them!'" (p. 190, 'Our Father Who Art in Hell,' by James Reston, Jr.). He made them atheists, then killed them. What more could the devil himself do?

Problem of Evil

The problem of evil comes into play in two connections in the Jonestown saga. Pastor Jim Jones denied a loving Sky God because of existence of suffering in the world:

"Now what is the Skygod doing? He is supposed to've created all of you. And yet the President, Richard Nixon said, two out of three of the babies of this world right now, tonight, are crying for hunger. They're going to bed hungry. That's what President Nixon said, this last administration, that's what the State Department of the United States said, two out of three of His babies going to bed hungry. He's supposed to have all power." (Jonestown Audiotape Primary Project: Transcripts, Q 1035).

This lands us in a hall of mirrors indeed, when a man who is himself inexpressibly evil demands to know why the Sky God allows evil. The other side of the coin is, why did God not respond to this man's blasphemies with a lightning bolt, as challenged? Why was he allowed liberty to mouth his antichrist blasphemies for years, all the while drawing in vulnerable people to the scorched circle around him, drug addicts, the elderly and infirm, criminals down on their luck, in need of a friend? This devil busied himself doing the work the church ought to do; he was a friend to the friendless. Then he destroyed them all. Why was he allowed to do this?

Some pagan sayings have migrated into the 'Bible' of people's imagination, such as 'the gods help those who help themselves.' Chapter and verse, please? It isn't there:

This particular saying is not a very good one, though people seem to like it. The pagans had some zippy aphorisms, though, and perhaps the clear-eyed, unsentimental pagans can help us see some principles that Christian eyes, riveted by the pain of the victims, might miss:

'The mills of the gods grind slow, but they grind exceedingly fine.'

When Jim Jones shook his fist at the heavens and there was no response, the pagans would have said, 'Wait.'

Another relevant pagan saying is,

'Those whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.'

Jim Jones was not heading to any usual end of his anti-christ journey, but to a tableau of horror that would make television viewers sit with their mouths agape, to see him surrounded by his adoring but lifeless followers slowly inflating in the jungle sun.


Some suicide cults, like the Heaven's Gate cult or the Solar Temple cult, see suicide as a very specific way of achieving their aims, such as accomplishing a rendezvous with the spaceship hiding behind Comet Hale-Bopp. But the only concept of life after death I can find in the Jonestown material is reincarnation. Sam Harris, also an atheist, is sometimes willing to entertain this arbitrary and unscientific idea as well. Certainly these people did not believe in Easter morning. "Any suicide for selfish reasons is immoral, and your history will be cursed and you will come back in some lower form. So suicide is unacceptable, except for evolutionary reasons." (Rev. Jim Jones, quoted p. 271, 'Our Father Who Art in Hell,' James Reston, Jr.). Who introduced the community to the idea of reincarnation, which is not normal Christian belief, I don't know, but evidently the security chief believed he had had experiences in this field: "As he did, the head of security stepped forward to testify on his past experience of therapy to the dying, of how he had experienced the reincarnation of others, of how pleasurable getting a new body was, new and free of the nagging deficiencies of this one." ('Our Father Who Art in Hell,' by James Reston, Jr., p. 327).

In a manner similar to contemporary conspiracy theorists who advertise food riots in the next six months, always being bumped forward another six months, Jim Jones warned his flock the authorities intended to destroy them. Why this was taken as an argument for them to do it first is unclear. After they had murdered Congressman Leo Ryan, then the game was up for the chief conspirator; his little empire in the jungle was crumbling before his eyes: "I'm defeated. I might as well die,' Jones said in sudden dejection." ('Our Father Who Art in Hell,' by James Reston, Jr., p. 316). The fact that several of the principals of the commune, including Jones, were on drugs, probably did not help the people's chances for survival.


Larry Layton, the cold-blooded murderer who opened fire onboard the small plane about to depart and fly back to civilization, admiringly described Jim Jones as "the most highly evolved person in the universe" ('Our Father Who Art in Hell,' by James Reston, Jr., p. 25). Is this a good standard of value? Certainly he passed on a lot of his DNA, as a long-standing custody dispute revealed; but then he ladled out the Kool-Aid to his own offspring:

Parallels to what this man did are, sadly, not lacking. In modern times, there is Demmin. In antiquity, there was Masada. The Circumcellions of northern Africa, linked to the Donatists, were social activists who agitated against slavery. They also reportedly used to precipitate themselves off of cliffs: