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A Doomsday Reader

Prophets, Predictors, and Hucksters of Salvation

Ted Daniels

Publication Year: 1999

The approach of the year 2000 has made the study of apocalyptic movements trendy. But groups anticipating the end of the world will continue to predict Armageddon even after the calendar clicks to triple 0s.

A Doomsday Reader brings together pronouncements, edicts, and scriptures written by prominent apocalyptic movements from a wide range of traditions and ideologies to offer an exceptional look into their belief systems.

Focused on attaining paradise, millenarianism often anticipates great, cosmic change. While most think of religious belief as motivating such fervor, Daniels' comparative approach encompasses secular movements such as environmentalism and the Montana Freemen, and argues that such groups are often more political than religious in nature.

The book includes documents from groups such as the Branch Davidians, the Order of the Solar Temple, Heaven's Gate, and white supremacists. Each document is preceded by a substantive introduction placing the movement and its beliefs in context.

This important overview of contemporary politics of the End will remain a valuable resource long after the year 2000 has come and gone.

Published by: NYU Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix

A number of people helped this book get written. Dave Noble and John J. Reilly read early drafts and helped me find the direction I wound up taking. Hannah M. G. Shapero, Paul de Armond, and Catherine Wessinger provided background information and sources on some of the specialized areas of the book. I owe a special debt of gratitude to Jennifer Hammer, whose patient herding of its rambling author kept the book on its subject and on its schedule. My family’s support was essential. Especially as the deadline approached, they absorbed without complaint a lot of my routine chores. I owe them a great deal....

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pp. 1-18

At Jonestown, Guyana, in November 1978 the Christian-Socialist movement called the Peoples Temple was in grave trouble. Jim Jones, the charismatic leader of the group, had recently moved most of his following to Guyana from the San Francisco Bay Area upon learning of a forthcoming expos

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pp. 19-51

This book will deal with political millenarianism and the ideas that inform it. However, all millenarianism ultimately derives from a religious original. Before moving on to the primary texts, it is therefore worthwhile to discuss some of the forms that millennialism has taken in the major world religions. This chapter...

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PART I. Enlightenment and Secular Millenarianism

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pp. 53-55

WE CAN ALREADY see in Gnosticism the emphasis on individual thought that was to come into its fullest expression in the views of the secular Enlightenment, and eventually in modernism. Gnosticism’s reliance on individual effort and exploration, rather than acceptance of dogma and submission to authority, also appears forcefully in Enlightenment rhetoric. Enlightenment ideals...

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Chapter 2. Marxism

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pp. 56-63

Marxism arose out of a reaction to and critique of the conditions of early capitalism. Karl Marx amassed statistics to support not only his critique, but the principles behind his revolutionary response. The statistics performed admirably in his critique of the early capitalist system, because Marx was observing...

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Chapter 3. NAZISM: Adolf Hitler and Mein Kampf

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pp. 64-78

Despite literally tons of biography and analysis of his life and career, Adolf Hitler remains one of the twentieth century’s most emblematic, and enigmatic, figures. His image continues to exercise a fascination that time cannot abrade. One writer says it is the best-known face ever; its appearance on a book or magazine cover is “known to increase sales by 25 to 50 percent,” a figure rivaled only by the late Princess Diana.1 Both his...

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Chapter 4. Environmentalism, Politics, and Progress

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pp. 79-91

Old political alignments, the familiar progressive left-wing versus conservative right-wing battles, sometimes converge, blur and ultimately get lost in modern apocalypticism. This is especially true in the environmentalist movements that have emerged since the writings of Rachel Carson and Aldo Leopold—notably Silent Spring (1962) and Sand County Almanac (1949), respectively—gave new life...

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PART II. Millennial Evil

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pp. 93-98

AN APOCALYPTIC RHETORIC drove the Manhattan Project. Its director, General Leslie Groves, said of the project that it was an accomplishment to equal Columbus’s millennial discovery of America.1 The comparison with Columbus is apt, in view of the Admiral’s own apocalyptic agenda:...

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Chapter 5. A Royalist Apocalypse: The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion

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pp. 99-107

The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion was written partly in response to Karl Marx and his “spectre of Communism” with which the Communist Manifesto begins. It is a famous forgery purporting to reveal a plot of world Jewry to enslave the planet under its own rule through a series of Machiavellian manipulations of greed and liberal impulses. In fact...

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Chapter 6. Myths of Power: Conspiracies, Revenge, and The Turner Diaries

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pp. 108-118

Conspiracy theory is frequently at the heart of millenarian thinking; we have seen examples already in Mein Kampf (chapter 3) and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (chapter 5). An important point about conspiracy theory is that it very often has some basis in fact.1 One such fact is that no organization can conduct all its business in public. If it had to consult its constituency about every decision...

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Chapter 7. The New World Order

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pp. 119-125

George Bush’s 1991 State of the Union Address aroused right-wing excitement over supposed plans for world hegemony. He called that occasion, in the middle of the Gulf War, a “defining hour.” “Halfway around the world, we are engaged in a great struggle in the skies and on the seas and sands. We know why we’re there. We are Americans—part of something larger than ourselves. . . . What is at stake...

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PART III. Well-Known Contemporary Movements

ALL THE GROUPS discussed here achieved a measure of fame or notoriety as the twentieth century neared its close. They all committed, or threatened, large-scale violence against themselves or others, or else had it thrust upon them, bringing media attention and notoriety. It is one of history’s sadder facts that explosions of violence involving millenarian believers recur...

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Chapter 8. The Branch Davidians

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pp. 128-143

Probably the best-known prophet of the late twentieth century is David Koresh, the leader of the Koreshite Branch Davidians, most of whom died in the apocalyptic destruction of the community they called Mt. Carmel, outside Waco, Texas, on April 19, 1993. The date is important; it’s the date of the Battle of Concord that opened...

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Chapter 9. The Order of the Solar Temple

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pp. 144-153

Early in October 1994 the world was shocked to hear of the deaths of fifty-three members of an organization called the Order of the Solar Temple (OST). The bodies were found in three groups. The first group was discovered in a villa in the prosperous Quebec town of Morin Heights. The next day, the others were discovered in a house in Cheiry, Switzerland, whose nearby barn was ablaze, and...

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Chapter 10. Aum Shinri Kyo and the Politics of Terror

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pp. 154-170

On March 20, 1995, eleven people were killed and more than five thousand injured in simultaneous poison gas attacks aboard Tokyo subway trains, all converging on a station near the city’s government center. Shoko Asahara, the leader of a new religious movement called Aum Shinri Kyo, was arrested for planning and directing the attacks. At this writing, his trial is still working its glacial way toward its foregone conclusion:...

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Chapter 11. The Montana Freemen

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pp. 171-198

The Montana Freemen movement offered its followers the dream of every wage and debt slave: sovereignty.1 In its fantasy of total independence and Constitutional fundamentalism, its members could become millionaires with no labor simply by issuing their own money. Unlike leftist populist movements of the past, the Freemen...

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Chapter 12. Comet Hale-Bopp, Planet Nibiru, the Mass Landing, and Heaven’s Gate

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pp. 199-223

Recent years have seen a series of warnings that the earth faces a catastrophic collision with some wandering bit of space debris. This is always a possibility, but one wonders why these warnings arose so forcefully at the end of the millennium. After all, we...

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pp. 224-233

By the time he got to Jonestown, Jim Jones was a seriously impaired drug abuser. Mary Maaga makes a compelling case that when the Peoples Temple moved to Guyana, Jones was little more than a “mascot of cohesion” because the duties of organizing a pioneering life required expertise he did not have.1 Management was now mostly up to his lieutenants. This coup and his drug-induced unreliability had faded his charisma...


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pp. 235-243


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pp. 245-252

About the Author

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pp. 253

E-ISBN-13: 9780814744048
E-ISBN-10: 0814744044
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814719084
Print-ISBN-10: 0814719082

Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 1999

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Millennium (Eschatology).
  • Judgment Day.
  • Militia movements.
  • Survivalism.
  • Millennialism.
  • White supremacy movements.
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