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There is talk of course about "doomsday," especially a supposed prophecy drawn from the ancient Mayan calendar that calls for massive events on December 21, and about which we have long warned (as we also warned about belief in Y2K).

No one knows the year or the day or the hour, Jesus said.

It also brings up doomsday cults.

There have been plenty of examples.

Most current is the one in France that is aimed at survival during the December 21, 2012 "apocalypse." This is at Pic de Bugarach in the far southeastern part of the country nestled in the French Pyrenees -- supposedly the only spot that will survive "Armageddon" or whatever they expect (the media uses "Armageddon" -- which is supposed prophesy a final military event -- as sort of a catch-all phrase for The End; doomsdayers are probably expecting military and natural calamities).

Why Bugarach? Why would it survive? "These include beliefs that the mountain is surrounded by a magnetic force, that it is the site of a concealed alien base, or even that it contains an underground access to another world," notes the London Mail, which monitors these kinds of things.

French authorities are rightly concerned about mass suicide.

There were the Branch Davidians in Texas: they hunkered down despite threats of an assault which indeed came and killed eighty-six members. They were a branch of an apocalyptic spin-off from the Seventh-Day Adventists.

There was the Heaven's Gate cult in California. In 1997 thirty-nine members committed suicide on three successive days, believing that the earth was about to be "recycled" and that by killing themselves they would be taken by UFOs to a "higher level." They interpreted passages from the four gospels and the book Revelation as referring to UFO visitation. In particular, they emphasized a story in Revelation which described two witnesses who are killed, remained dead for three and a half days, were revived and taken up into the clouds. Many cults are focused on UFOs; we recall the RaŽlian Movement (which claimed it could clone humans). There is also a propensity for California.

Most notorious was the Charles Manson cult -- which believed it could spark a race war and Armageddon by committing murders.

Or perhaps the People's Temple (also based in California). More than nine hundred members of this cult, operated by Jim Jones, committed mass suicide in Guyana in 1978.

Perhaps this is why the Catholic Church generally rejects end-of-the-world prophecies (as distinct from ones that foresee chastisement).

Most chilling for our purposes was the "Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments," a cult in Uganda, Africa, that was formed in the late 1980s after a woman Credonia Mwerinde and her father, a brewer of banana beer, and Joseph Kibweteere, a politician, among others, asserted they had visions of the Virgin Mary. In early 2000 hundreds of members died.

"The group was a break-away Catholic cult that found its origins with Paulo Kashaku, who claimed to have divinely inspired visions," notes a website called Crime Library. "His daughter Credonia Mwerinde claimed to have similar visions. She, along with Joseph Kibweteere and Bee Tait founded the group in 1980. Though the group had broken with the Catholic Church, it attracted many defrocked priests and nuns, who were given positions of authority. 

"After frenzied preparations, January 1, 2000, passed without incident. Followers began to lose faith and cult leaders set another date for the end of the world: March 17, 2000. On the big day over five hundred worshipers in the town of Kanungu arrived at a church, but soon after, it exploded and burned down. At first it was thought to have been a mass suicide, but when signs of strangulation and poisoning became evident, the cause of death was changed to murder. A search of other cult properties turned up hundreds of bodies, more followers apparently murdered days before the final explosion and fire." Another site notes that "followers of the religious movement perished in a devastating fire and a series of poisonings and killings that were either a group suicide or an orchestrated mass murder by group leaders after their predictions of the apocalypse failed to come about. In their coverage of that event, BBC News and The New York Times referred to the movement as a doomsday cult."

[resources: spiritual warfare books

[see also: Doomsday mountain to be closed on 'day the world ends']

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