Ram Rahim sentencing: From ‘UFO religion’ to Scientology, here are some cults across the world

As the court sentences Dera Sacha Sauda chief in Haryana on Monday, here are a few controversial cults across the world.

world Updated: Aug 28, 2017 14:23 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Dera Sacha Sauda,Ram Rahim rape case,Ram Rahim
Scientology was started by LR Hubbard.(File Photo)

As a horrified India watched Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim’s followers go on a violent rampage post his conviction in a rape case, the spotlight zoomed in on cults and their devotees.

Cults aren’t unique to India. There’s an inherent human need to identify and explore spirituality, and religion is often the answer, irrespective of one’s geographical location or cultural inclination.

As the court sentences Dera Sacha Sauda chief in Haryana on Monday, here are a few controversial cults across the world:

Aum Shinrikyo

Aum Shinrikyo was a Japanese doomsday cult which was behind the deadly sarin gas attack at a Tokyo subway in 1995. It began in the 1980s and its leader Shoko Asahara declared himself to be both Christ and the first “enlightened one” since Buddha, says a BBC report. Much like Dera Sacha Sauda, Aum Shinrikyo translated into the ‘supreme truth’. Students from elite Japanese universities were among the thousands of followers of the cult.

Members of the cult released nerve agent sarin in the Tokyo subway in March 1995, in an attack that killed 13. Several followers, including Asahara, were arrested and the sect was driven underground.

Subway passengers affected by sarin gas planted in central Tokyo subways are carried into St. Luke's International Hospital in Tokyo. (AP File Photo)


Scientology, a religious ‘movement’ started by LR Hubbard, is known to have popular actors such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta as its followers. The group’s official website states scientology is a religion that offers “complete” understanding of one’s “true spiritual nature”. It is based out of California but has branches all across the world.

The cult, The Telegraph says, is influential because it claims to give meaning to lives. It also claims to cure drug addicts and reportedly has rehabilitation centres in 40 countries. Media mogul Rupert Murdoch had in 2012 tweeted: “Scientology back in news. Very weird cult, but big, big money involved with Tom Cruise either number two or three in hierarchy.”

There are allegations of human trafficking and holding people against their will.

The Church of Scientology's site was hacked by Anonymous. The hacking group posted criticism of Scientology on its site and released secret documents. (File Photo)

Children of God

The Children of God was started in 1968 by a group of teens and hippies led by evangelical preacher David Berg in California. It attracted the attention of the FBI and Interpol over allegations of child rape, incest and kidnapping, reports The Guardian.

It is said that child rape was used to “increase the tribe” and the group’s leader Berg believed in the ‘Law of Love’ -- where a devotee gives up one’s body to the world.

The People’s Temple

Jim Jones established the Christian sect in the 1950s in Indianapolis, US. After allegations of financial irregularities, physical abuse and child abuse, Jones moved the sect to Guayana where the group promised to build a socialist utopia, called Jonestown.

In 1978, more than 900 members of The People’s Temple committed mass suicide after drinking poisoned punch in Jonestown, in what Jones termed the ‘revolutionary act’. Authorities found a carpet of bodies, with many seen hugging each other, in America’s largest single loss of civilian life in a non-natural disaster until September 11 terror attacks, the Huffington Post says.


Perhaps the most unique of the lot, the ‘UFO religion’ propagated the idea that life was created by aliens called Elohim. The cult was started in 1974 by Claude Vorilhon, a French retired motor racing journalist, the Daily Mail says.

Among other controversial claims, Raelism claimed to have created the first human clone in 2002. A decade later, they organised a ‘Go Topless’ protest in Toronto so women can go braless in public.

But most of all, they are waiting for Elohim to arrive on Judgement Day -- when the aliens will return to Earth and resurrect the dead through cloning.

First Published: Aug 28, 2017 11:20 IST