ROLE the results of the experiment, 47.5 to 65%


individual may alleviate anxiety related to loneliness, helplessness, and
general insecurity by identifying with a mass movement whose leader is
charismatic. According to Max Weber, charisma is a special personal quality
endowing a leader with supreme authority and implies a special relationship
with the leader and his led.

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900 members participated in this suicide willingly, with a common bond of
fanatical devotion that is incomprehensible to the everyday outsider. According
to University of Miami psychologist Jose Lasaga, the Jonestown incident was the
final step in a series of events carefully calculated by Jones. Jose describes
it as, “mass hypnosis at a social level…a unique process of group regression
that led to a full acceptance of the leader’s delusional system.”

entrepreneurial model gives credit to the fact that cults are in many ways like
businesses. They are created by leaders with an entrepreneurial flair because
such an individual believes that he can profit from them and more often than
not this prestige is intangible such as admiration and power (for example,
being called Dad by his followers).

 Such obedience to authority was also
demonstrated in Stanley Milgram’s experiment in 1974 conducted at the Yale
University. Whilst the official purpose of the experiment was to the test the
learning ability of the ‘pupil’, the participants or monitors were required to
administer shocks in increasing intensity of current to the pupil (partner) in
case of errors, or they had the choice to stop the experiment altogether.
Although the victim or partner was an actor simulating the pain and torture,
this ruse was not known to the monitors and the results were indeed “shocking.”
According to the results of the experiment, 47.5 to 65% of them delivered
shocks up to 450 volts, i.e. fatal shocks. 
Thus, similarly, followers tend to transgress inhibitions and commit
severe, even criminal acts. Such passive obedience is explained by the power
granted to the supervisor of the experiment in this case and to the charismatic
leaders in the case of cults. (Weber and Power)

such as Jones and Sabbah tend to evoke passive- masochistic attitudes to which
one’s will has to be surrendered.  According
to Milgram, “An individual is in an agentic state when he accepts total control
by a person holding a higher status. In this case, he no longer holds himself
responsible for his actions. He sees himself as a simple instrument carrying
out the wills of others.”









“For Dad’s eyes only: If you were
to die tonight a natural death and your wishes were to follow the leader who
you appoint, I would give my life as I would for you at any moment for the
cause…I would proceed on my own to subdue as many enemies as I could get hold
of…also killing myself.” –Cliff G


letters reflect the agony of the peoples’ lives that was shaped by Jones so as
to give pain and anguish the seeming virtue of self-sacrifice.

religion clearly serves different functions for all; there are no consistent or
robust religious effects. (Functional Alternatives) In the two cases
illustrated above, religion failed to serve as a functional force for functionalists
or society at large, but did for any of the thousands of individuals involved. A
cult can provide a sense of moral certainty, even moral superiority that many
people (as illustrated in the case of Jones’ followers) need. Most functional
theorists believe that religion maintains and inculcates certain norms and
values central to the group, and thus combats the anomie that leads to both:
social disintegration and personal unhappiness. However, applying Merton’s concept of functional alternatives,
this very function is performed by cults for the millions like Jones’ followers
who fail to find this sense of solidarity in society and religion at large.

 However in return of this, the individual must
deliver himself to the control of the cult leader. The leader may be kind, or
homicidally insane, or anything in between. For some, there is no way of
telling until it is too late. A lot of leaders, like Jones, may start off with
the best of intentions, but end up committing horrifying acts. Being surrounded
day in day out by people who believe you are nearly divine, can produce strange

cannot however completely disregard the functional utility of these cults,
particularly the new age cults. While the cults elaborated on in this paper may
not be the best example considering its extremism; there may be cults that help
redirect activity away from political radicalism and provide legitimation for
not engaging in normal economic activity in a situation where the size of the
required labour force is falling and that of the surplus population is

religion has a social function, but is not automatically functional. 


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