New Religious Groups

New Religious Groups - New Religious Groups Aum Shinrikyo...

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New Religious Groups Aum Shinrikyo Group/Leader Profile The investigation into the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway on March 20, 1995, opened a window on Shoko Asahara's cult, Aum Shinrikyo. In 1995 Aum Shinrikyo claimed to have 10,000 supporters in Japan and 30,000 in Russia. Whereas doomsday cults previously had carried out mass suicides, Aum Shinrikyo set itself apart from them by inflicting mass murder on the general public. What seems most remarkable about this apocalyptic cult is that its leading members include Japan's best and brightest: scientists, computer experts, lawyers and other highly trained professionals. But according to cult expert Margaret Singer of the University of California at Berkeley, these demographics are not unusual. “Cults actively weed out the stupid and the psychiatric cases and look for people who are lonely, sad, between jobs or jilted,” she says. Many observers also suggest that inventive minds turn to Aum Shinrikyo as an extreme reaction against the corporate-centered Japanese society, in which devotion to one's job is valued over individual expression and spiritual growth. Japan’s school system of rote memorization, in which individualism and critical thinking and analysis are systematically suppressed, combined with crowded cities and transportation networks, have greatly contributed to the proliferation of cults in Japan, and to the growth of Aum Shinrikyo in particular. Aum Shinrikyo is one of at least 180,000 minor religions active in Japan. There is general agreement that the discipline and competitiveness required of Japan’s education system made Aum Shinrikyo seem very attractive to bright university graduates. It provided an alternative life-style in which recruits could rebel against their families, friends, and “the system.” Numerous Aum Shinrikyo members were arrested on various charges after the sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system in 1995. According to Manabu Watanabe, none of them claimed innocence; rather, many of them confessed their crimes and showed deep remorse. “These people were proven to be sincere
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and honest victims of Asahara, the mastermind,” Watanabe comments. Aum Shinrikyo became active again in 1997, when the Japanese government decided not to ban it. In 1998 Aum Shinrikyo had about 2,000 members, including 200 of 134 the 380 members who had been arrested. The story of Aum Shinrikyo is the story of Shoko Asahara, its charismatic and increasingly psychopathic leader. Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, was born in 1955, the fourth son of a poor weaver of tatami mats, in the small rural village of Yatsushiro on Japan’s main southern island of Kyushu. Afflicted with infantile glaucoma, he was blind in one eye and had diminished vision in the other. At age six, he was sent to join his blind older brother at a government-funded boarding school for the blind. Because he had limited vision in one eye, however, he soon developed influence over the blind students, who would pay him for services such as being a guide. Already at that
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New Religious Groups - New Religious Groups Aum Shinrikyo...

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