Peoples Temple has been seen as the paradigmatic cult exemplifying the horrors of manipulative leaders and brainwashed followers due to the deaths in Jonestown on 18 November 1978. This article argues against the utility of making comparisons to such an extreme event, however. Drawing upon Godwin’s Law and its observation that online debates eventually raise the trope of Hitler and Nazis, the article introduces Jones’ Corollary: Discussions of new religions inevitably begin with a comparison to Jonestown. Making generalizations about new religions by starting with Jonestown is inappropriate because of the unique nature of Peoples Temple and its extraordinary ending in Jonestown. Nevertheless, Jonestown functions for the anticult movement and in online exchanges the same way that references to Nazis and Hitler do—to evoke shock, disgust, and outrage, and, ultimately, to terminate analysis.
Research Article| November 01 2018
Godwin’s Law and Jones’ Corollary: The Problem of Using Extremes to Make Predictions
Nova Religio (2018) 22 (2): 145–154.
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Rebecca Moore; Godwin’s Law and Jones’ Corollary: The Problem of Using Extremes to Make Predictions. Nova Religio 1 November 2018; 22 (2): 145–154. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/nr.2018.22.2.145
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