The Jonestown Tragedy

Essay by paki_chick786High School, 12th grade May 2006

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Throughout history, the pressures of society have influenced many to act according to custom. In society, one can see how conformity plays a role in people's lives. Conventionality exists, mostly in social and religious settings. With such association, one may come to be very committed to their beliefs. With such strong faith, one may make sacrifices for their principles. Examples of this include street gangs, mafias, and cults. This also includes religious sects. An example of an extreme religious cult is The People's Temple. This Christian group demonstrated faith while promoting racial equity in a time of racial discrimination. The group was led by founder Reverend Jim Jones. Jones made promises to his followers and persuaded them that he had a strong connection with God. When odd rumors were spreading about The People's Temple, Jones told his closest followers to move to a place where the "evils of the world" would not hurt the group.

When Jones and about nine-hundred followers moved to their new remote location in the Guyana jungle known as "Jonestown," odd occurrences were reported and many began to question the existence of the isolated cult. There are many shocking events that took place within the establishment. This includes the shooting of journalists and a congressman by the guards of Jonestown. However, the most appalling event that took place was the mass suicide carried out by over nine-hundred followers. Jones had convinced them to drink cyanide laced punch as it was a "revolutionary act" (McCormick, par. 12). Many question why so many people would proceed to do such a horrific thing. With Jim Jones's religious claims, promises, and methods of persuasion, one can rationalize why a group of people would commit such an atrocious act.

Jones's People's Temple attracted many followers. Jim Jones's followers were...