Although a variety of beliefs existed in Peoples Temple, two main systems of thought can be identified. The first system, which tended to be concentrated in Jim Jones and a small leadership corps, comprised a belief in the salvific power of socialism. Somewhat atheistic, or at best agnostic, in nature, this belief resembled humanism in its understanding of the power of human beings to re-create and re-shape reality for the benefit of all. In this view, religion could be used to attract people into the organization so that the real message of Christianity — radical sharing and mutual support — could actually be lived. The second belief system in the Temple, and by far the largest, was a traditional Christianity which emphasized the prophetic call to social justice and a belief that the kingdom of God could be established on earth by living in an apostolic community. This system resembled the Social Gospel movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries in its commitment to solving social problems; at the same time, however, the group had utopianist ideals which could only be lived out through the establishment of a community separate from the evil and injustice of the rest of the world, especially America.
Originally posted on June 15th, 2013.
Last modified on July 28th, 2014.