On March 20 1995, a Monday, several hundred thousand Japanese white-collar workers walked into Tokyo subway stations as they did every day, to start their busy working week.
Kenichi Hirose, a 30-year-old man, made his way onto the Marunouchi Line with an umbrella and one plastic bag in his hands. He placed the plastic bag on the floor of a subway train just after 8:00 a.m. He used the tip of his umbrella to pierce the plastic bag, and then got off the subway train and disappeared into the sea of people.
In the meantime, four other men ---Toru Toyoda, Masato Yokuyama, Yasuo Hayashi and Ikuo Hayashi did the same thing on different subway lines. Inside their plastic bags was the fatall toxin, sarin.
▲Scene of sarin gas attack on Tokyo subway stations
All of a sudden, the poisonous gas prevailed in every corner of the five subway trains. Passengers began to convulse and struggle on the floor, with white foam coming out of their mouths. The whole subway system was dominated by great panic. It seemed as if doomsday had arrived.
▲Scene of sarin gas attack on Tokyo subway stations
One survivor recalled, “I felt as if all the lights inside subway train were turned off and I could see nothing. Then I lost consciousness.” In the end, 13 people were killed and more than 5,500 people were injured. About 1,036 seriously wounded people were sent to hospital, and more than 70% of them suffer from torturing pain even today, including damage to their eyes, lungs, digestive systems and PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder).
This world-shaking sarin gas attack on Tokyo subway stations was attributed to a cult, Aum Shinrikyo, and its leader, Shoko Asahara. Kenichi Hirose and the other criminals were his devoted followers.
▲Yasuo Hayashi (masked) was finally caught in 1996.
How could Kenichi Hirose and other criminals be willingly controlled by Shoko Asahara to poison those innocent passengers?
They were essentially brainwashed by Shoko Asahara.
Many cults use the “Doomsday Fallacy” to control their followers. For example, notorious cults including the Branch Davidians and Heaven’s Gate all spread the rumor that Doomsday was approaching. Their ill-meant enchantments are a vicious trap. The ultimate purpose of stressing the “Doomsday Fallacy” is to stress the so-called “Salvation Fallacy”, in which the cult leaders take the chance to achieve self-divinization and control the minds of their followers until they can squeeze every penny out of these cheated followers.
The cults’ deceptive process in the guise of “Doomsday Fallacy” usually goes as follows:
First, some accidental or unknown natural and social phenomena that happened in the world are described as the symptoms of “doomsday”.
Then, a given date is forecast to be the end of the world to generate a stronger terror in followers.
The next step is that the cult leaders play the role of “savior”.
Finally, people are told that they can’t get “redeemed” unless they join the cults.
The “Doomsday Fallacy” is an often-used tool in the hands of cults. In fact, it’s not an exclusively invented concept of these cults, but it has something to do with western religions. In the Bible, there’re some words about the end of days and judgment when Lord Jesus comes again, but Christianity has a very complicated interpretation of the end of days. Many people know little about religion and tend to get misled by the “Doomsday Fallacy” invented by cults.
▲Michelangelo’s Last Judgment (partly)
What’s more, the false alarm of the “Doomsday Fallacy” creates huge fear in people and fear generates mental and emotional vulnerability in them. At this time, cults can find an easy way into people’s minds. Because of their fear of “the end of days” and their attachment to the cult leaders, those innocent followers are inclined to fall victim to the greedy and lascivious cult leaders.
For example, Millerism, a cult that emerged in the early 18th century, predicted the destruction of the earth and the resurrection of Jesus Christ on October 22, 1844. About 100,000 followers believed this prophecy. Many of them disposed of all their money to welcome the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yet it turned out to be a heart-breaking farce.
David Koresh, the cult leader of Branch Davidians, used his vivid yet terrifying descriptions of “the Last Judgment” to deprive his panic-stricken followers of their normal judgment, so he could have a demon-like life in the heavily guarded “Apocalypse Pasture”, just like a dissolute tyrant.
When the end of days is preached, cults frequently give an exaggerated attack against reality so that the followers can have “world-weariness” and even the mentality of world-aversion.
In 1978, the U.S. cult “The People’s Temple” organized a collective suicide in Guyana, which claimed a death toll of 914 people.
Shoko Asahara’s Aum Shinrikyo resorted to the same trick of “Doomsday Fallacy” to induce the mentality of word-weariness and then world-aversion in his followers.
▲ Aum Shinrikyo’s leader Shoko Asahara
Aum Shinrikyo rose to its popularity in the 1980’s, a period when the busy Japanese people were spiritually void and a large variety of cults came on stage one after another. Shoko Asahara took the chance to boast of himself as a superman. He opened an arena of “Yoga Gong” in Tokyo, which was named “Aum Immortals Society”. He asked a magazine to publish a photo demonstrating his “unusual skill of floating” , which aroused huge interests from lots of followers.
▲The eye-catching photo of “unusual skill of floating”
In 1986, his book Secrets to Superpower contributed to his greater reputation. Lots of young people were convinced of his special power. They started to worship him as their “God”.
After Aum Shinrikyo was created, Shoko Asahara predicted that the doomsday was around the corner, and that “another world war will surely happen between 1997 and 2001”. He went further to claim that “our own world ----the Kingdom of Aum will be built in the ruins.”
The “Doomsday Fallacy” caused huge panic among a large number of followers. Then followed huge economic gains.
In April 1990, Shoko Asahara foretold that “Comet Austin will reach the earth and Japan will be overwhelmed by the sea as a result.” Accordingly, about 1200 followers spent as much as 300,000 yen to attend his special sermon in Ishigaki Island, Okinawa.
In 1992, Shoko Asahara made an undisguised statement that he was the “new savior” who could use his superpower to protect his followers against the doomsday destruction.
What came next is the indispensable “show” of any cult. He predicted that Mount Fuji would erupt several days later, an earthquake would attack Tokyo, Japan’s seal level would rise and the city would be submerged. If his prophecies came to nothing, the key members of this cult would advertise the cult leader’s so-called supernatural power among those followers.
He said in one highly provocative speech that “my followers, it’s up to you to get awakened and assist me. … I’m waiting for you to become my hands, my legs and my brain so that I can complete my mission of saving this world. Let’s join our hands and minds to complete this mission. Otherwise, we’d depart from this world full of regret.”
One key member of Aum Shinrikyo said that “homicide for the sake of Shoko Asahara could be something meritorious in Aum Shinrikyo. At least the people who were killed would have no chance to repeat their wrongdoings.”
Obviously, the followers were brainwashed by Shoko Asahara. So the tragedy on the Tokyo subway system is not hard to understand.
Today, a period of 22 years has elapsed since the tragedy happened. However, as long as the “Doomsday Fallacy” is still deceiving followers and generating benefits for cults, this ill-meant lie will be exploited by cults. It’s hard to eliminate its remaining evils.
For example, Shoko Asahara still stays in prison and his execution is still postponed today, for various reasons. Aum Shinrikyo takes a new name,Aleph, to continue the preaching of its doctrine.
Their evil influences have even reached children. According to TBS (Tokyo Broadcasting System) on December 22, 2016, Aleph used the “cards of song”, which were designed exclusively for children, as textbooks to preach Shoko Asahara’s doctrine. On them are some words like “respect for our master Shoko Asahara”.
▲Aleph’s cards of song for children
They’ve never given up their worship of Shoko Asahara. On October 8, 2017, the Public Security Intelligence Agency of Japan conducted a doorstep check of the “Aleph” religious sect in Sapporo. According to the photos from the police, some red words like “the ceremony in honor of the 30th anniversary of the founding of Aum Shinrikyo” were posted on the wall and the human figure of a man with his hands raised in midair reminded people of Shoko Asahara.
▲The photos taken by the Public Security Intelligence Agency of Japan during its doorstep check of “Aleph” religious sect in Sapporo
▲Human figure reminding us of Shoko Asahara
Luckily, people have become much more mindful of cults. The Japanese police’s “action of observation” against “Aleph” will expire in January 2018. The local residents submitted an appeal with 270,000 signatures to the police on October 27, and hoped that the “action of observation” against “Aleph” could be renewed from January 2018.
We hope that this alertness can keep everyone safe and peaceful, and prevent the possibility of any new tragedies.