Netflix's show Messiah has had its own disciples debating if its protagonist, Al-Masih, is the godly saviour he claims to be, or if he is like the sinister real-life prophets who have fleeced followers of their cash — and even their lives.
Messiah comes after Netflix's popular documentary about Bhagwan Rajneesh, a 'sex guru' cult leader who owned a fleet of 93 Rolls-Royce cars
The fictional TV series has itself proved so controversial that Netflix subscribers have threatened to cancel their subscriptions because it's "disrespectful".
It comes after the success of the streaming site's hit 2018 documentary Wild Wild Country, about a "free sex" commune in the US founded by Indian guru Bhagwan Rajneesh.
Rajneesh's followers ended up being responsible for the biggest bioterror attack in American history, where over 750 people were poisoned with salmonella, in a bid to stop residents voting against the cult's candidates in a local election.
But similar atrocities have been carried out in the name of dangerous false idols all over the world — from a mass murdering gas attack on the Tokyo subway to children being burned alive in Texas.
Here are some of the more infamous real life 'Messiahs'.
Subway gas attack acupuncturist
Shoko Asahara, a Japanese cult leader, wrote a book calling himself the messiah in the 1990s
Shoko Asahara was the head of Japanese doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo, also known as the Supreme Truth.
Asahara preached a strange mix of Buddhist and Hindu meditation with apocalyptic teachings, which amassed a 200-strong live-in following and over 10,000 international supporters at its peak.
After studying acupuncture, Asahara became increasingly interested in religion in the 1980s before publishing a book called "Declaring Myself the Christ" in 1992.
In the interim, Asahara plotted one of the most horrific atrocities in Japanese history.
Asahara's cult was responsible for the sarin attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995Credit: Reuters
On March 20, 1995, members of the cult left bags of liquid sarin on Tokyo subway trains before puncturing them with umbrellas.
David Icke has made thousands from his bizarre lizard-people conspiraciesCredit: Wikipedia
David Icke's promising career as a professional goalkeeper for Coventry City was cut short by arthritis when he was just 21.
But he had a second calling working as a sports presenter at the BBC — before his refusal to pay Thatcher's poll tax cost him his job.
Icke reinvented himself once again as a national speaker for the Green Party at the beginning of the 1990s, during which time he visited a psychic who told him he had a special purpose.
The next year, he called himself the "son of God" in a famous outburst on Wogan in 1991.
Wogan asked why God would have made a retired broadcaster the "chosen one", to which Icke replied: “People would have said the same about Jesus. ‘Who the heck are you? You’re a carpenter’s son.’"
Terry Wogan told David Icke the audience were 'laughing at' him during his appearance on the Irishman's chat showCredit: BBC
But while the studio audience roared with laughter, Icke has been laughing all the way to the bank ever since by selling out stadiums to peddle New World Order conspiracies around the world.
His most famous claims is that the world is controlled by a network of shape-shifting lizards, who count the Queen and Tony Blair among their members.
But he's also made offensive claims about 9/11 and has been accused of antisemitism — which was the basis of the Australian government refusing him entry into the country last year for a speaking tour.
Nevertheless, he has made tens of thousands of pounds from book sales and giving nonsensical lectures about his ideas.
The deadly nerve agent left commuters choking, vomiting and blinded, ultimately leading to the deaths of 13 people and over 5,500 people being hospitalised.
After being arrested, Asahara was charged with the sarin attack and ordering other murders — including the 1989 killing of a lawyer, his wife and infant son.
Although it wasn't confirmed, authorities believe the sarin killings were carried out in a bid to overthrow the government and make Asahara the emperor.
The cult leader was convicted of the sickening crimes in 2004 and he was executed by hanging in 2018.
The Messiah and the AntiChrist
José Luis de Jesús was famed for wearing a diamond-encrusted Rolex and would drive luxury carsCredit: Eyevine
José Luis de Jesús is unusual, even by the standards of others who have claimed to be the reincarnation of Christ.
That's because the Puerto Rico-born preacher also claimed to be the Antichrist, explaining that as he was the second coming, he wanted people to stop worshipping Jesus of Nazareth.
De Jesús was the head of the Growing in Grace International Ministry who had turned to God to escape his heroin addiction that had developed as a teenager.
One night in 1973, he claimed the spirit of Jesus integrated with him and his ideas became radical soon after.
He moved to Miami, Florida, and founded Growing in Grace in 1988 while he was merely claiming to be the reincarnation of St Paul.
But as his ministry's influence gained a fanatical following across the US and Latin America, he started to claim he was the next phase of Christ on Earth, boasting millions of supporters.
De Jesús' followers would get '666' tattooed on themselves after he claimed to be the antichrist as well as the messiahCredit: AFP
His dutiful disciples even started tattooing themselves with "666" — the number of the beast — in homage to his antichrist claims.
And in 2013, a disturbing video went viral showing a three-year-old boy screaming in pain as his mum had the number tattooed on him, apparently in support of the cult.
His followers even celebrated Christmas on April 22, as that was de Jesús' birthday, and was therefore the "real" Christmas.
But during his divorce in 2007, it had come out that he'd used church funds, donated by supporters, to fund an extravagant lifestyle which included losing nearly $47,000 gambling at a Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood.
And he'd bought properties in several states using church money which were then signed over to himself or his daughter.
De Jesús died in 2013 — but some in his sect refused to accept that, insisting he must still be alive because he is immortal.
The gospel of sex and death
David Koresh preached to his devout followers in their compound in Waco, Texas - where he fathered at least a dozen children with several 'wives'Credit: Rex Features
David Koresh and his sect, the Branch Davidians, are among the most famous cults in history — for their horrific end.
Koresh had amassed followers as a rock guitar-playing preacher in Texas throughout the 1980s.
He had become a born-again Christian after getting an underage girl pregnant and, over time, started to believe he was a prophet — the "lamb" and Son of God.
Koresh and his followers lived in a remote rural compound in Waco, which in 1993 was the site of a tense standoff with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).
Authorities wanted to enter the compound after receiving reports of child abuse by Koresh, who was also thought to posses illegal weapons and explosives, and had fathered at least 12 children with multiple "wives".
The siege ended in catastrophe when fires broke out around the compoundCredit: Getty - Contributor
An initial firefight led to the deaths of four members of the ATF along with the killing of an unknown number of Davidians, but Koresh refused to surrender, and a siege began which lasted 51 agonising days.
Pressure on federal agencies to end the stalemate came to a head on April 19, when FBI agents used tanks and tear gas to try and flush out the cult members.
Fires broke out around the compound during the assault, ultimately leading to the deaths of around 80 Davidians — including 20 children — dying in the blaze.
Koresh himself was found to have died with a gunshot wound to the head inside the compound, but it's not clear if he killed himself or he was murdered by a despairing follower.
(thesun.co.uk,20 Jan 2020)