Chapter 17 The Role of Conspiracy Theory in the Aum Shinrikyo Incident

In: Handbook of Conspiracy Theory and Contemporary Religion
Tsuji Ryutaro
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Studies of Aum Shinrikyo, the Japanese new religious movement responsible for the 1994 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo metro and whose leader, Shoko Asahara, was executed in July 2018, have often focused on the group’s apocalypticism. This chapter argues that Aum’s increasing interest in conspiracy theories forms a central part in explaining why the group turned violent. Two key questions about Aum’s conspiracy theories are explored: First, how does Aum’s conspiracism relate to the broader context of Japanese conspiracy culture? Second, how do we understand the group’s conspiracy theories in the context of its activities as a religious organization? The chapter argues that the development of Aum’s apocalyptic beliefs into conspiracy theories that demonize outside society pushed the group towards physical violence.

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