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Lecture on Heaven's Gate

Oct 17 - 3:45 p.m.
Poling Hall - Morgan Room

Sponsored By: Departments of Sociology and Anthropology, Philosophy and Religious Studies, and Educational Studies

Dr. Benjamin Zeller, associate professor of religious studies at Lake Forest College, will be delivering a special talk on the new religious movement (or cult) known as Heaven’s Gate on Tuesday, October 17th, at 4 p.m. in the Morgan Room.

The talk is entitled Religious Suicide and the Puzzling Case of Heaven’s Gate.

Twenty years ago, in 1997, all 39 active members of the new religious group known as Heaven’s Gate committed suicide outside of San Diego, California, in order to free their souls to join a UFO that they believed trailed the Hale-Bopp comet. Yet, the leaders and members of the group very strongly and directly rejected suicide when the group began in the 1970s, leaving us to wonder why they embraced it less than 20 years later. In this talk, Dr. Zeller considers issues including millennialism, charismatic leadership, mind-body dualism, and analogous cases of religious suicides that inspired members of this modern religious movement.

The talk is co-sponsored by the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, the Department of Educational Studies, and the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies. For more on Dr. Zeller’s work, including his book Heaven’s Gate: America’s UFO Religion, visit