Shoko Asahara Came Terrifyingly Close To Conquering The World
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The Japanese "Aum Shinrikyo" gave cults a bad name. While most death cults are happy enough just to talk their members into suicide, Aum Shinrikyo had far greater ambitions -- to conquer the world. And it was all thanks to its terrifyingly charismatic leader, Shoko Asahara, who was basically the real-life equivalent of Iron Man's nemesis the Mandarin (and no, not just because he's Asian).
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Or because the physical resemblance to Ben Kingsley is uncanny.
Asahara was born into poverty and blind in one eye. His religion, Aum Shinrikyo, was a strange multicultural fusion of Buddhism, Christianity, Taoism, and yoga, and it was popular enough to spread beyond Japan into other countries like Russia and Australia. At its height, it boasted around 50,000 members. And those members weren't just a bunch of crazy people, either. Among Asahara's flock were hundreds of top scientists, who fell for his charm despite the fact that he had started claiming he was literally Jesus, which is generally considered a scientifically invalid hypothesis.
Asahara claimed that he could read minds, levitate, and that his urine could cure diseases, to the point where he made a healthy business out of selling his magical piss to gullible cult members. But the most important dogma was that Armageddon was coming soon, and it was up to Aum Shinrikyo to bring it about.
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"The sooner the better; I won't go through another flu-season chugging this." - Every Cult Member
In 1995, Asahara put his apocalyptic vision into action when five cult members attacked the Tokyo subway system with bags of deadly sarin gas. The attacks remain the largest terrorist attack ever committed in Japan, killing 13 people and injuring 6,300. Luckily, law enforcement was able to pin the attack on Aum Shinrikyo, and the cult's leadership, including Asahara himself, were arrested. And that's when everyone discovered just how terrifyingly close Asahara actually came to total world domination.