Apocalypse Cult

Red Mage: I have a question. At any given point in history there are doomsday cults. Such as yourselves. For a thousand years your kind has striven for and preached an end of times that will never be.
Cultist: Your question?
Red Mage: My question is: What's it like to be as stupid as you are ugly?

A dark take on the cult, an apocalypse cult tends to crop up in fiction wherever Cosmic Horror Story elements are present, with the members actively seeking to bring about the end of the world. There are several flavors of apocalypse cults, but most seek to awaken or make possible the return of some god of destruction to destroy the world and "make it anew". Others seek to end their own lives to escape or to have a better afterlife.

They will often be seen conducting arcane rituals of untold horrors and believe they will be rewarded with the equivalent of paradise for their service (they may be mistaken). As they are often a form of Religion of Evil, they tend to be practitioners of The Dark Arts. Human sacrifices, necromancers, zombies and other forms of undead are optional but often seen among their ranks.

Unfortunately, some such groups have existed in Real Life. Documented ones include The People's Temple / Jonestown (a hybrid of the "new world" with the "end your own life to escape/have a better afterlife" variants), Heaven's Gate (the "end your own life to escape" variant), and Aum Shinrikyo as it was until 1997 and its reorganization and rename (the "awaken the god of destruction"/"destroy the world" variant, when given over to otaku, the Mad Scientist, and quite a few of the Blood Knight, and to the time of this writing the only non-state/non-governmental terror group to deploy Weapons Of Mass Destruction beyond simple explosives to their aims). No real life examples are allowed here because of the high standard of proof such a group has to have to be considered such in Real Life (note that all of the above include extensively documented murders/suicides done with the apocalyptic religion as a sole motive. Also note that none of the groups above exist anymore, enough that documentary journalism, investigations by authorities, and other objective proof has entered the record regarding them) and that the definition is maddeningly subjective in the absence of such ironclad proof. Nevertheless, if you are in a religious group and it tends to have a very high emphasis on the end times, the end of the world, escaping the world, and the like, it's likely a good idea to start questioning your involvement, and if you find yourself being told to hurt/kill others or yourself, it's likely time to get out as soon as possible and inform someone who can do something to stop a tragedy. See our Useful Notes page on Abuse for more information.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 
  • In the Hellboy and B.P.R.D. 'verse, there are a large number of cults and secret societies—Project Ragna Rok, the Oannes Society, and the Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra, to name a few—hoping the trigger the apocalypse. Most of them are operating under the logic that the world is going to end anyway, but if they're the ones who pull the trigger, they'll at least have some measure of control over the destruction.
  • A major element of East Of West is a group called "The Chosen", a cabal comprised of leading members of each of America's seven nations that conspires to bring about the apocalypse.

    Fan Works 
  • Friendship is Witchcraft has an ongoing subplot involving Fluttershy leading a cult that worships The Smooze, and intends to summon him to destroy Equestria.
  • In Worldwar: War of Equals, Doomsday cults become popular across the Western world and some later rise up and attack military installations in San Francisco.

    Film 
  • 12 Monkeys follows a time traveler from plague-devastated 2035 sent back to 1996 to prevent an apocalyptic group known as the Army of the Twelve Monkeys from releasing the virus. The Army of the Twelve Monkeys didn't actually release the virus; their great act of subversion was freeing animals from a zoo. The virus was actually released by an assistant at the lab where the it was developed.
  • Cast a Deadly Spell: The Big Bad plans to use the Necronomicon and a virgin sacrifice to summon Cthulhu and the rest of the Cthulhu Mythos deities, which would devastate the world.
    Lovecraft: What kind of world?
    Hackshaw: A world of the unburied dead, and a sky dark with ashes. A blasted, maimed planet.
  • Ghost Busters. In the Back Story, Ivo Shandor's Gozer worshippers conducted rituals intended to bring about the end of the world.
  • The segment "Safe Haven" of VHS 2 is about a film crew who was interviewing members of an Indonesian cult when they all decide to kill themselves on camera to join Heaven on Earth. Then it turns out it's not just a suicide cult when they come back as undead creatures and they successfully summon what appears to be the Devil.

    Literature 
  • Variation in The Beginning, the last Animorphs book. Two years after the Yeerk defeat, terrorists have started attacking alien tourists on Earth. The worst of them are cults that think the presence of aliens is staving off a long-awaited apocalypse.
  • In Cold Copper Tears, the cult of the Devastator aims to release a world-destroying dark god from its prison. Lampshaded and deconstructed by the Dead Man, who points out that, subconsciously, the cultists don't really want to end the world, they're just morbid and petty enough to get a charge out of thinking they can.
  • Humanx Commonwealth series: A cult called the Order of Null appears in Flinx's Folly and later novels. They have learned of the approach of the galaxy-devouring Great Evil, and see it as their role to remove any obstacles to its coming. This includes Flinx himself, who is the Chosen One fated to destroy it. It is later revealed that they are abetted by none other than Flinx's archnemesis, Mahnahmi, a powerful telepath and an embittered nihilist.
  • In Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea's Illuminatus! trilogy, the Illuminati Prime (the five most powerful people in the world) are actively seeking to Immanetize the Eschaton - i.e. bring about the apocalypse - to make themselves immortal and provide a massive blood sacrifice to their Elder Brothers and Sisters, the Lloigr of Cthulu.
  • China Mieville's novel Kraken has some Lovecraftian doomsday cultists as among the good guys.
  • In The Laundry Series, a number of cults try to bring their Eldritch Abomination deities to Earth which would result in the deaths of millions and End of the World as We Know It. The Cult of the Black Pharaoh is the oldest and most dangerous one of these.
  • Neil Gaiman's story Shoggoths Old Peculiar has an (initially) Unfazed Everyman American tourist who visits the picturesque English town of Innsmouth and converses in a pub with the friendly Cthulhu-worshipers who live there. He ends up with a bad hangover and a "feeling of nameless dread" (TM).
  • In Tom Robbins's Skinny Legs And All, Reverend Buddy Winkler is working with terrorists who plan to bomb The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, so that the Third Temple can be built.
  • The MacGuffin in Temple is an idol carved from a rare element not found on Earth that can be used to power a planet-destroying bomb. Various groups try to get a hold of it to hold the world for ransom, but in the end, it falls into the hands of a doomsday cult formed from various terrorist groups and the remains of Aum Shinrikyo, who intend to detonate their bomb no matter what.
  • Less common in the actual works of Howard P. Lovecraft than one might think (there are cults with other goals than a complete apocalypse), but the Whateley family in The Dunwich Horror serve as a concrete if small-scale example of this, explicitly working towards the goal of helping bring about the "clearing" of the Earth of its current occupants.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer has Glory's worshipers, mostly a group of ugly, sniveling demons who want to help her unlock the barriers between dimensions. This would both allow Glory to return to her home hell dimension and pretty much destroy our plane of existence (and many others) as reality itself unravels in the chaos of the walls between dimensions fall apart.
  • The Leftovers: many have been created in the wake of the mysterious disappearance of 2% of the human population. The first season most prominently features the Guilty Remnant, (an antisocial and nihlistic cult that dedicates the rest of their lives to being "living reminders" of the disappearance) and Holy Wayne's group. (A cult of personality formed around the strange and enigmatic Wayne Gilchrist, who seems to genuinely have the ability to remove people's pain.) Adding to the spiritual uncertainty and the fuel that creates these cults is the fact that many people agree that whatever happened was not The Rapture, as the disappearance includes everything from babies to The Pope to thieves and murderers. Or as one character puts it in an early episode "The Pope I can understand, but Gary Busey?! How does he make the cut?"
  • Played for Laughs in Parks and Recreation with the "Reasonablists", who don't make any effort in ushering in their Destroyer God, Zorp. They just often make rather incorrect predictions on when the world will end and hold "End Of The World" gatherings.
  • In Todd and the Book of Pure Evil, the retirement-home satanists who are trying to capture the Book of Pure Evil want to make Todd into the Pure Evil One who will destroy the world.
  • In one of the Bad Futures on Fringe the Over There universe has already been destroyed and a group called the End of Dayers are deliberately tearing apart the fabric of reality in our universe as well.

    Roleplay 
  • The Sydney Scroungers are occasionally harassed by "The Assembly of True Judgement" in the Pacific Rim universe, a cult of Kaiju worshippers who believe the Kaiju have been sent to punish humanity for their sins.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Call of Cthulhu had Cthulhu Mythos cults trying to do this in several campaign adventures.
    • Shadows of Yog-Sothoth. The Lords of the Silver Twilight try to raise the island of R'lyeh to the surface and free Cthulhu so he can take over (and destroy) the world.
    • Masks of Nyarlathotep. Cult groups controlled by Nyarlathotep himself try to perform a ritual that will let hordes of Mythos monsters into the world to destroy mankind.
    • The Fungi from Yuggoth. The Brotherhood of the Beast tries to cause a worldwide catastrophe by arranging for terrorist attacks, the summoning of gigantic dholes and the activation of a giant monster in Egypt, all on the Day of the Beast.
  • The Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition's Nentir Vale setting prominently features the Cult of Orcus, which is bent upon summoning the Prince of Undeath and thereby ending civilization as we know it. This is especially true of certain low-level pre-made campaigns such as "Keep on the Shadowfell."
  • In Exalted, anyone in the Neverborn's employ is technically an apocalypse cultist since the Neverborn want the world utterly destroyed, allowing them to finally die. In practice, most of them are just in it for the power.
  • In Shadowrun, Winternight was a Norse apocalypse cult that actively tried to end the world several times. They tried in 2061 to divert Halley's Comet into a collision course with Earth. In 2064, they almost plunged the Sixth World into the Dark Ages thanks to their plot colliding with a Thirty Gambit Pileup that crashed the Matrix and seriously damaged its infrastructure.
  • In Warhammer 40,000, Genestealer Cults. The Tyranid Hive Fleets send Genestealers to land on the planet and begin picking off and infecting isolated individuals who generally won't be missed. First generation Genestealer Hybrids look monstrous, but as the generations continue, they begin to assimilate until they are indistinguishable from the host species by the fourth generation. Once a cult grows large enough, they introduce themselves to the public community through the facade of a harmless religious or political movement, with a psychic "patriarch" figure guiding the whole cult. Once the cult has grown large or influential enough, the patriarch receives a psychic signal from the Hive Fleet and the cult begins a full rebellion - even if the cult loses the ensuing civil war, they would still likely have greatly undermined the planet's defensive strength and left it wide open for the invading Hive Fleet.
  • Meanwhile in Warhammer, minor cults of flagellants often arise in the Empire, usually from the survivors of towns that have been destroyed by monsters or the like. Believing that they live in the "end times" of war between good and evil (which might not be inaccurate), they gather together into bands and throw them at their foes. Empire players can actually field them as troops — they have a special rule which forces them to wound themselves at the beginning of each round of melee combat, but their fervor drives them to excel at slaughtering the enemy.
  • Unsurprisingly, a lot of them show up in Werewolf: The Apocalypse. Whereas the titular Garou are either trying to stop the Apocalypse or make sure their final battle against the Wyrm ends in victory, many of those aligned with the Wyrm want to hasten the end of the world. The Black Spiral Dancers, for instance, think the Apocalypse might free the Wyrm from its torment and give it the revenge it deserves, whereas some higher-ups at Pentex think this whole "Apocalypse" thing means they can put their secret plan to rule over the shattered remnants of humanity as a corporate dystopia into action. And then there are the small, misguided Garou camps who think that the best way to ease the suffering of the world and end the spread of the Wyrm is to just get the Apocalypse going already.

    Video Games 
  • In Dead Space, the Unitologists utilize the Marker to bring about a Zombie Apocalypse as part of an Assimilation Plot. It goes about as well as one would expect.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • The Mythic Dawn in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion are attempting to destroy the safeguards between Nirn and Oblivion so that they may summon Mehrunes Dagon, the Daedric Prince of destruction.
    • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has the Dragon Cult from eons past (they may or may not have known that Alduin was destined to devour the world, of course).
  • The geth heretics in Mass Effect worship the Reapers and actively aid them in their latest purge of the galaxy's spacefaring races. Indoctrinated races also count as this, including one hanar in 3 that thinks that since the Collectors are Protheans and were created by the Reapers, the hanar should serve the Reapers.
  • Star Ocean 4 has the Church of Sydonai on Roak. A cult led by the Grigori Tamiel, they aim to resurrect the archfiend Asmodeus by sacrificing one of the Featherfolk. They gather followers by preaching about Asmodeus cleansing this desperate world, while simultaneously spreading a dangerous illness that turns people to stone and then obstructing the distribution of its remedy.
  • Shin Megami Tensei:
    • Toward the end of Persona 3 a doomsday cult heralding the appearance of Nyx to bring death to the world appears. Though it only exists behind the scenes, it is led by Takaya.
    • Persona 4 also has a downplayed version near the end as the fog covering Inaba makes the people more and more apathetic, it's implied that cults have started popping up.
  • The Kudur Cult in Vandal Hearts 2 is the most dangerous outside faction manipulating the Natran Civil War. While they may lack the military might of the Zora-Archaeo Empire or the endless treasuries of the Republic of Vernantze, the cult was the organization that pulled the trigger on the powder keg that started the war. They extensively recruit from people who have had their lives devastated by the war, and they are trying to spread a zombifying magical spell across the entire continent. It eventually turns out that the real goal is that their leader, who is a body surfing former cardinal who has been alive for over 150 years, is trying to use the civil war as a distraction to break into the sealed underground chambers of the Holy Nigran Cathedral because it is said to permit an audience with God Himself. What nobody expected was that the sealed chamber is actually the remains of an ICBM missile silo from a long-gone era, and it appears to contain a still-working genetic manipulation machine that transforms him into a horrific monster.
  • The Warcraft setting has the Twilight's Hammer cult, originally an orcish clan that turned into worshippers of the Old Gods with the end of all mortal life as their goal. They were most prominent during the Cataclysm expansion in the wake of the dragon Deathwing's world-shattering return to Azeroth.
    • The Cult of the Damned probably also counts, even if they "merely" want to turn the whole world undead instead of outright blowing it up. As far as Quel'Thalas and Lordaeron are concerned, they did succeed in driving civilization to the brink... for a while.

    Webcomics 

    Western Animation 
  • South Park:
    • The leader of the Anti-Semetic Jews captures Moses in order to ready the world for the return of Haman.
    • The cult of Blaintology in "Super Best Friends."
    • And of course, the Cthulhu cult featured in the three-episode "Coon and Mysterion" arc.