In March of 1997, Heaven’s Gate committed ritual suicide to the astonishment and horror of the world. Over 20 years later, we are still piecing together the mystery of this fringe UFO religion: who were they, what did they believe, and why did they end so horribly? Joining me for today’s Sacred Tension podcast is Benjamin Zeller, widely considered the leading authority on Heaven’s Gate.
Zeller walks us through why he calls Heaven’s Gate a religion and not a cult, the theology of Heaven’s Gate and how it is, at its most basic level, Christian, whether we will ever have society without religion, and much more. I found this an incredibly thought provoking conversation, and I hope you do too.
Benjamin E. Zeller is a researcher and teacher of religion in America. He focuses on religious currents that are new or alternative, including new religions, the religious engagement with science, and the quasi-religious relationship people have with food. His interests are united by an interest in expanding the conversation about religion by including less commonly studied groups, phenomena, and topics, and looking at more common topics (e.g. religion & science; American religious history) from new angles.
Zeller is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Religion at Lake Forest College, a private liberal arts college in the Chicago suburbs. He previously served as Director of the College Honors Program, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, and Coordinator of the Religion and Philosophy Major at Brevard College, and visiting Fulbright Fellow at Åbo Akademi (Turku, Finland). Find his work here.
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