Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Religious Studies

Reader 1

Gastón Espinosa

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© 2016 Aurelio Puente


Often we see examples of what makes a great leader, yet overlook examples of dark leaders. This thesis explores how dark leaders don’t necessarily draw in blind followers, but rather abuse their power in order to build their vision. In my study of Jonestown I show that followers were genuine in their feelings about Jones as a person and the Peoples Temple’s mission. They should not be dismissed just because they “drank the Kool-Aid.” This thesis explores and evaluates various religious studies theories and their interpretation of the events, popular perceptions, and personal statements from the deceased or surviving members.

I conclude that Jones was a revolutionary leader during his time. He tried to achieve equality in the U.S. on multiple platforms, but was ultimately too attracted by power and control. In the end, this matters because given the state of the world today and the rise of dark leaders both through political offices, terrorist groups and other places, we need to have a way to not only protect ourselves from joining them, but also preventing them.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.