"Maaga’s work makes an important contribution to our understanding of the Peoples Temple community and the complex social dynamics that, in her reading, led inexorably toward mass suicide/murder."—American Historical Review
"Extremely provocative and certainly an indispensable source."—Journal of the Scientific Study of Religion
"Maaga's penetrating portrait of the Jonestown event will leave readers asking 'How different am I from those who died at Jonestown?'"—Publishers Weekly
When over 900 followers of the Peoples Temple religious group committed suicide in 1978, they left a legacy of suspicion and fear. Most accounts of this mass suicide describe the members as brainwashed dupes and overlook the Christian and socialist ideals that originally inspired Peoples Temple members. Hearing the Voices of Jonestown restores the individual voices that have been erased so that we can better understand what was created—and destroyed—at Jonestown, and why.
Piecing together information from interviews with former group members, archival research, and diaries and letters of those who died there, Maaga describes the women leaders as educated political activists who were passionately committed to achieving social justice through communal life. The book analyzes the historical and sociological factors that, Maaga finds, contributed to the mass suicide, such as growing criticism from the larger community and the influx of an upper-class, educated leadership that eventually became more concerned with the symbolic effects of the organization than with the daily lives of its members.
Hearing the Voices of Jonestown puts human faces on the events at Jonestown, confronting theoretical religious questions, such as how worthy utopian ideals come to meet such tragic and misguided ends.
Mary McCormick Maaga received her PhD with distinction from Drew University where she was invited to study as the Shirley Sugarman Scholar in Religion and Society. She lectured at the University of Stirling, Scotland, in the fields of new religions, women and religion, and anthropology of religion. Dr. Maaga is an Elder in Full Connection in the United Methodist Church, currently serving a local Church in Tulare, California.