People living on a remote island saw planes for the first time and created a religion based on them

Hani Richter
Thursday 27 October 2016 11:30
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Members of the cargo sect sitting next to a replica they built.(Screenshot Youtube/ Cargo Cult )

A religion that worships aircraft was started by a group of people who saw their first plane fly over Vanuatu, a remote island in the South Pacific of Australia, during the Second World War.

After the planes delivered food and supplies to the islanders, the group began to believe that cargo would be brought to them by a Messiah. Consequently, whenever they saw a plane fly overhead they would build a replica - in the hope of more bounty.

The islanders did not know where the objects were coming from; which led them to believe that the objects derived from magic. The religion was first discovered in 1946 by Australian government patrols, and there are a few but diverse number of cargo religions left.

Notably, one of the cargo sects is referred to as the John Frum movement because they believe Frum, a seemingly fictional First World War serviceman, is the Messiah sent from God.

Dr Richard Feynman, an astrophysicist, described the cult in a 1974 paper, he said: “During the war the [cargo religion] saw airplanes land with lots of good materials, and they want the same thing to happen now. So they've arranged to imitate things like runways, to put fires along the sides of the runways, to make a wooden hut for a man to sit in, with two wooden pieces on his head like headphones and bars of bamboo sticking out like antennas — he's the controller — and they wait for the airplanes to land.

"They're doing everything right. The form is perfect. It looks exactly the way it looked before. But it doesn't work. No airplanes land. So I call these things cargo cult science, because they follow all the apparent precepts and forms of scientific investigation, but they're missing something essential, because the planes don't land."

Ian Haworth, an expert in cult psychology, told indy100: "There are five characteristics that make up a cult. A cult is a group using forced techniques of cohesion using psychology and other forms.

"I would suggest that doesn’t sound like a cult, that’s not a cult in our definition. They have adopted a system of worship."

Haworth suggests that the the group are “more a sect and not a cult”.

He added: "Sects are found in all religions. However, cults have a pyramid structure with an authoritative figure at the top.

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