A cult in France called “New Lighthouse” believes that the world will end next month. So far, one member has committed suicide and two others apparently made a serious attempt, reports Reuters. French authorities fear the implications of such a doomsday date and how it may affect the cult members.

Much like “Heaven’s Gate” whose 39 members died through a mass suicide in 1997, New Lighthouse members believe they too will be saved by a spaceship. Their leader Arnaud Mussy. says he will reign as the new Christ, when he and his followers are brought to Venus. Mussy has declared his brother the Pope.

Never mind that this all sounds ridiculous. The point is that those involved believe it and may end their lives as a direct result of that belief. Cult members are often subjected to a type of coercive persuasion within a group environment that produces undue influence and dependence upon a leader for crucial decision-making and value judgements. Historically, cult leaders have often become deeply delusional and then led their followers to tragedy.

After the Swiss cult mass suicide of the Solar Temple in 1994, which claimed 48 lives initially and many more later, French authorities are taking no chances. The police now have the New Lighthouse under close surveillance.

In recent years the European response to destructive cults has been more forthcoming, consistent and ongoing than within the United States.

Most media seem to be taken in by the spin and/or the spam from Falun Gong devotees. A recent example can be seen within the Jewish publication the “Forward.” Correspondent Benjamin Soskis laments that “religious groups offer little support to Chinese sect.”

But had Soskis spent more time on hard research and less on politically correct hand wringing, he would have found that Falun Gong founder Li Hongzhi, is both a megalomaniac and a bigot.

Sarah Lubman of the San Jose Mercury News did her homework and actually read Mr. Hongzhi’s racist rants. Li says that “mixed-race people…[are] instruments of an alien plot to destroy humanity’s link to heaven.” And that these interracial unions are somehow part of “a plot by…evil extraterrestrials.” Hongzhi appears to be homophobic too when he calls gays “disgusting,” and prophesizes that one day they will be ”eliminated” by ”the gods.”

Much of Hongzhi’s writings seem paranoid and ramble on about beings from outer space who are “embedding their technology and science in human bodies” so they can “control” humanity through “their thoughts.” This is a little like L. Ron Hubbard’s theories, which form the basis for Scientology.

Washington Post reporter Peter Carlson, like Lubman looked beyond the group’s rhetoric. He discovered that the followers of “Master Li” believe not only that he can “personally install” falun (a wheel of law) in their abdomens, but he can “levitate,” “become invisible” and knows the “top secret of the Universe.”

Canadian reporter Brian Hutchinson of the National Post, found that Falun Gong is based upon the “idea that life on Earth is doomed, that it is rotting and that it needs to be ‘rectified’ in order to proceed to the next stage of existence.” And “Master Li…has succeeded in preventing the cosmos from decomposing altogether, as other ‘higher beings’ were willing to allow.”

Hongzhi has also made this sweeping claim, “What I do today is for the purpose of rectifying humankind and the substances of the entire Earth.” This statement appears to match the hubris of Rev. Moon, founder of the Unification Church, who says he is the messiah.

Hongzhi eerily parallels the claims made by Marshall Applewhite of “Heaven’s Gate“? Like Li, Applewhite believed he was on a mission to fight against evil planetary forces. Just like Applewhite, Hongzhi sees himself in a singular and pivotal role. And he warns, “Not acknowledging the Master in the human world is not acknowledging oneself as a disciple.”

Yes, Mr. Soskis might have done a little bit more research, and then he would have better understood why, as one Jewish leader he quoted observed, “It’s hard to get [Jewish groups] to speak out on behalf of Falun Gong,”