This is apparently such a common occurrence that there”s an entire section to it devoted to it on Wikipedia. It seems that the life of the average person is not enough for some, and so these folks decided to get really ambitious and aim for godhood. It kind of worked out for some of them–as L. Ron can tell you, there”s a lot of money in organized religion–and they”ve gained a following. Others, well, not so much, unless you count notoriety and criminal activity as success. (Which perhaps it is.)
Either way, these 15 living people are currently claiming that they are, in one form or another, a living version of Jesus or God. All of them take a Christian(ish) bent on things, and note that while not necessary, beards are big among the self-deifying crowd.
And no, Kanye West is not on this list.
1. Alan John “A.J” Miller
Formerly an elder in the Jehovah”s Witnesses, A.J. Miller started his own religious movement in Australia, called “Divine Truth.” He also claims to be a reincarnation of Jesus of Nazareth, a realization that came to him over the course of a week. His partner claims to be the reincarnation of Mary Magdalene, but she didn”t figure that out until she met Miller. Naturally. Miller uses his powers to “predict” planet-wide environmental changes that will wipe out Australia”s coasts. We”re pretty sure that”s not an original idea, and Miller himself compares his predictions to the movie 2012, and suggested, in 2011, that people go see it. He”s Jesus with a movie tie-in, you guys.
2. Apollo Quiboloy
Quiloboy is the founder of the Philippines-based Restorationist church, and claimed to be the “Appointed Son of God,” which sounds rather bureaucratic. He”s been accused of brainwashing members, and of the murder of a family in 2008. In 2010, he predicted the outcome of the country”s presidential elections. He was wrong, but of course he suggested that “fraud and cheating” were possible reasons for the outcome.
3. Charles Manson
Manson is most famous for the murder of actress Sharon Tate, then the wife of director Roman Polanski and eight months pregnant, but he was behind a lot of other murders in California in the late “60s as well. His “Helter Skelter” scenario, named after the Beatles song, foretold of a race war between black and white Americans, which would lead to the blacks winning, but the Manson Family being in charge. To get this war started, the Family, under Manson”s instruction, began murdering wealthy white people in California.
4. Brian Davis Mitchell
This former street preacher is best known for his conviction in the abduction of Elizabeth Smart. Prior to this, his other hobby besides preaching was pedophilia. He actually didn”t claim to be Jesus, but rather an incarnation of an angel who would serve a messianic position and prepare the world for the second coming. Before resorting to kidnapping, he would approach women in Salt Lake City, wearing robes, and ask them to be his polygamist wives. Needless to say this was unsuccessful, even on former polygamists, and so he ended up kidnapping Smart, who was returned to her family nine months later.
5. Jehovah Wanyoni
His name really is Jehovah, in case you were wondering, and he considers himself to be God and his son to be Jesus. We”re not sure which son, exactly, as Wanyoni has 25 wives and 95 children. He also claims he can cure AIDS and demanded the equivalent of $34.6 million from the Kenyan government. Besides his 25 wives, he also enjoys the company of about 1,000 followers, who also believe he”s God.
6. Wayne Bent
Bent is the leader of the Lord Our Righteousness Church in New Mexico, although within the church he”s known as “Michael Travesser,” which may be a separate personality of some sort, as he will refer to “Michael” in the third person. He claims that in 2000, he was personally told by God that he was the Messiah. A lot of other people claim he engaged in criminal sexual contact with minors, including his own daughters, then aged 14 and 15.
7. Hogen Fukunaga
Fukunaga founded the Ho No Hana cult in 1987 after realizing he was not only the reincarnation of not only Jesus, but also the Buddha, Siddartha Gautama. Because just being the reincarnation of one is for chumps. Ho No Hana is also referred to as the “foot reading cult” because Fukunaga claims that he can make diagnoses and predictions by looking at people”s feet. He charged $900 per foot reading, but used the money on himself, evidenced in the fact that despite all the money coming in, the cult went bankrupt in 2001. In 2005, he was found guilty of fraud and sentenced to 12 years in prison.
8. Ariffin Mohammed
Why yes, that is a giant teapot. No cult compound is complete without one. Ariffin is the leader of a sect in Malaysia called Kerajaan Langit, or “Sky Freedom.” Not to be confined to one or two measly reincarnations, he claims to be the reincarnation of not only Jesus and Buddha, but also Muhammad and Shiva. The cult clashed with Malaysia”s sharia courts, and as of 2009, Ariffin is said to be living in exile in Thailand. Sadly, the giant teapot was demolished.
9. Inri Cristo
His pseudonym, Inri, stems from the acronym often seen on images of the crucifixion, which stands for “Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum” or “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” Born Alvaro Theiss, he”s been traveling the world being Jesus and promoting a new age of peace on earth. Costume aside, peace is nice. What”s a little more unsettling, though is that his followers all seems to be young women. Also? He dislikes Christmas.
10. Mitsuo Matayoshi
Matayoshi is known for constantly running for office, and, due to the fact that his platform involves enacting the Last Judgement in the role of Jesus, he doesn”t win. Other political ideas involve making all countries self-sustaining economies based on agriculture, removing ethnically non-Japanese people from Japan, and throwing the corrupt into the fire.
11. Shoko Asahara
Born Chizuo Matsumoto, Asahara founded the Aum Shinrikyo group, which is based on Biblical teachings, and declared himself “Christ.” He had a doomsday prophecy that involved nuclear war and conspiracies by the Jews, the Freemasons, the British Royal Family and the Dutch. Most famously, he”s the one behind the 1995 sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway system, in which 13 people died and thousands were injured.
12. Marina Tsvigun
Tsvigun was the leader of the New Community of Enlightened Humanity, one of the most popular New Age movements following the fall of the Soviet Union, with an estimated 80,000 members at its height. She was decided to be a messiah by the leader of the “White Brotherhood,” a cult that required members to sever family ties and donate their money and property to the cult. Tsvigun predicted that the end of the world would happen on November 10, 1993, and on that date, the cult members stormed Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev. They were promptly arrested.
13. Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez
Ortega-Hernandez drove all the way from Idaho to Washington, DC, to fire a few rifle shots at the White House. After becoming increasingly upset with the government, Ortega-Hernandez decided that Obama was the “devil” and the “anti-Christ” and that he needed to be the one to do something about it. He opened fire out of his passenger window using a semiautomatic rifle. Luckily, no one was hurt. In fact, the president and first lady weren”t even home, having left the White House a few hours prior to the shooting.
14. David Shayler
A journalist and former MI5 officer, Shayler seems like an unlikely candidate for self-deification, but it”s true. Convicted of leaking official secrets, he was sentenced to six months in prison and, on release, to an electronic tagging and a curfew. Besides disseminating national secrets, he”s also a 9/11 Truther and has claimed to the reincarnation of various historical figures, as well as being the Messiah and holding “the secret of eternal life.”
Born Sergey Torop, he claims he was “reborn” in 1990 as Vissarion, the second coming of Christ. According to him, he”s not God, but the “word of God,” and his brand of religion combines Russian Orthodox Christianity with Buddhism. Followers are strict vegans, abstain from alcohol and smoking, and money is banned. His group is said to number in the ten-thousands, many of whom live in a small settlement on the taiga in Russia.
The real question is: what would happen if you put all of these people in the same room? Awkwarrrrrd.