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Keywords:

  • Church Universal and Triumphant;
  • cults;
  • dystopia;
  • geography of religion;
  • Montana;
  • social engineering;
  • utopia

ABSTRACT. The search for a perfected place on earth is rarely easy or forgiving. Utopias and dystopias demonstrate the practical frailties of attempts to build better human associations, whether as literary efforts or in actual, on-the-ground experiments. With a proprietary interest in evaluating the dimensions of place making, geographers can lay claim to be frontline critics of efforts that attempt to craft a better world. The catalog of personality cultists, charismatically murderous leaders, and apocalyptic mass death is long. The Church Universal and Triumphant, currently of Paradise Valley, Montana, is examined as the home for twenty-five years of an ongoing effort to “improve” lives. If its dilemmas and apparent failures are in keeping with the history of past utopian ventures, geographical lessons remain to be learned about the costs of planning for perfection.