Controversial New Religions

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In terms of public opinion, new religious movements are considered controversial for a variety of reasons. Their social organization often runs counter to popular expectations by experimenting with communal living, alternative leadership roles, unusual economic dispositions, and new political and ethical values. As a result the general public views new religions with a mixture of curiosity, amusement, and anxiety, sustained by lavish media emphasis on oddness and tragedy rather than familiarity and lived experience.

This updated and revised second edition of Controversial New Religions offers a scholarly, dispassionate look at those groups that have generated the most attention, including some very well-known classical groups like The Family, Unification Church, Scientology, and Jim Jones's People's Temple; some relative newcomers such as the Kabbalah Centre, the Order of the Solar Temple, Branch Davidians, Heaven's Gate, and the Falun Gong; and some interesting cases like contemporary Satanism, the Raelians, Black nationalism, and various Pagan groups. Each essay combines an overview of the history and beliefs of each organization or movement with original and insightful analysis. By presenting decades of scholarly work on new religious movements written in an accessible form by established scholars as well as younger experts in the field, this book will be an invaluable resource for all those who seek a view of new religions that is deeper than what can be found in sensationalistic media stories.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Very often sequels are disappointing, but the second edition of Controversial New Religions offers another round of solid and fascinating scholarship on religions on the brink of--and sometimes beyond--the mainstream. Introducing a number of younger scholars, this volume, furthermore, shows how research into new and emergent religions has become a well-established and increasingly important field in the academic study of religion. Editors Lewis and Petersen should be commended for their ongoing contributions to this development." --Mikael Rothstein, Associate Professor and Senior Lecturer of Comparative Religion, University of Southern Denmark; Visiting Professor, Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania

Praise for the previous edition:

"This book will be a valuable to scholars and students of American religion, sociology, and psychology of religion, and emergent religions--both as a reference work and as an analytic model." --Choice

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195156829
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 12/9/2004
  • Pages: 496
  • Product dimensions: 9.20 (w) x 6.40 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

James R. Lewis is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Tromsø. He co-edits three book series and is the general editor for the Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review and the Journal of Religion and Violence.

Jesper Aa. Petersen is Associate Professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, specializing in Religious Education and Religious Studies. He is the editor of several anthologies, most recently The Devil's Party: Satanism in Modernity, with Per Faxneld.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 3
1 A family for the twenty-first century 19
2 Spirit revelation and the Unification Church 43
3 Reconstructing reality : conspiracy theories about Jonestown 61
4 Explaining militarization at Waco : the construction and convergence of the warfare narrative 79
5 Family development and change in the Hare Krishna Movement 101
6 When leaders dissolve : considering controversy and stagnation in the Osho Rajneesh Movement 119
7 Soka Gakkai : searching for the mainstream 139
8 Aum Shinrikyo and the Aum incident : a critical introduction 153
9 The Falun Gong : a new religious movement in post-Mao China 195
10 Notes on the Aumist religion 215
11 Inventing L. Ron Hubbard : on the construction and maintenance of the hagiographic mythology of Scientology's founder 227
12 The theosophical society 259
13 The Solar Temple "transits" : beyond the millennialist hypothesis 295
14 From Atlantis to America : JZ Knight encounters Ramtha 319
15 Heart and soul : a qualitative look at the ethos of the movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness 331
16 "Come on up, and I will show thee" : Heaven's Gate as a postmodern group 353
17 The Raelian Movement : concocting controversy, seeking social legitimacy 371
18 White racist religions in the United States : from Christian identity to Wolf Age pagans 387
19 Modern Satanism : dark doctrines and black flames 423
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