Cults and New Religions: A Brief History / Edition 1

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An overview of the development of new religions and the controversies surrounding them in late modern society.

  • A stimulating, course-friendly overview of the history and development of new religious movements (NRMs) in the late twentieth century
  • Explores eight cults and NRMs, including the Church of Scientology, Transcendental Meditation, Unificationism, The Family International, the Ramtha School of Enlightenment, the Branch Davidians, Heaven’s Gate, and Wicca
  • Each chapter reviews the origins, leaders, beliefs, rituals and practices of a NRM, highlighting the specific controversies surrounding this group
  • Covers debates including what constitutes an authentic religion, the validity of claims of brainwashing techniques, the implications of experimentation with unconventional sexual practices, and the deeply rooted cultural fears that cults engender.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This is a remarkably good book. It is probably the best introduction to the study of new religions available, providing a concise yet surprisingly comprehensive and thoughtful description of the very groups, issues, and controversies that most scholars and students wish to understand better. Engagingly written, and impeccably researched, the book shatters stereotypes and captures the true diversity of new forms of religious life in modern western societies."
Lorne L. Dawson, University of Waterloo

"This well written book provides the busy reader with a reliable introduction to the complex and often highly emotionally charged issue surrounding the discussion of cults, sects and new religions. Anyone with limited time needing to understand the crux of the issue will find a wealth of resources and valuable insights in this excellent book."
Irving Hexham, Liverpool Hope University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781405161282
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 11/27/2007
  • Series: Wiley Blackwell Brief Histories of Religion Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 1,387,136
  • Product dimensions: 5.35 (w) x 7.40 (h) x 0.62 (d)

Meet the Author

Douglas E. Cowan is Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Social Development Studies at Renison University College, the University of Waterloo. He is the author of Cyberhenge: Modern Pagans on the Internet (2005), The Remnant Spirit: Conservative Reform in Mainline Protestantism (2003), and Bearing False Witness? An Introduction to the Christian Countercult (2003). He has also edited Religion Online: Finding Faith on the Internet (with Lorne L. Dawson, 2004) and Religion on the Internet: Research Prospects and Promises (with Jeffrey K. Hadden, 2000). He is one of the co-general editors of Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions.

David G. Bromley is Professor of Religious Studies in the School of World Studies and an Affiliate Professor in the Sociology Program in the Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University. His most recent books are Defining Religion: Critical Approaches to Drawing Boundaries Between Sacred and Secular (2003), Cults, Religion and Violence (2001), Toward Reflexive Ethnography: Participating, Observing, Narrating (2001), and The Politics of Religious Apostasy (1998).

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Table of Contents

1. Cults and New Religions: A Primer.

The Range of New Religious Movements.

Controversy and the Popular Perception of New Religious Movements.

2. The Church of Scientology: The Question of Religion.

L. Ron Hubbard and the Origins of Scientology.

Beliefs and Practices of the Church of Scientology.

The Organizational Structure of the Church of Scientology.

The Church of Scientology and the Question of Religion.

Further Reading on the Church of Scientology.

3. Transcendental Meditation: The Questions of Science and Therapy.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and the Arrival of Transcendental Meditation.

Beliefs and Practices of Transcendental Meditation.

The Growth and Development of Transcendental Meditation.

Transcendental Meditation: The Questions of Science and Therapy.

Further Reading on Transcendental Meditation.

4. Ramtha and the New Age: The Question of the Dangerous Cult.

Who Is JZ Knight and Who Is Ramtha?.

History and Development of Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment.

Beliefs and Practices of Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment.

RSE and the Question of the Dangerous Cult.

Further Reading on the New Age Movement.

5. The Unification Church/The Family Federation: The Brainwashing/Deprogramming Controversy.

Sun Myung Moon: Savior from the East.

Doctrinal Beliefs and Ritual Practices of the Unification Church.

The Growth and Organization of the Unification Church Outside Korea.

Brainwashing, Deprogramming, and the Unification Church.

Further Reading on the Unification Church.

6. The Children of God/The Family International: The Issue of Sexuality.

Mo: David Berg and the Origins of the Children of God.

Social Organization of the Children of God/The Family.

Beliefs, Rituals, and Practices of the Children of God/The Family.

The Children of God/The Family and the Issue of Sexuality.

Further Reading on the Children of God/The Family.

7. The Branch Davidians: The Problem of Mass Media.

The Historical Development of the Branch Davidians.

Beliefs and Practices of the Branch Davidians under David Koresh.

The Siege at Waco and the Problem of Mass Media.

Further Reading on the Branch Davidians.

8. Heaven’s Gate: The Question of Cults and Violence.

Ti, Do, and the Origins of Heaven’s Gate.

Beliefs and Practices of Heaven’s Gate.

Recruitment and Social Organization in Heaven’s Gate.

The Evolutionary Level Above Human: The Continuum of New Religious Movements and Violence.

Further Reading on UFO Groups.

9. Wicca and Witchcraft: Confronting Cultural Fears.

Gerald Gardner and the Origins of Modern Witchcraft.

Social Organization and Development of Modern Witchcraft and Wicca.

Beliefs, Rituals, and Practices of Modern Witchcraft and Wicca.

Satanic Panic: The Legacy of Religious Cult Fears.

Further Reading on Wicca and Witchcraft.

10. Rethinking Cults: The Significance of New Religious Movements.

Two Perspectives: Cults versus New Religious Movements.

New Religions as Experimental Faiths.

Further Reading on New Religious Movements.



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