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 bestintroduction to the study of new religions available, providing aconcise yet surprisingly comprehensive and thoughtful descriptionof the very groups, issues, and controversies that most scholarsand students wish to understand better. Engagingly written, andimpeccably researched, the book shatters stereotypes and capturesthe true diversity of new forms of religious life in modern westernsocieties."
Lorne L. Dawson, University of Waterloo

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

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Product Details

Meet the Author

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

David G. Bromley is Professor of Religious Studies in theSchool of World Studies and an Affiliate Professor in the SociologyProgram in the Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs atVirginia Commonwealth University. His most recent books areDefining Religion: Critical Approaches to Drawing BoundariesBetween Sacred and Secular (2003), Cults, Religionand Violence (2001), Toward Reflexive Ethnography:Participating, Observing, Narrating (2001), and The Politicsof 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 ReligiousMovements.

2. The Church of Scientology: The Question ofReligion.

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 andTherapy.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and the Arrival of TranscendentalMeditation.

Beliefs and Practices of Transcendental Meditation.

The Growth and Development of Transcendental Meditation.

Transcendental Meditation: The Questions of Science andTherapy.

Further Reading on Transcendental Meditation.

4. Ramtha and the New Age: The Question of the DangerousCult.

Who Is JZ Knight and Who Is Ramtha?.

History and Development of Ramtha’s School ofEnlightenment.

Beliefs and Practices of Ramtha’s School ofEnlightenment.

RSE and the Question of the Dangerous Cult.

Further Reading on the New Age Movement.

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

Sun Myung Moon: Savior from the East.

Doctrinal Beliefs and Ritual Practices of the UnificationChurch.

The Growth and Organization of the Unification Church OutsideKorea.

Brainwashing, Deprogramming, and the Unification Church.

Further Reading on the Unification Church.

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

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/TheFamily.

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 DavidKoresh.

The Siege at Waco and the Problem of Mass Media.

Further Reading on the Branch Davidians.

8. Heaven’s Gate: The Question of Cults andViolence.

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 NewReligious 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 andWicca.

Beliefs, Rituals, and Practices of Modern Witchcraft andWicca.

Satanic Panic: The Legacy of Religious Cult Fears.

Further Reading on Wicca and Witchcraft.

10. Rethinking Cults: The Significance of New ReligiousMovements.

Two Perspectives: Cults versus New Religious Movements.

New Religions as Experimental Faiths.

Further Reading on New Religious Movements.



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