From Slogans to Mantras: Social Protest and Religious Conversion in the Late Vietnam War Era / Edition 1

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Stephen A. Kent takes a provocative look at the early 1970s -- an often overlooked yet colorful period when the Vietnam War and student protests were on the wane as new religious groups grew in size and visibility. Certainly, religious strains were evident throughout postwar popular culture from the 1950s Beat generation into the 1960s drug counter-culture, but the explosion of nontraditional religions during the early 1970s was unprecedented.

Kent maintains that the failure of political activism led many former radicals to become involved with groups such as the Hare Krishnas, Scientology, Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, the Jesus movement, and the Children of God. Drawing on scholarly literature, alternative press reportage, and personal narratives, Kent shows how numerous activists turned from psychedelia and political activism to guru worship and spiritual quest both as a response to the failures of social protest and as a new means of achieving societal change.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this lucid and economical study, sociologist Kent examines a little-noted confluence: the same years that saw American youth delving into radical politics and protesting war also saw them turn to unusual, sometimes cultish, spiritual traditions. Kent challenges traditional scholarship by arguing that such conversions to alternative religious traditions marked "a crisis of means," not a "a crisis of meaning," as has often been assumed. Political activism, says Kent, was meant to accomplish something: above all, to end the Vietnam War. When it became increasingly apparent that countercultural politics were not, in fact, achieving the desired ends, activists discovered other methods in new religious groups. That a disaffected generation should turn to spirituality is not surprising; that it should do so for political reasons is indeed interesting. Just as useful as Kent's provocative (if overly functionalist) argument is his descriptive ethnography of many of the religious paths that became prominent during the 1970s the Hare Krishnas, Transcendental Meditation, Scientology, the Unification Church and the Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization. This book's import goes far beyond the seemingly narrow scope of its subject; when coupled with the recent work of Christian Smith (Divided by Faith and Disruptive Religion), Kent's study promises to reshape and reinvigorate the very language we use to discuss the nexus between religion and politics in America. (Dec.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Books on countercultural religion in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s are just now being published. Here, Kent (sociology, Univ. of Alberta, Canada) analyzes the religious movements that took root among young people in the United States toward the end of the Vietnam War era. He traces the cultural changes some U.S. youth experienced as they moved from the political protests of the Sixties to mystical religious conversions in the early Seventies. The book provides a catalog of religious options that were pursued by those who had been dedicated to "the revolution," all of which fall into the categories of the cultic, occult, or Eastern religions. A section on psychedelic drug-enhanced religious experiences typifies the type of material covered in this study. Kent admits that a shift to religion was not the only transition possible some instead chose the women's movement, gay rights, ecology, rural living, and other social movements. And he recognizes that not everyone will agree that the transition to religion was a good one. The catalog of persons and experiences documented here will not be familiar to many historians, and much of it will fall outside the realm of study for religious scholars. Nevertheless, this study, which utilizes sources such as personal narratives and the alternative press, is recommended for academic and public libraries. James A. Overbeck, Atlanta-Fulton P.L., Atlanta Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780815629481
  • Publisher: Syracuse University Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/2001
  • Series: Religion and Politics Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 243
  • Product dimensions: 6.06 (w) x 9.12 (h) x 0.58 (d)

Table of Contents

1 Introduction: Defining a Generation 1
2 Religion, Drugs, and the Question of Political Engagement 6
3 Political Frustration and Religious Conversions 25
4 Radical Rhetoric and Eastern Religions 44
5 Conversions to Syncretic and Western Religions 94
6 Conclusion: Mystical Antagonism and the Decline of Political Protest 151
App Reexamining the Scholarship on Protesters' Religious Conversions 191
References 203
Index 229
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