Odd Gods: New Religions and the Cult Controversy / Edition 1by Lewis, James R. Lewis, James R.
Pub. Date: 02/28/2001
Publisher: Prometheus Books
Emphasizing the complex nature of new religions and the wide variety of "cult" phenomena, this encyclopedic study reviews the history and major tenets of many diverse religious sects across the whole spectrum of belief. With contributions from over three dozen specialists in the area of alternative religions, this is a uniquely authoritative source of information… See more details below
Emphasizing the complex nature of new religions and the wide variety of "cult" phenomena, this encyclopedic study reviews the history and major tenets of many diverse religious sects across the whole spectrum of belief. With contributions from over three dozen specialists in the area of alternative religions, this is a uniquely authoritative source of information on one of the most important public issues of our time.
Editor James R. Lewis points out at the start that the negative public perception of cults is often an inaccurate and unfair stereotyping which turns nonconformists into scapegoats for repressed public fears. Although there are certainly dangerous or socially pathological cult groups, there are also many unorthodox religious sects consisting of harmless people merely exercising their right to religious freedom. Distinguishing the harmful from the harmless groups has generated much controversy, with outsiders often accusing cult followers of brainwashing and violation of generally accepted mores, and insiders defending their lifestyles on religious libertarian grounds.
Lewis analyzes the characteristics of truly dangerous groups compared to those of the merely unusual but innocuous, and he discusses what people find attractive about membership in minority religions, as well as community suspicions and media hype that lead to misunderstandings.
The bulk of the book is devoted to a broad-based survey of unusual religious groups. Included are minority religious sects stemming from Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, and Sikh tradition, as well as unrelated groups such as the "Moonies," Wiccans, Satanists, Spiritualists, Channelers, Scientologists, the Heaven's Gate cult, a host of New Age and UFO groups, and many others.
This is the definitive sourcebook for understanding and researching the crazy-quilt landscape of free religious expression in America.
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