Violence and New Religious Movements

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The relationship between new religious movements (NRMs) and violence has long been a topic of intense public interest—an interest heavily fueled by multiple incidents of mass violence involving certain groups. Some of these incidents have made international headlines. When New Religious Movements make the news, it's usually because of some violent episode. Some of the most famous NRMs are known much more for the violent way they came to an end than for anything else. Violence and New Religious Movements offers a comprehensive examination of violence by-and against-new religious movements. The book begins with theoretical essays on the relationship between violence and NRMs and then moves on to examine particular groups. There are essays on the "Big Five"—the most well-known cases of violent incidents involving NRMs: Jonestown, Waco, Solar Temple, the Aum Shunrikyo subway attack, and the Heaven's Gate suicides. But the book also provides a richer survey by examining a host of lesser-known groups. This volume is the culmination of decades of research by scholars of New Religious Movements.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Violence and New Religious Movements is an outstanding, admirably comprehensive volume that persuasively investigates one of the most troubling, yet fascinating areas in the study of contemporary religion. Building on recent theoretical work, this intriguing and rewarding collection consolidates and advances the analysis of violence and new religions, as well as providing fresh insights into particular groups and events. Including studies by some of the most important researchers in the field, it is unarguably the most authoritative contribution to date and, as such, will very quickly become essential reading in the study of new religions."—-Chris Partridge, Professor of Religious Studies, Department of Politics, Philosophy, and Religion, Lancaster University, UK

"[I]t is difficult to imagine the serious study of New Religious Movement (NRMs) without the contributions of James R. Lewis...Most admirably, this volume refuses to posit a general theory of NRM-violence for one very good reason: the evidentiary field is simply too complex and thus resists a deceptively simple, monolithic interpretive/explanatory framework!"—Religion Matters

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199735631
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 4/6/2011
  • Pages: 456
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

James R. Lewis is an extensively published scholar of new religious movements. He currently teaches in the History and Religious Studies Department of the University of Tromsø in Norway. His reference books have won New York Public Library, American Library Association, and Choice book awards. He has been interviewed by the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, NPR, the BBC, and Meet the Press.

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Table of Contents


1. Deciphering the NRM-Violence Connection David G. Bromley
2. Minority Religions and the Context of Violence: A Conflict/Interactionist Perspective James T. Richardson
3. Reciprocal Totalism: The Toxic Interdependence of Anticult and Cult Violence Dick Anthony, Thomas Robbins, Steven Barrie-Anthony

4. Narratives of Persecution, Suffering, and Martyrdom: Violence in Peoples Temple and Jonestown Rebecca Moore
5. Revisiting the Branch Davidian Mass Suicide Debate Stuart A. Wright
6. Explaining the murder-suicides of the Order of the Solar Temple: A survey of hypothesises Henrik Bogdan
7. Religion and Violence in Japan: The Case of Aum Shinrikyo Martin Repp
8. The Euphemization of Violence: The Case of Heaven's Gate Benjamin Zeller
9. "There will follow a new generation and a New Earth": From Apocalyptic Hopes to Destruction in the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God Jean-Francois Mayer

10. Murder in Knutby: Charisma, Eroticism and Violence in a Swedish Pentecostal Community Jonathan Peste
11. Modern Pagan Warriors: Violence and Justice in Rodnoverie Kaarina Aitamurto
12. Ananda Marga, PROUT and the Use of Force Helen Crovetto
13. Knocking on Heaven's Door: Violence, Charisma, and the Transformation of New Vrindaban Burke Rochford

14. The Nation of Islam and Violence Martha Lee
15. Cultural Capital, Social Networks, and Collective Violence at Rajneeshpuram Marion Goldman
16. "Strong as Steel, Steady as Stone": Skirting Pitfalls in 3HO/Sikh Dharma Constance Elsberg
17. "Smite him hip and thigh": Satanism, violence and transgression Jesper Aagaard Petersen

18. State Fostered Violence against the Falun Gong in China James T. Richardson and Bryan Edelman
19. Deprogramming Violence: The Logic, Perpetration, and Outcomes of Coercive Intervention Anson Shupe


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