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Cults and New Religions: A Brief History, 2nd Edition

ISBN: 978-1-118-72210-7
240 pages
June 2015, ©2015
Cults and New Religions: A Brief History, 2nd Edition (1118722108) cover image

Description

This unparalleled introduction to cults and new religious movements has been completely up-dated and expanded to reflect the latest developments; each chapter reviews the origins, leaders, beliefs, rituals and practices of a NRM, highlighting the specific controversies surrounding each group.

  • A fully updated, revised and expanded edition of an unparalleled introduction to cults and new religious movements
  • Profiles a number of the most visible, significant, and controversial new religious movements, presenting each group’s history, doctrines, rituals, leadership, and organization
  • Offers a discussion of the major controversies in which new religious movements have been involved, using each profiled group to illustrate the nature of one of those controversies
  • 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
  • New sections include methods of studying new religions in each chapter as well as presentations on ‘groups to watch’
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Table of Contents

Preface to the Second Edition x

List of Text Boxes xii

1 Cults and New Religions: A Primer 1

The Range of New Religious Movements 5

Controversy and the Popular Perception of New Religious Movements 11

Further Reading on New Religious Movements 17

2 The Church of Scientology: The Question of Religion 18

L. Ron Hubbard and the Origins of Scientology 20

Beliefs and Practices of the Church of Scientology 23

The Organizational Structure of the Church of Scientology 27

The Church of Scientology and the Question of Religion 31

Researching Scientology 35

Further Reading on the Church of Scientology 37

3 Transcendental Meditation: The Questions of Science and Therapy 38

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and the Arrival of Transcendental Meditation 40

Beliefs and Practices of Transcendental Meditation 42

The Growth and Development of Transcendental Meditation 48

Transcendental Meditation: The Questions of Science and Therapy 52

Researching Transcendental Meditation 56

Further Reading on Transcendental Meditation 58

4 Ramtha and the New Age: The Question of “Dangerous Cult” 59

Who Is JZ Knight and Who Is Ramtha? 61

History and Development of Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment 65

Beliefs and Practices of Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment 67

RSE and the Question of the ‘Dangerous Cult’ 70

Researching Ramtha 75

Further Reading on the New Age Movement 77

5 The Unification Church/The Family Federation: The Brainwashing/Deprogramming Controversy 78

Sun Myung Moon: Savior from the East 79

Doctrinal Beliefs and Ritual Practices of the Unification Church 84

The Growth and Organization of the Unification Church outside Korea 89

Brainwashing, Deprogramming, and the Unification Church 92

Researching the Unification Church 96

Further Reading on the Unification Church 98

6 The Children of God/The Family International: The Issue of Sexuality 99

Mo: David Berg and the Origins of the Children of God 101

Social Organization of the Children of God/The Family 105

Beliefs, Rituals, and Practices of the Children of God/The Family 109

The Children of God/The Family and the Issue of Sexuality 113

Researching the Children of God/The Family 118

Further Reading on the Children of God/The Family 119

7 The Branch Davidians: The Question of Cults, Media, and Violence – Part I 120

The Historical Development of the Branch Davidians 121

Beliefs and Practices of the Branch Davidians under David Koresh 128

The Siege at Waco and the Problem of Mass Media 131

Researching the Branch Davidians 138

Further Reading on the Branch Davidians 139

8 Heaven’s Gate: The Question of Cults and Violence – Part II 141

Ti, Do, and the Origins of Heaven’s Gate 142

Beliefs and Practices of Heaven’s Gate 145

Recruitment and Social Organization in Heaven’s Gate 150

The Evolutionary Level Above Human: New Religions, Violence, and the Media 153

Researching Heaven’s Gate 157

Further Reading on UFO Groups 160

9 Wicca and Witchcraft: Confronting Age ]old Cultural Fears 161

Gerald Gardner and the Origins of Modern Witchcraft 162

Social Organization and Development of Modern Witchcraft and Wicca 166

Beliefs, Rituals, and Practices of Modern Witchcraft and Wicca 170

Satanic Panic: The Legacy of Religious Cult Fears 174

Researching Modern Paganism 177

Further Reading on Wicca and Witchcraft 180

10 Rethinking Cults: The Significance of New Religious Movements 181

Two Perspectives: Cults versus New Religious Movements 184

New Religions as Experimental Faiths 197

Further Reading on New Religious Movements 203

References 204

Index 225

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Author Information

Douglas E. Cowan is Professor of Religious Studies and Social Development Studies at Renison University College, at the University of Waterloo. He is the author of Cults and New Religious Movements: A Brief History, Cyberhenge: Modern Pagans on the Internet (2005), Bearing False Witness? An Introduction to the Christian Countercult(2003) Sacred Terror: Religion and Horror on the Silver Screen (2008) and Sacred Space: The Quest for Transcendence in Science Fiction Film and Television (2010).

David G. Bromley is Director of the World Religions and Spirituality Project and Professor of Religious Studies and Sociology in the School of World Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. His most recent publications include Defining Religion: Critical Approaches to Drawing Boundaries Between Sacred and Secular (2003) and Cults, Religion and Violence (2001).
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Reviews

The world of new religions is notoriously complex and diverse. As such, an introductory text must simplify, but without simplification. This updated edition of Cults and New Religious Movements achieves this admirably. With an enviable grasp of contemporary scholarship, Douglas Cowan and David Bromley provide fresh insights into particular groups, events and controversies. This wonderfully erudite and lucid volume should be required reading for all students of new religions.
Christopher Partridge, Lancaster University

An ideal source for those looking for a concise, authoritative introduction to the most important new religions of the past fifty years. The authors carefully and seriously tackle significant questions about the nature of new religions, helping readers navigate a controversial and complicated field.
Benjamin E. Zeller, Lake Forest College

The second edition of Cults and New Religious Movements is an astute and accessible textbook written by two eminent scholars of new religions.  Through eight case studies the text examines key issues that arise in relation to new religious movements, thereby shedding light on the study of religions in general. This book is a valuable pedagogical tool that stimulates critical analysis and discussion in the classroom and beyond.
Catherine Wessinger, Loyola University New Orleans

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