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Cults and New Religions - a Brief History 2E


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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

About the Author

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).


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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