This article asks if the West is witnessing a thoroughgoing erosion of belief in the supernatural. Is the loss of faith in otherworldly forces a linear, one-way, inevitable decline, or are there reasons to believe in the reemergence of religion in the West? On the other hand, if there is evidence indicating that the West is witnessing a gradual “sacralization,” should we abandon notions of “secularization?” Or are we in the midst of a much more complex process in which accurate analysis demands that we take account of both secularization and sacralization, disenchantment and reenchantment? It is argued that while disenchantment is ubiquitously apparent in the West, the forces of secularization have never quite been able to stifle the shoots of religion. Although traditional forms of institutional religion have been seriously damaged and do not seem to be able to arrest the process of erosion, cracks are appearing in the disenchanted landscape and new forms of significant spiritual life are emerging.
David G. Bromley
The study of new religions in the making (NRMs) is particularly valuable to the study of religion as it offers a window into the process by which religious organizations develop. This chapter draws on insights in the rich set of case studies of NRMs and on the organizational startup literature to fashion a prolegomenon to a theory of the first generation development of NRMs. The basic premise is that all new organizations encounter similar developmental challenges. The objective is to identify factors that influence alternative levels of development and developmental trajectories during the first generation. The process is described in terms of three non-linear, sequential developmental moments: initial discovery, public sphere entry, and expansion/consolidation.
Armand L. Mauss
The relation between authority and dissent in the Mormon Church cannot be adequately understood from formal statements in official handbooks or public statements by church leaders. Individual cases of dissent are affected by given sociological contexts, which include historical and demographic developments, ecclesiastical imperatives, and both formal and informal relationships, not only within the hierarchy but also between leaders and dissenters. Opening with the celebrated excommunication case of the “September Six,” this chapter traces the developments that culminated in that case, especially the ecclesiastical retrenchment process during the second half of the twentieth century. A relaxation of retrenchment has been apparent during the new century. Several empirical generalizations can be inferred from the relationship between authority and dissent across the entire past century.
This chapter provides an overview of the contents of the Book of Mormon and its reception by both Latter-day Saints and outsiders. Unusually for world scripture, the Book of Mormon appeared before there was a community of believers, and the complete text was regarded as canonical from the beginning, equal in authority to the Bible. The Book of Mormon is also atypical in that it takes the form of a coherent, integrated narrative, related by specific named narrators. The theology focuses as much on the destiny of the house of Israel as on Christian salvation of individuals. Because of its claims of miraculous origins—written by transplanted Jews in the Americas, then translated from gold plates through seer stones—questions of historicity have often preoccupied readers. Although earlier generations of Mormons tended to preach from the Bible, the Book of Mormon received increased attention in the later twentieth century.
James R. Lewis
Unable to comprehend the appeal of New Religious Movements, many observers concluded that the leaders of such groups has discovered a special form of social control which enabled them to recruit their followers in non-ordinary ways, and, more particularly, to short-circuit their rational, questioning minds by keeping them locked in special trance states. A handful of professionals, mostly psychologists and psychiatrists with sentiments for the anti-cult movement, attempted to provide scientific grounding for this notion of cultic brainwashing/mind control, in part by referring back to studies of Korean War POWs who had been ‘brainwashed’ by their captors. This chapter revisits anti-cultism’s implicit ideological assumptions and the empirical studies indicating that conversions to contemporary new religions result from garden-variety sociological and psychological factors rather than from esoteric ‘mind control’ techniques.
Eugene V. Gallagher
Catastrophic millennialism emanates from a deep pessimism towards society, history, and general humanity. This article develops an analysis of the basic descriptive vocabulary of catastrophic millennialism from the examination of a pair of texts from Late Antiquity. It simultaneously emphasizes a catastrophic end to life as we know it and “a heaven on earth”, the new coming of humanity, following the cleansing. The article also states that predictions of the apocalypse always combine certain general but instrumental factors that invariably strengthen the conflict. This article shows how a group of contemporary millennialist movements have used the basic tropes of catastrophic millennialism to create their own distinctive apocalyptic messages. It highlights how these groups differ in their assessments of why the world will soon be destroyed, precisely how it will happen, who will accomplish that destruction, when and where it will happen, and, especially, what their faithful followers must do in the meantime.
David G. Bromley
The concepts of church and sect, along with the related terms of denomination and cult, have been central to religious group classification and theorizing about religious group organization by religion scholars. This classificatory system has been particularly problematic for scholars studying new religious movements. The chapter rehearses the origins and development of these concepts and then considers some of the newer and more inclusive relationally-based typologies that address the ongoing critiques of the church-sect model .
Kathryn M. Daynes
Eternal marriage is embedded in Mormon theology and the temple ordinances Mormons believe are essential for exaltation. Nineteenth-century Mormons believed plural marriage was the highest form of marriage, meriting the greatest glory among those exalted. This chapter provides a brief history of the practice of polygamy, including the following: the experience of living in polygamy changed over time; economically disadvantaged women were more likely than other women to become plural wives; intermarriage between ethnic groups promoted assimilation into Mormon culture; the prevalence of plural families was relatively large but such families were always a minority; and divorce provided a safety valve for unhappy plural wives. Federal legislation facilitating prosecution of polygamists and escheatment of church property prompted change in Mormon marriage practice, and today only so-called fundamentalists not affiliated with the mainstream church practice polygamy.
Using examples from new religious movements ranging from the Children of God to Sahaja Yoga, the chapter takes a multi-disciplinary approach, reviewing insights from sociology, psychology, anthropology, and management theory. It focuses on charisma as the authority to lead and transform religious traditions, reviewing not only identified qualities of leaders, but also the role of followers in creating and maintaining a collective myth, as well as the importance of the situation and culture in which the relationship develops. Key concepts include legitimation strategies, charismatization, and the role of the “charismatic aristocracy.” Attention is paid to factors contributing to instability and violence, particularly related to the institutionalization of charisma known as routinization, as well as optimal conditions for “benevolent” and “diffuse” charisma.
As an introduction, this article presents an overview of the history of childhood. It goes on to point out a selection of topics significant to the discourse on children growing up in contemporary new religious movements such as: parenting styles and abuse, education and religious freedom, and legal matters and state interventions, through examples from the research field. The discussion highlights the polemic between perspectives in the secondary construction of childhood within new religions and concludes that although the study of new religions has turned from first generation converts to second generation children, research based on the notion of children as active agents is still much needed.