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date: 23 February 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines violent outbursts perpetrated by New Religious Movements (NRMs) and considers the competing and complementary theories that have arisen to explain them. It argues that theories about cult violence change as new data become available. Public perceptions of cults and a shifting religious-political landscape also shape theoretical considerations of religion and violence. The chapter notes that prior to the mass murders-suicides in Jonestown, Guyana, and immediately following, theories of violence focused on inwardly-directed coercion and control. The demise of the Branch Davidians in 1993, along with other eruptions of violence in the 1990s, challenged this perspective, and a theory of interaction between external and internal forces arose. The events of September 11, 2001 internationalized considerations of religious violence, and returned attention to the influence of apocalyptic worldviews. A pressing problem that has emerged most recently is the violence perpetrated against NRMs, particularly state-sponsored repression.

Keywords: New Religious Movements, violence, Jonestown, Waco, Solar Temple, Heaven's Gate, Aum Shinrikyo, al-Qaeda, apocalyptic, religious intolerance

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