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date: 13 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses a variety of ways in which affiliation and disaffiliation occur within new religious movements. It explores the brainwashing and deprogramming debates that shaped much of the early development of new religions study, pointing out that, though the brainwashing hypothesis has been debunked, it was largely responsible for creating the social panic over new religions. It points out how many of the techniques associated by the anticult movement with brainwashing (or thought control) are common in religious traditions that are not the target of countermovement pressure. Most important, it identifies how the brainwashing hypothesis constructs the problem of new religions by ignoring the issue of religious choice among new religious adherents. It concludes that conversion to new religious movements is a complex process that includes a range of variables, including the strength of social networks, the nature of conversion careers, and conversion as a response to popular culture.

Keywords: brainwashing, anticult movement, deprogramming, conversion career, emulative conversion, popular culture, social network, thought control

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