This paper is going to attempt to explain the reasons for the rise and development of New Religious Movements (NRMs). An explanation will be given as to identify what a NRM is, then their origins and reason for why they appeared. Then we will look at how the have developed over the last centaury, with reference to key scholars.
The term NRM will be discussed with accordance to relevant scholars. Then the converts themselves will be looked at, to see who joins, with reference to significant models of conversion. What NRM offer new recruits will be discussed, to understand the ‘pulling’ force behind the conversion. Then the life of NRMs will be debated to try and comprehend why some movements succeed while others fail.
Firstly, Eileen Barker claims that the term ‘New Religious Movements’ ‘is used to cover a disparate collection of organizations, most of which emerged in the 1950s to offer answers to fundamental questions about religions, spirituality and philosophy. New Religions Movements emerged at some point in the 1970s where religious studies and the scientific study of religion merged. Academics have different methodologies and assumptions, which are focused upon to investigate these groups. In spite of the differences that arise from their findings, since the term ‘cult’ changed to ‘New Religion’ or ‘NRM’, significant progress has been made.
New Religion Movements are comprised of two entities, the history of religions, and the study of cults, which incorporate theology and sociology methodology. Along with the study of world religions, NRMs have been us aware of the variety of beliefs, practices and needs followed by different people in different contexts. The insights of these comparative religious studies have been reinforced as the mass movements of people during this century, which have brought large communities of the worlds major religions and movements to the West. Due to the religious freedom in the West, there has been a steady rise to the number of religious options available to people. The United States has a variety of denominations and other religious groups, which has developed and expanded these numbers have grown from 17 in the eighteenth centaury, to around 2000 today. While the majority of the groups that exist today are pre-dominantly Christian denominations and movements, an increasing percentage of them place their focus in another world religion. In the twenties and 30s, Christian Scientists, Spiritualists, Mormons, and Theosophists were appearing, these were then joined by the likes of Jehovah’s Witnesses. By the end of World War II, the scientific study of religion had appeared and courses on the psychology and the sociology of religion were being offered. . The sixties study of New Religions was interesting and intriguing. However, in the seventies that view began to be challenged. Scholars and those of religious authority suggested that the ‘New Religions’ were not just different but they were destructive. Those same voices said that the studies of charismatic founders of NRMs through the century had missed the point. These founders were said not be purely be religious innovators, but also evil power-hungry individuals. The eighties focused on the ‘Brainwashing debate’, which developed a lot a criticism suggesting that the theories are flawed, and that if he had work, NRM would be far more successful.
John Saliba suggests that there is a three way process to the interpretation of NRMs through the paths of theology, psychology and sociology. The theological method is based on the comparison made between NRMs and other religions. The method of psychology focuses on the recruitment aspects of the movement and how they main their members, and also the type of people who join and how the membership has effected that person. Sociology treats NRMs as a