Cult and Countercult: A Study of a Spiritual Growth Group and a Witchcraft Order

Cult and Countercult: A Study of a Spiritual Growth Group and a Witchcraft Order

Cult and Countercult: A Study of a Spiritual Growth Group and a Witchcraft Order

Cult and Countercult: A Study of a Spiritual Growth Group and a Witchcraft Order

Synopsis

"Of value to folklorists interested in religion, social groups, and the development and use of expressive culture by subgroups. Finally, though, its greatest importance may lie simply in the fact that it exists, and by its being, quietly calls for sociologists, anthropologists, and folklorists to do more such work." Journal of American Folklore

Excerpt

The tragedy of the People's Temple in Guyana has focused new attention on the religious cult phenomena that emerged in the late sixties, flowered during the seventies, and peaked about 1976-77. During this period, hundreds of thousands of followers, mostly young adults in their late teens and twenties, turned away from the traditional Judeo-Christian religions to seek new forms. It is difficult to estimate the number involved since individual groups have undergone much change and participants have been inconsistent in allegiance and participation; however, it is likely that several million have been active. According to popular estimates, there are at least 8,000 groups nationally, with California the major center, and some groups claim more than 10,000 or even 100,000 followers.

In general, these groups have been able to expand and thrive without much resistance, although some leaders in the declining churches have expressed concern about finding ways to reinvigorate traditional religion to stem the tide, and some parents have become alarmed when their children have joined inclusive cults such as the Unification Church (Moonies) or Hare Krishnas.

However, the Guyana tragedy has led many people to reassess these views and begin asking hard questions. Why have these cults emerged? Why have so many deserted the old faiths? Are the followers of these new groups being exploited? Are the new gurus offering false religion? Will the Guyana tragedy recur in other groups if nothing is done to control the cults?

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