New Religions as Global Cultures: Making the Human Sacred

New Religions as Global Cultures: Making the Human Sacred

New Religions as Global Cultures: Making the Human Sacred

New Religions as Global Cultures: Making the Human Sacred

Synopsis

The authors claim that the new cults and religions that have surfaced as a result of a decline in adherence to traditional beliefs are not as dangerous as some would portray them.

Excerpt

To better appreciate why the authors wrote this book and what readers can hope to learn from them, consider a particular new religion. Like most of these groups, it can be identified as a cult because it displays three typical cultic features. First, it claims to have extensive new religious truths--a set of unique doctrines that are very different from those taught by the conventional churches. Second, the source of these new teachings is a young man who claims to have received them directly from God. Third, the leader requires obedience and encourages his followers to abandon their current lives and become full-time members.

Understandably, the parents of many of these followers are upset and angry about the exploitation of their children by this self-proclaimed messiah. Their worst fears are confirmed by well-known clergy who issue public warnings about the dangers of this cult and the dangers of all authoritarian religions led by deluded fanatics. The growing public outcry soon forces the government to act: The leader is crucified between two thieves.

This may seem a rather melodramatic introduction, but I intended it to force you to think about the word "cult" and about new religions. All of the world's major, respectable religions, including Christianity, began in obscurity. Each aroused angry opposition. Each would have been classified as a cult according to the three criteria outlined above.

The moral of this lesson should now be clear: One person's true faith is another's sinful heresy, and there is no easy answer to the question whether cults are dangerous. The pagan priests of ancient Rome thought the Christians were dangerous, and from their point of view they were absolutely right. The triumph of Christianity spelled the doom of paganism; in fact most pagan temples were remodeled into Christian churches or destroyed. Of course most Christians applaud this outcome, believing Christianity was destined to triumph because it is true. But all religious groups, old as well as new, think they are true. They can't all be right. So what's a person to believe?

These are issues that lie at the core of this book as it assesses new religious movements around the world. There may be many works on this topic, but this one offers a unique and extremely valuable perspective. The authors have spent years examining new religious movements. They are fully aware of the immense . . .

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