New Religious Movements in the United States and Canada: A Critical Assessment and Annotated Bibliography

New Religious Movements in the United States and Canada: A Critical Assessment and Annotated Bibliography

New Religious Movements in the United States and Canada: A Critical Assessment and Annotated Bibliography

New Religious Movements in the United States and Canada: A Critical Assessment and Annotated Bibliography

Excerpt

It is a privilege to introduce this excellent bibliography of contemporary new religious movements in America. With its thoroughness and careful annotation, it answers to a basic need in an area of growing scholarly activity, and it will be much appreciated.

The term "new" is, needless to say, always relative. For the most part, this compilation takes it to refer to groups generated amid the yeasty spiritual ferment of the 1960s. The books and articles in this bibliography are largely about 1960s movements and later groups of a similar sort, and the controversy they have never failed to foment.

This is entirely appropriate, for the sixties were a watershed decade in American life, not least in the area of new religious movements (see 050, 051). To be sure, America has ever been a land of new religious movements, often to an extent that has amazed foreign visitors. Unconventional spirituality on these shores ranges from still-active groups with deep nineteenth- century roots such as Spiritualism, Theosophy, New Thought, and Vedanta to the Beatnik Zen of the 1950s; intellectual influences and even lineages of personal contact can be traced between that lively background and the sixties explosion. Nonetheless, sixties non-normative religion had a special quality created by its association with what was then called the "youth culture" or the "counterculture" (see 057, 060, 061). Its "new religions" received considerably more publicity and engendered markedly more academic interest than the now rather staid descendants of earlier occult and mystical explosions, though a recent trend toward in-depth historical studies in this area can be detected (see 080, 081, 089, 107, 108).

First let us reflect on what is meant by a "new religious movement. Though cumbersome, this term is definitely better than the more popular . . .

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