New religious movement

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A new religious movement (NRM) is a religious community or spiritual group of modern origins, which has a peripheral place within a state's dominant religious culture. NRMs may be novel in origin or they may be part of a wider religion, in which case they will be distinct from pre-existing denominations.


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Perhaps one should start by asking 'what is a new religion?' I believe that too precise a definition is constraining and unnecessary for our present purposes. ~ Eileen Barker
  • Perhaps one should start by asking 'what is a new religion?' I believe that too precise a definition is constraining and unnecessary for our present purposes; several of the movements about which we shall be talking are not obviously new or religions. … many associated with the New Age or the so-called Human Potential movement, who deny that they are in any way religious. These may, however, be included in so far as they help their followers to search for, discover and develop 'the god within' or to get in contact with cosmic forces, or explore 'the spiritual'; indeed, any movement that offers in some way to provide answers to some of the ultimate questions about 'meaning' and 'the purpose of life' that have traditionally been addressed by mainstream religions would be included in this broad understanding of the term 'NRM'.")
  • While the contribution of traditional religions to earthquake relief is generally acknowledged, social prejudice makes it more difficult to recognize the good work of new religious movements.
  • 'New religious movement' is a maddeningly vague designation, of course, and definable in infinite ways... a helpful definition comes from the British sociologist George D. Chryssides. According to Chryssides, a new religious movement is one that is 'recent' (which for him means something from the nineteenth century or later), falls outside the 'mainstream', and primarily attracts converts from within the broader culture.
    • David F. Holland (2017) David Hempton (ed.), Hugh McLeod (ed.) Secularization and Religious Innovation in the North Atlantic World. Oxford University Press.
  • China seems to have been very much similar to the West, both in the production of new religious movements and in attracting to them figures from the political left who were officially promoting the struggle against “superstition.” Reconstructions of “Chinese traditional culture” as “non-religious,” and of the rich Chinese religious pluralism as mere “folk religion” should be viewed as propaganda rather than history.
  • Even, or especially, when it initially is successful, internal conflicts over basic goals and beliefs, leadership, and organizational forms commonly threaten the very existence of a new religious movement. These internal conflicts frequently result in schisms (organizational splinters) that severely weaken the new movement, resulting in a loss of basic resources and significant decline.
  • In both countries, Taiwan and Poland, the newly established democratic systems resulted in the development of associations and other civic initiatives, but also in the emergence of new religious and spiritual groups. In both countries religious liberty was officially proclaimed in late 1980s. Yet, in Poland, the initial thaw and ease of registering new religious communities significantly slowed down over the years, and currently—for various reasons—registering a new group is more challenging than three decades ago. Previously, the political climate made similar activities difficult, various groups operated unregistered, and everything was monitored by the secret security services.
  • These two opposing strategies of new religious movements for delivering compensators I will term 'compensation delivery systems' (CDS). The gradual CDS can best be described as religion as a multi-level marketing (MLM) tactic - a term I take from the business world.
  • The largest group of New Religious Movements – both in numbers of individual groups within it and in the diffused range of its overall influence within modern British life – is that clustered around the richly varied collection of 'self-religions', psychotherapies and New Age mysticism and alternative spiritualities. This large group may be broadly divided into two sub-groups, each of which is simply a clustering of often quite diverse movements around a similar overall theme. The first group consists of the 'self-religions' and religiously 'flavoured' psycho-therapies which have increasingly fluorished in the last twenty or thirty years. The self-religions have been characterized as 'movements which exemplify the conjunction of the exploration of the self and the search for significance'.
    • Parsons, Gerald, ed (1993). "Expanding the religious spectrum: New Religious Movements in Modern Britain". The Growth of Religious Diversity: Britain from 1945: Volume 1 Traditions. London: Routledge. p. 283. ISBN 0415083265. 
  • Many of the new religions attract individuals by the promise of peace of mind, spiritual well-being, gratifying experiences, and material success. In doing so they stress their concern for the individual and highlight one's personal worth and self-development.
When using these terms, it is important to recognize that they are often loaded with powerful assumptions and implications. ~ Stephen J. Stein
  • Some of these terms, including "cult" and "sect," have long traditions of use, stretching back to the centuries when Latin was the official language of scholars. But the meanings of words often change over time; and terms that once were neutral or simply descriptive sometimes take on harshly negative implications and potentially lose their original usefulness, including the two just mentioned. Other terms have been coined more recently to circumvent the stereotypes associated with older categories. Among this newer terminology are "outsider groups" and "New Religious Movements." Sometimes the newer nomenclature is useful despite certain limitations. "Marginal religious communities," for example, is a positional designation — not a qualitative judgment — implying a location on the margin or edge of mainstream religious groups. When using these terms, it is important to recognize that they are often loaded with powerful assumptions and implications.
  • A second variety of new religion that began to flourish during the 1960s consisted of the various groups, techniques and spiritual disciplines which came to be known collectively as the 'human potential movement'. In some ways, the human potential movement was an offshoot of the encounter group movement which flourished on college campuses during the 1960s (Back, 1972) and of popular psychology which had blossomed in a good many minds since the heyday of Fulton Sheen and Norman Vincent Peale in the 1950s.
    • Wuthnow, Robert (1986). "Religious movements in North America". in Beckford, James A.. New Religious Movements and Rapid Social Change. London: Sage/UNESCO. p. 6. ISBN 92-3-102-402-7. 

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