NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS

CHAPTER 1

New Religions and New Religiosity
Eileen Barker

Two and a half millennia ago, a young man abandoned his wife and young son, found the path to enlightenment, and became the focus of a new religion that has around 300 million followers today. Two millennia ago, a young artisan told his disciples they had to be prepared to sever all ties with their families if they wanted to follow him; he became the focus of considerable vilification by the elders of the local religion and was, by popular demand, put to death by the powers that were ruling his country at the time. The religion he founded has approaching one and a half billion followers today. Roughly half a millennium later, another new religion was asking its followers to submit and surrender to God, to the faith and to the practice revealed by a young man who had visions and heard voices whereby God told him to preach against the prevailing religious practices. He successfully raised armies that destroyed the idols of a Holy city to which hundreds of thousands of the billion or so followers of the Prophet now make an annual pilgrimage.

Four points have been intimated. Firstly, there is nothing new about new religions. They have been around for years. In some times and places they have been more visible than in other times and places. There have been periods when people have been particularly likely to turn to new ideas and hopes - when, for example, there has been some kind of social change due to economic disruption, colonial invasions, technological, political or cultural upheaval. Waves of new religions occurred during the late Roman period, and there were many other small sects around the time that Christianity emerged. In Europe there were successive waves of new religions during the 4th, 12th, and 17th

New Religions and New Religiosity 11

centuries. In North America there was the 'Great Awakening' of the mid-eighteenth century, and the nineteenth century saw the rise of such sects as the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), the Seventh-day Adventists, the Christadelphians and Christian Science. Around the turn of the century, there was Theosophy, followed by Anthroposophy and Alice Bailey (see Melton ch. 8 and Madsen ch. 13). It has been estimated that as many as 10,000 new religions have appeared in Africa over the past 100 years. 1 Japan saw its 'Rush Hour of the Gods' immediately after the Second World War, 2 and was to witness a wave of what have become known as shin shin shukyo or 'new new religions' after 1970. 3 This was around the time that the West became aware of what have become known as NRMs (new religious movements), alternative religions, or, more commonly and more pejoratively, 'cults' or 'sects'.

A second point that emerges is that in each case the leader left his family and expected his followers to cut off from theirs. Jesus is recorded in the Gospels 4 as having said that it would be a mistake to think that he was there to bring peace on earth. On the contrary, he had come with a sword. He had, moreover, come to disrupt family life - someone could not be his disciple if he did not hate his parents, wife, children and siblings. Indeed, new religions are frequently disruptive at the family level, and sometimes at the social level. A moment's thought makes it quite understandable that really radical movements will want to protect their new members from the rest of the world. By their very nature, members of the movements tend either to be rejecting prevailing religious beliefs and/or practices in their search for something new, or they are seeking a return to the pristine purity of a religion that is seen as having accommodated to the world and the passing fancies of men (and women). Unless the other members of the new convert's family are themselves going to convert, they are likely to be interpreting and living in the world in the very ways that the new religion


1. Turner 1995, 350.
2. McFarland 1967.
3. Shimazono 1995, 194.
4. Matthew 10.35-36; Luke 14.26.

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New Religions and New Religiosity 13

rejects. In order to overcome their primary socialisation and the emotional ties that they had developed in their pre-NRM life, the movement's novitiates need to be surrounded and protected by others of like mind. Of course, not all new religions are as radical or demanding as early Buddhism, Christianity and Islam, but some are, and, as already intimated, some degree of separation from the rest of society is a familiar characteristic of a fledgling religion that renounces and/or denounces the conventional wisdom and practices of the status quo.

This leads us to a third point that was illustrated in the introductory paragraph. Not only do new religions tend to attack and/or cut themselves off from the rest of society, the rest of society tends to attack or cut itself off from new religions. The extent to which this is the case varies according to time and place. Today 'cultists' and 'sectarians' are unlikely to be thrown to the lions or burned at the stake, though several have been tortured, murdered or imprisoned for their beliefs, and a not insignificant number have been beaten up and /or intimidated. It is, however, more common for them to be vilified by the mass media and, perhaps, to have some of the normal rights of citizens denied them. 5

A final point is that new religions which survive to be old religions are quite likely to compromise their pristine purity as they adjust to the contingencies of social life and successive generations. And a tiny proportion of these develop into mainstream religions which, in the lands they have conquered by the word or the sword, become the status quo, defining and imposing conventional wisdom, and, for better or worse, affecting the details of the lives of millions of followers, heretics, infidels and sectarians alike.

. This can happen in a wide range of societies, including those which proclaim that, as a democracy, all citizens are equal under the law. Take, for example, the current situation in Germany where an increasingly antagonistic relationship has developed between members of the Church of Scientology and the State. In Russia, the 1997 Religion Act provides an example of a situation where not only NRMs but many other 'traditional' religions may be discriminated against in law (see Baumann ch. 14; Introvigne ch. 18; and Warburg ch. 17.)

What are new religions and what is the new religiosity?

'What's in a name?' asked Juliet. 6 The answer, as she was to learn to her cost, is 'Quite a lot'. At a simple, financial level, the consequences of one definition rather than another can be very real. Scientology has fought in the courts to be defined as a religion, and, when successful, has benefitted from considerable tax advantages. The Science of Creative Intelligence (Transcendental Meditation) has fought in the courts to be defined as not being a religion, and, when unsuccessful, has been barred from teaching its meditation techniques in the United States public school system.

Definitions are more or less useful, not more or less true; and, as Mary Douglas (1966) and others have clearly shown, while concepts are necessary, where we draw the boundaries - what we include and exclude - is arbitrary. The concept of 'new religion' can mean whatever we wish it to mean - but, for most purposes, it is not very useful to refer to Zoroastrianism, Marxism, the Veterans' Club or the European Community as new religions.'

Sometimes our concept of religion excludes the possibility of new or unfamiliar varieties. This is not a phenomenon confined to the area of religion. Sentiments such as 'Those cacophonies produced by Cage and Schoenberg are not real music' or 'The latest exhibition at the Tate Gallery is not real art' bear some comparison to 'The Moonies or the Hare Krishna are not real religions'. If by religion we mean a social community which professes belief in a deity, then the Unification Church (Moonies) and International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) are undoubtedly religions. If by 'religious' we mean Christian, then Hindus cannot be religious; if we mean believing in a God, then Buddhists may be excluded; if we mean something that has 'passed the test of time' or is considered generally acceptable, then the easiest way of dealing taxonomically with new religions

6. Shakespeare 1597, II. ii. 43.
7. For comparative purposes, however, it is sometimes useful to compare new religions not only with older religions but also with secular movements that perform some of the functions frequently associated with religion.

14 Eileen Barker
New Religions and New Religiosity 15

is to label them as cults, rather than 'real religions'. 8 To complicate matters somewhat further, social scientists use the words 'cult' and 'sect' as technical terms to distinguish certain types of organizations from other types such as 'church' and 'denomination'. 9 In popular parlance, however, 'cult' and 'sect' are used to stick a negative label on what we have chosen in this book to call new religions.

Given the controversies that rage around the language we use, it needs to be made quite clear that social scientists, in rejecting a pejorative label for describing new religions, are not wishing to give the impression that new religions are 'a good thing'. On the contrary, we would agree that some are self-evidently a 'bad thing'. None of us would laud the Manson Family's murders or Aum Shinrikyo's release of sarin gas in a commuter-packed subway. Most of us abhor the malpractices that are to be found in some new religions (and some old religions) as much as anyone else. But our research has shown us over and over again that, just because a group is new and religious, it does not follow that it resorts to irresistible and irreversible brainwashing techniques, financial skulduggery, political machinations, international intrigues, Bacchanalian orgies, ritual child abuse, bloody murder and/or mass suicide. While social scientists as individuals are as capable of moral indignation as anyone else, in their work as social scientists they are trying to describe, understand, analyse and explain a phenomenon in order to give as accurate and objective an account as possible, rather than distorting the picture one way or another through including their own values in their accounts. This is not an easy task, but in so far as we are providing information about what is 'out there', rather than according to some hidden agenda of our own, we are offering others a useful basis by which they can, according to their own values, evaluate particular beliefs, actions and new religions. In other words, the social scientist, as a researcher and presenter of data, takes responsibility for accuracy and objectivity; the 'user' of the data must take responsibility for the evaluation. 10

But while we need to be aware of the problems and complexity of the question of definition and to recognise the arbitrariness of boundaries, we also need some agreed understanding of what we are talking about in any particular situation.

Let me suggest that, as a useful starting point for understanding the contemporary phenomena with which this book is concerned, we can define new religions as groups or movements that are new in so far as they have become visible in the West in their present form since the Second World War. This will result in our including, much to their annoyance, a movement such as ISKCON (the International Society for Krishna Consciousness). The devotees themselves do not like being 'lumped in' with other movements, some of which are undoubtedly of a dubious nature. 11 They claim, quite rightly, that they can trace their origins back at least to the sixteenth-century monk, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, or, arguably, to the beginnings of Hinduism, long before the birth of Buddha, let alone Jesus or Mohammed. None the less, it is also true that ISKCON, as a society with its particular structure and culture, did not exist before Swami Prabhupada came to the West in the 1960s (see Nye ch. 15). Similarly, movements such as Soka Gakkai and Reiyukai can claim that their movements are rooted in the vision of the thirteenth-century monk, Nichiren Daishonin.

While The Family and The Way can claim their roots are to be found in first century Christianity, Hizb ut-Tahrir and Murabitun can claim they base their beliefs on the sayings of the Prophet Mohammed. None the less, because of the particular interpretation of the beliefs or the structure and culture to be found in the organization of such movements today, it seems



8. Barker 1994b.
9. Even among sociologists of religion, there is no agreed definition for these terms. One influential distinction can be found in Stark and Bainbridge 1979.
10. This is a very complicated area, and it becomes even more complicated when social scientists use their own data for religious, political or social reasons. I have elaborated the philosophical and methodological issues involved in more detail elsewhere - see, for example, Barker 1995a.
11. Subhananda 1978.

4. Eileen Barker

for scientist to consider that they are new in that II toy ore prowl in}', their religion in a form that was previously

Again for purely heuristic purposes, new religions can be considered religions in so far as they address and offer answers to some of the ultimate questions that have traditionally been addressed by mainstream religions. I am referring to questions such as: Who am I? What is the purpose to life? Is there a life after death? Is there any meaning to my life? Am I more than my body? Is there a spiritual aspect to life? Is there a God? It might be noted that it is the questions, rather than the answers, that are being used to define a religion. Belief in a God, Goddess or gods is not a necessary part of the belief system of a new religion as thus defined - Nichiren Shoshu Buddhists and the Raelians are by no means the only people who say that they belong to an 'atheistic religion'.

What is the New Religiosity? In using this word in the title of this book, we wish merely to include ways of thinking and acting that are associated with new religions in the cultural rather than the structural or organizational sense. That is, we are referring not so much to groups or movements as to individuals who have accepted some of the ideas that are currently present in what Campbell (1972) writes about as the 'cultic milieu'. Examples would include the embracing of ideas long familiar in the East, but only recently common in the West, such as reincarnation, or the concept of 'the God within'. It could also include increasingly popular practices such as yoga, meditation and chanting in so far as these encompass some kind of religious or spiritual rituals or assumptions; and it might be extended to the celebration of the more spiritual aspects of, say, the ecological movement (see Hervieu-Leger ch. 2, Holm ch. 6, and DeMarinis ch. 7). Interestingly, such ideas are being increasingly introduced to middle- and senior-level management of large, multi-national corporations. 12

At the same time, changes in the manifestations of religiosity can take place within a traditional structure - the rise of the charismatic movement over the past few decades is but one


12. Heelas 1996.

New Religions and New Religiosity 17

example - and, of course, such 'newness' may lay claim to pristine originality (see Hervieu-Leger ch. 9).

Numbers

It is almost impossible to estimate the number of new religions that are currently to be found in the West, let alone world-wide. Much, of course, will depend on the definition used and the extent to which sub-groups are counted as separate movements. iNFORM has on its computer some minimal information about over 2,000 distinguishable movements; but, on the one hand, not of these would be included under the definition that I suggested in the previous paragraph, and, on the other hand, there is bound to be a considerable number of movements unknown to INFORM.'3

The number of members is even more difficult to calculate. This is partly due to the fact that exactly what counts as membership will differ from movement to movement, and that there are usually several layers of membership - some might be equivalent to full-time priests or monks, others to regular members of the congregation while others are only loosely affiliated with the movement.

The difficulty in counting is also due partly to the fact that some people may simultaneously belong to more than one religion or movement. Heino (ch. 12) reports on the longstanding and sometimes controversial overlap between Lutherans and Freemasons. Someone who would put C of E (Church of England) on a hospital form, might well have received a mantra from Transcendental Mediation (TM) and taken a course in Dianetics some time ago, and now be attending some sessions organised by Sahaja Yoga. Both the Church of Scientology and the Science of Creative Intelligence (TM) would certainly include such a person on their membership lists, and 13. INFORM (Information Network Focus on Religious Movements) is a charity that I founded in the late 1980s, with the support of the Home Office and mainstream Churches, with the aim of providing information about new religions that is as accurate and up-to-date as possible. INFORM is housed at the London School of Economics and may be contacted by mail at Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE, or by fax at +44 (0) 171 955 7679, or e-mail at INFORM @ LSE. AC. UK.

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New Religions and New Religiosity 19

the Church of England and Sahaja Yoga might also do so. The problem becomes even more acute when one considers the general cultic milieu, with no formal membership to provide a measure of the effect that NRMs may have, at a more indirect level, on 'the new religiosity'.

Related to the difficulties involved in double-counting is the finding of numerous studies of NRMs that the movements tend to have a high turnover rate, with people joining for a short time and then deciding for one reason or another that they do not wish to remain.14 This is not altogether surprising, but it does question the popular myth that NRMs use irresistible and irreversible techniques of 'brainwashing' or 'mind control', as it leads us to question what it might be about the individual him or herself that makes some more susceptible than others to some new religions.15

Characteristics of new religions

It is probably true to say that the only generalisation which can be made about new religions is that one cannot generalise about them - that the only thing they all have in common is that they have been put into the single category of new religion, cult, sect or what-have-you, and whatever generalisation one may attempt to make is almost bound to be refuted by one of their number. Unlike most of the sects that emerged in the West in the nineteenth-century and, indeed, earlier periods since the arrival of Christianity, the current wave of new religions is not confined to the Judeao-Christian tradition. Today we also find movements that have drawn from Buddhism, Hinduism, Shinto, Islam, Paganism and Wicca as well as a wide variety of other ideas and ideologies such as psychoanalysis, astrology, science-fiction, UFOlogy, conspiracy theory, environmentalism, nationalism, feminism and so on.

The extent to which the beliefs are elaborated and systematised varies from comprehensive theologies, such as that presented by the Unification Church, to a collection of esoteric or mundane ideas garnered from a hotchpotch of widely dispa-


14. Bromley 1988; Wright 1987.
15. Barker 1984.

rite sources. Practices may include elaborate ritual, prayer, Hinting, meditation, dance, yoga, encounter groups, and a wide range of (possibly very well organised) 'spontaneous happenings'.

Life styles range from community living with members working full-time for the movement to members leading perfectly 'ordinary' lives but joining with other members for special gatherings once a week or so. Attitudes towards sex range from the celebration of celibacy to orgiastic group sharing; attitudes to material gain range from those of prosperity theology (see Skog ch. 11) to the renunciation of all material possessions or interests; sometimes the leaders are rich, sometimes they are poor. Money may be obtained by tithing, or selling goods or collecting donations in public places, through businesses in which members work with non-union rates and conditions, to offering courses for which 'clients' pay a fee - and so on.

The membership may be male, female, young, old or middle- aged; it may be drawn from any class or ethnic group; and it may include the very bright and well-educated as well as the socially and, perhaps, mentally disadvantaged. Founders and leaders may be seen as teachers, mentors, prophets, masters, mystics, messiahs, gurus, or messengers of God - or they may themselves be seen as gods. The organization may be more or less democratic, totalitarian, authoritarian, exclusive, inclusive, rigid, open, homogeneous or heterogeneous. The effects for the members, for friends and relatives of members and for society as a whole may be more or less benign, harmful or devastating.

But, while noting the enormous variety to be found among the new religions, social scientists are always looking for more or less systematic patterns and regularities in the structures and cultures that they study, and there are several characteristics which, while by no means always present, do quite often tend to be found among new religions merely because they are both new and religious movements.

Membership of new religions

The fact that NRMs are new means that the membership is usually comprised of first-generation converts - that is, people who have chosen to belong to the movement. And, like converts

20 Eileen Barker
New Religions and New Religiosity 21

to any religion or ideology, these people tend to be exceptionally enthusiastic, even zealous, in their new-found faith and commitment.

Furthermore, the fact that the membership consists of converts means that it is likely to comprise an atypical representation of the society as a whole. While several previous waves of new religions have appealed disproportionately to the socially and economically disadvantaged and/or the politically oppressed, many of the better-known of the present new religions have been disproportionately attractive to persons in their early twenties or thirties who come from 'good' homes and have had relatively better opportunities to succeed in the world than many of their peers. Their youth has meant that the movements have had a good supply of inexperienced but healthy members who are unencumbered by responsibilities and have few dependents at either end of the age spectrum.

Beliefs and boundaries

A common, but by no means universal, characteristic of the beliefs of new religions is that they are relatively simple and straightforward - they tend to be painted in primary colours, without the messy grey areas that older religions have acquired. There tends to be a certainty that the new truth is, exclusively, The Truth. Exclusivity may also be extended to social life, with a sharp boundary separating `us' (who are portrayed as good and/or godly) from 'them' (who are undifferentiated as bad and/or satanic), (see Piff and Warburg, ch. 4). Sharp boundaries may, again, be extended in time to distinct temporal divisions between, on the one hand, 'before' (when I was a miserable sinner) and 'now' (when I am one of the 'elect'), and, on the other hand, between 'now' (when the world is in a terrible state) and 'the End-time', the Millennium, the Apocalypse, Armageddon, the Age of Aquarius or some kind of utopian future. It should be stressed, however, that there are plenty of exceptions to such a typification.

Charismatic authority

The founder of a new religion is frequently a charismatic leader in the Weberian sense that he (or, sometimes, she) is unconstrained by rules or tradition, and is accorded the authority by his (or her) followers to dictate where they should live, whom they should marry and/or with whom they should sleep, whether they may have children, what sort of work they should do, what kind of clothes they should wear - and what, if anything, they should eat for breakfast. The followers may join the movement because they believe or, more frequently, because they come to believe after joining,"' that the leader is a special kind of person, who has a privileged and unique access to knowledge of the nature of things (see Sundby-Sorensen ch. 10 for Scientologists' perceptions of L. Ron Hubbard), who directly communicates with God (as in the case of Sun Myung Moon and David Berg) or with the Ascended Masters (as in the case of Elizabeth Clare Prophet or Ananda Tara Shan), (see Madsen ch. 13) - or (as is the case of Bhagwan Rajneesh, later to be known as Osho) is himself a god.

Relations with the rest of society

And, as already noted, throughout history, new religions have tended, largely because of their alternative beliefs and practices and the above-mentioned characteristics, to exist in tension with the rest of society.

So far as the attitudes of the movements are concerned, Wallis (1984), following Weber, has usefully characterised new religions into three categories according to whether they reject, affirm or accommodate to the world. Wallis points to ISKCON, the Children of God and the Unification Church as examples of what he types as world-rejecting new religions. Such movements are more recognisably religious than world-affirming religions, which embrace the world's secular values and goals while using unconventional means to achieve these - Wallis cites Transcendental Meditation, Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism and est (Erhard Seminars Training) as illustrations of the world-affirming type. The third type, the world-accommodating new religion, seeks to provide solace or stimulation for the individual's interior life,


16. For a description of the social processes by which converts come to see a leader as having charismatic authority, see Barker 1994a and Coney 1996.

22 Eileen Barker
New Religions and New Religiosity 23

and pays little attention to the world one way or another. The examples Wallis uses here are NeoPentecostalism, the Charismatic Renewal Movement and Subud.

So far as the attitudes of the world towards the new religions are concerned, these seem to differ in interesting and systematic ways from society to society (and from sub-group to sub-group). Not infrequently it has been remarked that one can learn a great deal about a society from studying its attitude to new religions. Through its treatment of the new religions in its midst, a society may vividly demonstrate its own values - whether, for example, its primary concerns centre on the family, its notions of individual or group freedom, individual or national financial or social security, or the preservation of traditional customs.'

Changes in new religions

Obviously enough, new religions do not stay new religions for long. Most either fade away through lack of support, or are brutally eliminated (as were the Albigensians or Cathars). Rodney Stark18 has suggested that it is probable that no more than one religious movement out of every 1000 will attract more than 100,000 followers and last for as long as a century, and that most movements which achieve these modest results will become no more than a footnote in the history of religions.

Those that survive to a second and subsequent generations tend to change in a number of ways. Demographic changes by themselves result in a re-structuring of the movement - the necessity to put resources into looking after and socialising children who, as they grow up, present a number of new challenges. Meantime, the original first-generation members are growing older and more experienced; then, as these once youthful converts approach old age, they increasingly draw upon, rather than contribute to, what are probably relatively scarce resources. Charismatic leaders die and the movement may become more predictable as the uncertainty of constantly changing dictates are replaced by tradition and the rules of a bureaucratic structure. It is also possible that a sub-group may


17. Beckford 1982; 1985;
Hardin 1982.
18. Stark 1996, 133.

develop at the margins of the movement, augmenting, if not entirely replacing, the hierarchical structure issuing information from the top with a more horizontal structure, exchanging information between its members.19

And, more or less gradually in the wake of both internal and external changes, the movement's relationships with the outside society may become more relaxed.20 At the family level, parents of converts, although possibly not entirely convinced that this was what they wanted for their child, will become more reconciled to the situation and, especially with the birth of grandchildren, estranged families may become reunited. At the wider social level, much of the strangeness and fear may be removed and, at least in a pluralist society, the .NRM may no longer be seen as the new kid on the block, but as part of the varied structure of the wider community.

One further change that is attracting the attention of scholars is the influx of NRMs into Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union since the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 (see Melton ch. 3; DoktOr ch. 5). New religions did exist in these countries during the socialist period, but they were small in number, frequently operated underground and were sometimes, like members of the older religions, imprisoned, tortured and/or murdered. At the beginning of the 1990s, it seemed as though the new concepts of pluralism and religious freedom for all might result in an unparalleled expansion to fill the gaping vacuum left by Marxist-Leninism. Soon, however, it became apparent not only that few had accepted Marxist-Leninism anyway, but also that the honeymoon of 'freedom for all' was over. A bitter battle commenced between competing religions, old and new, with NRMs being viewed with an ever-growing suspicion as the older religions fought to secure their economic, political and religious interests, and stories from the West about the destructive influences of the movements were spread throughout the region.'

The battles are by no means confined to Eastern Europe, however. Several West European countries have been exhibiting


19. Barker, 1998.
20. Barker and Mayer 1995.
21. Barker 1997.

24 Eileen Barker
New Religions and New Religiosity 25

an increasing antagonism towards the new religions during the latter half of the 1990s. In 1996, the French Government Report, Les Sectes en France, was published; the following year saw the publication of the Belgian Enquete Parlementaire, which listed over 180 'dangerous sects'. Both reports contained a considerable number of factual errors and included in their lists several religions that are highly respected in other countries. 22

Differing conceptions of new religions

There is no one body of knowledge that has been accumulated about the new religions and the new religiosity. In one sense it would be a truism to remark that there are as many different conceptions of NRMs as there are people with conceptions of them. At the same time, there are some features of the movements that each conceiver holds in common with others. It is, moreover, possible to recognise systematic differences between the images that individuals and groups build of any social phenomenon - differences that are related to the interests of the individual or group. Because we have different interests, we select some features in our representations of the phenomenon about which we are talking and reject other features.

Members of the NRM itself are liable to select 'good' aspects and to concentrate on religious or spiritual aspects more than their parents, who are more likely to see the movement as something unpleasant, bad or even evil, which takes their (adult) child away from the lifestyle which he or she had previously enjoyed and would otherwise have continued to enjoy. Anti- cultists, almost by definition will concentrate on the 'bad' things about the movements and ignore or reject any positive features (see Baumann ch. 14). Lawyers will paint a picture that promotes their client's case, with the court making sure that inadmissible evidence is not included. The popular media will select the more


22. A number of academics and lawyers contributed to a response to the French Report in a volume edited by two of the authors in this volume, Introvigne and Melton (1996).

unusual and sensational features in order to attract and keep their audience - and so on. 23

With a subject as emotionally charged as that of the new religions, those who wish to promote their own versions of 'reality' will find themselves in a competitive market place, with others using an array of different methods to bolster the legitimacy of their own position. In this book we have made no attempt to present a single perspective. One can find contributions from the historian, the psychologist, the theologian, the sociologist, the anthropologist, the archivist, the counsellor, the philosopher and the lawyer. Each author approaches his or her subject from a different angle, and each is interested in presenting a different picture of a particular aspect of the contemporary religious scene. But all the contributors share a commitment to presenting as accurate and balanced an account of their subject as is possible. Paradoxically, the very diversity of the different approaches is, we believe, an important contribution towards enriching our understanding of new religions and new religiosity.


23. The range of different interests related to frequently contradictory constructions of NRM reality, and some of the battles between different groups of constructors are examined in some detail in Barker 1995a.

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New Religions and New Religiosity 27

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