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The Sociology Of New Religious Movements

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Chapter Summary

New religions in the American context date to the very beginnings of the republic as various religious groups fled persecution in Europe for religious freedoms in the New World. Others, such as the Oneida Perfectionists, the Mormons, the Seventh-day Adventists, Christian Scientists, and the Jehovah's Witnesses, represent homegrown new religions that emerged in the nineteenth century. The New religious movements (NRMs) in modern Western societies encompass only a few thousand groups with relatively small memberships, they retain considerable cultural significance. This significance extends beyond scholars to the media, watchdog groups, government officials, as well as publics drawn into "cult scares". The study of NRMs has been a central area in the sociology of religion at least since the mid-1960s, when John Lofland and Rodney Stark published their seminal article on conversion and Lofland published his monograph, Doomsday Cult, on the beginnings of the Unification Church in the United States.

Keywords: Christian Scientists; Europe; John Lofland; New religious movements (NRMs); Rodney Stark; Unification Church



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