New Religions and
the Anti-Cult Movement
Online Resource Guide in Social Sciences
The Embarkation of the Pilgrims from Holland 1620 by Robert W. Weir
Copyright Amy Ryan,
May 10, 2000
Online Databases in the Humanities and Social Sciences.
Instructor: Dr. Tula Giannini
The study of new religions has been described as a "growth industry"[i] within academia. Developing as a separate academic sub-discipline to religious studies, psychology, and sociology in the 1970s, it is currently the research focus of several hundred scholars, and has spawned numerous scholarly associations, societies and publications devoted to the subject. These scholars study the development and activities of religious denominations which have proliferated terrifically over the past 100 years, from 350 to more than 2000 groups and denominations in the U.S. [ii] These movements are traditionally defined as cults or sects, but due to pejorative connotations that have developed around these terms, most scholars now prefer to use the terms New Religious Movements (NRMs) or Alternative Religious Movements (ARMs).
In addition to scholarly interest, the general public is concerned about cults or New Religious Movements for obvious reasons. A defining moment for public interest in cults or new religions occurred in November, 1978, when some 900 members of the The Peoples Temple in Jonestown, Guyana died by murder and suicide. More recent tragedies such as the standoff between Federal law enforcement and the Branch Davidian group in Waco in 1993, and the Heaven's Gate suicides in 1996, were covered widely by the media and continue to be topics of public debate. A gas attack in a Tokyo subway in 1995 by the Aum Shinri Kyo group led to fear of threats to the safety of the general public which might be posed by cults. The buildup to the passing of the millennium led to investigation of groups identified as apocalyptic and potentially dangerous, and increased media coverage of fringe beliefs. Most recently, the murder/suicide of more than 900 members of Uganda's Movement of the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God demonstrates the irrefutable danger posed by certain groups, at least to their own members. In addition to these incidents of violence and terrorism, some movements have been accused of ongoing human rights abuses, child abuse, brainwashing, prostitution, financial fraud and swindling.
However, opposing these issues with regard to new religions are serious questions. Concern over the behavior of New Religious Movements has led to a potential threat to religious freedom and civil liberty. The Chinese government has passed legislation banning cults in response to the growth of the Falun Gong, not because they pose a threat to public safety but because they have demonstrated civil disobedience toward the government. European governments are also working on legislation which may limit the freedoms of new religions. The most high profile example is the Church of Scientology, which has fought legal battles in Europe regarding their status as a church, and have brought accusations of discrimination against the German government. In the U.S., the State of Maryland has recently completed a broad investigation of the activities and effects of cults on college campuses, and is examining these results with regard to creating legislation. "Anti-cult" and "counter-cult" movements are actively campaigning against new religions. Of particular concern to anti-cult activists are those groups that make high demands on members, such as requiring them to accept stringent belief systems and distancing themselves from society outside the movement. In response, movements such as the Scientologists and Unification Church are waging legal battles to protect their status and image. Many groups with unorthodox or odd beliefs who make high demands on their members have not demonstrated any violent tendencies; however, many groups that turned to violence did not previously demonstrate any dangerous behavior. A key question faced by social sciences is how to identify and monitor potentially dangerous groups while still allowing for religious freedom.
In the United States, increased interest in new religions developed during the counterculture movement in the 1960s and 70s. Parents whose children had joined cults sought assistance from "deprogrammers" who sometimes forcibly removed members of religious groups from their communities and restrained and badgered them until they renounced their beliefs. Deprogrammers, psychologists, former cult members, and relatives of cult members, among others, became activists against what they viewed as cult abuses. This movement is described by sociologists as the "anti-cult" movement. (The "counter-cult" movement, made up of mostly evangelical Christians, likewise developed in opposition to cults, but on a doctrinal or theological basis.)
Throughout the 1970s and 80s, the anti-cult movement pursued legal remedies against cults, campaigning for conservatorship laws to gain legal custody over cult members who they claimed were victims of cult brainwashing or mind control, and filing suits against cults for alleged abuses. This type of legal activity mostly ceased after brainwashing theories were rejected as inconclusive by the scientific community, represented by the American Psychological Association. In the 1990s, cults were successful in litigation against deprogrammers and anti-cult groups, most notably in a suit against the influential Cult Awareness Network brought by a cult member who claimed his civil rights had been violated by a deprogramming attempt. The resulting settlement forced CAN into bankruptcy, after which its logo, address and other assets were purchased by a group including members of Scientology.
Despite these setbacks, the anti-cult movement continues to be active. They have a strong presence on the Internet, attempting to educate the public about the dangers of cults and offering advice, assistance and referrals to cult members and their families. The idea of deprogramming has been largely replaced with the gentler concept of exit counseling. The efforts of this movement, together with concern of the general public in response to cult violence and tragedies, have led to ongoing investigations by governments worldwide into the activities of New Religious Movements. Much of the scholarly community concerned with New Religious Movements have concerns about eroding freedoms resulting from this activity. High profile scholars have given testimony on behalf of NRMs in government investigations.
These ongoing conflicts between the cults, anti-cult groups, scholars and researchers, and policy makers are well represented on the Internet and other online sources, and may be illustrated by a review of current literature on New Religious Movements. The variety of views on New Religions expressed on the Internet are given consideration in "So Many Evil Things:" Anti-Cult Terrorism via the Internet, a paper presented at the annual conference of the Association for Sociology of Religion, Massimo Introvigne, the director of the Center for Studies on New Religions, discusses the impact of the Internet on the public perception of new religions or cults. In response to public concern over the cult presence on the Internet following the suicide of members of the Heaven's Gate movement, Introvigne argues that the anti-cult movement, rather than cults, have been the main beneficiaries of the availability of the Internet. Introvigne cites scholarship showing that the Internet is not an effective recruiting for cults, and that it has not contributed significantly to their growth. Rather, the Internet has become a tool for anti-cult groups to launch an "information war" against new religious movements. Introvigne likens much of the anti-cult sentiment expressed on the Internet to the propaganda of hate groups. He goes on to discuss the tools used by cult and anti-cult groups through this new medium of communication.
Scholars are concerned about the conflict between new religions and the anti-cultists because they have found evidence that this conflict may precipitate violence. In chapters from the forthcoming book How the Millennium comes Violently by Catherine Wessinger, the author explores the relationship between religious groups, law enforcement, media and scholars through a comparative study of recent cult activities that ended in violence. The author theorized hat a combination of internal and external stresses lead to catastrophic violence within New Religious Movements. Cults may feel persecuted by anti-cult activists, families, law enforcement, and media, which may have a share in the ultimate violent outcomes that result when these groups are in conflict.
To assist in the understanding of New Religious Movements and to differentiate those groups which may be dangerous from groups that are more benign, a key issue is the definitions used by various factions. In New Religious Movements: Some Problems of Definition George Chryssides identifies two types of definitions used in the field of New Religious Movements. opponents define them in terms of negative characteristics, while scholars attempt to be value fee. And the movements themselves may have different definitions of religion. The author cites a need to develop more appropriate definitions with criteria that can be useful to all parties concerned, and allow for common ground in the discussion. These definitions have impact beyond scholarly debate. In Defining Religion in American Law, Bruce J. Casino presents the issue as crucial to international human rights laws. Limiting the definition of religion may interfere with freedom of religion, while too broad a definition may give some dangerous or abusive groups "a limitless excuse for avoiding all unwanted legal obligations."
The subject of new religions will no doubt be the subject of continued debate. Religious freedom has long been an important value to democratic nations, however there is a clear interest in preventing future violence on the part of religious groups. While more opportunities for expression on all sides of the issue have been afforded by the Internet, this new medium of expression and information has also created new avenues for legal conflict. The perspectives of various parties involved in the debate are so far apart that it seems unlikely that many questions raised on this topic will be settled irrefutably.
[i] Melton, J. Gordon (1999). The Rise of the Study of New Religions. Paper presented at CESNUR 99, preliminary version [Online]. Available: http://www.cesnur.org/testi/bryn/br_melton.htm, May 5, 2000.
[ii] Niebuhr, Gustav (December 25, 1999). Alternative Religions as a Growth Industry. New York Times [Online]. Available: http://www.cesnur.org/testi/NYTimes99.htm, May 5, 2000.
The "brainwashing" controversy is an ongoing topic of discussion and research. Psychologists debate to what extent mind-control or "coercive persuasion" are practiced or possible, while sociologist and other scholars are interested in the debate itself and its effect on polarizing the academic community. The APA Report of the Task Force on Deceptive and Indirect Techniques of Persuasion and Control and associated documents are key documents in this issue, having effected the outcome of lawsuits, and are available on the CESNUR website at http://www.cesnur.org/testi/APA_Documents.htm.
Melton, J. Gordon (March 1999). Brainwashing and the Cults: The Rise and Fall of a Theory. Introduction to forthcoming book The Brainwashing Controversy: An Anthology of Essential Documents, Melton, J. Gordon and Introvigne, Massimo (eds.) [Online]. Available: http://www.cesnur.org/testi/melton.htm, May 5, 2000.
Allen, Charlotte (December 1998). Brainwashed! Scholars of Cults Accuse each other of Bad Faith. Lingua Franca, Vol (No) [Online]. Available: http://www.linguafranca.com/9812/allen.html, May 5, 2000.
Definitions of Religion:
Definitions of what constitutes a religion are discussed by scholars, and is also of concern to public policy makers, affecting the legal and tax-exempt status of religious movements which some feel would be more accurately described as corporations. Narrowing the legal concept of a religion may allow governments to exercise greater control over group activities, perhaps for the better of the public, perhaps for the worse for freedom of expression.
Casino, Bruce J. (May 15, 1999). Defining Religion in American Law. Presented at the Conference on the Controversy Concerning Sects In French-Speaking Europe [Online]. Available: http://www.religiousfreedom.com/articles/casino.htm, May 5, 2000.
Zoccatelli, Pier Luigi (1999). A Cultural Event: Proceedings of the LISOR Project on the Definition of Religion Published [Online]. Available: http://www.cesnur.org/testi/plz_lisor.htm, May 5, 2000.
Chryssides, George D. (1997). New Religious Movements: Some Problems of Definition. Internet Journal of Religion: DISKUS [Online]. Available: http://www.uni-marburg.de/fb03/religionswissenschaft/journal/diskus/chryssides.html, May 5, 2000.
Religious Freedom and Public Policy
Public policy is a major issue, involving attempts to balance freedom of expression with public safety and human rights concerns. High profile members of the scholarly research community have taken on the responsibility of publicizing the issue of religious discrimination, and have testified on behalf of cults in legal and government investigations.
Hexham, Irving (1998). Religious Freedom in Germany: Mirage or Reality? [Online]. Available: http://www.acs.ucalgary.ca/~nurelweb/papers/irving/ger.html, May 5, 2000.
Introvigne, Massimo (1999). Religious Liberty in Western Europe. ISKCON Communications Journal, 5 (2). [Online]. Available: http://www.iskcon.com/ICJ/5_2/5_2liberty.htm, May 5, 2000.
Hackett, Rosalind I.J., Mark Silk, and Dennis Hoover [Eds.] (September 1999). Religious Persecution as a U.S. Policy Issue, Conference Transcript. The Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life, Trinity College, Hartford CT [Online]. Available: http://www.trincoll.edu/depts/csrpl/rpintro.htm. May 5, 2000.
The Internet has been extremely important in the development and study of NRMs. Many cults are active on the internet, using it as a tool for recruitment, education, and to counteract negative or sensationalistic media coverage. It has also given some groups a new way to make money, either by developing websites as a business, or soliciting donations. The anti-cult and counter-cult movements likewise use the Internet as a tool for education or propaganda.
Chryssides, George D. (1996). New Religions and The Internet. Internet Journal of Religion: DISKUS, 4 (2) [Online]. Available: http://www.uni-marburg.de/fb03/religionswissenschaft/journal/diskus/chryssides_3.html, May 5, 2000.
Introvigne, Massimo (August 1999). "So Many Evil Things:" Anti-Cult Terrorism via the Internet. Paper presented at the annual conference of the Association for Sociology of Religion, Preliminary version. [Online]. Available: http://www.cesnur.org/testi/anticult_terror.htm, May 5, 2000.
Lefevre, Greg. The Internet as a god and propaganda tool for cults. CNN Interactive [Online]. Available: http://www.cnn.com/TECH/9703/27/techno.pagans/index.html, May 5, 2000.
The methodology of the study of New Religious movements combines aspects of psychology, sociology, theology, anthropology. Social scientists attempt to use scientific methods including statistical studies and controlled experiments. Case studies of groups often involve the researchers living within the groups in order to study them, which has led to criticism from the anti-cult movement.
Barker, Eileen (Sept. '95). The scientific study of religion? you must be joking. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 34 [Online]. Retrieved from Dialog file 436, May 5, 2000. <Link>
McCutcheon, Russell T. (1996). The Common Ground On Which Students of Religion Meet: Methodology and Theory Within the IAHT. Internet Journal of Religion: Marburg Journal of Religion, 1 (2) [Online]. Available: http://www.uni-marburg.de/fb03/religionswissenschaft/journal/mjr/mccutcheon.html, May 5, 2000.
Nielsen, Michael E. Research in Psychology and Religion. Nielsen’s Psychology of Religion Page [Online]. Available: http://www.psywww.com/psyrelig/research.htm. May 5, 2000.
Dawson, Lorne L. (Dec. '98) . The cultural significance of new religious movements and globalization: a theoretical prolegomenon. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 37 (4) [Online]. Retrieved from Dialog file 436, May 5, 2000. <Link>
Introvigne, Massimo (October 1999). Defectors, Ordinary Leavetakers and Apostates: A Quantitative Study of Former Members of New Acropolis in France. Nova Religio 3 (1) [Online]. Available: http://www.cesnur.org/testi/Acropolis.htm. May 5, 2000.
Rubin, Julius H. (November 1999). Contested Narratives: A case study
of the Conflict between a new religious movement and its critics. Presented
at the annual meetings of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion
[Online]. Available: http://www.perefound.org/jr_cn.html.
May 5, 2000.
The varying perspectives on the topic of New Religious Movements are available from sources on the Internet. The anti-cult perspective is represented by websites created by individuals or organizations which have an obvious bias against many cults and alternative beliefs. Sites produced by the anti-cult movement target religious groups that make high demands on their members, and are accused of mind control techniques and human rights abuses. The Counter-cult movement classifies new religions and non-traditional faith groups as cults because their beliefs differ from historical Christian doctrine. Many of the opinions expressed on these pages are from former cult members who speak from their personal negative experiences; although obviously biased their passion about their cause should be not be dismissed. The perspective of the academic community tends toward religious tolerance, as scholars in the social sciences attempt to create studies of new religions which are value-free. As evidenced by articles and papers, the scholarly community strives for an objective or scientific viewpoint on NRMs and their place in society, while admitting the dangerous tendencies of a few radical groups which are classified as destructive cults. Although well represented on the Internet, the anti-cult and scholarly communities are relatively small. The perspective of the general population is guided by popular media, which tends to focus on the outrageous, violent, or tragic actions of a few new religious groups.
A good illustration of the various perspectives on the topic of cults or new religions are the testimony and reactions associated with the Maryland State Legislature's Task Force to Study the Effects of Cult Activities on Public Senior Higher Education. Documents and testimony from scholars, anti-cult experts, cult members and family members, along with news coverage and commentary, are featured on The Religious Movements Page, Cult Group Controversies: Maryland Cult Task Force [Online] Available: http://cti.itc.virginia.edu/~jkh8x/soc257/cultsect/mdtaskforce.htm. Additional views on this topic are expressed in The Chronicle of Higher Education: Colloquy [Online]. Available: http://chronicle.com/colloquy/99/cults/re.htm. The site features responses posted between August 1999 and February 2000 to the questions "Are colleges doing enough to protect new students from cults? When colleges warn students about groups considered to be cults, are the colleges engaged in a form of religious discrimination?"
Popular opinion is represented by major newspapers and magazines on the internet. Websites created by Time Magazine and The Washington Post feature special segments on cults, which highlight the tragic and sensational high profile cases:
Time.com (April 1997). A Level Above Human [Online]. Available: http://www.time.com/time/reports/cult/killer/killer1.html. May 5, 2000.
WashingtonPost.com (April 26, 1997). The Cult Controversy: Spiritual Quest or Mind Control? [Online]. Available: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/national/longterm/cult/cultmain.htm. May 5, 2000.
A typical scholarly attitude that has been criticized by the anti-cult and counter-cult movements is represented on a site created by the Department of Religious Studies at San Diego State University (Last modified 25 April 2000). Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple Website [Online]. Available: http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/~remoore/jonestown/. May 5, 2000.
A good example of the anti-cult mindset is the F.A.C.T.Net (Fight Against Coercive Tactics Network) Home Page [Online]. Available: http://www.factnet.org/index.html. This site was created by former members of Scientology. although it includes media coverage, it has obvious bias against cults and particularly Scientology.
Societies, Associations, Academic and Scholarly Resources
There are a number of scholarly associations and societies which promote and publish research on the subject of cults and new religious movements, including divisions of major sociological and psychological associations, as well as institutions specializing in religious research. These groups are involved in serious scholarly work and attempt to maintain a neutral perspective.
Additionally, non-profit groups devoted to providing information on cults and NRMs have a strong presence online. Many of these groups provide extensive and high quality information, however, their presentation may be biased depending on their mission and perspective.
The Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR)
The center in Torino, Italy, is the leading scholarly resource for the field. It is "an international network of scholars who study new religions... independently of any religious organization." CESNUR is allied with the Institute for the Study of American Religion. CESNUR cosponsors with ISAR of Syzygy: Journal of Alternative Religion and Culture, "an interdisciplinary journal devoted to the study of New Religious Movements." Tables of contents are available online at http://wsrv.clas.virginia.edu/~jmb5b/index.html.
Institute for the Study of American Religion (ISAR)
The institute at the University of California, Santa Barbara is a religious studies research facility focusing on the smaller religions of North America, also engaged in international research in conjunction with CESNUR. Currently involved in a major project to compile a multi-volume, international directory of headquarters of all of religious groups worldwide. ISAR maintains the website CULTWATCH: A look at cults in America, http://www.americanreligion.org/cultwtch/.
Society for the Scientific Study of Religion (SSSR)
A multi-disciplinary society of scholars "interested in the scientific exploration of religion.... Its purpose is to stimulate and communicate significant scientific research on religious institutions and religious experience." Publishes the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, a quarterly, interdisciplinary journal representing the fields of sociology, psychology, political science, anthropology, economics, and religious studies, which is indexed in major social science databases. Selected tables of contents are available online courtesy of the American Association for the Advancement of Science Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion: http://www.aaas.org/spp/dspp/dbsr/Resource/TOC/jssr.htm
Religious Research Association (RRA)
"Seeks to provide a regular channel for the exchange of information on methods, findings and uses of religious research." Publishes the Review of Religious Research, an "interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed, social scientific quarterly", which is indexed in major social science databases. The RRA website features the association newsletter and a list of web resources for religious research. Electronic Archives for the RRA and the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion are maintained by Jeffrey Hadden at the University of Virginia. http://cti.itc.virginia.edu/~jkh8x/SSSRRA/
The Association for the Sociology of Religion (ASR)
An "international scholarly association that seeks to advance theory and research in the sociology of religion." Publishes the scholarly journal Sociology of Religion: A Quarterly Review, which is indexed in major social science databases and subscribed to by 800 libraries worldwide. A newsletter is also available on the association's website.
Sociology of Religion Section, American Sociology Association
The mission of the ASA Section on Sociology of Religion is to "to encourage and enhance research, teaching, and other professional concerns in the study of religion and society... to promote communication, collaboration and consultation among scholars in the field of the sociology of religion." The ASA publishes a number of journals in Sociology which may include articles on new religions, and are indexed in major social science databases. Little information is provided on the Section's website, except for listings of relevant publications, and the Section's newsletter. Its international equivalent is the International Sociological Association Research Committee on Sociology of Religion,
The Psychology of Religion Division, American Psychological Association
Publishes the Psychology of Religion newsletter, which contains "original articles, book reviews, announcements, and news of interest to division members." The association's website has little information available, but APA documents are available elsewhere online and are important to the study of new religious movements.
The Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life, at Trinity College, Hartford CT studies religious policy issues and media coverage, supported by grants from the the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Lilly Endowment. The Center publishes Religion in the News, which is available full-text on their website, along with papers and studies. http://www.trincoll.edu/depts/csrpl/
Non-Profit Information Services
INFORM (Information Network Focus On Religious
Founded by Eileen Barker, Professor of Sociology of Religion, London School of Economics, INFORM is a British-based information service on new religions, supported by mainstream churches and the British Home Office. INFORM's mission is "to help enquirers (whether individual members of the public or governments around the world) with information about alternative religious movements that is as objective and up-to-date as possible."
American Family Foundation (AFF)
The AFF publishes The Cultic Studies Journal, a peer reviewed, multidisciplinary journal "to advance understanding of cultic processes and their relation to society." Some journal articles are available full-text on the AFF's website, and are indexed in major social science databases. The AFF also provides information and outreach programs for those involved in groups defined as cults by AFF. The foundation is described as an "anti-cult" organization, however the information on their website is not heavily biased.
Watchman Fellowship Inc.
An "independent Christian research and apologetics ministry focusing on new religious movements, cults, the occult and the New Age," providing "research and biblical evaluation" on over 1100 groups, including many not featured elsewhere. While they strive for objectivity, the site does have an Evangelical Christian perspective which may result in some bias. They are known as a "counter-cult" organization.
The Foundation for Religious Freedom
Known as an "Anti-Anti-Cult" organization, run by members of the Church of Scientology. The website they maintain, the Cult Awareness Network (CAN) was formerly an influential "anti-cult" organization recently forced into bankruptcy, following which the organization's logo, files, post office box and other assets were purchased by the Scientologists. The New Cult Awareness Network page, "focuses on promoting religious freedom and unbiased information about new religious movements," however users should be aware of potential bias. Now known as an "anti-anti-cult" group, they provide information on new religions and attempt to increase public awareness of the bias of the anti-cult and counter-cult movements.
Experts and Scholars
The following are scholars actively studying and writing about New Religious Movements, who are frequently cited in the literature on NRMs. Curriculum vitae or biography are linked if available. (Most of these scholars have been described as "cult apologists" by members of the "anti-cult" movement; many are also listed as references by the Unification Church and the Church of Scientology.)
Eileen Barker, Professor of Sociology of Religion, London School
Founder of INFORM, a British-based information service on the new religions.
David G. Bromley, Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology,
Virginia Commonwealth University
Past President, Association for the Sociology of Religion; Past Editor, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion
Jeffrey K. Hadden, Professor of sociology, University of Virginia
Past president, Southern Sociological Society, Association for the Sociology of Religion, Society for the Scientific Study of Religion. Maintains Religious Movements Homepage at the University of Virginia.
Irving Hexham, Professor of Religious Studies, University of Calgary.
Author, Concise Dictionary of Religion. Maintains NURELweb website on New Religions, and NUREL-L listserv on the same topic.
Massimo Introvigne, B.D. Philosophy, and Dr. Jur., University
of Turin, Italy
Partner in the Jacobacci & Perani law firm, Part-time professor at the Queen of the Apostles, Rome, Italy, Founder and managing director of the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR)
J. Gordon Melton, Founder and Director of the Institute for the
Study of American Religion (ISAR)
Director of U.S. branch of CESNUR (Center for Studies on New Religions); Research Specialist with the Department of Religious Studies at the University of California-Santa Barbara; Author and senior editor, Encyclopedia of American Religions
James T. Richardson, lawyer, and professor of sociology, University
of Nevada, Reno
Past president, Association for the Sociology of Religion.
The following experts have been active in the anti-cult movement and maintain anti-cult websites.
Steve Hassan, M.Ed LMHC
Described as Cult Expert, Exit Counselor, Media Consultant, Author, Former Member of Unification Church
Author, Combatting Cult Mind Control, a best-selling guide to recovery from destructive cults
Director, Resource Center for Freedom of Mind
Described as Cult Expert, Exit Counselor, Media Consultant, Expert Witness, Lecturer
Maintains his own website: http://www.rickross.com
Margaret Singer, Ph.D.
Emeritus adjunct professor of psychology, University of California, Berkeley
Margaret Singer has testified as an expert witness in cases involving cult "mind control" and conservatorship over cult members. She is a frequently cited author in the literature on NRMs, although some of her theories have been rejected by the American Psychological Association.
Databases and Statistical Sources
Literature on New Religious Movements is well represented in online databases. With the exception of articles from the popular press, databases are more often as indexes than full-text documents, but are likely to include abstracts and citations. Major databases including research in the study of new religious movements include: Social SciSearch, Sociological Abstracts, PsycINFO, Wilson Social Sciences Abstracts, and Social Science Citation Index. Additionally, many full-text sources are available on related websites, including conference reports and papers, studies, journal articles, government documents and popular press coverage. Other specialized databases are available on the Internet for no charge, including:
American Religion Data Archive
This database from ARDA at Purdue University, supported by the Lilly Endowment, collects quantitative data for the study of American religion. Includes statistical surveys on opinions, interest or involvement with New Religions.
Adherents.com - Religion Statistics
Compiles statistics from various sources, and includes citations and links to texts on the Net, including published membership, adherent, and congregation statistics "for over 4,000 religions, churches, denominations, religious bodies, faith groups, tribes, movements, ultimate concerns, etc."
The U.S. Census publishes statistics on religion in the U.S. in
the 1998 Statistical Abstract of the United States, Tables 89, 90, and 91,
available on the Census website at http://www.census.gov/prod/3/98pubs/98statab/sasec1.pdf.
The Census website also feature international statistics for 227 countries
and areas of the world in the The International Data Base (IDB), http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/idbnew.html.
Government Information and Resources
Government agencies investigate New Religious Movements for a number of reasons: To assess threats of terrorism, to evaluate human rights abuses, or to study the need for legislation. Recent key government documents include Project Mediggo Report concerning potential threats from groups with apocalyptic religious beliefs; the report on the F.B.I's actions against the Branch Davidians in Waco; and documents associated with a 1999 Task Force mandated by the Maryland State Legislature conducted hearings on the "effects of cult activities" on campuses in the state system of four year colleges and universities. Links to key government documents of current interest are provided below.
Federal Bureau of Investigation (1999). Project Megiddo: an FBI strategic
assessment of the potential for domestic terrorism in the United States undertaken
in anticipation of or response to the arrival of the new millennium [Online].
U.S. Department of Justice (October 8, 1993). Report to the Deputy Attorney General on the Events at Waco, Texas, February 28 to April 19, 1993 [Online]. Available: http://www.usdoj.gov/05publications/waco/wacotocpg.htm
U.S. Department of State Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (September 9, 1999). Annual Report on International Religious Freedom [Online]. Available: http://www.state.gov/www/global/human_rights/irf/irf_rpt/
U.S. House of Representatives Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (June 8, 1999). Religious Freedom in Western Europe: Religious Minorities and Growing Government Intolerance [Online]. Available: http://www.house.gov/csce/060899.pdf
Documents and testimony from the Maryland State Legislature's Task
Force to Study the Effects of Cult Activities on Public Senior Higher Education
are available on The Religious Movements Page, Cult Group Controversies:
Maryland Cult Task Force [Online]
The Internet Journal of Religion is "a multiple journal
site dedicated to the academic study of religion" comprised of DISKUS,
Marburg Journal of Religion, and Science of Religion. Scholarly
articles in full-text. Produced by the Institute for the Study of Religions
(Fachgebiet Religionswissenschaft), Philipps-Universität, Marburg, Germany.
Available: http://www.uni-marburg.de/fb03/religionswissenschaft/journal/, May 5, 2000.
Several new or alternative religious groups maintain their own electronic journals on the internet. For example, ISKCON Communications Journal from the The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), includes articles by respected scholars in the field of NRMs. Available: http://www.iskcon.com/ICJ/icj.htm, May 5, 2000.
Nanninga, Rob (January 2000). Cults & New Religious Movements: A Bibliography [Online]. Available: http://web.clas.ufl.edu/users/gthursby/rel/nanninga.htm, May 5, 2000.
All entries in this bibliography include links to papers, articles, and book chapters available on the Internet.
Dutch Foundation of Skeptics (April 20, 2000). Online texts about cults and new religious movements. [Online]. Available: http://home.wxs.nl/~skepsis/onlinetexts.html, May 5, 2000.
An overview of materials on cults and new religions published from 1970 to the present.
The Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR)
This is an extensive, multi-lingual website for a scholarly audience, featuring full-text articles, papers, chapters and works in progress, and updates on breaking news on religious movement groups worldwide.
Cults a.k.a. New Religious Movements, Ontario Consultants on Religious
This site devoted to religious tolerance offers comprehensive, balanced information on new religions, "cults" and the anti-cult and counter-cult movements. Principle new religions are profiled, including their history, beliefs, practices, publications, and conflicts with government or other groups. Offers an overview of the conflicts including references supporting the various sides of the conflicts.
Psychology of Religion By Michael Nielsen, Ph.D., Georgia Southern
This site includes information and resources on New Religious Movements and Science and Religion. Features religion news updates, tables of contents from relevant journals and a discussion of research methods in the study of psychology of religion.
Religious Movements Homepage, Jeffrey Hadden, University of Virginia
This site includes profiles of religious groups written by students. The "Cult Group Controversies" section includes essays by Hadden on the brainwashing controversy, explanation of the concepts cult, sect, anti-cult and counter-cult, annotated links and extensive bibliographic references. Documents and discussion of the Maryland Task Force to Study the Effects of Cult Activities on Public Senior Higher Education are also featured.
Scientology and the Anti-Cult Movement ("Anti-Anti-Cult" site)
Site developed by a former member who is critical of Scientology, but, "as someone concerned with civil rights...also critical of the anti-cult movement... independent or neutral in the conflict between Scientology and its critics." The site includes primary source documents such as government reports and a statement from the ACLU; also news coverage of "deprogramming" legislation in New Jersey, New York, Kansas, and Nebraska.
Scientology Vs. The Net
Although this site has not been updated since 1998, it is of interest for providing a timeline and press coverage and other documents relating to the Church of Scientology's legal battles with anti-cultists over materials posted on the Internet. It is a good illustration of some of the effects of online information on the issue of new religions and their opponents.