New Religious Movements and New Age Movements

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  • Created by: Lilly
  • Created on: 04-05-14 18:19


Kendall Project (2004)

  • Heelas et al, showed an increasing number of people rejecting traditional religiuus explanations of spirituality as well as scientific accounts of the natural world, process called resacrillization' has been accelerating since 1960s.

NRMS are an over reaching term that includes sects and cults. There are three types of NRMS (on next slide)

  • Barker (1984 ) used term NRM as a more neutral term thn the highly negative meanings of the concepts of 'cults' and 'sects'.
  • Brierley (2000) estimates that there are now around 25,000 new religious groups. 12,000 who live in the UK.

Wallis (1984) Identifies three types of NRMs:

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World affirming NRMs

  • Usually individualistic and life-positive, aim to release 'human potential'
  • Accept how world is, but involve techniques enables individual to participate more effectively and gain more from their worldly experience.
  • They do not require total committment, nor restrict behaviour.
  • More common among Middle aged, middle class groups who have often become disillusioned and disenchanted with material values in search of new more positive meanings.
  • Lack church, ritual worship or strong ethical systems.
  • Similar to theapy groups.
  • EG- Transcendental meditation- find yourself through positive thinking.
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World Rejecting NRMs

  • Reject secular world as corrput and beyond redemption. Either abandon the world or attempt to tranform the world with evanglical zeal.
  • Usually sects, always highly critical of outside world. Politically radical, morally conservative.
  • Demand signifcant committment
  • Quite like conventional religions require prayer and study key texts.
  • Exclusive membership, often share possessions and seek to regulate members identies to that of the greater world.
  • Often millinarian- expecting divine return to save the world.
  • Example- 1987 Jim Jone's Temple- suicide 909 people.
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World Accomodating NRMs

  • Neither fully accept or reject values and goals of wider society. Exist on margins of established churches and denominations.
  • Are a response to the increasing secularisation of the institutonal church.
  • More orthodox, maintain connections to mainstream reglion
  • Places high values of inner religious life
  • Offshoots of existing church, believe church has lost its religious purity
  • Similar to denominations
  • Attracts more politically conservative people, high value on inner religious self (developing from within)
  • EG- Siddha Yoga
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New Age movements

  • NAMs are a type of NRMs.
  • Refers to the number of religious and therapies that have become increasingly important since 1970s.
  • Can be classed as 'world affirming' as they focus on the achievement of individual potential.
  • NAMs are a set of belies and activies which contain a spiritual element but are not organised in the same way as traditional religions. Ideas often spread through culture.
  • Often exist indepently of any organisationa nd spread through aspects of culture such as films, music, books, shops and seminars.
  • Similar to cults, many are simply consumer-orientated. Others are more organised and concerned with the selling of specific messages.
  • Heelas (1996) suggests that NAMs contain elements of world-rejecting counter-culture in their focus on the 'alternative' and yet they subscribe to commercialism of the mainstream market place.
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  • Heelas (1996)- claims that NA beliefs are dedicated to 'self-spritituality' and the development of one's self. Describes the envionrment in which the NA exists as holistic millieu- involves more one to one activites and smaller group activites.

NAMs include:


Feng Shui

Forms of alternative medicine- self healing, herbal remedies, aromatherapy and reflexology.

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NAMs take 2 forms:

Bruce (1996) Suggests that these groups tend to take 2 forms:

1) Audience cults- Little face to face interaction, members don't know each other, contacts maintained mostly through media and internet, sometimes conferences. Such as UFOs and Astrology. Feed major market of self-help therapy books.

2) Client Cults- Offer service to followers. Have tried to proliferation of new therapists (astrology, colour therapists) establishing new relationships between consumer and seller.

All age groups attracted to these groups, women and middle class.

Bruce (1999)- suggests that those affilated already subscribe to what Heelas calls the Holistic millis or Cultic millieu- a mish mash of belief in the power of spirituality, ecology, personal growth and a concern that science does not provide the answers.

He also identifes that there are three themes to NAMS:

1- new science (rejecting claims of trad science), 2- new ecology (concerned for environment) 30 new psychology (sees self as sacred)

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Heelas (1996)

  • NA beliefs are extremely diverse, identifies 2 main themes that run through all variations of NA:

1- Self spirituality- looks inside self for sense of spirituality. Rather than worshiping external goals attemot to perfect self and discover own hidden spiritual depth

2- Detraditionalisation- rejection of traditional sources of authoirty. Responsible for own actions and discovering own truth, through getting in touch with your spirituality.

Despite these common themes, Heelas argues that there are still variations within NA. These are

  • World Affirming- focus on practical usefulness of NA for achieving objectives.
  • World rejecting- focus upon turning away from world and worldly success towards inner reflection.
  • Best of both worlds- combines desire for spiritual satisfaction and worldly success.
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Postmodernist explanations of the NA

Drane (1999)

  • Growth can be seen as pat of a shift towards postmodern society. One of the features of postmodern society is a loss of faith in meta-narratives or claims to have the truth.
  • Growth of NA as a response to the failure of the emphasis on science and material success in modernity.
  • C17th/ C18th enlightenment beliefs climaed that science and rationality could solve worl's problems. However events such as global warming have shown harm can be in some progress.
  • NA turning away from science to an era of postmodernity where they look for inner spiritual satisfaction.
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Evaluation of postmodernist explanations

Bruce (1995)

  • Does not believe we have entered an era of postmodernity, but sees NA as product of modernity - emphasis on individualism, NA closely linked to human potential movement, try to improve everyone and in turn world around the,
  • Attracts uni-educated MC, have experienced personal development and believe this is way to progress.
  • Aso symptom of knowledge is an individuliastic society, truth depends on personal viewpoint rather than objective truth.
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Appeal of NRMs and NAMs

Spiritual void

  • Decline in traditional religion, seeking alternative belief systems to explain difficulties.
  • Drane (1999)- West societies turning against modern institutions and belief systems.
  • Modern rationality blame for disasters (Holocaust, WW1/2_ people have lsot faith in such institutions, such as medical profession (more likly to be misdiagnosed through new diseases such as MRSA)
  • Church considered to have done little to fill this void.
  • In absence of grand narrative (religion/science) people may seek to acquire a personal rationale, involves 'spitiual shopping'
  • People in NA are free to choose whatever fulfils them
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  • Sects may be evidence of disillusion with institutionalised religion and may result from search for more genuine ways of satisfying spiritual needs.
  • Weber-linked sects to social stratification, sects most likely to emerge amongst poor. May develop a 'theodicy of dispirvilage' (religious set of ideas which explains why they are in that position)
  • However, since 1960s World rejecting NRMs (Moonies) recruited mainly from more affluent groups of well-educated young MC whites, rather than poor. However, Wallis argues that this does not contradict Weber's view because many of these individuals despite their MC status were hippies, dropouts and drug users.
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Relative deprevation

  • Glock and Stark- NMR/As attract members of MC, use concept of relative deprevation (some members of MC may feel relatively deprived compared to other groups) G and S identify a number of different types of RD:

1- Social deprevation, stem from lack of power, prestige and status. Lack of job satisfaction may find alternative source of satisfication in evanglical goals set by conversionists sects (mormons) (can also be linked to why women are more likely to be religious)

2- Organismic deprevation, suffer physical / mental problems, for example may turn to sects as way to heal rather than drugs/ alcohol

3- Ethical deprevation- result of people perceiving world to be in moral decline and therefore retreating into introversionist sect (People's temple_

4- Psychic deprevation- searching for more than dominant value system offers. Wish for inner spiritual fulfilment rather than the consumerist goals on offer in capitalist socities.

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Social Change

  • Closely related to relative deprevation, idea that religious sects are product of social change. Change can created what Durkheim referred to as Anomie. (sense of normlessness, insecurity and uncertainty over social guidelines for behaviour.)
  • This is because rapid change underminds / disrupts traditional norms and values.
  • Wison- popularity of world accomodating groups such as methodism in late C18th and C19th, both in USA and UK was reaction to anxieties created by industrialisation and urbanisaton.
  • C20th sects may be reponse to anxities created by dominance of scientific rationalism adn resulting secularisation of society.
  • Bellha- increasse in sect and cult membership seen in late 1960s in USA due to MC youth experiencing 'crisis of meaning' in regard to materialistic values of their parent's culture. Many turned to drug/pop culture rejecting such values.
  • Sects based on anti-materialist and ''free love'' values (Jesus People) recruited large numbers from the youg in search of spiritual or psychic goals.
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The Key to Success

  • Heelas- world affirming NRM/As appeal to more affluent uni educated socially intergrated and generally successful MC groups, who found something missing in their lives.
  • Seek techniques to recapture their inner selves, also have more money to pay for the services on offer.
  • Wallis- world affirming movements (TM and scientology) likely to appeal to such groups for various reasons: claim to offer knowledge. techniques and therapies that enable people to unlocak spiritual powers within themselves, helping them to reduce stress and anxities at work in their personal lives.
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Disenchantment with the world

  • Weber- because world has become more rational / planned and predictable, the spiritual, magical and mystical elements of life have all but disappeared.
  • Churches / denominations watered down beleifs to fit in with secular world and tend to focus on worldly issues such as poverty rather than the spiritual.
  • Giddens- lac of spiritual meanings in traditional religions led to many epople to find comfort and sense of community in smaller, newer religious groups.
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Status frustration

  • Means that people feel unhappy about usually low position they find themselves in society. Particularly assocated with young people experiencing long period of transition from childhood to adulthood.
  • Walis- NRMs most likely to appeal to young because they offer them identity and overcome sense of status frustration. As such world rejecting groups may appeal to young because they offer them a supportive community of people in similar situations to themselves, brings them sense of community and independence.
  • However, such periods of SF can be short lived, Wallis concludes that NRMs involve only very small proportion of population for short periods of their lives.
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Appeal to young of World rejecting movements:

Wallis (1984)- unattached is outcome of increasing gap between childhood and adulthood. Further extended by gradual lenthening of education and wider accessibility of higher education. Attracted to WR bcause they try to provide some certainty to a community who face similar problems. Particularly appealing is offer of radical and immediate solution to social and personal problems.

Barker (1984)- In study of 'Making of a moonie' found most members came from happy and secure MC homes, with parents whose jobs involved commitment to public service (doctors, teachers) Sects offered surrogate family in which members couldd find suport and comfort byong family, while fulfilling desire to serve a community in same way as their parents did in wider society.

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Appeal of World affirming movements:

Appeals to those who are liekly to have finished education, married have children and mortgage.

  • 2 issues in modern world add to appeal:

1- Weber- modern world is one in which rationality dominates, magical, unpredictable and estatic experiences are uncommon.

2- pressure to become materially, economically and sexually successful.

  • Bruce (1999)- to deal with this NMRs: provide spiritual component in increasingly rationalised world and provide techniwues and knowledge to help people become wealthy, powerful and successful.  Live in world with increasing pressure to succeed, NRMs help deal with fear of failure.
  • Bruce (2002)- NA and affming movements fit with move towards greater individualism. People feel empowered to change what they are bot happy with personally.
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