Why Do People Join New Religious Movements?

1: Practical
2: Spiritual
3: Relative Deprivation
4: Marginality
5: Social Change

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Practical Reasons

Many members hope to gain something from joining whether it be:





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Spiritual Reasons

With the decline of established religions, people are still seeking questions to the big answers in life and therefore have cast their eyes wider.

Postmodernists argue that these spiritual shoppers are seeking amongst all the different religions on offer and pick and choose which aspects of a particular religion they like in order to create their own way of making sense of things.

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Relative Deprivation Reasons

Many people join because they feel they have something missing in their lifes, this can range from material poverty to other factors such as:

lack of self esteem

lack of purpose

lack of self worth

fustration with career

fustration with current lifestyle

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Sects attract thoseon the margins of society


A variety of situations lead to marginalisation:


natural disasters

economic collaspe

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Social Change

Sects arise in periods of rapid change when traditional norms are disrupted.

Secularisation and the weakening of established churches leads many to look elsewhere.

Points out a numberof social changes which have helped New Religious Movements to grow:

growth in higher education

development of youth culture

economic boom line

radical political movements


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Popularity with Young Adults

NRM's are popular with young adults. Such groups have left childhood behind but haven't yet become tied down by careers, families of their own and other commitments. World Rejecting NRM's are particularly popular as they offer a 'certaintity' to many young people at an uncertain time in their lifes. 

Case Study: Eileen Barker - The Moonies.
In her study of the moonies, otherwise known as The Unification Church, in the 1970's, Barker found that many members were young and came from comfortable middle class families. The group offered a surrogate family setting for them and provided lots of mutual support. Despite many fears of brainwashing in the media, Barker discovered that the high drop out rate suggsted a short time fufilment of temporary needs.  

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