REL 325

New Religious Movements

What makes a religious movement new? Why do we use this designation for some movements and not others? This course will examine a series of new religious movements that have emerged within the last 150 years: The Native American Church, Scientology, the Nation of Islam, the Raelians, Neo-Pagan Witchcraft, Scientology, Rajneesh, the Branch Davidians, Falun Gong, Jonestown, UFO movements, and Heaven's Gate. In the process, we will examine the relationship between NRMs and consumer society and new technologies. We will also focus on how gender, sexuality and race shape the beliefs and practices within NRMs. In the course of our discussion, we will ask: why is it that religion has not in fact waned as a global force but instead become even more powerful? Why do some religious movements become linked to political violence and terrorism? As we will see, however, the so-called "New" is perhaps not so very new after all, but in many ways simply the latest expression of a long tradition of religious belief in the United States.