New Religious Movements

The Strange Charm of Gnosticism

Podcast
For our last interview of 2021 (not to worry, the Mid-Year special is coming!), our co-founder David G. Robertson is back in the interview seat discussing his new book Gnosticism and the History of Religions with our co-editor Andie Alexander. Tune in to learn more about the 'strange charm of gnosticism'!

New Directions in the Study of Scientology

Podcast
Scientology seems almost exclusively to be considered fair game (pun intended) for ridicule and criticism among New Religious Movements, and this may have much to tell us about the theoretical models scholars are using, and the institutional factors at play in the legitimisation of particular traditions in the academic and popular discourse. We discuss insider scholarship and the control of information; the Free Zone and the Church; strategic use of the category 'religion'; and how we see scholarship developing in the post-Hubbard era

The removal and assimilation of NRM Children

Response
Considering the title of her podcast, I was hoping that Dr Susan Palmer would speak about children in all New Religious Movements (NRM). Instead, I found myself immersed in a discussion about children in more problematic groups such as Hari Krishna, the New Unification Church, Children of God, 12 Tribes, Mormon Polygamists, and Scientology.

Children in New Religious Movements

Podcast
In the complex and sometimes fraught relationship between New Religious Movements and the wider culture and state, why is it that children are so often a focus? Children are seen as needing special protection and therefore legitimising dramatic state intervention, but are also seen as of particular importance to the future of these movements, and in some more millennial groups, of the world itself.

“Insider Knowledge”: Seeing the Bigger Picture with New Religious Movements

Response
In his interview with the RSP, George Chryssides considers a prominent methodological challenge for scholars of New Religious Movements (NRMs) – how to approach the narratives of former members of NRMs in an academic context. Ex-member narratives can cover a variety of issues relating to NRMs, ranging from reasons why certain members joined and left the movement, to intricate details involving esoteric practices that are unknown to outsiders.

Black Religious Movements and Religio-Racial Identities during the Great Migration

Podcast
In this podcast, Judith Weisenfeld talks to Brad Stoddard about her new book, New World A-Coming: Black Religion and Racial Identity during the Great Depression. In this book, Weisenfeld explores several social groups in the early 1900s who combined religious and racial rhetoric to fashion new identities.

Millennialism and Violence?

Podcast
Are we right to connect millennialism and violence? Are groups like Heaven's Gate or the Branch Davidians typical, or rare exceptions, magnified out of proportion by the lens of the media - and scholarship? How do we account for the popularity of mllennialism outside of religious traditions, new, extreme or otherwise?

Minority Religions in the Secret Police Archives

Podcast
James Kapaló takes us inside the Eastern European secret police archives to show us how minority and new religious groups were portrayed. We explore the visual and material presence of religious minorities in the secret police archives in Hungary, Romania and the Republic of Moldova.

New Horizons in the Sociology of Religion: Beyond Secularization?

Podcast
In this longer-than-usual episode, Chris and David provide an interlinking narrative between Grace Davie, Joe Webster, Carole Cusack, Jonathan Jong, Paul-Francois Tremlett, Linda Woodhead and Kim Knott, reflecting on current or future developments in the sociology of religion which challenge the ubiquity of the secularization thesis, ...

Communism and Catholicism: Religion and Religious Studies in Lithuania

Podcast
What is the religious field like in a country where religion was banned for half of the 20th century? And how do you set up a Religious Studies department there? Under Communism, religion was suppressed in the formerly Catholic Eastern European country of Lithuania until the 1990s.

New Religious Movements and Contemporary Discourses About Religion

Response
Increased attention to religion by international governments and NGOs has not necessarily resulted in less problematic models of religion being used by these governments and groups. As I listened to Susan Palmer’s RSP interview and read about her new co-authored book (with Stuart A. Wright) Storming Zion: Government Raids on Religious Communities (2015), I was reminded why NRMs make such useful case studies in the religious studies classroom. From a pedagogical perspective, ...

Minority Religions and the Law

Podcast
Surely we have moved past the idea of sinister cults brainwashing innocent victims? When it comes to the law, not so, Susan Palmer tells David G. Robertson.cult" and "sect" uncritically. Nevertheless, outside of academia, the language of "cults" continues to be used,...

The Supernatural and the New Comparativism

Podcast
Jeffrey Kripal argues that we need to make room for the paranormal in the study of religion, and that consciousness should be at the forefront of our study.

‘Religious Innovation and Religious Change in the 21st Century’ – 2015 CESNUR Conference Report

Response
CESNUR (Centre for Studies on New Religions, Torino) Annual Conference 2015, Tallinn University, Estonia, 17-20 June. Conference report for The Religious Studies Project by Prof. Carole M. Cusack, Department of Studies in Religion, The University of Sydney The 2015 CESNUR conference was held at University of Tallin, Estonia, and was organized by Dr Ringo Ringvee (The Estonian Ministry of Interior).

Religious Authority in a Post-Religious Society

Response
Since the 1980s, social and economic pressures to stay within mainstream society have become more prominent, and spiritually minded individuals often seek more limited, loosely bonded participation in New Age-style modes of thought. The question of charismatic and spiritual authority has become ever more relevant in present day Japan, which is an exceedingly “non-religious but spiritual” nation.

Prayer, Pretense, and Personification: How God becomes real

Podcast
Luhrmann details the rise of evangelicals in the 60’s and 70’s, and how anthropological work can be informed by evolutionary psychology. This serves as a framework to understand the unique training processes that teach an individual that their mind is not only open to their own thoughts, but God’s as well.

Now We Know Religion is Not Disappearing

Response
Various new religious movements seek to establish a presence in politics through challenging the hegemony of traditional churches in a very peculiar way. Postsecular, like postmodern, is a title applied to phenomena in society that do not seem fit into an earlier paradigm and has thus been named post-something because it perhaps is not yet visible what comes next. It is an end of an era but also a shift towards another and has the academic world digging out all the blind spots of the earlier theories,...

Guthrie’s Anthropomorphism Helped Bring Religious Studies into the Modern Academic Age

Response
After all, how can one have a scientific understanding of New Age religions or UFO cults without understanding the spirits, ‘energies’, UFOs, and extraterrestrials that inhabit those religious worlds? Guthrie provided, for the first time, a theoretical basis for such a research project. Without theories such as that presented by Prof. Guthrie, particularly in his book Faces in the Clouds (1993), the current move towards an empirical study of religious beliefs and behaviors...

Nul Point | Mid-Year Special 2013

Podcast
What is the least well known book of the Bible? How many people in the UK listed their ‘religion’ as ‘Jedi Knight’ on the UK 2011 Census? What is Professor Jim Cox’s drink of choice? To find out, you need do nothing more than hit ‘Play’ and enjoy this forty minutes of pure, unadulterated, top quality Religious Studies entertainment.

Santo Daime

Podcast
"Pretty much unprepared for the sensory feast of a Santo Daime ritual, I was visually struck by the colourful ‘uniforms’ and brightly decorated ceremonial space. The strongly rhythmical and fervently sung ‘hymns’ also made an impact, as did the powerful smell and bitter taste of the religious sacrament which practitioners call ‘Daime’.

Religion and Cultural Production

Podcast
"It is a truth generally acknowledged that religions have been the earliest and perhaps the chief progenitors of cultural products in human societies..." Clearly there is no shortage of data for scholars wishing to delve into this broad topic. But what do we actually mean by ‘cultural product’? How can we claim that ‘religion’ is producing these things in any meaningful way?

Who joins New Religious Movements?

Podcast
In this episode of the Religious Studies Project, Lewis shares some of his views on the study of NRMs. It seems, claims Lewis, that our current generalizations about who joins such movements is based on outdated statistics. It seems no longer to be the case that it is primarily young people who join NMRs, rather joiners’ age has increased during recent decades.

Prophecy and American Millennialism

Response
"RastafarI is itself a millennial movement with the belief that Haile Selassie I is the God Liberator, an avatar returned to restore True Salvation for the subaltern people of African lineage. It is also a revolutionary movement which wants to change the lot of Africans..." J. Gorton Melton is a leading academic specialist on new religious movements, a scholar of occultists, Scientologists, Rosicrucianists, Neopagans, ...

Ends and Beginnings: A Reflection on the 2012 EASR Conference

Response
"If I had to choose I would say my favourite thing about these conferences was seeing young and vibrant postgraduate students presenting their craft. I was continuously impressed and excited by the high quality scholarship, ideas, and conversations presented and stimulated by my peers." To open the 2012 conference for the European Association for the Study of Religions (in conjunction with the International Association for the History of Religion)...

What should we do with the study of new religions?

Response
In the interview with Professor Eileen Barker, three broad themes are brought up. First, the definitions of ’new religious movement’ and ’cult’ are given a brief consideration. After this, Barker introduces the Inform network and its activities in distributing information and making the results of scientific research concerning new religious movements available to society at large.

Fiction-Based Religions

Podcast
The majority of those who identified as a Jedi on the 2001 UK census were mounting a more-or-less satirical or playful act of non-compliance; nevertheless, a certain proportion of those were telling the truth. How does a religion constructed from the fictional Star Wars universe problematise how we conceptualise other religions, and the stories they involve?

Invented Religions

Podcast
What is an "Invented Religion"? Why should scholars take these religions seriously? What makes these “inventions” different from the revelations in other religions? What happens when an author does not want their story to become a religious text? You can also download this interview, and subscribe to receive our weekly podcast, on iTunes.