of new religious movements (NRMs) worldwide:
somewhere in the lower tens of thousands [Barker,
number of new religious
movements that are used as the basis of the pervasive "doomsday cult"
In other words,as distinct from the general public
perception (forged mainly by the mass media,
anti-cult movements, and apostates),
dreadful tragedies are by far the exception rather than the rule.
groups. Here are the handful of groups that actually fit the
by Shoko Asahara in 1986. The movement draws on a number of eastern
traditions. In 1995, 12 people died and thousands were injured in a
sarin gas attack perpetrated by members of Aum Shinrikyo in the Tokyo
Branch Davidian movement is an offshoot of Seventh-day Adventism. In
1993, a U.S. government raid on the Branch Davidians' compound at Mount
Carmel near Waco, Texas led to a standoff and fire in which about 75
people including the group's leader, David Koresh, died. It is still
unclear whether or to what extent the deaths in the fire were suicides.
Family (Charles Manson)
members believed that Manson was a reincarnation of Jesus Christ. Group
members were responsible for murdering at least 8 people (including
the actress, Sharon Tate), based on Manson's belief that these murders
would trigger the Apocalypse.
group organized around beliefs about UFOs. In 1997, 39 members committed
suicide in San Diego, California. It is thought that members of the
movement believed that a spacecraft positioned behind the Comet Hale-Bopp
would take them to the next level of existence.
of a small Christian group of about 2 dozen members that broke away
from the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS).
Members prepared for an expected war in which they would attack the
RLDS Temple in Kirtland. One family, the Averys, opposed some of Lundgren's
rulings, and were executed and buried on the group's ranch. Lundgren
was sentenced to death for his crimes; his wife and son received long
by Jim Jones in the United States in 1955. A movement combining elements
of Pentecostalism, socialism and communism. In 1978, 914 members of
The People's Temple died in Jonestown, Guyana.
movement based around a variety of teachings, including Templarism and
Rosicrucianism. Between 1994 and 1997, 74 members of the Order died
in separate incidents of suicide and/or murder in Canada, France, and
Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments
as a breakaway from the Roman Catholic Church in the late 1980's. In
2000, around 300 followers died in a fire in what was either a mass
suicide or a murder carried out by the group's leaders. Mass graves
were discovered after the fire, raising the death toll to more than
are some statistics concerning mainstream religions
that are not often placed side by side with the above statistics regarding
new religious movements. The numbers associated with the new "doomsday"
religious movements pale in comparison. We point out these numbers not to
justify the actions of those movements
which are inexcusable and criminal
but to give the fuller picture of inexcusable and criminal actions performed
in the name of religion, which necessarily includes mainstream religion.
of its own members killed by the Catholic Church during the Inquisition:
The best historical estimates place the figure somewhere between 30,000
of non-Catholics murdered by Catholics on the basis of their belief
Just consider that the number of Muslims killed during the Crusades
was approximately 4 million [Robertson].
The killing isn't just restricted to ancient history, by the way. The
number continues to rise with the killing of Protestants by Catholics
in Northern Ireland (the killing of Catholics by Protestants is taking
place as well, of course).
Since much of this killing occurred prior to the Protestant Reformation,
it is a record that is part of the history of all
contemporary Christian sects, and not just Roman Catholicism.
from this most extreme "doomsday" form of the "cult"
myth, many lesser concerns and fears of "cults" tend to be thrown
into the "cult myth", which are equally unwarranted by the actual
facts. Here are five major ones. (The statistics for the first three are
courtesy of INFORM, the Information Network Focus on Religious Movements.)
Once someone gets involved with a new religious movement, they'll never
be able to leave.
FACT: A study of
104 participants in Unification Church ("Moonie") workshops
showed that 71 dropped out within two days, another 29 dropped out between
two and nine days and an additional 17 dropped out after nine days.
Only nine workshop participants actually stayed over 21 days to join
the Unification Church.
FACT: Out of a sample of over 1000
participants who agreed to go to a Unification Church workshop, 90%
did not join and the majority of those who did join had left within
Even if they are able to leave, they'll never be normal again.
FACT: A survey of 45 people who voluntarily
left new religions showed that by far the majority felt wiser for the
experience rather than feeling angry or duped.
FACT: A study of former members of
the Shiloh Community, a fundamentalist Jesus community, indicated that
the former members experienced no ill effects of past membership, had
integrated well on return to the larger community, and did not differ
from the general population on a symptom checklist.
They must be crazy to stay in a group like that.
studies of members of new and/or alternative and spiritual religious
groups find that most are psychologically healthy.
Researcher Marc Galanter used the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality
Inventory (MMPI) to conduct the first systematic psychological studies
on members of a new religion (the Unification Church). Galanter found
no evidence for a greater incidence of pathological profiles among members
than among the general population.
of Rajneeshpuram (a township, now defunct, built by followers of Bhagwan
Shree Rajneesh, latterly known as Osho) were found to have a high level
of mental health. Research indicated that Rajneesh's followers had very
positive self-concepts, and, compared with the wider society, lower
feelings of personal distress and anxiety and greater feelings of personal
autonomy and independence of thought.
#4: The group might brainwash me or use "mind control".
FACT: At this point, the "brainwashing"
theory (which, from its beginning, was very flimsily based on one study
of American prisoners of war being subjected to various procedures by
the Chinese Communists during the Korean War) has been thoroughly debunked.
The only "brainwashing" or "mind control" used by
new religious movements is the same one being used on you all the time
via everything from a dishwashing liquid ad to a "Be all that you
can be!" ad for the U.S. Army.
it's all quite simple. Like many dramatic terms, "brainwashing"
is a metaphor. A person can no more wash another's brain with
coercion or conversation than he can make him bleed with a cutting
remark. If there is no such thing as brainwashing, what does
this metaphor stand for? It stands for one of the most universal
human experiences and events, namely for one person influencing
Szasz, quoted in Trudy Solomon, "Programming and
Deprogramming the Moonies: Social Psychology Applied,"
in David G. Bromley and James T. Richardson (eds.),
Deprogramming Controversy, p. 167
For more details, read:
#5: Any group that places unusual or difficult requirements
money, restrictions on my use of time, who I relate to, etc.
can't possibly be good.
M. (1989) Cults: Faith, Healing and Coercion, New York: Oxford University
Press, pp. 140-43.
E. (1984) The Making of a Moonie, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, p. 147.
S.A. (1987) Leaving cults: The Dynamics of Defection (Monograph No. 7)
Washington DC: Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, p. 87.
C.R., R.W. Hood and P.J. Watson (1991) 'Assessment of Former Members of
Shiloh: The Adjective Check List 17 Years Later', Journal for the Scientific
Study of Religion, 30, pp. 306-11.
M. (1989) Cults and New Religious Movements: A Report of the Committee
on Psychiatry and Religion of the American Psychiatric Association, Washington,
DC: The American Psychiatric Association.
C.A., R. Hagan, R. Littman and N. Sundberg (1990) 'Who Lives in Utopia?'
A Brief Research Report on the Rajneeshee Project', Sociological Analysis,
48, 1987 73-81 and C.A. Latkin 'The Self-Concept of Rajneeshpuram Members',
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 29, pp. 91-98.
History of Christianity, p. 168.
E. (1999), "NRMs: Their Incidence and Significance" in Bryan
Wilson and Jamie Cresswell (editors), New
Religious Movements: Challenge and Response, Routledge Press,
MEDIA SENSATIONALISM AND
APOSTASY: A DESTRUCTIVE SYNERGY