The New Believers:
Sects, 'Cults', and Alternative Religions

David V. Barrett

544 pages, paperback

Cassell Academic, 2003
ISBN: 1844030407

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David Barrett, The New Believers

The New Believers is an incredible undertaking, resulting in an extremely readable reference work. From variations on the major world religions to the Moonies, Wicca, Scientology, and Transcendental Meditation, this best-selling reference is the best available source on alternative organizations, sects, and cult movements. A leading expert on both traditional and new religions discusses the human need for spirituality, and acts as a guide through the confusing variety of beliefs that attract fervent adherents. Barrett provides clear criteria with which each religion discussed has been included in the book, together with accounts of the original meanings of the often emotive descriptors: sects, cults and alternative religions.

Part One adresses common misconceptions and challenges the source of those opinions, going on to discuss major issues that affect our society today, from tabloid headlines to the losing of a loved one to a religious organization. Part Two centers on individual movements from religions with Christian origins through to Neo-pagan movements to Personal Development movements. Each entry provides details of the origin and history of the movement concerned, together with details of the beliefs and practices. For teachers, clerics, and religious leaders through to journalists, interested parties or concerned relatives, this book provides a truly objective account of the many traditional religions and new religious movements across the world today. Followers of any faith have a duty to read this book, and may well be surprised by the roots of their belief structure, the many off-shoots that have become mainstream faiths, and the unique objectivity Barrett has achieved.


"Because most of us have only the haziest idea about the Moonies, Theosophy, Wicca, Druidry etc, David Barrett has compiled a no-nonsense, comprehensive survey packed with non-judgmental information about the beliefs, aims and activities of such movements. . . . Barrett took me by surprise, and made me realise just how prejudiced I am about cult groups."

Daily Mail, 16 Feb 2001

In this revised and expanded edition of his Sects, "Cults" and Alternative Religions (LJ 6/1/97), Barrett addresses issues such as why and how people join alternative religion or what went wrong at Waco and Jonestown and with Heaven's Gate or Aum Shinrikyo. Part 1 presents all new material, adding significant and interesting information to his earlier volume. Part 2, with 20 new entries, covers over 60 individual movements. A list of the movements' addresses is arranged alphabetically within each chapter, and an index makes it easy to find individual movements in the text. Because many of the movements include mention of their U.K. presence, the book at times seems British in focus, though most points are also related to the global scene. Barrett's precise and objective approach makes this a highly recommended title for all public libraries and for academic libraries seeking a comprehensive survey and exploration of humanity's beliefs and practices.

Library Journal

"...demonstrating clearly the importance of according new groups the respect given to older groups..."

British Journal of Religious Education, 24:3, Summer 2002

Ironically, anti-cult organisations are also susceptible to fanaticism and scandal: one of the cleverest things about this book is the way it anatomises them alongside the cults.

Damian Thompson , The Daily Telegraph (England), Feb. 10, 2001

In Barrett's lengthy conclusion he makes the argument that despite the oddball and even self-destructive nature of some religious operations it's not our job to judge. Here in the West the right to worship any gods or goddesses one chooses is still intact. This book goes a long way toward curing our historical amnesia regarding religion and helping us see that even the mainstream religions that today dominate spiritual discourse started with an inspired individual standing on a rock, preaching a divine vision.

review of the earlier version of this book (Sects, "Cults" and Alternative Religions)
San Francisco Bay Guardian, Apr. 20, 1997


David V. BarrettDavid V. Barrett has been a teacher of Religious Studies and English, a computer programmer and intelligence analyst for the British and American governments, and a journalist. He has been a full-time freelance writer since 1991. As an author he now researches and writes mainly on religious and esoteric subjects. In 1997 he began working on a Ph.D. in Sociology at the London School of Economics, studying new religious movements; he is a frequent speaker on this subject at conferences, and on radio and television.

One of his previous books, Secret Societies (Blandford 1997), is a detailed study of movements with esoteric beliefs through the ages, including the Gnostics, Cathars, Knights Templar, Rosicrucians and Freemasons. Between them, his various books have so far been published in thirteen languages and seventeen countries.

Barrett is a regular book critic; his work has appeared in newspapers and magazines, including the TLS, Independent, Literary Review, New Scientist, New Statesman & Society, Spectator, City Limits, Fortean Times, Catholic Herald, Gnosis, and British Book News, among many others. He has contributed to several specialist encyclopaedias, and is frequently consulted by publishers and by other writers. He edited Vector, the critical journal of the British Science Fiction Association, for 25 issues from 1985 to 1989. He was chairman of the 1990 Milford Writers' Conference. From 1992 to 1995 he was administrator and chairman of the judges of the Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction. He is also the reviews editor for Lexcentrics, the website for fans of cryptic crosswords, word games, and the amusing oddities of the English Language.

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