New Religious Movements Syllabus
journal contributionposted on 31.10.2016 by John L. Crow
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This course is designed to look at a variety of religious traditions that have emerged in the United States over the last two centuries. Over the duration of the course we will examine these religious traditions, their history, context, and reception by society in general. The field of study called New Religious Movements (NRMs) has a history of its own, one intimately tied to the traditions its studies. The course will examine this history looking at its origins in “cult studies” of the 1970s. Thus to study New Religious Movements in America, it is also necessary to review where the field of study derived and how that history shapes how which traditions are included in its domain and which are excluded. As such, the course is based on a number of broad questions regarding New Religious Movements and their study: What is a New Religious Movement (NRM)? Is it a cult? How do NRMs differ from other religious movements or institutions? How are they similar? How do members of NRMs understand their own history and the history of the world? What is their worldview? How do NRMs change over time? Do they become more conventional or more oppositional? When did the study of NRMs begin and why? What is the history of the academic field of New Religious Studies? What is the value in studying NRMs, their history, and the way the Academy has responded to them? The course will end with an extended study of Scientology.