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Cults, Religion, and Violence Paperback – May 16, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0521668989 ISBN-10: 0521668980 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 270 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (May 16, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521668980
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521668989
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,274,942 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"This volume, edited by David Bromley and J. Gordon Melton, noted scholars in the field of new religious movements of "cults," is worthy of attention from other scholars as well as policymakers. The topic is very timely, given the role of religion and controversial religious groups in recent actions that have drawn considerable attention, and the list of contributing scholars is impressive." Contemporary Sociology

"This remarkable and timely collection of essays provides compelling evidence to help us understand the dark relationship between violence and religious movements.... this book helps us understand why some have been linked with the most horrific images of our contemporary time-- including the Tokyo nerve gas assault, the fiery end of the Waco standoff, and the suicide deaths of the Heaven's Gate sect. Whether they lash out in acts of terrorism or implode in chilling scenes of mass suicide, these `dramatic denouements' as David Bromley calls them, are the results of a desperate vision of a world gone wrong." Mark Juergensmeyer, University of California, Santa Barbara, author of Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence

"This timely study offers perceptive and illuminating reflections on the troubling phenomenon of violence, sometimes self-directed, among some new religious movements. Moving beyond the headlines, and writing from a humanistic and interdisciplinary vantage point informed by both sociological and religious-history perspectives, the essays in Cults, Religion, and Violence are essential reading for anyone interested in contemporary religious culture." Paul Boyer, University of Wisconsin Madison, author of When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture

"The essays in Cults, Religion, and Violence are marked by a degree of scholarship, sanity and balance that has so often been lacking in debates over these issues since the time of Jonestown. Throughout the collection, the various authors succeed in applying critical good sense to even the most controversial of cult-related horror stories. When we face our next cult confrontationa--and we assuredly will--we can only hope that police and law-makers will have absorbed some of the critical policy lessons offered by this very significant book." Philip Jenkins, Pennsylvania State University, author of The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity

Book Description

Contrary to conventional wisdom, violent episodes involving cults are rare historically. But their potential to affect and disrupt civic life looms large and efforts to manage these incidents involve controversial issues of religious freedom, politics, state intervention, and pubic security. The interpretive challenge of this book is to provide a social scientific explanation for these rare events. The authors conclude that they usually involve some combination of internal and external dynamics through which a new religious movement and society become polarized.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on April 8, 2014
Format: Paperback
The combination of well-developed case studies and grounded theory is an important contribution to scholarship and this book deserves careful consideration from anyone studying issues of religion and violence. There are many positive things to say about Cults, Religion and Violence, but I found three features particularly helpful.

First, the editors and authors rigorously apply an even-handed and suitably complex, but not unwieldy, interactive model of confrontation between religious movements and state authorities. They never lose sight of the reality that either movements or state authorities can play the primary role in igniting a final confrontation. Furthermore, they recognize that confrontations involving NRMs are multiparty events that usually involve apostate members and cult- watching groups as well as the movement and state authorities. Eileen Barker’s chapter in particular does an excellent job of describing the various types of cult-watching groups that may become involved in different ways during confrontations between religious groups and state authorities.

Second, the authors look at both internal and external factors that can fuel violent confrontation or, conversely, the de-escalation of confrontation. The examination of sources of volatility in religious movements by Thomas Robbins is a nice job of summarizing prior research on internal and external fac- tors that can lead a movement toward or away from violence. Lorne L. Dawson offers a readable antidote to the common misuses of the concept of charisma when applied to NRMs.
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