Long the focus of controversy, cults,what sociologists prefer to call new religious movementshave been studied by scholars for years. Yet little of this information has made its way into public awareness. Comprehending Cults is a comprehensive and balanced overview which synthesizes and assesses the results of thirty years of research into new religious movements by historians, sociologists, and psychologists of religion. Organized in terms of seven of the most commonly asked questions about cults (Why did they emerge? Who joins them and why? Why do some become violent?) the book clarifies the issues at stake, seeking to replace prejudice and speculation with reliable insights into the nature of cult activity.
Comprehending Cults examines the history and theory of the development of new religious movements as well as the factors, both social and economic, which determine their success. The book explores particular issues and factions in new religious movements including discussions on Scientology and other initiatory groups; Hare Krishna and other Indian-based religious groups; new religious movements and violence; the Unification Church; coercive conversion controversy (deprogramming); the Satanism scare; women and religious movements; and the future of religion.
Written in an easy-to-read yet detailed manner, Comprehending Cults provides an excellent introduction to the study of new religious phenomena, one equally suited to general readers, students, and scholars.