In the face of the popular crusade to link new religious movements to dangerous cults, brainwashing, and the need for deprogramming, Irving Hexham and Karla Poewe argue that many cults are in fact the product of dynamic interaction between folk religions and the teachings of traditional world religions. With the widespread loss of belief in biblical mythology in the nineteenth century, new mythologies based on science and elements derived from various non-Western religious traditions emerged, leading to the growth and popularity of new religions and cults. Drawing on examples from Africa, the United States, Asia, and Europe, the authors suggest that few new religions are really original. Most draw on rich, if localized, cultural traditions, which are then shaped anew by the influence of technological change and international linkages.
Irving Hexham is professor of religious studies and Karla Poewe is professor of anthropology, both at the University of Calgary. Irving Hexham is professor of religious studies and Karla Poewe is professor of anthropology, both at the University of Calgary.