Legitimating New Religions

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Rutgers University Press, 2003 - Religion - 272 pages
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James R. Lewis has written the first book to deal explicitly with the issue of how emerging religions legitimate themselves. He contends that a new religion has at least four different, though overlapping, areas where legitimacy is a concern: making converts, maintaining followers, shaping public opinion, and appeasing government authorities. The legitimacy that new religions seek in the public realm is primarily that of social acceptance. Mainstream society's acknowledgement of a religion as legitimate means recognizing its status as a genuine religion and thus recognizing its right to exist. Through a series of wide-ranging case studies Lewis explores the diversification of legitimation strategies of new religions as well the tactics that their critics use to de-legitimate such groups. Cases include the Movement for Spiritual Inner Awareness, Native American prophet religions, spiritualism, the Church of Christ-Scientist, Scientology, Church of Satan, Heaven's Gate, Unitarianism, Hindu reform movements, and Soka Gakkai, a new Buddhist sect.

Since many of the issues raised with respect to newer religions can be extended to the legitimation strategies deployed by established religions, this book sheds an intriguing new light on classic questions about the origin of all religions.

 

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Legitimating new religions

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Lewis (religious studies, Univ. of Wisconsin) wrote this book to fill a gap in the study of new religions, claiming that there has been no new analysis of the strategies used by these movements to ... Read full review

Contents

INTRODUCTION
1
RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE AND THE ORIGINS OF RELIGION
23
NATIVE AMERICAN PROPHET RELIGIONS
47
ESUS IN INDIA AND THE FORGING OF TRADITION
73
SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY AND THE SPACE BROTHERS
89
ANTON LAVEY THE SATANIC BIBLE AND THE SATANIST TRADITION
103
HEAVENS GATE AND THE LEGITIMATION OF SUICIDE
123
THE AUTHORITY OF THE LONG AGO AND THE FAR AWAY
142
ATROCITY TALES AS A DELEGITIMATION STRATEGY
155
RELIGIOUS INSANITY
175
THE CULT STEREOTYPE AS AN IDEOLOGICAL RESOURCE
198
SCHOLARSHIP AND THE DELEGITIMATION OF RELIGION
214
CONCLUSION
231
EXMEMBER SURVEY
245
INDEX
261
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About the author (2003)

James R. Lewis teaches at the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point and is author of The Encyclopedia of Cults, Sects and New Religions. He has been interviewed by major media outlets including ABC's World News Tonight, the Los Angeles Times, NBC's Meet the Press, and the Washington Post.

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