Analysis of John Saliba´s Understanding New Religious Movements Essay

Analysis of John Saliba´s Understanding New Religious Movements Essay

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John Saliba’s approach to new religious movements is secular (despite his position as a Jesuit Priest) and well rounded. He begins by exploring how new religious movements are viewed today, how they have been reacted to in the past and why that may be. He examines the original definition of the word “cult” as well as the modern derivations of it and how it affects these new religious movements. By considering multiple opinions on new religious movements as well as looking at the historical, psychological, sociological, legal and theological context in which these religions came to be and attract new followers, he is able to advocate for a more open approach to these new religions and offer a better way to handle them; to respond to them, rather than react.
The word “cult” has a very negative connotation in modern society as a result of it being applied to several religious groups that have violated basic moral or societal rules. It is regularly applied by the media to groups that are considered to be “deviant, dangerous or corrupt” (1). “The Theological use of the word “cult” is most evident in Christian Evangelical literature.” (2) Here, a cult is described by Walter Ralston Martin as “a group, religious in nature which surrounds a leader or a group of teaching which either denies or misinterprets essential Biblical doctrine.”(2) Another definition by Charles Braden is “those religious groups that differ significantly from those religious groups that are regarded as the normative expression of religion in our total culture.” And “a group of people gathered about a specific person or person’s misinterpretation of the Bible.”(2). Two very vague definitions that could apply to just about any faith that doesn’t align with what the...


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...erformed strange rituals, they have elitist attitudes and do not conform to traditional social and moral behavior.
The middle ages saw the rise of many “cults” or “sects;” most notably the Cathars and the Flagellants. The Cathars appeared in 1143 and were subject to rumors about their supposed immoral acts such as consuming the ashes of dead babies. They became so influential that they were considered to be a major threat to the dominant Church. After the Cathars managed the assassination of one of Pope Innocent III’s legates, a crusade was organized against them and they were eventually wiped out. Their views were partly Gnostic and their view of dualism was varied from radical to moderate. They subscribed to high ethical standards, rejected the Old Testament and denied the Trinity.



Works Cited

Saliba, John; Understanding New Religious Movements, Second Edition

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