New Religious Movements: Cults, New Age and Related Phenomena Essays

New Religious Movements: Cults, New Age and Related Phenomena Essays

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1. Introduction

The 1970’s brought with it an unexpected rise of new religions movements and most of these had links with Eastern origins. These religions operated on the fringes of the traditional religious institutions were immediately controversial. This controversiality combined with the interest shown in them by especially the educated youth, as well their subsequent conversion to these new alternate religious movements, raised serious concerns with the stalwarts of the traditional value systems and the term brainwashing became the acceptable theory in order to explain the reasoning behind those defecting to these movements.
In this essay the phenomenon of brainwashing will be discussed and its legitimacy as an valid theory to utilise as an reason behind the conversion to the new religious movements, critically evaluated.
2. The “Brainwashing” Hypothesis
Those who subscribe to the brainwashing theory believe that the person who is a member of a new religious movement is in such position due to the fact that specialised brainwashing techniques that have been employed by the leaders of these groupings in order to bring about impairment of the individual’s cognitive abilities resulting in diminished personal autonomy which then as an effect, leads to a dependency on the group. In the process the person is believed to be stripped of his old identity and that the function of independent judgement is therefore no longer possible.
It is thus believed that the person has through this indoctrination process undergone a metamorphosis that has led to him/her becoming a “robot” like being that has effectively been stripped of the ability of independent functioning and the power of critical reasoning thereby effectively leaving hi...


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...ionary. New York: Penguin Group.
Anthony, D & Robbins, T. 2004. The Oxford Handbook of New Religious Movements. New York. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 25 February 2014, from the World Wide Web: http://www.skepsis.nl/onlinetexts.html
Blackburn, S. 2008. Dictionary of Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Bromley, D. 2001. A Tale of Two Theories: Brainwashing and Conversion as Competing Political Narratives. Retrieved 20 February 2014 from the World Wide Web: http://people.vcu.edu/~dbromley/ATaleofTwoTheories.htm
Melton, J.1999. Brainwashing and the Cults: The Rise and Fall of a Theory. Retrieved 25 February 2014, from the World Wide Web: http://www.cesnur.org/testi/melton.htm
Richardson, J. 1993. Handbook of Cults and Sects in America. Greenwich: JAI Press. Retrieved 25 February 2014, from the World Wide Web: http://www.cesnur.org/testi/Socpsy.htm

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