Why do leaders of new religions use the media for recruitment? I argue that through the media, leaders of new religious movements in America are able to market and mobilize their theology in appealing ways in order to recruit new members. Since the spread of new religions in America during the sixties through the eighties there has been extensive research into the appeal of joining such newly established groups. It was at this time that prevalent new religious movements such as The Church of Scientology, The Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (also referred to as Unificationists), and The Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS), which I will focus on in this paper, emerged in American society and have made a notable impression. This presence of new religions in the media has arisen as a tactic for rebranding their image and attracting public interest from potential converts. Though there is little research into the motivation for these specific recruitment tactics, I have analyzed the social psychology behind recruitment in modern religion as a whole, to draw a conclusion into this phenomenon.
In my first grouping, the Psychology behind member convergence, I reference three articles that discuss the social psychology behind converting to a new religion. In these writings, social scientists argue that modern religious practices rely on an active approach to converting new members. This active participation refutes the notion that new religious movements use brainwashing tactics as its form of recruitment, as that would involve a passive participant.Therefore, as a consistent tactic of recruiting members, new religions implement this psychology into a systematic format observed through Unification church...
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...ns which allow individuals to pick and choose religious characteristics that fit their spiritual or psychological needs, and connect with others who feel the same way. This widespread amount of content gives way for religiously curious individuals to become open to the ideas of new religions, primarily the sense of community that they are able to further explore. Thus new religious theology is easily spread to actively curious individuals.
This access is a key component for why leaders of new religious movements would turn to media for recruitment. The internet has opened doors to spreading ideas and concepts by these movements, towards a wider audience. These literary pieces however, limit their research to just internet use and are not empirically researched, but rather rely on speculation to support their claims of the internet’s effects on religious activity.
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