cult

Parent, Prophet, Con-Man, Spy: Who Was Rev. Moon?

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A few years ago during a college break, when my floor was deserted and peaceful, a middle-aged couple stopped by my office door looking for someone who taught religion. “We’re from the Unification Church,” the man said. I gasped. The Moonies! was my immediate, rather graceless thought. With great excitement, and flashbacks to news reports of mass weddings dancing through my head, I composed myself and invited them in to chat. They seemed pleasantly surprised that I knew what the Unification Church was and, perhaps most of all, that I hadn’t shut the door in their faces.

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Mexico’s Own Satanic Panic

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Mexico may have experienced its own “Manson moment” last month when eight devotees of “Santa Muerte” were arrested for the murder of three people, allegedly as human sacrifices. While the media has been fairly restrained in covering this event, these murders will likely have lasting consequences for alternative religion in North America. Like the Manson murders, the Santa Muerte murders present a concrete instance of violence that can be used to support much broader claims about the dangers of the religious and cultural Other.

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Yoga Guru or CEO? Saving the Brand When Scandal Strikes

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The accusations facing Anusara yoga founder John Friend include suggestions that he heads a Wiccan coven in which he has sex with female members; that he’s had several sexual relationships with married Anusara employees and teachers; that he violated federal regulations regarding employee benefits by suddenly freezing Anusara, Inc.’s pension fund; and finally, that Friend put his employees at legal risk by arranging for them to accept packages of marijuana for his personal use.

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Defining “Cult,” Defining “Christian”

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Generally, sociologists do not use the word “cult.” Those that do, such as William Bainbridge and Rodney Stark, use it in a highly specialized way to indicate groups that are innovative (unlike churches) but open to everyone (unlike sects). Religion scholars who study “new religious movements” (or NRMs) are the first to admit that “cult,” in its modern usage, has always been a theological term used by Protestants to label religions they do not like.

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