charles manson

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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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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