Examine some of the problems involved in identifying the characteristics of New Religious Movements.

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Introduction

Examine some of the problems involved in identifying the characteristics of New Religious Movements. It often can be hard defining the characteristics of New Religious Movements because they vary so greatly. Wallis provides a typology of New Religious Movements, which he says they all fit into. The first category is World Rejecting movements, which are highly critical of the outside world and often have limited contact; they are institutions that control ever aspect of the member's lives and members have to give up their normal life. World Rejecting Movements are usually sects and include movements like Krishna and Children of God. The next typology Willis provided was World-accommodating or denominations that usually are offshoots of churches. The aim of these organizations is not to create a new society, but to change views. The members are not required to change their lifestyle.

Middle

However Troeltsh's work does not include cults or denominations and was based on largely sixteenth century organizations. The above examples provide categories and distinct characteristics to New Religious Movements, however they do not take into account movements such as the Healthy Happy Holy Church which combine all of Willis' typology, members do not have to be full members and can lead a normal life mixed with religious elements and if they are a full member they may have characteristics in common with world-rejecting movements. This movement is an example of what is known as the middle ground, not defined by the above. Beckford applauded Willis for recognizing different categories for New Religious Movements, however did provide three criticisms- firstly he argues that Willis' categories are hard to apply, secondly they do not pay attention to the diversity of views that often exist in a sect or cult and finally Beckford questions the worth of 'World-rejecting',

Conclusion

Secondly Stark and Bainbridge speak of client cults, which are well organized and offer a service to their followers, e.g. Scientology. Finally there are cult movements, which involve followers much more and try to satisfy all religious needs of the members. They can vary considerably in power and require more than just the occasional attendance, often shaping a whole person's life, like the Moonies. However, Stark and Bainbridge have been criticised for rejecting the whole idea of typologies, yet creating their own. It is impossible to define New Religious Movements because there is never one right answer, what is a cult, for example one minute, can be a denomination the next, there are ever changing characteristics appearing as new and potentially more shocking New Religious Movements appear. Religious organizations exist to meet the needs of an individual, which can also change. The definition of New Religious Movements varies from time to time, culture-to-culture and individual-to-individual.

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