The recent rise in support for NRMS comes mainly from an increased desire to reject mainstream religious values. Evaluate this claim

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The recent rise in support for NRMS comes mainly from an increased desire to reject mainstream religious values. Evaluate this claim.


The concept “New Religious Movements” embraces both cults and sects. Eileen Barker (1984) created this term to avoid the negative connotations of “cults” and “sects”.  “New” usually refers to “of recent origin” and “different from existing religions”. NRMS have grown over the past 30years and which may have stemmed from political, economic, technical and ideological changes. These movements are more likely to develop in societies in which the power of the church is in decline. It is estimated that there now may be as many as 25,000 new religious groups in Europe, with over 12,000 from the UK alone.

Peter Berger (1970) argues traditional religious values have declined as a result of urbanisation and industrialisation, as individuals have become more socially and geographically mobile. Individuals have become more accustomed to different belief systems and NRMS have appealed to some people, offering a better lifestyle.

However, some sociologists have offered other reasons for the growth of NRMS.

Roy Wallis (1984) divides NRMS into three main groups, distinguishing them according to whether they reject, accommodate or affirm the world. Troeltsch argues that World-rejecting NRMS have the same characteristics as a sect, in that their ideology is highly critical of the outside world and demand a high level of commitment from their members. World-rejecting groups can vary in size; for example, The Moonies are large group with over 926,000 members, whereas some groups are small and based locally. World-rejecting groups are often millenarian – expecting divine intervention to change the world. For example, The Moonies reject the world as evil, and have strong moral rules such as no smoking or drinking.

Over recent years, the general public has viewed world-rejecting groups negatively. This is largely because of mass suicides that have taken place. For example, the mass suicide of Jim Jones’s people’s temple in Guyana 1987.

Wallis sees World-rejecting NRM groups as sects. He also argues that they have “an authoritative locus for the attribution of heresy” and are hostile to the state and non-members.

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This evidence suggests that some individuals may join world-rejecting groups, as they are unhappy with the world that they live in and therefore turn towards a group that rejects the world, regarding it as “evil”.

On the other hand, world-affirming groups accept the world as it is and are not particularly critical of other religions. Wallis (1984) argues that “Such a group may have no church, no collective worship, and it may lack any developed theology or ethics”.  World-affirming groups offer individuals salvation, which is seen as a solution to problems such as unhappiness, suffering or disability. ...

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