New Religious Movements

Douglas E. Cowan

in The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Emotion

Published in print December 2007 | ISBN: 9780195170214
Published online September 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780199892150 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology

New Religious Movements

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  • Sociology of Religion
  • Alternative Belief Systems


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New religious movements (NRMs), which are often popularly and pejoratively labeled “cults,” frequently become the sites for a multitude of conflicting emotions; they are cultural lightning rods as much for anger, shame, and guilt as for joy, excitement, and a sense of release and relief. Throughout NRM narratives, however, whether primary sources or secondary, whether affirmative accounts of one's affiliation and conversion or post-affiliation critiques of the group in question, two principal affective aspects emerge: emotional fulfillment and emotional abuse. As a heuristic framework to consider these more specific aspects of emotion in NRMs, this article uses the trajectory of participation suggested by David Bromley's affiliation-disaffiliation model. In particular, it examines the roles played by emotion and affect in the recruitment processes of different groups, focusing on affective enticement, affective coercion, and affective bonding. It also explores the link between affect and religious practices, the confirmation of religious beliefs, disaffiliation, and post-affiliation.

Keywords: David Bromley; new religious movements; emotional abuse; recruitment; affective bonding; participation; affective coercion; emotional fulfillment; affective enticement

Article.  7291 words. 

Subjects: Sociology of Religion ; Alternative Belief Systems

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