New Religious Movements
Pejoratively called "cults" by some, there are by some estimates more than 300 New Religious Movements in the United States and tens of thousands worldwide. These include offshoots of established religions, congregations with unique scriptures, and "New Age" churches that claim celestial origins. Some of these groups last less than a decade, whereas others span generations. W. Michael Ashcraft, the Philosophy and Religion Department Chair of Truman State University, has been studying New Religious Movements for most of his professional life. The author of the recently published book, A Historical Introduction to the Study of New Religious Movements, Ashcraft here discusses the anticult movement that flourished in the '60s and '70s, why some groups survive and others don't, and the similarities between New Religious Movements of the nineteenth century and those of the present day. He also draws distinctions between those groups with negative cult-like tendencies and those that are more benign.