New Religious Movements in America Book Report

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¶ … New Religious Movements in America

Throughout the course of American history, new religions have become one way for younger adults to connect with God. This has served as an avenue for them to build their understanding of who they are and the best way to serve humankind. The result is that they will have more balanced beliefs when they become older. This is because their radical views from the past were abandoned in favor of more traditional ones. These changes have occurred since many of the earliest religious colonies were established in the early 1600s. Today they have become the foundation for helping to support ideas such as: family values and having a sense of integrity. (Saliba, 2004) (Neusner, 2009)

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However, many people in contemporary theology; look at new religions as nothing more than radical cults. They are often very cautious about supporting or working with them in any way. This is because of the negative headlines from incidents such as the Heaven's Gate Affair. The result is that anyone who associates with a new religion is often a person who is being brainwashed into supporting questionable beliefs. John Saliba is directly challenging these views in his book Understanding New Religious Movements. Inside, he examines how this is influencing modern theology, the best ways for understanding these trends and their impact on various disciplines in the future. These objectives will be achieved through studying how this is affecting divinity studies and the best approach for incorporating key ideas into contemporary religious thinking. Together, these elements will show why someone joins a cult, how it can be beneficial to theologians and the most effective ways for reaching out to them. (Saliba, 2004) (Neusner, 2009)

The Role of New Religions in Contemporary Thinking

Book Report on New Religious Movements in America Assignment

Saliba (2004) believes that theological doctrine should be based off of taking an inclusive attitude when comes to someone who joins a new religion. This is because they are often younger and will become a part of these groups in order to fit in or act out. In most cases, these people are committed and passionate to their cause. However, they are somewhat misguided and need time to find their way. Religious leaders can play an important role, by establishing communication and helping them to evolve. Over the course of time, these shifts will lead to them becoming committed people who are supporting traditional religions with an open attitude. (Saliba, 2004)

Evidence of this can be seen Saliba saying, "Whatever critiques of new religions must be rendered by scholars of various disciplines, dialogue is a more useful response than diatribe. All that the heated denunciations of the new religions do is to reinforce the attitudes and beliefs of both their members and detractors. Apologetic debates rarely lead unbelievers or apostates to convert; they do not succeed in persuading renegade Christians to abandon their new beliefs to return to the faith of their birth. Harangues against the new religions do not lead their members to listen attentively to the arguments of zealous evangelizers. On the contrary, they drive them further away and elicit similar belligerent responses. New religious movements should be treated as forms of religion, much like those that have arisen at all times throughout history, rather than as cults or a social problem specific to recent decades. It often appeals to young people who lack spiritual grounding. Such movements are not necessarily a dangerous distraction from the path to adulthood. But can also serve as a temporary haven in a materialistic and selfish society, providing an alternative therapy to many young adults as they are faced with making momentous decisions at important junctures in their lives." (Saliba, 2004)

This is showing how new religions have become a way for young adults to find support. During some of the most critical points of their lives, they will often use this to help them make better decisions. Religious leaders can play an integral part, by serving as the go between for these individuals and modern theology. This is when they will become closer to them and slowly take part in traditional activities which were once rejected. (Saliba, 2004)

To support these ideas Saliba discusses the importance of new religion by focusing on a number of areas. The most notable include: the history of religious movements, the psychological, social influences and effective counseling techniques. These areas are illustrating the role of new religions in supporting and building Christian ideals over the long-term. (Saliba, 2004)

The History of Religious Movements

The history of religious movements is focusing on those areas that were considered to be sects. As they were influenced enough, to reach out to a larger segment of people and focused on different aspects of theology. Two examples of this include: the Cathars of the Middle Ages and the Mormons of the 19th century. These groups were considered to be very radical based upon the beliefs and ideas that were embraced when they were first organized. (Saliba, 2004)

However, over the course of time, many attitudes shifted and became more open. This is because social beliefs and various laws had an influence on what practices were considered to be acceptable. The result is a shift in religious doctrine. For instance, during the 19th century the Mormons were considered to be very radical. This is because they embraced traditions such as polygamy. Once the federal courts began to exert influence on them in Utah, is when there was a shift in attitudes. This is because the various laws demanded a change in religious practices. (Saliba, 2004) (Neusner, 2009)

The result is that a more radical religion became mainstream, based upon these transformations. Saliba believes that new religions can evolve into mainstream followers who support traditional Christian ideology. This is historically justified by looking at how radical sects have continually reshaped Christianity. (Saliba, 2004) (Neusner, 2009)

Psychological Influences

Psychological influences are carefully examining the tools many cults will use to attract new members. What Saliba determined is that brainwashing is often conducted and there is a focus on addressing some unmet need (such as: loneliness). This helps the person to fill a void in their lives with the cult becoming the center of their world. Saliba believes that religious leaders could reach out to these individuals when they are most vulnerable. This is when the cult is facing challenges from the eventual disillusionment of the individual. These attitudes can be shifted back towards more mainstream beliefs with religious leaders showing them a new way forward. It is at this point, when the person will be more open and supportive of ideas they may have once rejected. (Saliba, 2004)

In this case, one could argue that these ideas are representative of pantheism. This is when everything in nature is considered to be sacred. This means having a certain amount of respect for what it represents and the different ideas to preserve it for future generations. These beliefs are illustrating how psychological views about the internal and external environment will influence what practices are most widely accepted. This is something that Neusner believes will create shifts in attitudes and the way someone reacts. (Neusner, 2009)

Social Influences

Social influence is looking at how different organizations and groups will shape religious doctrine. This is taking place by carefully examining their role in theology based upon the attitudes and insights each one can provide. For example, many people inside the African-American community are often attracted to the ideas of Islam. This is because it was seen as a way of rejecting traditional Western ideals from Christianity. (Saliba, 2004)

While at the same time, it is making the person feel like they have a deeper connection. That originates to the homeland where their ancestors are from (i.e. Africa). This helps them to feel an association with these ideas, by embracing a way of life and ideology which was rejected in the past. The result is that many of the beliefs of Islam are becoming more main stream inside these communities. In most cases, it is not uncommon to see someone engaging in practices such as fasting. For both Muslims and Christians, this is way of cleansing the body and bringing it closer to God. (Saliba, 2004)

As a result, new religions are influenced by various ideas which are connected with social beliefs. This shapes how someone relates to what happened and the lasting impact it is having on them. When this takes place, they will begin to embrace certain ideals that are often practiced by other disciplines. In this aspect, one could argue that these shifting views will help modern religion to adjust with these changing beliefs and attitudes. (Saliba, 2004) (Neusner, 2009)

Effective Counseling Techniques

When someone is involved with a sect, they will often have a period of tremendous satisfaction with the group. This will be followed by disillusionment as many of the false claims cannot be met. Once this happens, is the point they are susceptible to other influences. This is because their… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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