Reviewed by Michael John Plato
Where have the cultists gone? And why?
Religious historian Philip Jenkins recently mused on what he saw as the disappearance of cults and cultists. It was not so long ago that groups such as the Branch Davidians, Heaven’s Gate, the Solar Temple and the Peoples Temple were making names for themselves in places such as Waco, Morin Heights and Jonestown. A not unusual fear of parents who were sending their kids off to college in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, was that they might end up getting involved with groups like the Hare Krishnas, the Moonies or the Children of God and never be heard from again. Yet since the turn of the millennium such fears have seemed to largely lacked foundation. At the very least the doings of cults are no longer reported in the national media. In fact they seem to have largely disappeared altogether. Jenkins has his own theory as to why this is so. As he sees it, this is just another sign of western society’s rapid shift into secularism. People no longer have a desire for intense spiritual commitments. They are just too busy buying stuff at Costco and keeping up with gossip on social media to be bothered seeking transcendence in a commune of like-minded zealots.
Yet though this explanation does have merits, it cannot be the only cause. Another possibility is that …
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The Bloomsbury Companion To New Religious Movements