The primary aim of the New Religious Movements (NRM) Blog is to discuss contemporary issues as they relate to religious life. In doing so, this blog chooses to focus primarily on NRMs, but we also choose to not be constrained by typologies.
We define religion broadly: It is contextual, fluid, and its definition differs perhaps as much within traditions as it does between them. We choose to define religion by its function in people’s lives, as an expression of their most important beliefs and values, and sometimes an anchor for their thoughts and behaviors. Accordingly, our conception of religion includes popular, long-established traditions; minority faiths, new religious movements; spirituality; “quasi-religious” cultures; “secular religions,” and even atheists.
We are also careful not to rely on any definition of new religious movements that might partially obscure the full spectrum of contemporary new religion. The term “new religious movement” was originally coined to counter “cult” intolerance, a narrow purpose which has caused some to question the term’s more expansive applicability. And it does have faults: First, many members of NRMs do not recognize their beliefs as “religious” in nature; second, “movement” implies an organized community moving toward a particular objective; and lastly, one must seriously question what makes something “new,” when it stops being new, and when it starts being “old”. Is “new” a reference to the tradition’s relative youngness compared to other, more “established” faiths, or to its relationship to modernity? In reading about NRMs, it is critical to keep in mind that all religions were at one time “new”.
The NRM Blog discusses topics that are both “new” (i.e., modern) and “religious”. We illuminate the the varieties of religious, spiritual, “quasi-religious,” supernatural, and metaphysical beliefs (and the like) that attune to new ideas or synthesize old ones in new ways. But often we will also ask questions about “old” religions’ relationships with science/technology, popular culture, and contemporary social/political issues.