New Religions: Emerging Faiths and Religious Cultures in the Modern World

ABC-CLIO. 2 vols. Feb. 2021. 718p. ISBN 9781440862359. $204. REF
In the introduction to this work, Gallagher (emeritus, religious studies, Connecticut Coll.) and Willsky-Ciollo (religious studies, Fairfield Univ.) write that the study of new religions developed into a serious academic discipline in the late 20th century; they attribute the discipline’s growth to a burst of “religious innovation” that resulted from such factors as technological developments and an increase in immigration to the United States. “New religions” are defined here as movements that either originated within the last 150 years, are “in a high state of tension with the surrounding society,” or “cannot be categorically subsumed by a larger world religion.” Gallagher and Willsky-Ciollo examine how new religions compare and connect to one another; though their focus is the second half of the 20th century, they also look at movements as early as the 19th century. This resource covers religious movements (including the Nation of Islam, Unitarian Universalism, and the Unification Church) and religious leaders (including Mary Baker Eddy, Joseph Smith, and Swami Vivekananda), as well as topics like conspiracy theories and transcendental meditation. Supplemented with photographs and primary source documents, this work helps to clear up common misconceptions about new religions, including the myth that all new religions are cults.
VERDICT An excellent starting point for those who wish to explore new religions further. Recommended for anyone interested in emerging religions, and an essential resource for academic and religious libraries.
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