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New Religious Movements

A new religious movement is the term used to describe a movement, large or small, of recent origin, which has a faith, philosophical, ethical or spiritual basis. Common factors of such movements are that they usually have a charismatic leader such as Ron Hubbard or in earlier times Buddha or Mohammed. They are different from what has gone before e. g. Christianity was different from the Judaism from which it sprung in that it had God in three persons rather than one.

Another common factor is that they meet a need in society. In the case of Judaism there were believers who, because of their nationality, were not allowed to fully participate, and in New Testament times this barrier was broken down. Some movements, such as the Pro-life movement, cut across the religious divide and are concerned with a common end. In the case of the Pro-life group it came about because of the legalization and easy access to abortion, something that people of many shades of faith do not approve of.

At first each group now considered to be a major religion was considered to be a cult – i. e. a movement with few followers that had unorthodox beliefs and practices, such as Heaven’s Gate, as described by Jwnody in 1996, where followers believe in cosmic travel and an ability to reach higher levels of existence. To unbelievers the writings of such extreme groups seem like science fiction, but there are obviously those who hold them as valid. The same can be said of earlier groups such as Scientologist’s or Mormons.

Many groups are breakaways from long existing religious movements such as the Liberal Catholic Church which rejects certain Vatican rulings. The Protestant Church, with leaders such as Luther and Calvin was another such group. Often the differences are of doctrine and or of practise. The Old Catholic Church in Holland for instance split because of the Roman Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility as described by James Wedgwood in his web page ‘Beginnings of the Liberal Catholic Church’.

Al of these groups are seeking to meet a need in the human psyche to explain the unexplainable . This at least they have in common. References Jwnody, Overview of present mission, Heaven’s Gate, April; 1996 24th December 2008, http://www. religiousworlds. com/gate/ovrview. html Wedgwood, J. Beginnings of the Liberal Catholic Church, 1937, 24th December 2008, http://www. global. org/Pub/JIW_History. asp

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