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Cults, Religion, and Violence
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  • 2 b/w illus. 2 tables
  • Page extent: 0 pages

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 (ISBN-13: 9780511033339 | ISBN-10: 0511033338)

This explores the question of when and why violence by and against new religious cults erupts and whether and how such dramatic conflicts can be foreseen, managed and averted. The authors, leading international experts on religious movements and violent behavior, focus on the four major episodes of cult violence during the last decade: the tragic conflagration that engulfed the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas; the deadly sarin gas attack by the Aum Shinrikyo in Tokyo; the murder-suicides by the Solar Temple in Switzerland and Canada; and the collective suicide by the members of Heaven's Gate. They explore the dynamics leading to these dramatic episodes in North America, Europe, and Asia, and offer insights into the general relationship between violence and religious cults in contemporary society. The authors conclude that these events usually involve some combination of internal and external dynamics through which a new religious movement and society become polarized.

• Includes both theoretical explanations of violence and case studies of specific episodes • Focuses on the four major episodes of violence involving religious movements over the last decade • The contributors are the leading international experts on each issue and episode


1. Violence and religion in perspective David G. Bromley and J. Gordon Melton; 2. Dramatic denouements David G. Bromley; 3. Challenging misconceptions about the new religions-violence connection J. Gordon Melton and David G. Bromley; 4. Sources of volatility in religious movements Thomas Robbins; 5. Crises of charismatic legitimacy and violent behavior in new religious movements Lorne L. Dawson; 6. Public agency involvement in government-religious movement confrontations Stuart A. Wright; 7. Watching for violence: a comparative analysis of the roles of five types of cult-watching groups Eileen Barker; 8. Mass suicide and the Branch Davidians John R. Hall; 9. Occult masters and the temple of doom: the fiery end of the Solar Temple Massimo Introvigne and Jean-Francois Mayer; 10. Dramatic confrontations: Aum Shinrikyo against the world Ian Reader; 11. Making sense of the Heaven's Gate suicides Robert W. Balch and David Taylor; 12. Lessons from the past, perspective for the future David G. Bromley and J. Gordon Melton.


'The merit of this book is its diversity, both in analytical and topical scope … this book may very well serve as the culmination of theoretical sociological analysis on a highly controversial social issue.' Journal of Contemporary Religion


David G. Bromley, J. Gordon Melton, Thomas Robbins, Lorne L. Dawson, Stuart A. Wright, Eileen Barker, John R. Hall, Massimo Introvigne, Jean-Francois Mayer, Ian Reader, Robert W. Balch, David Taylor

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