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Violence and New Religious Movements

James R. Lewis


The connection between cults and violence has been a topic of intense public interest that has been fueled by dramatic incidents of mass violence involving certain new religious movements (NRMs). Those that have made international headlines include the Jonestown murder-suicides, the ATF/FBI raid on the Mount Carmel community, the Solar Temple murder-suicides, the Tokyo subway poison-gas attack in 1995, and the Heaven’s Gate suicides. The earliest approaches to NRM-related violence focused on the personality of the leader and emphasized the role of the group’s totalistic organization. More rece ... More

Keywords: violence, cults, sects, new religious movements, group suicide

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2011 Print ISBN-13: 9780199735631
Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2011 DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199735631.001.0001


Affiliations are at time of print publication.

James R. Lewis, editor
University of Tromso, Norway

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Lewis James R.

Part I Theorizing NRM Violence

3 Reciprocal Totalism

Dick Anthony, Thomas Robbins, and Steven Barrie-Anthony

Part II The “Big Five” (Plus One)

8 The Euphemization of Violence

Benjamin E. Zeller

Part III Select Religious Groups Involved in Violence

10 Murder in Knutby

Jonathan Peste

11 Modern Pagan Warriors

Kaarina Aitamurto

13 Knocking on Heaven’s Door

E. Burke Rochford Jr.

Part IV Rhetorics of Violence and Peaceful Denouements

17“Smite Him Hip and Thigh”

Jesper Aagaard Petersen

Part V Violence Against NRMs

18 State-Fostered Violence against the Falun Gong in China

James T. Richardson and Bryan Edelman


Anson Shupe

End Matter