UNDERSTANDING CULTS AND NEW RELIGIONS by Irving & Karla Poewe Hexham

UNDERSTANDING CULTS AND NEW RELIGIONS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The title of this polemical tome by two academics is as misleading as its content. ""Trashing Cults and New Religions"" more accurately reflects the fervor with which the authors, writing for a Christian readership, skewer any contemporary religious movement falling outside of mainstream Christianity. In an ostensible attempt to examine the ""nonrational, social, and psychological influences that lead to conversion,"" the authors argue that a post-Christian mythology is stalking the Western world, a mythology rooted in sources as diverse as science fiction, evolutionary theory, and those religions (Buddhism, Hinduism) which have the audacity to stand apart from the Abrahamic tradition. Through a marshalling of investigations and testimonies worthy of a kangaroo court (including ""case histories"" of three individuals clearly chosen because of their obvious instability), they conclude that ""new religions are expressions of cultural hysteria,"" a hysteria produced in large part by this new mythology. The authors shoot most of their venom at rather easy, often unpopular targets, including the Unification Church (Moonies), EST, the Bhagwan Rajneesh cult, and the Hare Krishnas. But they also take nasty swipes at some venerable institutions: Christian Science, the Mormon Church, and--perhaps not surprisingly--Judaism. To dispose of the latter they quote from one Traugott K. Oesterrich: ""hysteria is numbered among the affections to which the Jewish nation is disposed."" Nowhere, of course, do the authors indicate that many turn to new religions in a passionate spiritual quest for answers they don't find, for whatever reason, in contemporary Christianity. An exercise in religious chauvinism.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1986
Publisher: Eerdmans