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From Encyclopedia Britannica, primary contributor Murray Rubinstein, Professor of History, Baruch College
"New Religious Movement (NRM), the generally accepted term for what is sometimes called, often with pejorative connotations, a “cult.” The term New Religious Movement has been applied to all new faiths that have arisen worldwide over the past several centuries.
NRMs are characterized by a number of shared traits. These religions are, by definition, “new”; they offer innovative religious responses to the conditions of the modern world, despite the fact that most NRMs represent themselves as rooted in ancient traditions. NRMs are also usually regarded as “countercultural”; that is, they are perceived (by others and by themselves) to be alternatives to the mainstream religions of Western society, especiallyin its normative forms. These movements are often highly eclectic, pluralistic, and syncretistic; they freely combine doctrines and practices from diverse sources within their belief systems. The new movement is usually founded by a charismatic and sometimes highly authoritarian leader who is thought to have extraordinary powers or insights. Many NRMs are tightly organized. In light of their often self-proclaimed “alternative” or “outsider” status, these groups often make great demands on the loyalty and commitment of their followers and sometimes establish themselves as substitutes for the family and other conventional social groupings. NRMs have arisen to address specific needs that many people cannot satisfy through more traditional religious organizations or through modern secularism. They are also products of and responses to modernity, pluralism, and the scientific worldview."
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