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New Religious Movements, Popular Media, and Violence in American History

This course explores the phenomenon of “New Religious Movements,” sometimes called “cults.” We look at how NRM is actually a category group’s move into and out of, rather than a
fixed list of religious traditions; it is a label that almost no group embraces. In the American context, nearly every religious group that has come to enjoy social approval and a “mainstream” label spent some time in the NRM category. The popular media is one of the key tools that facilitate the creation and maintenance of the NRM category. We will look at how various media outlets (pamphlets, newspapers, radio, television, and the Internet) use the NRM category, why they do so, and explore the impact this has on the broader society. Finally, this course looks at how violence, both physical and rhetorical, is an integral part of the way that the NRM category has functioned in the American context since the 17th century.


This syllabus was created for the Young Scholars in American Religion program.

Stephen Taysom

Cleveland State University

Public College or University
Institution Type

Resource Type

Undergraduate Course
Class Type

Date Published

Religious Studies

New Religious Movements
Religous Tradition

Class/Power, Politics/Law/Government, Popular Culture/Media/Music/Sports, Pluralism/Secularism/Culture Wars

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