New religious movement

A new religious movement (NRM), also known as a new religion or an alternative spirituality, is a religious or spiritual group that has modern origins but is peripheral to its society's dominant religious culture. NRMs can be novel in origin or they can be part of a wider religion, in which case they are distinct from pre-existing denominations. Some NRMs deal with the challenges which the modernizing world poses to them by embracing individualism, while other NRMs deal with them by embracing tightly knit collective means.[1] Scholars have estimated that NRMs now number in the tens of thousands worldwide, with most of their members living in Asia and Africa. Most NRMs only have a few members, some of them have thousands of members, and a few of them have more than a million members.[2]

A member of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness proselytising on the streets of Moscow, Russia

There is no single, agreed-upon criterion for defining a "new religious movement".[3] There is debate as to how the term "new" should be interpreted in this context.[4] One perspective is that it should designate a religion that is more recent in its origins than large, well-established religions like Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism.[4] An alternate perspective is that "new" should mean that a religion is more recent in its formation.[4] Some scholars view the 1950s or the end of the Second World War in 1945 as the defining time,[5] while others look as far back as from the middle of the 19th century[6] or the founding of the Latter Day Saint movement in 1830[4][7] and Tenrikyo in 1838.[8]

New religions have often faced a hostile reception from established religious organisations and various secular institutions. In Western nations, a secular anti-cult movement and a Christian countercult movement emerged during the 1970s and 1980s to oppose emergent groups. In the 1970s, the distinct field of new religions studies developed within the academic study of religion. There are now several scholarly organisations and peer-reviewed journals devoted to the subject. Religious studies scholars contextualize the rise of NRMs in modernity, relating it as a product of and answer to modern processes of secularization, globalization, detraditionalization, fragmentation, reflexivity, and individualization.[1]