Holy Cross Professor on Why the Label ‘Cult’ Prevents Greater Understanding of New Religions

The Conversation | Newsweek | Religion News Service
April 11th, 2018 by 


Mathew Schmalz, associate professor of religious studies Photo by: John Buckingham

New religious movements have been a subject of fascination in American popular culture for decades, often portrayed in movies and TV shows as “cults,” which comes with its own implications of brainwashing and authoritarian practices.

In an article for The Conversation, Mathew Schmalz, associate professor of religious studies at Holy Cross, explains the connotations of the term and how he believes “that the label ‘cult’ gets in the way of understanding new or alternative religions.”

Schmalz identifies several problems with the term “cult,” namely its vague nature, a lack of concrete evidence for the effects of brainwashing on the brain, and the negative cultural sentiment associated with the word. Schmalz worries that “when people hear the word ‘cult,’ discussions end before any study has even begun.”

To read the full article, go to The Conversation. The piece has also been republished by Newsweek and Religion News Service.

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