Note: Please read my post on “What is a Cult?” to better grasp this post.
New religious movements are cults that formed in the past 150-175 years. They depart from the central teaching and symbols of normative to mainstream Judeo-Christian sources. NRMs often originate during times of high social stress, like in the United States in the 1840’s and 1960’s. NRMs function a form of modern shamanism. A shaman is one who communicates with gods, spirit world by ecstatic means. Here are characteristics of NRMs in American:
1. The founder had/knows secret “incredible” knowledge.
2. The leader of the group has a mysterious/mystical experience that often interpreted as possession, a particular encounter, or marvelous travel. Often followers are promised a similar experience if they stay loyal to the leader's teachings.
3. The desire to be modern and use “scientific” language. Many examples of this can be seen in the church of Scientology.
4. A reaction against orthodoxy. There is an outright rejection of first tier doctrines. Most commonly the doctrines of the authority of Scripture, the Trinity, or justification by faith alone are rejected.
5. The blending of concepts from various religions- the bible founder and group will seek to add and interpreted the Bible through the beliefs and doctrines of other faiths. The blending of different religions happens through new or recovered “revelations” from “god.”
6. A blurring of the line between man and god. It holds a variation of either man is God or can become God. A quick test for a false religion is that if it exalts man at the expense of God, it is false.
7. Optimism, success orientation
8. Emphasis on healing.
9. Magic- use of non-empirical means for empirical ends. For example using seer stones to gain access to "sacred" texts.
10. A definite process of entry and imitation, desire to grow.
11. Often established a sacred center. Towns or places which the group views as essential to the religion, something like what Mecca is to Muslims.
12. Emphasis on psychic powers – best seen in William Marrion Branham who claimed to have special powers and knowledge.
13. Tendency to attract isolated individuals, usually not families
14. Experience through group activity- chanting, meditation, etc…