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New Religious Movements

3. Change and Second-Generation NRMs

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In this lecture, we think about the internal and external factors which drive change in NRMs over time, especially as they become second-generation movements, focusing in particular on: (i) changes in theology within NRMs as a response to unfulfilled predictions – what do NRMs do when prophecy fails?; (ii) how they respond to the death of their charismatic leaders; (iii) demographic changes as NRMs move into the second generation, and the impact this has on their practices; (iv) the impact of wider, external changes on NRMs, including political change like the collapse of the Soviet Union and social transformations such as the birth of the internet.


In this course, Professor Eileen Barker (London School of Economics) explores the characteristics of New Religious Movements (NRMs) and their relationship to wider society. In the first lecture, we look at terminologies associated with new religions, including issues with the term “cult”, problems around defining a religion as “new”, and Professor Barker’s preference for “first-generation movement”. In the second lecture, we consider some common characteristics of first-generation movements, in terms of their beliefs and composition and their frequent exposure to persecution. In the third lecture, we think about how NRMs change over time, particularly as they become second-generation movements, and the internal and external factors which influence this. Next, we consider NRMs’ relationships with wider society, such as their portrayal in the media, the emergence of anti-cult activism. In the fifth and final lecture, we look at the “cult wars” between anti-cultists, scholars, and the movements themselves.


Professor Eileen Barker is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the London School of Economics. She is a leading expert on New Religious Movements (NRMs), founder of the Information Network Focus on New Religious Movements (INFORM), and author of The Making of a Moonie (1984), a foundational text in the study of new religions. Her recent publications include Reactions to the Law by Minority Religions (2021, as co-editor) and Revisionism and Diversification in New Religious Movements (2016, as editor).

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APA style

Barker, E. (2021, September 20). New Religious Movements - Change and Second-Generation NRMs [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Barker, E. "New Religious Movements – Change and Second-Generation NRMs." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 20 Sep 2021,

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