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New Religious Movements and Cults in America January Intersession 2018

New Religious Movements and Cults in America

January Intersession 2018


Write a 7-10 page essay on each essay question. Papers are expected to incorporate relevant assigned readings, lectures, films, and discussion. Make sure you address the questions asked.

Format Requirements: typed, double-spaced, in 11 or 12 size typeface and 1 inch margins. No late papers are accepted. Style and content are inseparable, so please pay attention to matters of organization, grammatical usage, spelling, etc. If need be, make use of the Writing Center.

You may email your essays to me or deliver a hard copy to my office (Ashe 521-A) by placing them in the plastic box attached to the door or you may also turn them in at the main office of the department (Ashe 521).

Due dates:          Essay # 1: Monday, February 5, 5 pm

Essay # 2: Monday, February 19, 5 pm

Essay # 1

The Peoples Temple and Branch Davidians

In most people’s minds, the Peoples Temple and Branch Davidians represent quintessential cults: crazed leaders with a band of brainwashed followers. Your readings and the documentaries revise this perspective. In your essay, consider the following questions: (1) what kinds of people were attracted to the PT and BD? (2) Was there a turning point or a series of turning points in Jim Jones and David Koresh and their followers that eventually led to the mass murders/suicides (Peoples Temple) and deaths (Branch Davidians)? (3) Were the earlier goals and ideals of the movements maintained throughout their history or were they revised or discarded? (4) There are plenty of cases where people give their lives for a cause, even to the point to risking death. Are the Peoples Temple and Branch Davidian deaths any different? (5) What role did the media play in contributing to the public’s understanding of these groups?


Essay # 2

Scientology, Transcendental Meditation, Heaven’s Gate, Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment

Discuss the goals (be they salvation, self-fulfillment, self-realization, etc.) of three of the four new religious groups noted above. In your essay consider the following questions: (1) What is/was the attraction of these groups? That is, what do people think they get by joining them? (2) How is the “unseen order” defined or described by each of these groups? (3) What are the steps necessary to reach the goal of salvation, self-realization, etc. (here you will want to discuss the group’s beliefs and practices). (4) What are the results or rewards in attaining these goals?


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