Mystics and Messiahs: Cults and New Religions in American History

Paperback | October 15, 2001

byPhilip Jenkins

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In Mystics and Messiahs--the first full account of cults and anti-cult scares in American history--Philip Jenkins shows that, contrary to popular belief, cults were by no means an invention of the 1960s. In fact, most of the frightening images and stereotypes surrounding fringe religiousmovements are traceable to the mid-nineteenth century when Mormons, Freemasons, and even Catholics were denounced for supposed ritualistic violence, fraud, and sexual depravity. But America has also been the home of an often hysterical anti-cult backlash. Jenkins offers an insightful new analysis ofwhy cults arouse such fear and hatred both in the secular world and in mainstream churches, many of which were themselves originally regarded as cults. He argues that an accurate historical perspective is urgently needed if we are to avoid the kind of catastrophic confrontation that occurred in Wacoor the ruinous prosecution of imagined Satanic cults that swept the country in the 1980s. Without ignoring genuine instances of aberrant behavior, Mystics and Messiahs goes beyond the vast edifice of myth, distortion, and hype to reveal the true characteristics of religious fringe movements and why they inspire such fierce antagonism.

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In Mystics and Messiahs--the first full account of cults and anti-cult scares in American history--Philip Jenkins shows that, contrary to popular belief, cults were by no means an invention of the 1960s. In fact, most of the frightening images and stereotypes surrounding fringe religiousmovements are traceable to the mid-nineteenth cen...

Phillip Jenkins is Distinguished Professor of History and Religious Studies at Pennsylvania State University and the author of Hidden Gospels: How the Quest for Jesus Lost Its Way. He lives in State College, Pennsylvania.

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Format:PaperbackPublished:October 15, 2001Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195145968

ISBN - 13:9780195145960

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"A fascinating look at the importance of the religious fringe in American life. Jenkins argues convincingly that cults and new religions are significant social and cultural contributors to the healthy development of society.... A fresh and thoughtful analysis that sheds much-needed light onan often overheated phenomenon."--Kirkus Reviews