The question of a defining ““new religion”” begins with a survey of a large number of groups that have been labeled as cults in the popular and scholarly literature. Attempts to locate any shared characteristics——beliefs, practices, or attributes——have failed. Thus it is suggested that what new religions share is a common deficiency that pushes them into contested space at the fringes of society. New religions are assigned their fringe status by the more established and dominant religious culture, and by various voices within the secular culture (government officials, watchdog groups, the media, etc.). New religious movements disagree significantly with the dominant accepted religious beliefs/practices in any given cultural setting and/or engage in one or more of a range of activities unacceptable to religious and/or secular authorities, such as violence, illegal behavior, high pressure proselytism, unconventional sexual contacts, or minority medical practices.
- ©© 2004 by The Regents of the University of California