Since the mid-1960s, new religious movements—some exotic, some homegrown—have burgeoned all over the United States. A sense of self-awareness and spiritual sensitivity have found expression in the lives of large numbers of people, especially among youth. Why would this happen? What do these movements teach, and what effect do they have on the future? How does religious consciousness relate to other manifestations of social change, such as communal living, group therapy, and radical politics?
Beginning in 1971, an extensive research project was undertaken by a team of sociologists, historians, and theologians seeking answers to these questions. Through a combination of interviews and participant observations, they studied new religious and quasi-religious groups in the San Francisco Bay Area, a spawning ground for upwards of one hundred such movements.
The New Religious Consciousness opens with reports on three Eastern-based movements: the Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization, Hare Krishna, and Divine Light (more popularly known by the name of its leader, Maharaj Ji). Three quasi-religious movements are then considered: the New Left, the Human Potential Movement (Esalen, EST, Scientology, etc.), and Synanon. Next, three movements having their roots in Western religious traditions are examined: the Christian World Liberation Front (an offshoot of the Jesus Movement), Catholic Charismatic Renewal, and the Church of Satan (whose members believe in witchcraft). Succeeding chapters are devoted to estimating the impact of these movements on established religions and the population at large and to the history of earlier periods of religious ferment in the United States. The book concludes with provocative essays by the editors in which they present separate and differing analyses of the sources, nature, and meaning of the new religious consciousness.
A variety of perspectives are represented here: phenomenological, theological, experiential, sociological, and social psychological. The result is a book rich in insight about the nature of new religions. Taken together with a companion volume, Robert Wuthnow's The Consciousness Reformation, also published by University of California Press, The New Religious Consciousness provides the first comprehensive study of American countercultural belief systems.
With contributions by:
Randall H. Alfred
Robert N. Bellah
Charles Y. Glock
Ralph Lane, Jr.
Linda K. Pritchard
This title is part of UC Press's Voices Revived program, which commemorates University of California Press’s mission to seek out and cultivate the brightest minds and give them voice, reach, and impact. Drawing on a backlist dating to 1893, Voices Revived makes high-quality, peer-reviewed scholarship accessible once again using print-on-demand technology. This title was originally published in 1976.