Dying and/or Killing for the Faith: New Religious Movements and Violence


It is known that New Religious Movements (NRMs), which also named as “cult groups”, “sects” and “new age religions”, emerged particularly in Western socities in parallel with the changes which experienced from the second half of twentieth century on a global scale; and that these movements began to gain wide currency in a short time. NRMs, which mostly emerged as mariginal religious forms, sometimes came to the fore with world-shaking acts of violence. Thereupon, some questions are begun to be discussed: Is there a direct relationship between NRMs and violence? If there is a relationship between NRMs and violence, what is the dimension of this relationship? Are NRMs prone to violence? What are the factors that led to violence in NRMs? In this study, initially I will exemplify NRMs – violence relation refering to Peoples Temple, Branch Davidian, Aum Shinrikyo, The Order of Solar Temple and Heaven’s Gate. Because these movements which known as “big five” were stuck in people’s mind with their violence acts. Secondly, I will refer to two main factors that caused violence in NRMs: apocalyptic beliefs and charismatic leadership. Finally, I will try to see whether there are similarities between the factors that led to violence in today’s religious violence and the factors that led to violence in NRMs in the past; and to offer some suggessions on what can be done in relation to decrease the violence of NRMs.


New religious movements violence apocalyptic belief charismatic leadership