Anti-Cult Movement

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Time Period
1968  - 1985
As new religious groups grew in popularity, in part due to the counterculture of the 1960s, conservative opposition emerged in the form of the anti-cult movement. Not only did anti-cult advocates fear unorthodox religious beliefs and practices, but parents of converts and ex-members would often accuse new religious groups of "brainwashing" converts. The anti-cult movement gained prominence in 1978, after 909 members of the People’s Temple died in Guyana after drinking cyanide-laced fruit juice.

By the mid-1980s, however, the anti-cult movement began to dwindle. Membership in new religious groups began to decline while American-based movements, like the Latter-day Saints, became more accepted in mainstream society. Moreover, academics and health professionals began challenging the existence of "brainwashing" techniques that anti-cult advocates asserted.

Continued skepticism of new religious groups as "cults" and fears of brainwashing persist in large part due to the anti-cult movement.
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Social Movements and Religion
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Social Movements and Religion in American History

Minneapolis Scientology protest- Flickr- photo by Tony Webster (CC BY 2.0)

Walter Martin speaking, video screenshot- Internet Archive- from Dr. Walter Martin STAR WARS

Aerial view of Jonestown mass suicide- National Archives and Records Administration
Book/Journal Source(s)
Lippy, Charles, and Peter Williams, 2010. Encyclopedia of Religion in America. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press.
Web Page Contributor
Benjamin T. Gurrentz
Affliated with: Pennsylvania State University, Ph.D. in Sociology

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