Roundtable Discussion on Cults, Extremists, Terrorists? A sociological perspective on new religious movements

Wed, 02 May 2018 12:30 in Discussion Forums

Date: 2nd May 2018
Time: 12:30


  • Prof Eileen Barker OBE FBA, London School of Economics


New religious movements have committed acts of terrorism and doubtless will do so again, but the overwhelming majority of them do not. Some can certainly be seen as ‘extreme’ if, by extremism, we mean distance from a norm. But then, some are ‘extremely peaceful’ – and this, curiously enough, can be seen as extremely dangerous. While insisting that we cannot generalise about new religious movements, this talk will explore both some of the features that they may display because they are new and some of the reactions they have elicited from the society at large.

About Prof Eileen Barker OBE FBA

Eileen Barker, PhDhc (Copenhagen), FAcSS, FBA, OBE, is Professor Emeritus of Sociology with Special Reference to the Study of Religion at the London School of Economics. Her BSc (Soc) (Hons 1st class) and her PhD were obtained from the LSE. Her main research interest is 'cults', 'sects' and new religious movements, the changes they undergo and the social reactions to which they give rise. Since 1989 she has also been investigating changes in the religious situation in Eastern Europe, Japan and China.

She has over 350 publications, translated into 27 languages. These include the award-winning The Making of a Moonie: Brainwashing or Choice? and New Religious Movements: A Practical Introduction. She has given guest lectures at over 200 universities around the world and is a familiar commentator on religious issues on both radio and television. She has been elected as an officer of most of the international organisations related to the sociology of religion, is the first non-American to have been elected President of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion.

In 1988, with the support of the Home Office and the mainstream Churches, she set up INFORM, an independent educational charity which supplies information about alternative religions that is as objective and up-to-date as possible. INFORM’s unique resources include some information on over 5,000 religious organisations, more than 1,000 of which are currently active in the UK.

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