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HUM 136 New Religious Movements and the Rise of Spirituality

Course Description

How has religion been challenged by modernity, and how has it changed and adapted in response to a society in which reasoned scientific discourse, subjective personal experience and consumerist self-indulgence have become increasingly privileged? In exploring this question, this course will introduce a wide variety of religious movements that have arisen during the modern period, from the Jehovah's Witnesses to the Hare Krishnas, from Satanism to Scientology. What does it mean to refer to these groups as cults, and to what extent do they live up to some of the negative publicity that has surrounded them? We will also look at the often-expressed claim of being 'spiritual' but not religious. What does it mean when people characterize themselves in such terms? To what beliefs and practices do they typically subscribe? This course will consider the philosophical, psychological, social and political implications of spirituality, both for Western culture and for our understanding of religion's place–or lack thereof–in that culture.

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