While some people are suspicious of all religions contrary to their own, new religious movements often face even more criticism than older, more traditional religions. Much of this has to do with common assumptions about what constitutes a religion, although lack of information about such belief systems can also be problematic.
Criticism: New religious movements are invented by human beingsAll religions were founded by human beings. Sometimes it is a single person, sometimes it developed within a community, and sometimes we don't know the specifics of the origins, but only because they are very old. Certain people believe their religions are the creation of a supernatural being, but that is a belief only applicable within that religion.
There is nothing inherent in the concept of religion that says a religion should be dictated by the gods. Religion can easily be formed with a person decides to share his or her religious perspective and others choose to believe it.
Criticism: New religious movements are scams meant to separate people from their moneyMany new religious movements are not highly organized, and believers are not expected to give money to anyone, unless they choose to purchase books, meditation tapes or other items that they happen to find useful in their religious studies.
More organized groups may ask for donations to help cover expenses, the same as more traditional religions.
Religious seekers should certainly be wary of scam artists, but they remain the exception, not the rule. Each person must decide for himself what is a reasonable expenditure and what is exploitation.
Criticism: True religions have survived the test of time for thousands of yearsAll religions were new at some point. Should St. Paul have not bothered with Christianity because it was too new at the time?
Besides which, just because an idea has been accepted for a long time does not prove its accuracy. Causing people to bleed as a medical treatment was accepted for about 2000 years. The earth-centric universe model was accepted for more than 1000 years.
Age does not automatically equal truth.
Criticism: New religious movements encourage beliefs in nonsensical things like power crystals, alien creators, and astrology.Some new religious movements do, in fact, include beliefs in such things, but certainly not all of them. This is the sort of generalization that comes from mental laziness, from those who cannot be bothered to learn about individual religions, preferring to simply dismiss all new religions with a blanket statement.
Considering them "nonsensical," however, is an opinion. According to the Torah, God spoke to Moses through a burning bush. We accept that as a proper religious belief because we are familiar with the story, while the beliefs of new religions are unfamiliar to us and, thus, strange. If you were an alien visiting earth for the first time, and you heard about power crystals and gods speaking through burning bushes, would you judge one as more sensical than the other?
The simple fact is that aspects of all religions sound strange to outsiders. If a religion makes total sense to a person, they generally end up following it and, thus, are no longer an outsider.
Criticism: New religious movements are shallow and superficial, generally lacking deep theology and catering to believers' desire for fantasy.There are several reasons why someone might have this opinion of any particular religion. First, their only experience with the religion might have been a fairly negative one. Not every member of every religion is a good representative of it.
Second, the religion in question may focus on very different things than the speaker is familiar with. Many of these religions do not have holy texts, prophecies or distinct lists of dos and don'ts. They don't proclaim stories that believers literally embrace. Instead, many of these religions are more personal, focusing on meditation, introspection, personal gnosis and spiritual mysteries.
So while a practitioner may not be able to state with authority what all members of the religion believe or do in relation to a particular topic, that doesn't mean they cannot have deep and thoughtful insight on that topic. They can have very strong personal convictions on a matter and be are able to coherently explain how they have come to that conclusion, but many times that rationality will not refer back to a source of authority like a holy text or a prophet.