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New Religious Movement

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Definition: The term new religious movement evolved in part to replace the term cult, which has colloquially taken on many negative connotations. New religious movements need to possess substantial differences from older, more traditional religions. However, the amount of difference required varies from user to user. Some academics attribute the term only to unique religions, while others include movements such as the Church of Latter Day Saints and Jehovah’s Witnesses – both of which are non-mainstream denominations within the religion of Christianity.

Even the requisite age of a movement varies from speaker to speaker. The term frequently applies to post-World War II religions, but it also is commonly applied to religions created within that last two hundred years. A few even extend the definition to anything originating since the 17th century. There is agreement that the term does not make sense for religions or denominations dating to before the 17th century. For example, mainstream Protestant denominations are not included among the new religious movements.

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