World Affirming New Religious Movements

According to Roy Walllis, World Affirming New Religious Movements aim to help individuals achieve success within mainstream society by unleashing their spiritual potential.

This is the third type of movement in Wallis three fold typology of New Religious Movement, and is most closely related to Bruce’s concept of ‘the cult’.

Examples of World Affirming NRMs…

  • Transcendental Meditation
  • Scientology
  • The Human Potential Movement

Key features of World Affirming New Religious Movements

  • They aim to help members achieve their full potential in terms of the dominant values of mainstream society.
  • These groups claim to access to spiritual or supernatural powers, and aim to help members access these powers so that they can be successful in life, by unleashing their full potential.
  • Besides the above, they tend to lack any formal religious doctrine, and are the ‘least religious’ of Wallis’ three NRMS, at least in the conventional or traditional sense of what organised religion is about.
  • They are extremely individualistic: success is seen as a matter of individual effort.
  • There is little attempt to control members lives, low commitment. Turnover of membership tends to be quite high.
  • Membership tends to be ‘tiered’.
  • Membership is highly inclusive – World Affirming NRMs want as larger membership base as possible. Membership of such groups may be limited to a client base consumer style relationship…. members ‘buy spiritual services’ from the group.

World Accommodating New Religious Movements

The World Accommodating New Religious Movement (NRM) is one of Roy Wallis’ three types of New Religious Movement. As the name suggests, their orientation to wider society is one of ‘accommodating’ the world rather than rejecting or affirming it.

These type of religious movement have normally broken off from an already existing mainstream church or religious organisation, and they are thus very close to  Niebuhr’s category of the denomination.

Neo-Pentacostalism is a good example of a World Accommodating New Religious Movement.

Key features of World Accommodating New Religious Movements

  • They are typically offshoots of an already existing religion. For example, neo-Pentecostal groups developed from Protestantism or Catholicism.
  • These movements tend to aim to restore the ‘spiritual purity’ which they believe has been lost in the larger institutions they have broken away from.
  • The main aim of World Accommodating NRMs tends to be to provide members with ‘spiritual solace’ and a way of coping with their ordinary lives.
  • They tend to focus on helping individual members develop their own interior sense of spirituality and commitment to God.
  • Unlike world rejecting movements, they do not reject mainstream society, in fact most members of world accommodating groups tend to be actively involved with mainstream society – they have jobs and the like.
  • Unlike World Affirming Movements, World Accommodating Movements are not obsessed with ‘maxing out personal spiritual growth’, they are more about helping members cope with their ordinary lives, improving their quality of life within in society.

World Rejecting New Religious Movements

The World Rejecting New Religious Movement (NRM) is one of Roy Wallis’ three types of New Religious Movement. As the name suggests, their orientation to wider society is one of rejecting most of what that society stands for.

Wallis’ World Rejecting NRMs are closely related to Troeltsch’s category of the sect.

Examples of World Rejecting NRMs…

  • The People’s Temple
  • The Manson Family
  • Krishna Consciousness
Krishna Consciousness

Key features of World Rejecting New Religious Movements 

  • Their religious ideology tends to be highly critical of mainstream society (and possible mainstream religions within that society).
  • World Rejecting Movements typically demand high levels of commitment from members. They often expect members to withdraw from mainstream society and devote much of their lives to the movement. Some of them may act as ‘total institutions’, controlling every aspects of members’ lives.
  • While regular members’ lives are tightly controlled, those higher up the hierarchy will typically have more ties and more interactions with the outside world.
  • Seeking radical individual transformation or even radical social change is often the main goal of World Rejecting NRMs.
  • They tend to have been founded by a charismatic leader, and membership tends to demand loyalty to that leader.
  • World Rejecting NRMs vary size: from small, ‘one location’ organisations such as The People’s Temple to global NRMs such as the Moonies.
  • Many NRMs have conservative religious beliefs, especially where sex and marriage are concerned.