A new spiritual marketplace

Comparing new age and new religious movements in an age of spiritual and religious tourism

Authored by: Carole M. Cusack

The Routledge Handbook of Religious and Spiritual Tourism

Print publication date:  July  2021
Online publication date:  July  2021

Print ISBN: 9780367191955
eBook ISBN: 9780429201011
Adobe ISBN:


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New religious movements (NRMs) are described as religions that have emerged from the nineteenth century up to the present (Ashcraft 2018). There are scholarly disagreements about whether the defining characteristic of such groups is their ‘newness’ (Barker 2014), or whether, given no new religion is completely original, historical links with ‘parent’ traditions offer a more accurate way to classify NRMs (Melton 2004, 76). Early scholars of the New Age movement argued that these movements were more fluid and eclectic than many NRMs, which tend to have strong organizational boundaries. However, presently New Age movements are often considered a subset of NRMs because they are a part of what is considered the ‘cultic milieu’ (Campbell 1972)—both having alternative and non-mainstream beliefs and practices that are rejected by both Enlightenment science and Western Christianity. The secularization of Western culture, which led to the retreat of Christian churches from public life and with it the loss of both membership and public and personal relevance for a sizeable portion of western populations, became the enabling context within which NMRs have flourished. Increasingly secularized public spaces and dialogues encouraged those who were dissatisfied with both traditional Christianity and modern science—‘seekers’ as Colin Campbell termed them (Campbell 1972)—to experiment with the ‘spiritual marketplace’ as facilitated by late capitalism which focuses on individualism and the decline of communal relations (Roof 1999; Gauthier, Martikainen & Woodhead 2013).

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