Public lecture about sects and violence


Vytautas Magnus University (VMU) Faculty of Humanities Department of Ethnology and Cultural Studies & Centre for Cultural Studies invites to a public lecture “Sects and Violence: The “Standard Model” of New Religions Violence”, lecturer: prof. James R. Lewis (University of Tromsø, Department of History and Religious Studies, Norway) on 18 May, 16.30, VMU Faculty of Humanities (K. Donelaičio st. 52-514 aud.)

In contrast with other subfields within religion-and-violence studies, the study of violence and new religious movements (NRMs) has tended to focus on a small set of incidents involving the mass deaths of members of controversial NRMs. Beginning with the suicide-murders of hundreds of members of the People’s Temple in Jonestown, Guyana in 1978, various explanations of such incidents have been offered – some focusing on the psychological make-up of the leaders; others on the near approach of the new millennium. Scholars of violent new religions eventually settled on what might be called the ‘Standard Model’ of NRM violence, a model that takes into account internal factors, external factors and the dynamic polarization between these two sets of influences. Unfortunately, this model is not predictive. However, if the various factors within the standard model are reshuffled, several new factors added and the focus shifted to violent incidents involving group suicide, a modified model emergences that appears to be able to predict mass suicide in NRMs.

Moderator: Dr. Rasa Pranskevičiūtė

Short bio

James R. Lewis is an extensively published scholar in the fields of New Religious Movements and Religion & Violence. He is currently Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Tromsø (Norway). Prof. Lewis edits the Elements series on Religion and Violence for Cambridge University Press. He also co-edits the Brill Handbooks on Contemporary Religion, Palgrave Studies in New Religions and Alternative Spiritualities, and the Ashgate New Religions. He was a co-founder of the International Society for the Study of New Religions and founder of the Journal of Religion and Violence. Prof. Lewis also currently serves as general editor for the Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review. Recent publications include: Sects & Stats: Overturning the Conventional Wisdom about Cult Members (2014); Controversial New Religions (2nd edition 2014); Sacred Suicide (2014); Textbook Gods (2014); Nordic Neoshamanisms (2015); Nordic New Religions (2015); The Invention of Satanism (2015); The Brill Handbook of Scientology (2016); The Cambridge Companion to Religion and Terrorism (2017); and The Oxford Handbook of New Religious Movements (2nd edition, 2017).

Poster of the event

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