Religious Sects, Cults, and Small Denominations
Explore American religious life from the perspective of those whom the mainstream have deemed “religious outsiders” at certain points in history. In this course, take a closer look at groups that today have been admitted to the cultural mainstream but once were labeled with the pejorative term “cult,” including the Mormon Church (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints), various African American Pentecostal traditions, and particular Jewish sects. We also will examine groups that the mainstream still today looks at askance, including Father Divine’s International Peace Mission Movement and Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple. Over six weeks, we will approach the topic of religious outsiders in a number of ways, including by examining their beliefs, history, waxing or waning popularity, and reception by the mainstream. And with the charity and rigor of a religious studies lens, we will aim to uncover something deeper—perhaps universal—about these groups’ appeal and ongoing operation.
You'll Walk Away with
- An understanding of how and why the cultural mainstream labels some religious outsiders as “cults”
- Experience in applying a religious studies lens to examine and discuss a variety of religions and denominations
- All members of the community—working, retired, and in-between
- Those who are interested in religious studies and history