Cultic Studies Journal
of Cults, Sects, Religions and the Occult
Manipulation and Society
Cultic Studies Journal
Psychological Manipulation and Society
Vol. 11, No. 1, 1994
- Dictionary of Cults, Sects, Religions and the
George A. Mather and Larry A. Nichols. Zondervan, Grand
Rapids, MI, 1993, 342 pages.
From A.A. (abbreviation for the occultic Argentium
Astrum) to Zwinglianism (of Christian origin), the numerous listings in the Dictionary
of Cults, Sects, Religions and the Occult present an impressive, encyclopedic
composite of religious and pseudoreligious groups found in America today.
The book is coauthored by the Reverends George Mather,
founder and director of the New England Institute of Religious Research, and Larry
Nichols, an ordained minister in the Lutheran Church and a philosophy instructor, with a
Foreword by Ronald Enroth,
an authority on current religious movements in America. According to Enroth, it is
critical, especially for Christians, to develop discernment skills and a basic knowledge
concerning the multitude of conventional and unconventional religious organizations found
in a society encouraging religious pluralism.
In 1989 I was exposed to a religious group within a
traditional Protestant church whose terminology and behavior were foreign to anything I
had ever witnessed in my lifelong Christian experience. I became so frustrated with the
buzzwords and strange nomenclature that I began compiling a list of the alien verbal
expressions and "Christian" notions. Later, I determined, I would convert my
list into a "religious talk" dictionary for the enlightenment of
othersonce I could decipher the mumbo-jumbo myself. After conducting a bit of
research, I sent questionnaires composed of religious groups and terminology to several
ministers as well as a group of Christian laypeople. Though my mailing list was
restricted, the responses to the questionnaire indicated a definite need for a dictionary
of current religious movementsone including terminology used by the groups.
I was delighted when I saw the first advertisement for
the Dictionary of Cults,
Sects, Religions and the Occult, four years after wishing for one. I ordered it
immediately and put my project aside. After perusing my new dictionary, I initially felt
disappointed. Some major authoritarian, "shepherding" groups I am personally
interested in were not included; neither was their lingo. However, the authors explain in
their introduction that they were only able to select a small percentage of groups for
inclusion in their first volume as there are thousands of groups in existence. The
selection process was based on two criteria: the choosing of groups most accessible
through availability of information and those perceived to be among the most interesting,
widespread, and influential on America's religious scene today. The collection of
comparisons and contrasts between the various religions and traditional Christianity is
written from a Christian perspective, as candidly confessed by the authors. However, I
would like to see more Christian terms and concepts included in later listings.
The book is arranged alphabetically, and each group or
term is identified by its association (Christian, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Mormon, New Age,
occult). Essays on various religious groups are presented as well as definitions of terms
and ideology adopted by the groups chosen for inclusion in the book. Biographical sketches
of certain group leaders are also included. Interspersed throughout the book are excellent
photographs depicting assorted ceremonial paraphernalia, places of interest, and
individuals referred to in the essays.
The Appendices contain The Ecumenical Creeds of
Christendom; diagrams and charts summarizing 20 modern religious groups; a list
of some of the cults, sects, and religions included in the volume; and a diagram
illustrating how many of these cults,
sects, and religious groups emerged from the influence of major religious
traditionsJudeo-Christian, Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu. An excellent, group-categorized
bibliography is included providing extensive suggested reading for those desiring to learn
more about one of the specific groups included in the dictionary.
I am delighted that the authors intend to publish future
editions of this dictionary. I hope new listings, from Amish to YWAM,
will be incorporated in the next edition. In addition, I hope to see an examination of
some of the fast-growing offshoots of established Christian denominations born in
dissension and currently demonstrating aberrant, detrimental proclivities in their
methodology or theology.
It is my hope that the first volume of the Dictionary
of Cults, Sects, Religions and the Occult will be the first of a regularly
updated series. I highly recommend the premier edition as an essential reference tool, a
must-have basic for one's personal or professional reference.