Communities of Dissent: A History of Alternative Religions in America (Religion in American Life)
Stephen J. Stein
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Alternative religious groups have had a profound influence on American history-they have challenged the old and opened up new ways of thinking about healing, modes of meaning, religious texts and liturgies, the social and political order, and the relationships between religion and race, class, gender, and region. Virtually always, the dramatic, dynamic history of alternative religions runs parallel to that of dissent in America.
Communities of Dissent is an evenhanded and marvelously lively history of New Religious Movements in America. Stephen J. Stein describes the evolution and structure of alternative religious movements from both sides: the critics and the religious dissenters themselves. Providing a fascinating look at a wide range of New Religious Movements, he investigates obscure groups such as the 19th-century Vermont Pilgrims, who wore bearskins and refused to bathe or cut their hair, alongside better-known alternative believers, including colonial America's largest outsider faith, the Quakers; 17th- and 18th-century Mennonites, Amish, and Shakers; and the Christian Scientists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Black Muslims, and Scientologists of today.
Accessible and comprehensive, Communities of Dissent also covers the milestones in the history of alternative American religions, from the infamous Salem witch trials and mass suicide/murder at Jonestown to the positive ways in which alternative religions have affected racial relations, the empowerment of women, and American culture in general.
good. One of Lee's most cherished sayings was "Hands to work, and hearts to God." The Believers constituted themselves a spiritual family with the elders and eldresses functioning as their parents, making all men and women brothers and sisters. Lee's assault on the flesh became a community commitment to celibacy—that is, abstinence from all sexual activity. By the second decade of the nineteenth century the Believers had expanded from their initial location outside Albany, throughout New England,
disappeared in 1934. But by that time he had established the ideology and structure for the Nation of Islam and had attracted to his movement several able converts whom he placed in positions of responsibility as the sect grew. Upon the disappearance of Fard, one of those lieutenants, Elijah Poole, whom Fard had renamed Elijah Muhammad, took over leadership of the movement. Fard had appointed him Minister of Islam and placed him in charge of the temple in Chicago. From that position Elijah
Tiddly and Wink, the Two, as they referred to themselves, led a small community of believers in a cult focusing on a religious interpretation of unidentified flying objects piloted by extraterrestrial beings or visitors. Public interest in UFOs dates from the period following World War II. The rise of the Space Age and the growth of science fiction fed this interest, generating, among other things, a new vocabulary. Debates ensued about the nature of extraterrestrials. Were they demonic or
1980. Foster, Lawrence. Women, Family, and Utopia: Communal Experiments of the Shakers, the Oneida Community, and the Mormons. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1991. Fuller, Robert C. Alternative Medicine and American Religious Life. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989. Godbeer, Richard. The Devil's Dominion: Magic and Religion in Early New England. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992. Gura, Philip F. A Glimpse ofSion 's Glory: Puritan Radicalism in New England, 1620-1660.
New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction, 1987. 152 FURTHER READING Hamm, Thomas D. The Transformation of American Quakerism: Orthodox Friends, 1800-1907. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988. Harris, Lis. Holy Days: The World of a Hasidic Family. New York: Summit Books, 1985. Harvey, Graham. Contemporary Paganism: Listening People Speaking Earth. New York: New York University Press, 1997. Hosteller, John A. Amisb Society. Rev. ed. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1968. Jackson, Carl T.