The Draw of New Religious Movements

Why are so many people converting to non-traditional religions?

The religious world is diversifying. Previously, communities tended to be fairly religiously homogeneous. The United States, for example, was almost entirely Christian or non-religious, with a few minority religions existing in their own local communities.

Today, however, a single community can easily include a variety of different religions. Some of them are older, more traditional religions, often brought to the United States via immigration (such as Shinto or Zoroastrianism, not to mention more mainstream religions like Judaism and Islam).

Read more: Diversity in Modern Religion

Addressing Modern Life

Older religions sometimes struggle with this issue. While you can certainly apply older ideas to the modern world, it often involves more interpretation. The scriptures of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, for example, very directly address issues and concerns of people from 2500, 2000 and 1400 years ago respectively, but those concerns aren't necessarily the concerns of modern people.

Multiculturalism

Eastern religious and philosophical thoughts have been particularly influential. While certainly not every new religious movement draws upon them, many have, reflecting concepts such as karma, reincarnation, yin and yang, chakras, meditation, and many more.

Self Discovery

Syncretism

Again, improvement in communication and education has a lot to do with this. In previous decades, the average person's knowledge and experience with multiple cultures, religions, philosophies and ideologies was fairly limited. Today we live in a sea of information from which many find inspiration.

Disappointment and Exploration Some people turn, at least temporarily, to new religious movements precisely because they stand in stark contrast to traditional religions.

Previously, if someone was unhappy in the religion of their upbringing, they either felt they just had to deal with it, or they would quit. Today there are more options. But often what turned them off to their own religion is also present in other mainstream religions, but not in whatever new religious movement draws them in.

Some of these people find a new love of religion. Others, however, eventually move on to yet other religions, or become non-religious (or even return to their old faith). It depends whether they find real meaning in their new faith, or if the attraction was mainly one of rebellion.