THL242 New Religious Movements, Cults and Sects (8)


This subject introduces beliefs and identifying characteristics of various new religious movements, cults and sects. It also explores major religious, social, legal and ethical issues raised by the presence of such groups within the Australian context. In particular, this subject examines responses to new religious movements, cults and sects from churches, the media and government, welfare and police agencies.

+ Subject Availability Modes and Location

Session 2
Distance*Canberra Campus
*This subject offering contains a residential school. Please view following information for further details.
Continuing students should consult the SAL for current offering details: THL242
Where differences exist between the Handbook and the SAL, the SAL should be taken as containing the correct subject offering details.

Subject information

Duration Grading System School:
One sessionHD/FLSchool of Theology

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this subject, students should:
- be able to discuss critically and accurately the beliefs, character and activities of new religious movements
- be able to discuss issues surrounding the definition and use of the term 'cult'
- be able to evaluate the role and rights of new religious movements within a pluralist democratic society
- demonstrate an understanding of the mind control/brainwashing debate
- be able to discuss critically the role of the media in the public perception and response to new religious movements
- be able to give a preliminary account of issues of law raised by new religious movements
- be able to evaluate community and individual responses to new religious movements
- demonstrate self-guided learning, including research, writing and communication skills


The subject will cover the following topics:
- Beliefs, identifying characteristics and activities of new religious movements - Analysis of theological, mind-control and sociological definitions of cults - Major theories concerning the attraction and character of the membership and leadership of new religious movements, cults and sects - The role and definition of religion in light of new religious movements, cults and sects - Sources of information about and engagement with new religious movements - Responses of churches, the media, government, welfare and police agencies - The role and use of the internet - An analysis of the anti-cult movement - The debate surrounding mind control and brainwashing - The role of the media - Case studies

Residential School

This subject contains a optional 3 day residential school. This residential school provides students with the opportunity of engaging with the subject matter in an intensive manner in a group setting. Activitives include lectures, tutorial presentations, and library research.


The information contained in the 2016 CSU Handbook was accurate at the date of publication: 06 September 2016. The University reserves the right to vary the information at any time without notice.