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Reading “New” Religious Movements Historically: Sci-Fi Possibilities and Shared Assumptions in Heaven's Gate

Douglas FitzHenry Jones
Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions
Vol. 16, No. 2 (November 2012), pp. 29-46
DOI: 10.1525/nr.2012.16.2.29
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/nr.2012.16.2.29
Page Count: 18
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Reading “New” Religious Movements Historically
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Abstract

This article surveys the relationship of the Heaven's Gate movement to the cultural context of science fiction while also engaging broader issues in the retrospective account of violence in new religious movements. Against theories that see violence as the consequence of social isolation and the escalating confusion of representation and reality, I argue that members of Heaven's Gate were not only “tapped in” to the reality outside the group but were markedly self-conscious about their engagement with that reality through the medium of science fiction. Using Heaven's Gate as an example, I propose that we read the concepts espoused by new religious movements in the past not in light of their fate but rather as imbedded in the historical realities in which they originally functioned in a meaningful and deliberate fashion.

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