Chapter 19: Moving Out - Disengagement and Ex-Membership in New Religious Movements

The Insider/Outsider Debate - New Perspectives in the Study of Religion - George D. Chryssides

George D. Chryssides [+-]
University of Birmingham and York St John University
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George D. Chryssides studied philosophy and theology at the University of Glasgow, and gained his doctorate from the University of Oxford. He taught philosophy and religious studies at various British universities, and was Head of Religious Studies at the University of Wolverhampton, England from 2001 to 2008. He is currently Honorary Research Fellow at York St John University. He has published extensively, principally on new religious movements, and recent publications include The A to Z of Jehovah’s Witnesses (2009); Heaven’s Gate: Postmodernity and Popular Culture in a Suicide Group (2011); Christians in the Twenty-First Century (with Margaret Z. Wilkins, 2011); Historical Dictionary of New Religious Movements (2012) and Jehovah’s Witnesses: Continuity and Change (2016). He has co-edited (with Benjamin E. Zeller) The Bloomsbury Companion to New Religious Movements (2014), and is currently working on The Bloomsbury Handbook on Studying Christians, edited with Stephen E. Gregg.


The ex-member is a distinctive type of outsider. Particularly in the study of new religious movements, the vociferous hostile ex-member tends to gain most atttention in the media and the anticult movement. Such members are sometimes referred to as ‘career apostates’, engaging in writing and being interviewed about their experience. In this chapter it is argued that the career apostate is only one type of ex-member among several, and the author explores how other types of ex-member have positioned themselves regarding the movements they have left. The chapter discusses the problems that can arise in leaving a new religion, and assesses the degree to which credence can be placed on ex-member testimony. The author concludes that, although some ‘career ex-members’ can often be considered as being so preoccupied with the organisation they have left to the extent that they remain virtually insiders, while other ex-members often provide valuable evidence about such organisations, particularly if they have aspired to offices that allow access to restricted information.

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Chryssides, George. Chapter 19: Moving Out - Disengagement and Ex-Membership in New Religious Movements. The Insider/Outsider Debate - New Perspectives in the Study of Religion. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. Oct 2019. ISBN 9781781793442. Date accessed: 19 Jul 2019 doi: 10.1558/equinox.27467. Oct 2019

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