"“Kent analyzes the religious movements that took root among young people in the United States toward the end of the Vietnam War era. He traces the cultural changes some U.S. youth experienced as they moved from the political protests of the Sixties to mystical religious conversions in the early Seventies. . . This study, which utilizes sources such as personal narratives and the alternative press, is recommended for academic and public libraries.”"—Library Journal
"In this lucid and economical study, sociologist Kent examines a little-noted confluence: the same years that saw American youth delving into radical politics and protesting war also saw them turn to unusual, sometimes cultish, spiritual traditions. Kent challenges traditional scholarship by arguing that such conversions to alternative religious traditions marked "a crisis of means," not a "a crisis of meaning," as has often been assumed. . . Kent's study promises to reshape and reinvigorate the very language we use to discuss the nexus between religion and politics in America."—Publishers Weekly
"This book will bring to life an important era in American history that expands our understanding of attraction, indoctrination, and loyalty to new religious movements and totalistic groups."—International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) Book Reviews
Certainly, religious strains were evident through postwar popular culture from the 1950s Beat generation into the 1960s drug counterculture, but the explosion of nontraditional religions during the early 1970s was unprecedented. This phenomenon took place in the United States (and at the edges of American-influenced Canadian society) among young people who had been committed to bringing about what they called “the revolution” but were converting to a wide variety of Eastern and Western mystical and spiritual movements.
Stephen Kent maintains that the failure of political activism led former radicals to become involved with groups such as the Hare Krishnas, Scientology, Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church, the Jesus movement, and the Children of God. Drawing on scholarly literature, alternative press reportage, and personal narratives, Kent shows how numerous activists turned from psychedelia and political activism to guru worship and spiritual quest as a response to the failures of social protest and as a new means of achieving societal change.
Foreword, Benjamin Zablocki
I. Introduction: Defining a Generation
2. Religion, Drugs, and the Question of Political Engagement
3. Political Frustration and Religious Conversions
4. Radical Rhetoric and Eastern Religions
5. Conversions to Syncretic and Western Religions
6. Conclusion: Mystical Antagonism and the Decline of Political Protest
Appendix: Reexamining the Scholarship on Protesters' Religious Conversions
Stephen A. Kent is professor in the Department of Sociology, University of Alberta, Canada. He has published articles in numerous journals including Journal of Religious History and British Journal of Sociology.
Series: Religion and Politics
6 x 9, 268 pages, 17 black and white illustrations