Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi received a PhD in clinical psychology from Michigan State University in 1970, and since then has held clinical, research, and teaching positions in academic institutions in the United States, Europe, and Israel. He is currently professor of psychology at the University of Haifa. Among his best-known publications are Despair and Deliverance (1992), The Psychology of Religious Behavior, Belief and Experience (1997), and the Illustrated Encyclopedia of Active New Religions (1998)
Integrity and Suspicion in New Religious Movement Research
A revised and abridged version of his "Advocacy and Research on New Religious Movements
," presented at the November 7-9, 1997 meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion in San Diego, California. A greatly expanded version of this paper is found in Chapter 1 of Misunderstanding Cult
(titled, "'O Truant Muse': Collaborationism and Research Integrity")
Beit-Hallahmi then pulls out the strongest evidence for his case by referring to "a confidential memorandum, dated December 20, 1989, and authored by an [unnamed] NRM researcher who states that he is writing on behalf of two other leading researchers, all of them sociologists."
"This document reports on a series of meetings and activities involving NRM scholars, NRM attorneys, NRM leaders, and some other scholars. ... The memo proves beyond a shadow of a doubt, not only behind-the-scenes contacts between scholars and NRMs, but the coordinated effort on the part of leading NRM scholars to work with NRMs." Beit-Hallahmi concludes that "leading members of the NRM research network regarded NRMs as allies, not subjects of study" and that "the scholars were more eager than the NRMs to lead the fight for NRM legitimacy."
Organized efforts between NRM scholars and NRMs are then linked to groups such as the American Conference on Religious Freedom, Eileen Barker's INFORM (United Kingdom), and the Association of World Academics for Religious Freedom (AWARE) in particular
(Note: The "unnamed" NRM researcher is the late Jeffrey K. Hadden
, and the condidential memo
can now be read online.) Hallahmi discusses this issue - naming Hadden - in Misunderstanding Cults
Scientology: Religion or racket?
, by Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, Marburg Journal of Religion, Volume 8, No. 1 (September 2003)
Despair and Deliverance: Private Salvation in Contemporary Israel
, by Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi
The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Active New Religions, Sects, and Cults
, by Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, Roger Rosen (Editor)
Misunderstanding Cults: Searching for Objectivity in a Controversial
, by Benjamin Zablocki (Editor), Thomas Robbins (Editor). Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi is a contributor. Highly recommended
reading for everyone interested and/or involved in the ongoing debates on New Religious Movements and their academic supporters
Misunderstanding Cults provides a uniquely balanced
contribution to what has become a highly polarized area of study. Working towards a moderate 'third path' in the heated debate over new religious movements
(NRMs) or cults, this collection includes contributions both from scholars who have been characterized as 'anticult
' and from those characterized as 'cult apologists
.' The study incorporates diverse viewpoints as well as a variety of theoretical and methodological orientations, with the stated goal of depolarizing the discussion over alternative religious movements. A large portion of the book focuses explicitly on the issue of scholarly objectivity and the danger of partisanship in the study of cults.
The collection also includes contributions on the controversial and much understood topic of brainwashing, as well as discussions of cult violence, child rearing within unconventional religious movements, and the conflicts between NRMs and their critics. Thorough and wide-ranging, this is the first study of new religious movements to address the main points of controversy within the field while attempting to find a middle ground between opposing camps of scholarship.
The Psychology of Religious Behaviour, Belief and Experience
, by Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, Michael Argyle
Religion, Psychopathology And Coping
, by Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, Halina GRZYMALA-MOSZCYNSKA
Freedom of Mind Discussion Forum
A Yahoo Groups discussion list affiliated with Steve Hassan
's Freedom of Mind website