Through the Narrow Gate:
A Memoir of Spiritual Discovery
(first published 1981)
(New York: St. Martin's Press, 1994)
(ISBN: 0-312-11903-8, paperback)
(Library of Congress call number: BX4668.3.A75A3 1995)
Raised as a good Catholic girl,
the author entered a strict Benedictine monastery in England
at age 17 and remained a nun-in-training for 7 years.
Karen Armstrong later became a scholar of religions.
These early years tell of her attempts to be completely devoted
to an unquestioned system of monastic discipline,
which she has since abandoned.
Roman Catholicism is not normally considered
but as practiced in this monastic system,
it bears many similarities with contemporary cults:
absolute obedience to the hierarchy, denial of the body,
control and repression of sexuality,
separation from everything 'worldly' including family,
and many ritual observances.
This book is
destined to be a classic of its
in part because it is so well written.
A History of God:
The 4000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
(New York: Ballantine Books, 1993)
one-volume tour of the history of Judaism, Christianity,
Almost everyone gets a page or two.
Armstrong is a former nun and Christian.
Her reading has been very broad.
But she does not try to convert the reader to any one system of belief.
In fact, the vast diversity of religions does not recommend any as true.
Human beings have a religious urge,
which expresses itself in many different ways
in the many cultures that have developed on Earth.
The book could be seen as a brief history of religion
---compressing into a few pages
what took thousands of pages to express in the original texts.
CULTS---MOONIES OR THE UNIFICATION CHURCH
In the Shadow of the Moons:
My Life in the Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Family
(Boston, MA: Little,
(ISBN: 0-316-34816-3; hardcover)
(Library of Congress call number: BX9750.S4H66 1998)
This is an excellent anti-cult book by someone
raised in the Unification Church and married to the eldest son of Sun Myung Moon.
After 14 years and 5 children she gained the insight and courage to leave.
She provides many telling facts about the internal operations of the Moonies.
This book should be read by everyone
with even a passing interest in the Moonies.
The Unification Church shares many features with other religious cults:
unquestioning obedience to an autocratic leader,
total control of the members,
different rules of behavior for the inner circle and the other followers,
handling millions of dollars in cash,
mostly spent to enhance the ego of the leader.
additional suggestions of good books about cults
James Park: e-mail: PARKx032@TC.UMN.EDU
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