Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

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(1941-) Professor of Sociology and Religious Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. Bromley received his B.A. degree in sociology from Colby College in 1963 and his M.A. (1966) and Ph.D. degrees (1971) in sociology from Duke University. He has served on the faculties of the University of Virginia, University of Texas at Arlington, and the University of Hartford. President, Association for the Sociology of Religion, 1994.

Bromley's early work was concentrated in deviant behavior as well as political sociology and urban sociology. His extensive work in religion reflects his interests in political organization and processes, conflict theory, and the social construction of deviance. One line of work has taken an organizational perspective on religious movements. In his early book on the Unificationist Movement, "Moonies" in America: Cult, Church and Crusade (with Anson Shupe, Sage 1979), Bromley employed resource mobilization theory to interpret the growth and development of that movement. He has continued to pursue related organizational issues such as movement economic structure (1985) and movement success, particularly in The Future of New Religious Movements (with Phillip Hammond, Mercer University Press 1987). Bromley's interests in politics and deviance are reflected in a second line of work analyzing the interactive relationship between new religious movements and countermovements, treating movement and countermovement as the unit of analysis. This approach to the study of controversial "cults" initially entailed a trio of books: "Moonies" in America, The New Vigilantes (with Shupe, Sage 1980), and Strange Gods: The Great American Cult Scare (with Shupe, Beacon 1981). It continues with his contribution to The Handbook on Cults and Sects in America (with Jeffrey Hadden, JAI 1993). In the process of analyzing religious movement mobilization and antimovement social control efforts, Bromley has examined a diverse array of issues. These include the narratives constructed to discredit new religions such as "brainwashing accounts" (with James Richardson, 1984) and "atrocity tales" (with Shupe, 1979), the "deprogramming" process of forcibly extricating members of new religions from those groups (1988), and governmental regulations aimed at controlling a variety of organizational practices by new religions (with Thomas Robbins, 1992). Bromley also has extensively researched the "anti-cult movement" as an integral part of treating movement and countermovement as an analytic unit.

Following The New Vigilantes , Bromley and Anson Shupe have become the primary social science interpreters of that countermovement in a series of books and articles. The most recent examines anti-cultism on an international level (Shupe and Bromley 1994). Finally, Bromley has compared the moral panic surrounding religious "cults" with the related agitation positing the existence of a widespread conspiratorial network of satanic cults engaged in pervasive ritual abuse of children (Richardson et al. 1991). Bromley's work connects both anti-cult and antisatanist crusades to structural tensions involving deepening contradictions between contractual and covenantal forms of social relations. Bromley is currently broadening his focus to include institutional as well as social movement forms of religion, arguing that reactions to historic contractual-covenantal tensions may be observed in movements and organizational innovations within mainstream churches as well as the formation of more marginal religious movements (1997).

Bromley has provided significant leadership in professional associations of social scientists dedicated to the study of religion. He has been elected to the Executive Councils of both the Association for the Sociology of Religion (ASR) and the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion (SSSR). He is the founding editor of the ASR series, Religion and the Social Order (JAI), which produces volumes annually examining new developments and perspectives in the social scientific study of religion. In the SSSR, he has served as Editor of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion .

Thomas Robbins


D. G. Bromley, "The Economic Structure of the Unificationist Movement," Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 24(1985):253-274

D. G. Bromley, "Deprogramming as a Mode of Exit from New Religious Movements," in Falling from the Faith (Newbury Park, Calif.: Sage, 1988): 166-184

D. G. Bromley, "A Sociological Narrative of Crisis Episodes, Collective Action, Culture Workers, and Countermovements," Sociology of Religion 58(1997):105-140

D. G. Bromley and J. T. Richardson (eds.), The Brainwashing/Deprogramming Controversy (Lewiston, N.Y.: Mellen, 1984)

D. G. Bromley and T. Robbins, "The Role of Government in Regulating New and Unconventional Religions," in Governmental Monitoring of Religion , ed. J. Wood (Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 1992): 101-137

D. G. Bromley and A. Shupe, "Atrocity Tales, the Unification Church, and the Social Construction of Evil," Journal of Communication 29(1979):42-53

J. T. Richardson et al. (eds.), The Satanism Scare (Hawthorne, N.Y.: Aldine de Gruyter, 1991)

A. Shupe and D. G. Bromley (eds.), Anti-Cult Movements in Cross-Cultural Perspective (New York: Garland, 1994).

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