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Douglas E. Cowan is a Canadian academic in religious studies and the sociology of religion and currently holds a teaching position at Renison College, University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. Prior to this appointment he was Assistant Professor of Sociology & Religious Studies at the University of Missouri–Kansas City.

Education and career

Cowan was born in Canada and received his undergraduate tertiary education at the University of Victoria where he was awarded the B.A. degree in English literature. He then proceeded to theological studies and received the M.Div (Honours) from St. Andrews Theological College. His doctoral work, which involved an examination of the Christian countercult movement through the prism of the sociology of knowledge and propaganda theory, was undertaken through the University of Calgary. His dissertation supervisor was Professor Irving Hexham, who in turn was a student of the eminent British scholar Ninian Smart, the founder of the first Religious Studies Department in Britain.

While Cowan currently describes himself as a methodological agnostic, he was ordained to the Christian ministry in the United Church of Canada, and held pastoral positions during his doctoral studies. After graduating with the Ph.D in 1999 Cowan received a joint appointment in the Department of Sociology/CJC and the UMKC Center for Religious Studies. During 2005 he relocated from the USA to his current teaching post at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.

Cowan's research interests include religion and the Internet, religion and film, modern paganism, new religious movements, and method and theory in the study of religion.

A prolific publisher Cowan’s best known work has focused on religion and the Internet and a variety of issues related to boundary-making and identity maintenance in assorted religions and how challenges are met and resolved by religious adherents. Cowan regularly presents his work at academic conferences, including the annual meetings of the American Academy of Religion, the Association for the Sociology of Religion, the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, and the Center for the Study of New Religions (CESNUR).

In addition to providing peer-review for numerous scholarly journals, he is one of the co-general editors for Nova Religio: The Journal of New and Emergent Religions, and the editor-in-chief of the Religious Movements Homepage Project (


  • Cyberhenge: Modern Pagans on the Internet (Routledge 2005)
  • 'Book Excerpt: The Mists of Cyberhenge: Mapping the Modern Pagan Internet,' The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies, 7, 1 (2005): 59-97.
  • 'Online U-Topia: Cyberspace and the Mythology of Placelessness,' Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 44, 3 (2005): 257-263.
  • (with Jeffrey K. Hadden), 'Virtually Religious: New Religious Movements and the World Wide Web,' in Oxford Handbook of New Religious Movements, James R. Lewis, ed., (Oxford University Press, 2004), 119-140.
  • The Remnant Spirit: Conservative Reform in Mainline Protestantism (Praeger 2003)
  • Bearing False Witness? An Introduction to the Christian Countercult (Praeger 2003).
  • 'Confronting the Failed Failure: Y2K and Evangelical Eschatology in light of the Passed Millennium,' Nova Religio, 7, 2 (2003): 71-85.
  • ‘Exits and Migrations: Foregrounding the Christian Counter-cult,’ Journal of Contemporary Religion 17, 3 (2002): 339-354.
  • 'No Harmony: Some Notes on Evangelical Christian Response to Buddhism,' Religious Studies and Theory, 19, 2 (2000): 17-52.
  • 'Too Narrow and Too Close: Some Problems with Participant Observation in the Study of New Religious Movements,' Method and Theory in the Study of Religion, 10, 4 (1998): 391-406.
  • Nakid entent unto God: A Source/Commentary on The Cloud of Unknowing (Wakefield: Longwood Academic, 1991).
  • 'The Parson and the Landlord,' Studies in Religion, 19, 4 (1990): 459-469.
  • Religion Online: Finding Faith on the Internet Ed. (with Lorne L. Dawson, Routledge 2004)
  • Religion on the Internet: Research Prospects and Promises Ed. (with Jeffrey K. Hadden, JAI/Elsevier 2000)


  • Nikki Bado-Fralick, book review of Cyberhenge, The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies, 7, 2 (2005): 241-242.
  • Erika Summers-Effler, book review of Bearing False Witness, American Journal of Sociology 110, 3 (2004): 832.

See also

External links

  • Dr Cowan's Home Page at Rension College, University of Waterloo [1]
  • "Researching Scientology" delivered at CESNUR 2004 conference [2]
  • "Reflections on Louisville: The Christian Countercult in Conversation," delivered at the 2002 CESNUR conference [3]
  • "From Parchments to Pixels: The Christian Countercult on the Internet," delivered at the CESNUR 2001 conference [4]
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