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Eileen Vartan Barker OBE, born Template:Bda in Edinburgh, UK[1], is a professor in sociology, an emeritus member of the London School of Economics (LSE), and a consultant to that institution's Centre for the Study of Human Rights. She is the chairperson and founder of the Information Network Focus on Religious Movements (INFORM) and has written studies about groups she defines as cults and new religious movements (NRMs).

Academic career

She has been involved with the LSE's sociology department whence she received her Ph.D. since 1970.[2]

In 1988 she was engaged in research on the preservation of cultural identity in the Armenian diaspora.[2] In the same year she founded the Information Network Focus on Religious Movements (INFORM), with the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury and financial help from the British Home Office.[3]

Eileen Barker has held numerous positions of leadership in the academic study of religion. She was Chairperson of the British Sociological Association's Study Group for the Sociology of Religion from 1985 to 1990, President of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion from 1991 to 1993 (the first non-American to hold that office), and President of the Association for the Sociology of Religion from 2001 to 2002.[4][5]

In 2000 Barker was appointed as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE)[6] and named by the American Academy of Religion to receive its Martin E. Marty Award for Contributions to the Public Understanding of Religion.[7]

As of 2009, Barker is a member of the Editorial Review Board of the International Cultic Studies Association's Cultic Studies Review[8]. The Editorial Review Board of the Cultic Studies Review contributes to the process of peer review of the academic journal. [9]

The Making of a Moonie

In her 1984 book The Making of a Moonie: Choice or Brainwashing?, based on close to seven years of study of Unification Church members (informally called "Moonies") in the United Kingdom and the United States. Laurence Iannaccone of George Mason University, a specialist in the economics of religion, wrote that The Making of a Moonie was "one of the most comprehensive and influential studies" of the process of conversion to new religious movements. [10]

Opinions of others

Brainwashing proponents Margaret Singer and Janja Lalich, have criticized Barker's rejection of the brainwashing hypothesis in her study of the conversion process for members of the Unification Church. Singer and Lalich, in their 1995 book Cults in Our Midst, called Barker a "procult apologist" for adopting an "apologist stance" towards the Unification Church, and noted that she had received payment from the Church for expenses for a book and eighteen conferences from the Unification Church. Barker defended this by stating that it had been approved by her university and a government grants council, and saved taxpayer money. Singer and Lalich likened the behavior of Barker and other researchers who received such funding as being "not unlike the Nazi doctors whom... have sold their very souls."[11]

Barker responded to the financial issues in a 1995 paper, writing that "[w]hat is less well known is that vast amounts of money are at stake in the fostering of brainwashing and mind control thesis in the anti-cult movement secondary constructions", and noting that "deprogrammers" and "exit counselors" charge tens of thousands of dollars for their services and that "expert witnesses" such as Singer "have charged enormous fees for giving testimony about brainwashing in court cases".[12]

Barker's INFORM organisation has been criticised by other anti-cult organisations, in particular the Family Action Information Resource chaired by former Conservative Home Office minister and anti-cult campaigner Tom Sackville, who cut INFORM's Home Office funding in 1997.[13] In 1999, it was reported that INFORM was facing closure, due to lack of funds.[14] By 2000, Home Office funding was restored, prompting Sackville to warn that INFORM might provide government with bad advice, adding, "I cancelled INFORM's grant and I think it's absurd that it's been brought back."[13] Criticism of INFORM has focused on Barker's reluctance to condemn all new religions as "cults".[13] Barker responded to the criticism by saying, "We are not cult apologists. People make a lot of noise without doing serious research – so much so that they can end up sounding as closed to reason as the cults they're attacking. Besides, I imagine FAIR was disappointed not to get our funding."[13]

In a 2003 collection of essays in honour of Eileen Barker, the influential Oxford University-based religious scholar Bryan R. Wilson commented that INFORM was "often in a position from which it can reassure relatives about the character, disposition, policy, provenance and prospects of a given movement. It may be able to deflate some widely circulated rumours and false impressions derived from media comment."[15][16] Wilson added that Barker's social science research, in particular her work on the Unification Church, had been instrumental in demonstrating that the brainwashing concept, which for some years had enjoyed popularity in the media, was unable to explain what actually happened in the process of religious conversion, or to explain why so many members of new religious movements actually leave these movements again after a short period.[16]

Australian psychologist Len Oakes and British psychiatry professor Anthony Storr, who have written critically about cults, gurus, new religious movements and their leaders, have praised Barker's work on the Unification Church's conversion process.[17][18]

Political career

Barker, a member of the Liberal Democrats, was an unsuccessful Queen's Park ward candidate in May 2002[19] and an unsuccessful Kenton ward candidate in May 2006.[20]

About Barker

  • James A. Beckford and James T. (Jim) Richardson, eds., Challenging Religion: Essays in Honour of Eileen Barker (London: Routledge, 2003).
  • Prof. Alexander L. Dvorkin, "Are There Objective and Scientific Studies of NRM?", Moscow, Russia, Center of Religious Studies, Ozernaya, Russia, October 25, 2006.

Selected bibliography by Barker

  • Barker, Eileen In the Beginning: The Battle of Creationists Science against Evolutionism, article in the book edited by Roy Wallis On the Margin of Science: The Social Construction of Rejected Knowledge. Sociological Review Monograph 27, Keele, 1979, pp. 179-200
  • Barker, Eileen Science as Theology - The Theological Functioning of Western Science, article in the book edited by A. R. Peacocke The Sciences and Theology in the Twentieth Century. University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, Indiana 1981, pp. 262-280
  • Barker, Eileen The Making of a Moonie: Choice or Brainwashing?, Blackwell Publishers, November 1984, ISBN 0-631-13246-5
  • Barker, Eileen (editor) Of Gods and Men: New Religious Movements in the West Mercer University Press Macon, Georgia, U.S.A. 1984 ISBN 0865540950
  • Barker, Eileen Defection from the Unification Church: Some Statistics and Distinctions, article in the book edited by David G. Bromley Falling from the Faith: The Causes and Consequences of Religious Apostasy. Newbury Park: SAGE Publications, (1988) ISBN 0-8039-3188-3
  • Barker, Eileen New Religious Movements: A Practical Introduction (Paperback) Bernan Press (October, 1990) ISBN 0-11-340927-3
  • Barker, Eileen "The Scientific Study of Religion? You Must Be Joking!" Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 34 (1995), pp. 287–310.
  • Barker, Eileen "New Religious Movements in Britain," in New Religious Movements in Europe, Helle Meldgaard and Johannes Aagaard, eds., (Aarhus: Aarhus University Press, 1997), pp. 99–123. ISBN 8772885483
  • Barker, Eileen, "New Religions and New Religiosity," in New Religions and New Religiosity, Eileen Barker and Margit Warburg, eds., (Aarhus:Aarhus University Press, 1998), pp. 10–27. ISBN 8772885521
  • Barker, Eileen, On freedom: a centenary anthology, Transaction Publishers, 1997, ISBN 1560009764 ISBN 9781560009764
  • Barker, Eileen "Standing at the Cross-Roads: Politics of Marginality in 'Subversive Organizations'" article in The Politics of Religious Apostasy: The Role of Apostates in the Transformation of Religious Movements edited by David G. Bromley Westport, CT, Praeger Publishers, (1998). ISBN 0-275-95508-7
  • Barker, Eileen. New Religions, Haft Asman (Seven Heavens), A Journal for the Center for Religious Studies, Vol. 4, no. 19, translated into Persian by Baqer Talebi Darabi, Autumn 2002.
  • Barker, Eileen "Watching for Violence: A Comparative Analysis of the Roles of Five Types of Cult-atching Groups," in Cults, Religion and Violence, David G. Bromley and J. Gordon Melton, eds. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), pp. 123–148. ISBN 0521660645
  • Barker, Eileen. (Editor) Freedom and Religion in Eastern Europe. Special Edition of The Sociology of Religion 64 no. 3 2003.
  • Barker, Eileen. "And the Wisdom to Know the Difference? Freedom, Control and the Sociology of Religion" (Association for the Sociology of Religion 2002 Presidential Address). Sociology of Religion 64, no. 3, 2003, pp. 285–307.
  • Barker, Eileen. (Slovak language) "Zákonné opatrenie nových náboženských knutí Vel'kej Británii", in Erópa a nové náboženskýhnutia, Zostavil Miroslv Lojda (ed.), Bratislava: Ministerstva kultúry Slovenskej republiky, translated into Slovakian by M. Lodja. 2003, pp. 87–92.
  • Barker, Eileen. "Democracy and Religious Pluralism in Post-Soviet Society." In The Rebirth of Religion and the Birth of Democracy in Russia. Edited by Hoekema, D.; Bodrov, A. Calvin College, 2003.
  • Barker, Eileen (German language) "'Vereinigungskirche'" in Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart: vierte Auflage, edited by Hans Dieter Betz, Don S. Browning, Bernd Janowski, Eberhard Jüngel. Tübingen: RGG, 2004: 21068.
  • Barker, Eileen. Why the Cults? New Religions and Freedom of Religion and Beliefs. In Facilitating Freedom of Religion or Belief: A Deskbook. Edited by Lindholm, T.; Durham, W.C.; Tahzib-Lie, B. Koninklijke Brill, 2004, pp. 571–593. ISBN 9004137831
  • Barker, Eileen. "General Overview of the 'Cult Scene' in Great Britain." In New Religious Movements in the 21st Century: Legal, Political, and Social Challenges in Global Perspective. edited by Lucas, C.P.; Robbins, T. Routledge, 2004, pp. 27–34. (ISSN 1350-7303)
  • Barker, Eileen. (German language) "Neue Religiöse Bewegungen: Religiöser Pluralismus in der westlichen Welt." In Religion und Gessellschaft. Edited by Reuter, K. G. H.-R.. Ferdinand Schöningh, 2004, pp. 333–352.
  • Barker, Eileen. The Church Without and the God Within: Religiosity and/or Spirituality? In Religion and Patterns of Social Transformation. Edited by Borowik, I.; Jerolimov, D.; Zrinšcak, D. IDIZ (Institute for Social Research in Zagreb), 2004, pp. 23–47. ISBN 953621816X
  • Barker, Eileen. "What Are We Studying? A Sociological Case for Keeping the 'Nova'", Nova Religio 8 no. 3 (2004) pp. 88–102. (ISSN 1092-6690)
  • Barker, Eileen "Crossing the Boundary: New Challenges to Authority and Control as a Consequence of Access to the Internet." in Religion and Cyberspace, edited by M. T. Højsgaard and M. Warburg, London: Routledge, 2005. ISBN 0415357675
  • Barker, Eileen "Yet More Varieties of Religious Experiences: Diversity and Pluralism in Contemporary Europe" in Hartmut Lehman (ed.) Religiöser Pluralismus im vereinten Europa: Freikirchen und Sekten, Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag, 2005: 156-172 ISBN 3892448825
  • Barker, Eileen (with Bryan R. Wilson) "What are the New Religions Doing in a Secular Society?" in Anthony F. Heath, John Ermisch & Duncan Gallie (eds) Understanding Social Change. British Academy Centenary Monograph, Published for the British Academy by Oxford University Press, 2005: 291-317. ISBN 0197263143
  • Barker, Eileen "New Religious Movements" Religions and Beliefs in Britain (GCSE/A'level resource book), Craig Donnellan (ed.), Cambridge: Independence, 2005: 19-22.
  • Barker, Eileen "Unification Church" in The Encyclopedia of New York State Peter Eisenstadt, Editor in Chief, Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2005.


  1. wikitree, retrieved 2007-07-21
  2. 2.0 2.1 Bromley, David G. Falling from the Faith: The Causes and Consequences of Religious Apostasy. Newbury Park: SAGE Publications, (1988) ISBN 0-8039-3188-3 page 263
  3. Chryssides, George D. (1999), Exploring New Religions, Continuum International Publishing Group, p. 351, ISBN 9780826459596
  4. James A. Beckford and James T. (Jim) Richardson, eds., Challenging Religion: Essays in Honour of Eileen Barker (London: Routledge, 2003), p. 5
  5. Heath, Anthony Francis et al. (2005). Understanding social change. Oxford University Press. pp. vii. ISBN 9780197263143.
  6. "New Years Honours, Order of the British Empire". BBC News. 1999-12-31.
  7. Scholar Honored for Contributions to the Public Understanding of Religion
  8. Cultic Studies Review Editorial Board, Eileen Barker, Ph.D., International Cultic Studies Association, Web site., 2006.
  9. Announcing Cultic Studies Review, Michael D. Langone, Ph.D. (Editor), Vol. 1, No. 1, 2002, International Cultic Studies Association
    "By taking over the functions of these three periodicals, CSR is able to offer peer-reviewed, scholarly articles, news on groups and topics (e.g., children and cultic groups), opinion columns, personal accounts of ex-members, and high quality articles for laypersons."
  10. The Market for Martyrs, Laurence Iannaccone, George Mason University, 2006, "One of the most comprehensive and influential studies was The Making of a Moonie: Choice or Brainwashing? by Eileen Barker (1984).
  11. Cults in our Midst, Margaret Thaler Singer, Janja Lalich, pp. 217-218, notes on p. 352
  12. Barker, Eileen. The Scientific Study of Religion? You Must Be Joking! Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Vol. 34, No. 3, 287-310. Sep., 1995”
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 Telegraph staff (2000-07-31), "Cult advisers in clash over clampdown", The Daily Telegraph,, retrieved 19 December 2009
  14. Thomson, Alan (1999-02-12), "Cult-watch centre faces closure", Times Higher Education,, retrieved 19 December 2009
  15. Staff (2004 -10-29). "Bryan Wilson: Influential sociologist who offered new and enduring insights into sects and religions". The Times. Retrieved 19 December 2009.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Wilson, Bryan R. (2003), "Absolutes and relatives: problems for NRMs", in Beckford, James A.; Richardson, James T., Challenging religion: essays in honour of Eileen Barker, Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, ISBN 9780415309486
  17. Oakes, Len "By far the best study of the conversion process is Eileen Barker’s The Making of a Moonie [...]" from Prophetic Charisma: The Psychology of Revolutionary Religious Personalities, 1997, ISBN 0-8156-0398-3 excerpts
  18. Storr, Anthony Dr. Feet of clay: a study of gurus 1996 ISBN 0-684-83495-2
  19.!OpenDocument 2002 Candidate Details, retrieved 2007-07-21
  20.!OpenDocument 2006 Candidate Details, retrieved 2007-07-21

External links

cs:Eileen Barker fr:Eileen Barker ru:Баркер, Айлин tr:Eileen Barker

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