Examples of world accommodating new religious movements


This will result in our including, much to their annoyance, a movement such as ISKCON (the International Society for Krishna Consciousness). That is, we are referring not so much to groups or movements as to individuals who have accepted some of the ideas that are currently present in what Campbell (1972) writes about as the 'cultic milieu'. Interestingly, such ideas are being increasingly introduced to middle- and senior-level management of large, multi-national corporations. Much, of course, will depend on the definition used and the extent to which sub-groups are counted as separate movements. The devotees themselves do not like being 'lumped in' with other movements, some of which are undoubtedly of a dubious nature. Examples would include the embracing of ideas long familiar in the East, but only recently common in the West, such as reincarnation, or the concept of 'the God within'. i NFORM has on its computer some minimal information about over 2,000 distinguishable movements; but, on the one hand, not of these would be included under the definition that I suggested in the previous paragraph, and, on the other hand, there is bound to be a considerable number of movements unknown to INFORM.'3 The number of members is even more difficult to calculate.

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It is, however, more common for them to be vilified by the mass media and, perhaps, to have some of the normal rights of citizens denied them.

A final point is that new religions which survive to be old religions are quite likely to compromise their pristine purity as they adjust to the contingencies of social life and successive generations.

If by religion we mean a social community which professes belief in a deity, then the Unification Church (Moonies) and International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) are undoubtedly religions. To complicate matters somewhat further, social scientists use the words 'cult' and 'sect' as technical terms to distinguish certain types of organizations from other types such as 'church' and 'denomination'.

If by 'religious' we mean Christian, then Hindus cannot be religious; if we mean believing in a God, then Buddhists may be excluded; if we mean something that has 'passed the test of time' or is considered generally acceptable, then the easiest way of dealing taxonomically with new religions 6. In popular parlance, however, 'cult' and 'sect' are used to stick a negative label on what we have chosen in this book to call new religions.

10 But while we need to be aware of the problems and complexity of the question of definition and to recognise the arbitrariness of boundaries, we also need some agreed understanding of what we are talking about in any particular situation. It might be noted that it is the questions, rather than the answers, that are being used to define a religion.