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Centre of Asian Studies, The University of Hong Kong A Carnival of Gods - A Study of Contemporary Religions in Hong Kong New Religious Movements: An Introduction Dr. K. K. Yeung Research Fellow, Religious Education Resource Centre 1. Some Intriguing Facts Some estimate:

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new religious movements an introduction

Centre of Asian Studies, The University of Hong Kong

A Carnival of Gods - A Study of Contemporary Religions in Hong Kong

New Religious Movements:An Introduction

Dr. K. K. Yeung

Research Fellow, Religious Education Resource Centre

some estimate
Some estimate:
  • There are around a few tens of thousands of NRMs in the whole world (1999)
  • There are around 2,000-3,000 NRMs in the West (1999)
  • Over 3,000 NRMs in Japan (1993)
  • 10-20% of Japanese population is involved in one or more of the NRMs
  • Soka Gakkai (Largest NRM in Japan) claims a membership of over 17 millions worldwide and 40,000 in Hong Kong
  • There are around 100 new religions and spiritual groups in Hong Kong (1996)
religious population of the world 1998
Religious Population of the World, 1998

(From Britannica Book of the Year, 1999.)

examples of nrms in hong kong
Examples of NRMs in Hong Kong:
  • Christian-related:
    • Jehovah’s Witnesses (耶和華見證人)
    • Mormons (摩門教)
    • Unification Church (統一教)
  • “Eastern”:
    • Transcendental Meditation (超覺靜坐)
    • Hare Krishna (國際Krishna 知覺協會, ISKCON)
  • Japanese:
    • Soka Gakkai (創價學會)
  • Indigenous:
    • Zion Church (錫安教會)
  • (From Chan Shun-ching)
defining nrm 1 a working definition
Defining NRM (1) : A Working Definition

An NRM is new in so far as it has become visible in its present form since the Second World War, and that it is religious in so far as it offers not merely narrow theological statements about the existence and nature of supernatural beings, but that it proposes answers to at least some of the other kinds of ultimate questions that have traditionally been addressed by mainstream religions.

(Questions such as: Is there a God? Who am I? How might I find direction, meaning and purpose in life? Is there life after death? Is there more to human beings than their physical bodies and immediate interactions with others?)

(by Eileen Barker)

defining nrm 2 church sect cult
Defining NRM (2) : Church, Sect & Cult
  • CHURCH (教會): a conventional religious organization
  • SECT (教派): a deviant religious organization with traditional beliefs and practices
    • Heresy (異端)?
  • CULT (膜拜團體): a deviant religious organization with novel beliefs and practices
    • “Antisocial” cults
    • Doomsday cults
    • “Evil cults” (邪教)?
  • (From Rodney Stark & William Bainbridge)
defining nrm 3 7 characteristics eileen barker
Defining NRM (3) : 7 Characteristics: (Eileen Barker)
  • Small size in early days:
    • Members having personal knowledge of each other and face-to-face interaction
  • Atypical representation of population:
    • A tendency to attract people of a narrow age range, educational level, or a particular gender
    • e.g. young people of above average education
  • First-generation membership:
    • Initial members have chosen to join
    • Exhibit far more enthusiasm/ fanaticism and commitment
  • Charismatic Leader:
    • Usually also founder of the movement
    • Likely to be accorded charismatic authority
    • Unbounded by the constraints of rules or tradition
defining nrm 3 7 characteristics eileen barker10
Defining NRM (3) : 7 Characteristics: (Eileen Barker)
  • New belief systems:
    • Tend to be more unambiguous and uncompromising
    • Syncretistic
    • May include millennialism
  • The Them/Us divide:
    • Social boundary between “them” and “us”, Evil and Good, fallen and saved.
    • Esp. sharp in “world-rejecting” NRMs
  • External hostility:
    • Because usually receive antagonistic reactions from larger society
defining nrm 4 formative factors of nrm
Defining NRM (4) : Formative Factors of NRM

Sociopolitical Opportunities

Organizational Structure

Socio-economic Process

Collective Action

Charismatic Leader

Identity

Religious Beliefs, Rituals and Practices

(Adopted with modifications from Chan Shun-hing )

concepts charisma
Concepts: Charisma

Max Weber:

“The term ‘charisma’ will be applied to a certain quality of an individual personality by virtue of which he is set apart from ordinary men and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities. These are such as are not accessible to the ordinary person, but are regarded as of divine origin or as exemplary, and on the basis of them the individual concerned is treated as a leader.”

concepts millennialism millenarianism
Concepts: Millennialism/Millenarianism
  • Original meaning:
    • Belief in the Second Coming of Christ and the establishment of his kingdom on earth (the Book of Revelation).
  • More generally:
    • Beliefs about the imminent transformation or end of the world and the creation of an age in which human suffering and violence will be eliminated
    • Any religious movement that prophesies the imminent destruction of the present order and the establishment of a new order, usually reversing the relative status of the oppressed and the oppressor.
three types of christian millennialism
Three types of Christian millennialism
  • Premillennialism (catastrophic millennialism)
    • worldwide destruction and the return of Jesus Christ are required to save humanity and bring about a new era of peace on earth
    • a pessimistic view of modern society and sees the world as fatally flawed.
  • Postmillennialism (progressive millennialism)
    • through social reform and by upholding Christian ideals, the kingdom of God will be built on earth and Christ will return.
    • some believe the millennium has already started
  • Amillennialism
    • there will be no earthly millennium
    • the millennial rule of Christ occurs in the hearts of believers
why do people join nrms eileen barker
Why do people join NRMs? (Eileen Barker)
  • To find direction, meaning, the hope of salvation
  • To find a sense of belonging to like-minded community
  • To develop a relationship with God
  • To develop their spirituality
  • To find their true selves
  • To find other possibilities that they felt they were denied in the “outside world”
  • To get good health & cure diseases
  • To have moral guidance
3 types of new religions in japan
3 types of New Religions in Japan
  • New Religions
  • New New Religions
  • New Spirituality Movement (“Spiritual World”) = New Age:
new spirituality movement
New Spirituality Movement
  • Beliefs:
    • Earlier religions (with hardened doctrines and institutional forms): prevented individuals from realizing full spiritual potential
    • Humanity is entering a new stage in the evolution of consciousness
    • Each individual should search and discover their own inner being, develop their own spirituality, and bring about their own spiritual transformation
  • Techniques: meditation, ascetic training, bodywork, psychotherapy
  • Study: ancient mysticism, archaic religions and myths, rituals, psychological theories
the believers
The believers:

Three types of response:

  • Joining an NRM will remain the most important thing to happen in their lives
  • The experience may have seemed wonderful at first but has since soured through disappointment and disillusionment
  • Having extremely unpleasant experiences and feeling that they have been deceived, manipulated, exploited and/or robbed not only of money and material goods but also of their time, innocence and faith in God/humanity
the nrms
The NRMs:
  • Fundamental difficulty: The aspiration to realize religious ideals in this world through political means met with strong opposition from society atlarge
  • Choices available:
    • Greater confrontation (e.g. Aum Shinrikyo)
    • Find hope in an ideal society in the future
    • Compromise and take a more realistic position with regard to social reform (e.g. Soka Gakkai)
typology of orientations of religion towards the world
Typology of orientations of religion towards the world
  • World conqueror
    • Tocontrolof the structures of society
    • Militant: use the sword or the bomb
  • World transformer
    • Influence the structures, institutions, laws and practices of a society (with accommodatingstrategies)
    • Civilsociety rather than battlefield is the primary arena for interaction with the enemy
typology of orientations of religion towards the world24
Typology of orientations of religion towards the world
  • World creator
    • Direct competition with the outside world: strengthen its own world to attract others as a clear alternative to the fallen world.
    • Missionary work: not to transform the structures of the world outside, but to increase the numbers of the enclave
  • World renouncer
    • Same as 3.1-2
    • Seek purity and self-preservation (the self-construction of the fundamentalist world) more than controlling the fallen outsiders
what makes a cult become world destroying
What makes a cult become “World-destroying” ?
  • Totalized Guru: “no deity beyond the guru”; no difference between reality and metaphors for both guru and disciples
  • Extreme Technocratic Manipulation: associated with both a claim to “absolute scientific truth” and the use of technical devices to transform disciples (in the case of Aum, hallucinogenic drugs).
  • Impulse: “the relentless impulse toward world-rejecting purification”
  • Ultimate Weapons: the attraction of ultimate weapons (e.g. “nuclearism”)
what makes a cult become world destroying26
What makes a cult become “World-destroying” ?
  • Aggressive Numbing: a shared state, where hesitations toward violent and illegal actions go away
  • World-destroying apocalyptic events: a vision of an apocalyptic event or series of events that would destroy the world in the service of renewal
  • “Altruistic Murder” ideology: an ideology of “killing to heal”, of “altruistic murder” and “altruistic world destruction”

(From Robert Lifton )

anti cultist movement
Anti-Cultist Movement

Allegations of danger:

  • Diminish the rights of those who enter their orbit
  • Often use inappropriate techniques to draw people in.
  • Deception and coercion (“mind-control”, “brainwashing”, forced separation from families)
  • Illegitimacy of beliefs
  • Sexual perversion
  • Political subversion
  • Financial exploitation
arguments against anti cultist movement
Arguments against Anti-cultist movement:
  • NRMs’ techniques of influence are not any different than the methods of influence that are widely used in every sector of human society => it is not illegal.
  • An abundance of empirical knowledge demonstrates that the average person who joins a cult remains only a short while. When the group ceases to serve the purpose that initially attracted them to the group, they leave.
  • Cult and sect formation are a normal part of religious life.
  • So long as cults and sects do not act in ways that demonstrably diminish the rights of other citizens, they are entitled to the full protection of the law.
future trend
Future Trend

Shimazono Susumu:

  • Since 1970s, movements that sought to create New Religions have declined, while the number of people pursuing an individualistic spiritual quest have increased.
nrms a postmodern phenomenon
NRMs: A Postmodern phenomenon?

Some characteristics of modern society:

  • The weakening of communal life after the breakdown of extended family
  • The absence of emotional support in bureaucratic institutions
  • In want of a mediating structure between the nucleus family and bureaucracy
  • The meaninglessness of utilitarian individualism valued by capitalism
    • Dissatisfaction & boredom
    • Loss of identity and values
    • => Counter-cultural movements
example 1 falun gong
Example 1: Falun Gong (法輪功)

Founder: Li Hongzhi (李洪志)

example 1 falun gong33
Example 1: Falun Gong (法輪功)

Reasons for joining:

  • Physical cultivation (qigong): Health & Curing diseases (The breakdown of public healthcare system)
  • Moral directions & cultivation of moral character (Forbearance)
  • Spiritual supports (Truthfulness & Benevolence) (esp. decline of Marxist ideology and rapid socioeconomic changes)
  • Social communications, social security and mutual supports (Absence of freedom of association and speech)
example 2 aum shirinkyo
Example 2: Aum Shirinkyo (奧姆真理教)

Founder:

Shoko Asahara (麻原彰晃) real name: Chizuo Matsumoto (松本智津夫)

example 2 aum shirinkyo35
Example 2: Aum Shirinkyo (奧姆真理教)
  • At the time of the Tokyo subway attack, the group claimed to have 9,000 members in Japan and up to 40,000 worldwide.
  • 1,114 adopted Aum’s world-renouncing communal life. 47.5% of them were in their 20s.
  • Aum's current membership is estimated at 1,500 to 2,000 persons.
  • Aum has to pay an indemnity of more than 3 billion yens to the families of sarin-atttack victims
example 2 aleph successor of aum shirinkyo
Example 2: Aleph: Successor of Aum Shirinkyo
  • Fumihiro Joyu (上祐史浩):
  • Previously Aum’s spokesman and Russia branch leader
  • Have changed Aum’s name to “Aleph”
soka gakkai first three presidents
Soka Gakkai: First Three Presidents

First President: Makiguchi Tsunesaburo

(牧口常三郎)

Second President: Toda Josei

(戶田城聖)

Third President: Daisaku Ikeda

(池田大作)

example 3 soka gakkai
Example 3: Soka Gakkai (創價學會)
  • Largest New Religion in Japan (claims a membership of over 17 millions (in 1993))
  • Its third president Dr Daisaku Ikeda was awarded the degree of Doctor of Social Science, honoris causa by CUHK in 2000.
references 1
References (1):
  • 村上春樹. 1998.〈「沒有指標的惡夢」——我們正在往什麼方向前進呢?〉《地下鐵事件》 賴明珠譯. 554-582. 台北:時報文化出版企業股份有限公司.
  • 陳慎慶. 1995.〈教派的社會構成——香港牧鄰教會的個案〉《二十一世紀雙月刊》30(8月): 149-158.
  • 瑪麗.派特.費雪. 1999. 第三章:新興宗教運動. 《21世紀宗教》. 尤淑雅譯. 史作檉導讀. 109-143. 台北市: 貓頭鷹出版社股份有限公司.
  • 1995.〈毒魔突襲東京地鐵驚全球〉《亞洲週刊》. 4月2日: 20-24.
  • 戴康生編. 1999.《當代新興宗教》北京;東方出版社.
  • 陳純菁. 2002. 〈重建魅幻時代的香港〉載陳慎慶編《諸神嘉年華》香港: 牛津出版社. 468-515.
  • Barker, Eileen, ed. 1982. New Religious Movements: A Perspective for Understanding Society. New York: Edwin Mellen Press.
  • Barker, Eileen. 1999. “New Religious Movements: Their Incidence and Significance.” In New Religious Movements: Challenge and Response. Edited by Bryan Wilson and Jamie Cresswell. 15-32. London, New York: Routledge
references 2
References (2):
  • Beckford, James A. 1985. “Chapter 2: A New Conceptual Framework.” Cult Controversies: The Societal Response to New Religious Movements. London: Tavistock Publications.
  • Lifton, Robert Jay. 1999. Destroying the World to Save It: Aum Shinrikyo, Apocalyptic Violence, and the New Global Terrorism. New York:Metropolitan Books.
  • Metraux, Daniel Alfred. 1999. Aum Shinrikyo and Japanese Youth. Lanham: University Press of America.
  • Stark, Rodney and William Sims Bainbridge. 1979. “Of Churches, Sects, and Cults: Preliminary Concepts for a Theory of Religious Movements.” Journal of the Scientific Study of Religion, 18(2): 117-133.