Across the Boundaries of Belief: Contemporary Issues in the Anthropology of Religion

By Morton Klass; Maxine Weisgrau | Go to book overview

The issue of the success or spread of new movements is pursued in other chapters. Benton Johnson argues, in his comparative study of four contemporary religious movements, that the success of new religious movements will derive in part from the personality of its founder/leader and reflect his or her ability to respond rapidly to changes in the size and complexity of the resulting organization, as well as to the needs of followers. Susan F. Harding explores the success of American Baptist fundamentalists in converting "born again" followers, which she attributes largely to the power of the rhetoric and language that ministers and converted followers employ. She suggests that the tendency of social scientists to distance themselves from the profoundly emotional experience of conversion has resulted in an incomplete understanding of this religious phenomenon. Although rituals of conversion have been observed and recorded, Harding argues, we must listen, too, and we must explore the consequences of listening."

This part documents religious change and continuity in so many different geographical and cultural settings that drawing conclusions to link this diversity is nearly impossible. Perhaps one change that is concrete and recognizable is that as the twentieth century comes to a close, all of the new religious movements described in this part and throughout this book are to be found within modern nation-states. All of them must interface, on some level, either explicitly or implicitly, with the rules, regulations, legislations, politics, and bureaucracies of the states within which they operate. They must all attract followers from multiethnic and multireligious environments, and so they must appeal to some common or shared goal, desire, fear, or self-interest. And on some level, all these movements are also involved in the transnational flow of ideas instantly communicated globally by international media and computerized technologies.

One certainty is that in the realms of religious ideology and identity there can be no change without continuity, no continuity without change.


References

Beckford James 1987 "New Religions: An Overview." In The Encyclopedia of Religion, vol. 10. Ed. M. Eliade. New York: Macmillan, 390-394.

Kendall Laurel 1996 Getting Married in Korea: Of Gender, Morality, and Modernity. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Klass Morton 1995 Ordered Universes: Approaches to the Anthropology of Religion. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press.

Worsley Peter 1968 The Trumpet Shall Sound: A Study of "Cargo" Cults in Melanesia. 2d augmented ed. New York: Schocken Books.

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