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Marina V. Vorobjova

Changing World of New Religiousness

1. Changing appearance of NRM

New Religious Movements (NRM) noticeably stand out against religions, which histories are measured by centuries and sometimes — milleniums. Often New Religious Movements make an impression of changeable structures without any conservatism, full of tolerance and able to make new decisions and move on to further development.

If we take any New Religious Movement, we will see, that its original appearance may be substantially modified. For example, a movement may shift dates in its eschatological doctrine (Adventists of the Seventh Day) or to dismiss them altogether (White Brotherhood). A movement may change its attitude towards the world from aggressive or negative to positive (that, for example, can be traced in the doctrine of White Brotherhood) or the other way around (example).

The teaching of a New Religious Movement may change just as well as its social appearance. With a background of a history that is measured only by decades these changes seem much too dynamic.

Here are some of the reasons leading New Religious Movements to change their appearance today. A country's political situation and its citizens social life are, of course, very important factors that influence any religion and first of all New Religious Movements. This is because it is New Religious Movements that are the most susceptible to the influence of the outside world and are often permanently developing. Thus, they are the most frequent subject of change (unlike religions that already have a formed history, doctrine and a social structure - these hardly change at all today).

Other religions and relationships between them also influence New Religious Movements. The well-known definition "nontraditional" (as opposed to "traditional") is an excellent illustration of how a relationship between a new religion and one historically "attached" to a particular region is formed.

2. Reason of changes

A New Religious Movement's behavior, its appearance, and the very religious situation in Eastern and Western European countries can be formed differently. It depends on a number of reasons among which the following need to be mentioned:

1. Influence of history. Post-communist Eastern European countries have their influence on a New Religious Movement's appearance and on its followers. Some researchers, for example, V. Elenskiy, mark a shift in the character of a Western New Religious Movement's presence once they are in Eastern Europe. "Those that promise a proper bourgeois perspective and not those that challenge the society become most noticeable." Citizens often wish to move on to a quiet peaceful life and this is reflected in specifics of New Religious Movement's activity in countries of Eastern Europe.

2. Monarchic ideas. A tendency to strengthen one's cultural tradition to which monarchic ideas are related runs strong in most of Eastern European countries. Democratic values of the West have not had time set roots in many Eastern European countries yet.

3. National factor. It dominates in those Eastern European countries, that used to be based on the idea of national equality (although we must certainly, consider the multinational nature of the majority of Eastern European countries).

4. Level of social life. Unstable social status allows New Religious Movements to put forth values, that are first of all connected to material wealth.

5. Political life. Religion's interest for political struggle allows to involve New Religious Movements on one side or the other.

6. Secularization. Secularization in Eastern European countries is expressed less than in Western countries which, of course, has its effects on New Religious Movement's behavior.

7. Globalization. In Eastern European countries the process of globalization goes slower than in Western countries.

3. Attitude towards the world

Many scholars justly note, that religious movements are divided into the following groups:

1. Denying the surrounding world and fleeing it or fighting it;

2. Striving to reshape the surrounding world;

3. Adapting to its social environment.

However, as we have already noted, New Religious Movements can change their attitude and go from denying the surrounding world to trying to reshape the surrounding world or adapt to its social environment.

4. New Religious Movements in post-soviet Russia

Opportunities for spreading of New Religious Movements have been opening all around Russia since the time of perestroika. A great number of people turn to the Russian Orthodox Church. Aside from orthodoxy people are also attracted to other Christian confessions and movements including those that existed in Russia in the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth. Such are, for example, baptist and evangelical Christians movements.

Simultaneously there arises an interest for Eastern teachings first among which come Buddhism and Hinduism followed by Oriental New Religious Movements (Krishna's Consciousness Society, Unification Church etc.).

New Religious Movements seem a kind of an alternative to the Russian Orthodox Church. They are sometimes seen as compatible organizations, if this word may be used in a sphere such as religion.

But "the fashion on religion" of the nineties is gradually passing. People are still turning to religions but without too much astonishment and pomp. New Religious Movements are forced to adopt to new conditions of existence. They strengthen their positions, but they are unable to separate themselves from social life and be completely isolated from a social context. Thus, for today we observe the following picture.

Specific features of Russian life make representatives of world religions and New Religious Movements pay maximum attention to the members. After all they have to consider not only specifics of their inner world, but also the not always favorable outside situation which emerges around a religion and may leave a particular mark on a New Religious Movement.

And perhaps the most important point is, that New Religious Movements are one way or the other involved in church-political dialog. As a result they can't remain indifferent and are frequently forced to defend the positions. During this dialog New Religious Movements may change the strategy of their activity on Russian grounds and therefore some elements of the very teaching may vary.

We also should not overlook the "national" products — New Religious Movements made in post-soviet Russia. These are, for example, White Brotherhood 'Usmalos', Church of the Last Testament, Church of the Mother God Derzhavnaya and some others, which have their own specifics.

5. In protection of tradition?

Let us at last touch upon the subject of so-called "traditional" religions. The claim of "traditional" (historical and/or characteristic to a particular area) religions of a special, primary position in relation to new religions is quite clear. However such ambitions may lead to a heated inter-religious struggle the results of which will be animosity towards representatives of one or another religious movement and destabilization of religious relationships in the society.

Labels such as "destructive cult" and "totalitarian sect" are means that "traditional" religions use. Such labels are frequently given not only to representatives of New Religious Movements, but also to members of other Christian confessions. Activity of organizations such as Iriney of Lyon's Center (Russia), informational center "Dialogue" (Ukraine), results in sparking inter-religious animosity, that - from our point of view - does not give any credit to representatives of traditional religions, to which these organizations belong, or to representatives of religious minorities, who, in turn, are forced to be engaged in "getting square" with their offenders.

From our point of view inter-religious struggle does not raise the level of people's religiousness. It surely can influence New Religious Movements and cause changes in their teachings. Thus, under the influence of "traditional" religions some New Religious Movements may choose a path of denying the world instead of former positive attitude towards it. Which may lead to a destabilization of its position in society. States are not likely to benefit from this because people's moral appearance is not likely to get better in such circumstances. Most likely it will lead to people falling away from religion. And, strangely enough, the pace of secularization may be hastened by the struggle between the "traditional" and the "non-traditional".

Let us sum up the results. New Religious Movements are not always stable and may be changeable. Appearance of one and the same religious movement in countries of Eastern and Western Europe may noticeably differ. Emerging in the post-soviet area New Religious Movements receive a new impulse for development because of political and social situation in post-soviet states. But we need to be cautious: changes that take place in some communes are rather serious and may lead to a shift in the appearance religious movement all over the world. Therefore we cannot ignore things that happen in different countries. There is no "private" in the sphere of religiousness because changing in specific countries it may provoke changes all over the world.

This Report was read on the 5-th Conference of ISORECEA "Challenges of Religious Plurality for Eastern and Central Europe" (Lviv, Ukraine, 2003).