Who is Afraid of Religious Minorities

Who is Afraid of Religious Minorities?

The Social Construction of a Moral Panic

Massimo Introvigne

From Islamic threats to the evil of cults, religious minorities today are more often perceived as a social problem than as a social resource. Before World War II, social scientists had already defined a social problem as "a condition which is defined by a considerable number of persons as a diversion from some social norm which they cherish"[1]. A larger recent scholarship suggests that, while social problems start with conditions open to empirical verification, how they develop and are represented is the result of much more complicated social processes. Although not all scholars of social problems regard themselves as "constructionist", most would accept that, at least to some extent, social problems are socially constructed and politically negotiated.

In the 1970s the new concept of "moral panic" was developed in order to explain how some social problems become overconstructed and generate exaggerate fears. Moral panics were defined as socially constructed social problems characterized by a reaction, both in media representation and in political forums, out of proportion to the actual threat. Two additional features of moral panics were mentioned. First, social problems existing from decades are reconstructed by media and public narratives as "new" (or as the subject of a recent alleged dramatic increase). Second, their prevalence is misrepresented by folk statistics that, although not confirmed by scholarly studies, are repeated from media to media and may inspire political measures[2]. According to Philip Jenkins (a leading "constructionist" scholar), "the panic reaction does not occur because of any rational assessment of the scale of a particular menace". Rather, it is "a result of ill-defined fears that eventually find a dramatic and oversimplified focus in one incident or stereotype, which then provides a visible symbol for discussion and debate"[3]. Jenkins emphasizes the role in the creation and management of moral panics of moral entrepreneurs, who have vested interests in perpetuating the specific fears. However, he also cautions against necessarily assuming "that sinister or covert agendas lay behind these processes"[4]. The social construction of problems is too complicated a process to be attributed entirely to the initiative of identifiable lobbies or groups.

The dangers of rock music, child abusing in general and specifically abuse by Satanists and pedophile priests, hooliganism among British soccer fans, serial killers, and many other problems have been studies as socially constructed problems and/or moral panics[5]. Moral panics have at their beginnings objective conditions and real dangers. Nobody would seriously argue that serial killers, pedophile priests (and non-priests), abusive fathers (and mothers) do not exist, and this very city has seen its fair share of British (and non-British) soccer hooligans. Contemporary Satanism has been occasionally deconstructed as an entirely invented social problem. However, while no evidence has surfaced of a massive underground of Satanists internationally engaged in ritually eating babies, incidents in Scandinavia, Italy, and elsewhere show that small groups of real (and occasionally violent) Satanists do exist[6]. Moral panics, however, develop when phenomena are presented as new (while they have existed for decades or centuries, perhaps under other forms and names), statistics are grossly exaggerated, and drastic political measures are invoked on the basis of folk statistics. It is certainly true that two serial killers or child abusers are two too many. But, in order to assess what social reaction is appropriate it does matter whether Satanists are some dozens or some thousands, pedophile Catholic priests are several hundreds or several thousands, and child abusers in general number in the thousands, the tens of thousands, or the millions. It also matters that reliable data are gathered about the relative prevalence of most serious incidents among a larger loosely defined category. When a figure is quoted for crimes committed by Satanists, we would like to know how many of these crimes consist in writing anti-Christian slogans on churches' walls (an activity I certainly do not condone) and how many involve rape, incest or homicide. Verbal abuse is today often classified within the general category of sexual abuse, including by courts of law in some countries. But shooting sexually charged insults to your secretary (an activity, again, I would by no means recommend) is something different from rape.

Sects and cults have often been studied as quintessential targets of moral panics. According, again, to Jenkins: "Sects perform a convenient integrative function by providing a common enemy, a `dangerous outsider' against which the mainstream can unite and reassert its shared standards and beliefs. Depending on the legal and cultural environment of a given society, the tension between sects and mainstream community might result in active persecution or it can take the form of ostracism and negative stereotyping"[7]. Contemporary post-secular societies would not easily accept theological or philosophical heresy hunts. Based on a difficult distinction between deeds and creeds[8], they suspect minority religions of being actively engaged in a variety of wrongdoings, ranging from fraud to terrorism. In Western Europe originally primarily groups theologically marginal (although they may count their worldwide membership in the millions) were regarded with suspicion as "cults" and "sects", possibly "destructive". More recently, "fundamentalist" and "apocalyptic" have also become four-letter words when applied to religious movements, not without some confusion. "Vast right-wing conspiracies" have been quoted by more liberal politicians in order to explain not only Mr. Clinton's private problems[9] but also the activities of some "cults", "sects" or even non-religious organizations quickly associated with "cults". In certain Eastern European countries the operative word, together with "cult" or "sect", is "missionary". All sort of evil deeds are imputed to "missionaries", normally "foreign", who are there in order to steal the sheep of the local Orthodox Churches. Throughout the world, a new word "islamophobia" is being added to dictionaries. It is defined as the (quite faulty) logic seeing in every Moslem a "fundamentalist" and in every "fundamentalist" a terrorist. Almost everywhere religious minorities become, rather than a social agent (let alone a social resource), a social problem and the subject matter of a moral panic.

As mentioned earlier, moral panics are never without some sort of objective basis. Nobody seriously denies the danger of Islamic terrorism (although some may question the use of the word "Islamic"). Or the bad manners of some missionaries entering new fields with a complete disregard for the local culture. Or that some new religious movements have been and consistently are guilty of a number of criminal activities, from obvious cases of frauds up to the horrors of the Solar Temple. We are occasionally told by critics that misguided academics are "cult apologists" prepared to deny that criminal or other illegal activities are ever perpetrated by new religious movements or religious minorities in general. These "cult apologists" would be rather strange characters, but if they exist at all I have never met one. Of course, considerable debates exist among scholars on some movements, and different opinions are expressed in the same scholarly journals about the existence or prevalence (both historically and right now) of possible illegal activities within a range of groups. They include Satanists, The Family, the Church of Scientology, or even Aum Shinri-kyo, if the question is exactly how many members in Japan were aware of the criminal activities of a number of leaders. The real problem, however, is prevalence, not existence. Most scholars of new religious movements would subscribe to the conclusion of the recent Swiss report on Scientology that "the immense majority of these groups ["sects" or "cults"] does not represent a danger for their members nor for the State"[10]. Only a very small minority of scholars, on the other hand, would agree with the French (1996) or Belgian (1997) parliamentary reports that have listed dozens of groups as "sects" or "cults" actually or potentially dangerous.

Moral panics start with a basis in reality, but escalate through exaggeration and folk statistics when comments appropriate for one or more particular incidents are generalized. This happened in the United States after Jonestown (1978) and is happening in Europe after the Solar Temple (1994, 1995, and 1997). It is in escalating -- not in creating -- the moral panic that moral entrepreneurs with vested interests enter the picture. They include a whole range of different anti-cult movements, and some of them receive today in several European countries an unprecedented degree of public support.

Within this context, some of the European parliamentary and other official reports generated after the Solar Temple incidents have adopted an interpretative model that is, I believe, a virtual guarantee that moral panics will be inflated rather than deflated. I am considering here what I would call Type I official documents, including the French report (1996), the Belgian report (1997), large parts of the Canton of Geneva report (1997) and certainly all that is known of the deliberation of the French Prime Minister's Observatory of Sects (1998). If not in France, scholarly criticism directed against Type I reports seems to have exerted elsewhere some influence. We have in fact seen this year what I would call Type II reports published from the German Parliament, and the Italian Ministry of the Internal Affairs (although this latter report was perhaps not originally intended for public consumption). I would include in the larger Type II category the general part on "sects" of the Swiss report on Scientology, and the Berger report that was proposed to, but ultimately not adopted by, the European Parliament. Although these reports differ from each other, and are the subject of considerable debate, they do not apply the model inspiring Type I reports, and pay more attention to academic debates.

I presented the four-stages model behind Type I reports in a number of opportunities, most recently on July 30, when I was honoured to be a witness in the investigation currently conducted in Washington by the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe and the House International Relations Committee on "Continuing Religious Intolerance in Europe". I will summarize it here very briefly.

First, the model claims that some minorities are not really "religions" but something else: "cults" or "sects" (something different from genuine religions), criminal associations or agents or the foreign imperialism. This is not a particularly new argument. In July 1877 anti-Mormon author J.H. Beadle wrote in the Scribner's Monthly that "Americans have but one native religion [Mormonism] and that one is the sole apparent exception to the American rule of universal toleration. (...) Of this anomaly two explanations are offered: one, that Americans are not really a tolerant people and that what is called toleration is only such toward our common Protestantism, or more common Christianity; the other, than something peculiar to Mormonism takes it out of the sphere of religion"[11]. Beadle's astute observation effectively blackmailed American readers into concluding that Mormonism was not a religion. In fact, readers were presumably committed both to religious tolerance and to the idea that the U.S. were, by definition, the country of religious liberty. In civilizations where religious liberty is recognized as a value and constitutionally protected (religious liberty is even guaranteed today by international treaties and declarations), the only way to discriminate a religious minority is to argue that it is not religious at all. This is not to say that defining religions is an easy task. I have argued elsewhere that self-definitions by the groups concerned are clearly not enough, mentioning a number of court decisions involving what anybody would recognize as clear frauds. In the 1980s U.S. courts found that, supported by unscrupulous attorneys, a number of comparatively wealthy citizens (most of them, for whatever reason, airline pilots) decided to incorporate their families as churches (or congregations of the so called mail-order churches). They called their houses "parsonages" and even their swimming pools "baptismal fonts"[12]. Contrary to what is occasionally claimed, the 1997 decision on Scientology by the Italian Corte di Cassazione -- whose name is normally translated as Supreme Court, although it coexists with a Constitutional Court performing different tasks -- did not rely on self-definition. It looked for a third way between self-definition and the "public opinion's consent" standard used in earlier Italian decisions. The latter, it said, is no good since the public opinion is easily biased against religious minorities. The court regarded as more important the "opinion of the learned" and the scholars. Finally, the court argued that the fathers of the 1947 Italian Constitution were not unwise, but very wise, when they granted constitutional protection to religion without defining at all what a religion may be. Religion is in fact an ever-evolving concept, and any definition proposed in 1947 would surely have failed to capture later phenomena, thus in fact discriminating against new forms whose emergence would have been impossible to predict more than fifty years ago[13]. Looking at this and other decisions, one may agree with Greil that from a certain point of view "religion" is "not (...) a characteristic which inheres in certain phenomena, but (...) a cultural resource over which competing interest groups may vie. From this perspective, religion is not an entity but a claim made by certain groups and -- in some cases -- contested by others to the right of privileges associated in a given society with the religious label"[14]. These debates, at any rate, are something different from the quick dismissal of any unpopular religious minority as not "really" religious.

Second, the model posits that what distinguishes genuine religions from groups falsely claiming their right to the religious label is something called brainwashing, mental manipulation, or mind control. This, again, is not really new. Beadle favoured the theory that Mormonism was a political organization aimed at dominating the world (not that this argument is not used for other groups today). Other anti-Mormon authors such as Maria Ward attributed the non-religious character of Mormonism to its systematic use of "a mystical magical influence" capable of depriving followers of "the unrestricted exercise of free will". This is what "is now popularly known by the name of Mesmerism". According to Ward, the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith "came to possess the knowledge of that magnetic influence, several years anterior to its general circulation throughout the country" from a "German peddler"[15]. Since religion is, by rhetorical definition, an exercise of free will, a non-religion may only be joined under some sort of coercion. This hypnotic paradigm used against Mormonism resurfaced -- after the cold war conveniently supplied the metaphor of brainwashing -- in the 1970s cult wars in the United States and elsewhere. By the end of the 1980s the first "crude" theories of brainwashing had been largely debunked in the English-speaking debate. New brainwashing theories have recently been proposed by a number of authors, including Ben Zablocki[16]. Although otherwise controversial, they do not claim to explain why people join certain movements (rather, they would explain why groups may make more difficult for members to leave by maximizing their exit costs). They also do not claim to have found a formula to distinguish genuine religions from non-religions such as "sects" or "cults". Crude theories of brainwashing (with or without the use of the word "brainwashing" itself) are, on the other hand, used in Type I European official documents, and are part and parcel of the model[17].

Third, since brainwashing theories are the object of considerable scholarly criticism, the model requires as a third step discrimination among sources and narratives. The French and Belgian reports make little or no use of scholarly sources. The Belgian report explicitly says that it is aware of scholarly objections against the mind control model, but it has made the ethical choice of preferring to these objections the accounts of "victims"[18]. By "victims" the Belgian Commission means those normally defined by social scientists as "apostates". These are the former members converted into active opponents of the group they have left. Although many such ex-members resent being called "apostates" the term is technical, not derogatory, and has been used for some decades, as documented in the recent excellent volume edited by David Bromley[19]. Although perhaps terms other than "apostates" may be used in the future, some sort of term is necessary in order to distinguish between "apostates" and other ex-members who do not turn against their former group. Empirical evidence on the prevalence of apostates among former members is available only for a limited number of new religious movements, but uniformly suggests that they are a minority[20], perhaps between 15 and 20 per cent. Most former members have mixed feelings about their former affiliations and, at any rate, are not interested in joining a crusade against the group they have left. "Apostates" are an interesting minority. The model, however, regards them as if they were the only representatives of the whole larger category of former members.

Objections that "apostates" are not necessarily representative are met by the fourth stage of the model. "Cults" or "sects" are not religions. They are not because they use brainwashing, while religions are by definition joined out of free will. We know that they use brainwashing because we rely on the testimony of "victims" (i.e. "apostates"). We know that "apostates" are representative of the groups' membership, or at least former membership, because they are screened and selected by private, reliable watchdog organizations. One easy objections to the Belgian report (where, unlike in the French case, proceeding of the hearings have been published) is that for most "cults" or "sects" the Commission has heard one, two or at any rate a very limited number of ex-members. Why they should be regarded as representative of the larger category of ex-members in general is not really explained. However, in light of comments in the report itself, it is at least likely that in most cases they have been hand-picked and introduced to the Commission by anti-cult organizations, whose role is both praised and supported by the report. Anti-cult organizations, we are told, are more reliable than academics because the former, unlike the latter, have a "practical" experience and work with "victims".

This four-stage model plays an important role in perpetuating the moral panic, and is apparently strictly followed by official documents and institutions throughout French-speaking Europe. Occasionally, it pops up also elsewhere. Although the transition from Type I to Type II reports is an encouraging sign, and moral panics normally do not last for decades, a final question -- or a subject for a further study -- may be why exactly moral panics about religious minorities became more frequent in recent years in Europe. The Solar Temple incidents, horrible as they were, were a catalyst rather than a cause. There is no time, today, to really enter into a discussion on the relationships between postmodernization and religion[21]. A number of social scientists distinguish between postmodernist theories and postmodernization as a fact[22]. There is considerable debate whether postmodernist theories are of any use for the study of contemporary religious movements. On the other hand, general accounts of postmodernization normally include a discussion of the emergence of a critical attitude against rationalization, rationalism, and the modern concept of science.

Although we are frequently warned against seeing postmodernization as simply "irrational"[23], the crisis of modern rationalism opens the way to a new attitude towards the sacred. This attitude does not necessarily revitalize mainline religion, since the latter had often adjusted itself to rationalization and modernity. "Irrational" postmodern religion happening mostly outside the mainline churches (and somewhat inside, but in the form of new movements) has been called new religiosity, or new religious consciousness. Not everybody is happy with postmodernization processes. Institutions exist to protect the core values of modernity. Almost everywhere "official" science warns against "pseudoscience". Recent incidents in Italy, where a miracle cure for cancer rejected by mainline medical science received widespread popular support and became an important political issue, confirm that "official" science is not always trusted even by political instances, perhaps another piece of evidence for postmodernization. While in other countries organized secular humanism is reduced to a small phenomenon, in French-speaking countries the century-old revolutionary heritage of "laïcité" is taken very seriously. In a recent proposal approved by the French Senate and aimed at reducing the prevalence of home-schooling in France, we are told that secular values are threatened by "cultic" education. Similar comments are included in what is known of the 1998 report of the Prime Minister's Observatory of Sects. Although postmodern "irrational" religion is by no means limited to new religious movements -- and in fact the French Observatory quotes as potentially dangerous, in the same vein, the New Age and the activities of American evangelists in France --, "sects" and "cults" are easily singled out as agents of irrationality. Moral panics about religious minorities may thus be read, particularly in some countries, as a form of secular humanist reaction against postmodern religion.

On the other hand, scholars of religion are often accused of being insular and parochial, paying little attention to studies outside their specialized field. This is surely true if postmodernization, a condition more often studied with little reference to religion, has to be taken into account. Modernity has been long identified with processes of (Durkheimian) differentiation combined with (Weberian) rationalization. Nowhere have these processes been more studied and debated than in the area of politics and the state. Both Poggi and Giddens have defined the modern state as a powerful centralized machine capable of tolerating diversity because it is also capable of increasing control though rationalization and bureaucracy. We are told by Giddens that modernity has seen a progressive increase in the extent of state control[24]. Postmodernization in this context has been described as the crisis of the modern state through change from below and vertical decentralization. "Unlike horizontal decentralization, which is usually instituted from above, vertical decentralization is usually the outcome of uncontrolled and anti-corporatist pressures from below"[25]. It would be tempting to compare new religious movements with the "new social movements" studied by Offe and regarded as a key feature of political postmodernization[26]. However, Offe's new social movements were originally described as loosely organized, a feature one would associate with the New Age but not with the Church of Scientology. Offe, however, later noted an institutionalization of new social movements[27]. More generally, postmodernization is often seen as an expansion of the private sector which is difficult for the state to control. New technologies make all more easy for the private sector to elude control, and seem to justify the claim that the private sector is today uncontrollable and chaotic. Having shaped their image of premillennial Antichrist domination in the form of a modern all-controlling state, even some evangelical Christians see hope in the Internet. In the best selling Christian novels of the Left Behind series[28] one single Christian equipped with a computer may face the Antichrist communicating via the Internet from a secret underground shelter, with the help of only a handful of dedicated friends. These Christians are fully convinced that the Web, like television by Evangelists, is capable of being used for good. They remain, however, afraid of "foreigners" and globalization. When a ultimate foreigner becomes, in the first novel, secretary general of the already suspicious United Nations, we immediately understand that he is up to no good. He comes from Romania, a country traditionally conjuring dark images from Count Dracula to Comrade Ceausescu. When the Romanian converts the United Nations into a one-world government, the Global Community headquartered in a city called New Babylon, it does not take a theologian from Dallas Theological Seminar to identify him as the Antichrist. This is a black-and-white universe where localization through the Internet is good and globalization is bad. The modern state was born national, and it feels threatened both by localization and vertical decentralization from below, and by globalization from above. Self-appointed custodians of political modernity may well feel that the private sector is running amok and more control is needed. Moral panics about religious minorities offer an excellent opportunity for confirming that the apparently unlimited expansion of the private sector is potentially dangerous. Let private organizations unchecked as they currently are, and you end up with the Solar Temple.

Reactionary counter-movements against postmodernity, calling for a return to the good old all-controlling modern state (in Russia, perhaps, to the good old pre-1989 state) are widespread, and can hardly be attributed to a single political force. Threatened religious minorities often blame socialists, or conservatives, or mainline churches for their problems. Socialism is by definition in favour of more state control, but so are some conservatives of the law-and-order brand. Mainline churches have exhibited a whole range of different attitudes towards religious minorities and cult or sect scares. In some Eastern European countries orthodox churches are trying to recapture a sort of state monopoly, with varied results. In Western Europe, mainline churches have a wide variety of attitudes, and occasionally find themselves defending groups within their own fold accused of being dangerous "cults" or "sects". Controversies about Opus Dei, communities within the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in France, L'Oeuvre (a Catholic congregation) in Belgium, and Evangelical preachers associated with the Trinity Broadcasting Network in a number of countries are cases in point. Perhaps more importantly, mainline churches have never been unconditional supporters of the modern state.

Moral panics are not created by a single hidden hand. Nor do they normally die when the hidden hand is exposed. They disappear when either the general public loses interest in the issue, or is reached by more balanced assessments and statistics. As we all know, religious minorities are a sensible topic. Messengers bringing news that may run counter the general climate of the moral panic are easily shot. Counter-movements against "apologists" or "fellow travellers" of the perceived enemy are not surprising. They are part and parcel of every self-respecting moral panic. Ultimately, however, these counter-movements do not really matter. Societies, if they are to survive at all, ultimately come -- perhaps after a long and painful trial and error process -- to identify and assess in a more realistic way the objective conditions at the roots of the moral panic. Thus, real evils are confronted from what they are, and lunatic fringes exposing imaginary evils are marginalized. In the present European situation it seems that we are still far away from this eventual happy end. Messengers of balanced, if not necessarily good, news should continue their work, even if shooting the messenger remains, in this field, a popular game.

[1] Richard C. Fuller - Richard R. Myers, "The Natural History of a Social Problem", American Sociological Review 6 (1941), 320-329 (320)..

[2] Erich Goode - Nachman Ben-Yehuda, Moral Panics, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1994. See also Stan Cohen, Folk Devils and Moral Panics: The Creation of the Mods and Rockers, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1972; and Stewart Hall et al., Policing the Crisis, London, Routledge, 1978.

[3] Philip Jenkins, Pedophiles and Priests: Anatomy of a Contemporary Crisis, New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996, 170.

[4] Ibid., 5.

[5] See for example Joel Best, Threatened Children, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990; Philip Jenkins, Intimate Enemies: Moral Panics in Contemporary Great Britain, Hawthorne (New York): Aldine de Gruyter, 1992; Id., Using Murder: The Social Construction of Serial Homicide, Hawthorne (New York): Aldine de Gruyter, 1994; James F. Richardson, Joel Best, and David Bromley (eds.), The Satanism Scare, Hawthorne (New York): Aldine de Gruyter, 1991.

[6] See on this point my Enquête sur le Satanisme. Satanistes et antisatanistes du XVIIe siècle à nos jours, updated French edition, Paris: Dervy, 1997.

[7] Jenkins, Pedophiles and Priests, 158.

[8] See, on this point, my "New Religious Movements and the Law: A Comparison between Two Different Legal Systems (The United States and Italy)", in Eileen Barker - Margit Warburg (eds.), New Religions and New Religiosity, Aarhus-Oxford: Aarhus University Press, 1998, 276-291.

[9] Those lesser familiar with American politics may need to be reminded here that the First Lady originally blamed the whole Lewinsky affair as the product of "a vast right-wing conspiracy".

[10] La Scientologie en Suisse. Rapport préparé à l'intention de la Commission Consultative en matière de protection de l'État, Berne: Departement Fédéral de Justice et Police, 1998, 132-133.

[11] J.H. Beadle, "The Mormon Theocracy", Scribner's Monthly, 14, 3 (July 1877), 391.

[12] See my report within the frame of the LISOR-MTSR project "The Definition of Religion: Concepts, Contexts and Contests", proceedings to be published by Brill, Leiden, in 1999. On mail-order churches see Bruce Casino, "'I Know It When I See It': Mail-Order Ministry Tax Fraud and the Problem of a Constitutionally Acceptable Definition of Religion", American Criminal Law Review, 25,1 (1987), 113-164.

[13] Corte Suprema di Cassazione, decision n. 1329 of October 8, 1997, Bandera and others.

[14] A.L. Greil, "Sacred Claims: The `Cult Controversy' as a Struggle over the Right to the Religious Label", in David G. Bromley - Lewis F. Carter (eds.), The Issue of Authenticity in the Study of Religion, Greenwich (Connecticut), JAI Press, 1996, 47-63 (48).

[15] Maria Ward, Female Life Among the Mormons, London: Routledge 1855, 230.

[16] Benjamin D. Zablocki, "Exit Cost Analysis: A New Approach to the Scientific Study of Brainwashing", Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, vol. 1, n. 2 (1998), 216-249.

[17] See the reply to Zablocki by David G. Bromley, "Listing (in Black and White) Some Observations on (Sociological) Thought Reform", Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, vol. 1, n. 2 (1998), 250-66; and Zablocki's "Reply to Bromley", ibid., 267-271.

[18] Chambre des Représentants de Belgique, Enquête parlementaire visant à élaborer une politique en vue de lutter contre les pratiques illégales des sectes et les dangers qu'elles représentent pour la société et pour les personnes, particulièrement les mineurs d'âge. Rapport fait au nom de la Commission d'Enquête, Bruxelles: Chambre des Représentants de Belgique, 1997, 2 voll., vol. II, 114-118.

[19] See David G. Bromley, The Politics of Religious Apostasy: The Role of Apostates in the Transformation of Religious Movements, Westport (Conn.): Praeger, 1998. See also the early collection edited by Bromley: Falling from the Faith: Causes and Consequences of Religious Apostasy, Newbury Park and London: Sage Publications, 1988.

[20] See Janet Jacobs, Divine Disenchantment: Deconverting from New Religions, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989; Trudy Solomon, "Integrating the Moonie Experience: A Survey of Ex-Members of the Unification Church", in Thomas Robbins - Dick Anthony (eds.), In Gods We Trust: New Patterns of Religious Pluralism in America, Princeton (New Jersey): Rutgers University Press, 1982: 275-294; James R. Lewis, "Reconstructing the `Cult' Experience", Sociological Analysis, vol. 47, n. 2 (1986), 151-159; Id., "Apostates and the Legitimation of Repression: Some Historical and Empirical Perspectives on the Cult Controversy", Sociological Analysis, vol. 49, n. 4 (1989), 386-396; and my own "Defectors, Ordinary Leavetakers, and Apostates: A Quantitative Study of Former Members of New Acropolis in France", forthcoming in Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions.

[21] See, for some perspectives with explicit reference to new religious movements, Kieran Flanagan and Peter C. Jupp (eds.), Postmodernity, Sociology and Religion, Basingstoke and London: Macmillan, 1996; and my Il sacro postmoderno. Chiesa, relativismo e nuova religiosità, Milan: Gribaudi, 1996.

[22] See for an excellent general overview Stephen Crook - Jan Pakulski - Malcolm Waters, Postmodernization: Change in Advanced Society, London: Sage Publications, 1992.

[23] Crook - Pakulski - Waters, Postmodernization, 63.

[24] Anthony Giddens, Nation-State and Violence, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985; Gianfranco Poggi, The State, Cambridge: Polity, 1990.

[25] Crook - Pakulski - Waters, Postmodernization, 98.

[26] Claus Offe, "New Social Movements: Challenging the Boundaries of Institutional Politics", Social Research, vol. 52, n. 4 (1985), 817-868.

[27] C. Offe, "Reflections of the Institutional Self-Transformation of Movement Politics: A Tentative Stage Model", in Russell J. Dalton - Manfred Kuechler (eds.), Challenging the Political Order, Cambridge: Polity, 1990, 232-250.

[28] Tim LaHaye - Jerry V. Jenkins, Left Behind: A Novel of the Earth's Last Days, Wheaton (Illinois): Tyndale House Publishers, 1995. The sequels published so far (by the same publisher) include Tribulation Force: The Continuing Drama of Those Left Behind (1997), Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist (1997), Soul Harvest: The World Takes Sides (1998).

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