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Scientology and the Rise of New Pragmatic Religions in Europe, A Changing Spiritual Landscape

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The Church set out a red carpet for Kulturnatten (Culture Night), welcoming over 1600 people in a matter of hours to their home in the heart of Copenhagen.

BRUSSELS, BRUSSELS, BELGIUM, October 26, 2023 /EIN/ — In recent times Europe has experienced a growing fascination with new practical religions, like Scientology, which has seen an increase in popularity for the last seventy years. This change is evident in the rising belief that “the church provides answers to people’s spiritual needs” and the emergence of faith in a “personal deity”.

Despite the trend towards secularism in Western Europe a significant portion of the population still identifies with some form of religion or spirituality. For instance when asked about their religious affiliation a considerable number of individuals still consider themselves Christians making up 71% in Germany and 64%, in France.

This growing interest in new pragmatic religions is becoming more evident. For instance, the case of Scientology has gained momentum, particularly since the launch of the Scientology Network, which broadcasts worldwide in 17 languages, bringing these alternative faiths into the spotlight.

According to Ivan Arjona, who represents Scientology in the European Union, OSCE and the United Nations, this growing interest reflects the evolving panorama in Europe. Arjona mentioned that as individuals become more receptive to concepts and perspectives they are also increasingly open, to exploring alternative religious practices that might better align with their personal requirements.

The changing religious scene is marked by a quest for hands-on methods to connect with spirituality. These movements, such, as Scientology provide “tools and techniques that aid individuals in enhancing their lives and attaining their objectives”. For instance, “Scientology provides a range of courses and counselling services aimed at helping individuals overcome personal challenges and attain greater success in life” says Arjona.

It is asserted by studies that Europeans are responding to this trend in various ways. While secularization in Denmark stands out as one of the most secularized countries globally, with church attendance figures in continuous decline, this trend contrasts with the increased visibility of religious minorities, particularly Muslims, raising questions about the dynamics between different religious and non-religious groups and the future of the Established Church in the country.

A resurgence of religious belief despite the broader trend of secularization, seems to be a response to the fact, as Ivan Arjona says “the church of Scientology gives adequate answers to people’s spiritual needs” and to the concept of a “personal God”. This would seem to suggest that while Europe, in general, may be less religious, there are substantial variations in religious commitment within the old continent.

This increasing interest in practical religions can be seen in the Church of Scientology’s recent participation in Copenhagen’s annual “Cultural Night” (Kulturnatten). During the event, the Church welcomed over 1,600 curious visitors, which proves the growing curiosity about these alternative belief systems. Kulturnatten is a city-wide event that celebrates Copenhagen’s diversity by providing a closer look at the city’s cultural, artistic, and religious institutions. Scientologists in Denmark have now participated in the program for the fifth time which is seen as a testament to the acceptance of new religious movements.

A press release from the Church of Scientology International detailed the event saying:

“From the start of the city-wide event at 6 p.m. until midnight, guests toured through the Church’s information centre, its chapel, and rooms set aside for providing the religion’s spiritual counselling (called auditing) and training. They also saw the Office of L. Ron Hubbard—a facility in every Church of Scientology that honours the legacy of the religion’s Founder and stands in testament that the Church is true to Mr. Hubbard’s writings and ideals. Scientologists were on hand to answer questions and refer visitors to Mr. Hubbard’s books and courses where they could gain more in-depth information.”

An important datum to helps to explain why Scientology is in such a position is the personal implication of Mr. David Miscavige, the ecclesiastical leader of religion, who has played and plays a pivotal role in increasing the reach of Scientology in society, especially since he launched the “Ideal Churches” program reinforcing and guaranteeing not only the standard application of religion’s doctrines but also its social programs of the Truth About Drugs, United for Human Rights, the Scientology Volunteer Ministers, and many others.

In conclusion, Europe is experiencing a diverse response to the growing interest in new pragmatic religions, with some countries becoming more secularized and others retaining a strong religious identity. The Church of Scientology’s active presence in Denmark and the increase in belief in a “personal God” reflect the changing spiritual landscape in the region.

Citations:
– https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2018/05/29/10-key-findings-about-religion-in-western-europe/
– https://www.ohchr.org/en/statements/2016/03/preliminary-findings-country-visit-denmark-heiner-bielefeldt-special-rapporteur
– https://www.cairn.info/revue-francaise-de-sociologie-1-2006-5-page-99.htm
– https://ndpr.nd.edu/reviews/the-varieties-of-transcendence-pragmatism-and-the-theory-of-religion/
– https://www.scientologynews.org/press-releases/culture-night-at-the-church-of-scientology-helps-the-curious-find-out-more.html

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