Millennialism with and without the Violence: An Examination of Late Twentieth-century Japanese New Religions

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2014-03-21
Authors
Reader, Ian
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Abstract
Millennialism has long been a feature of the Japanese religious landscape, especially with the rise of new religions that, from the mid-nineteenth century, presented stark critiques of modern society and preached the immanence of a new spiritual realm in which the existing order would be overturned and materialism destroyed. Such themes were widely articulated in the 1980s and early 1990s by movements such as Agonshū, Kōfuku no Kagaku and Aum Shinrikyō that either argued that spiritual transformation was needed in order to avert chaos in the run-up to the year 2000 or that welcomed global catastrophe as a pre-requisite to world salvation. Despite the recurrence of violent language and imagery within such millennialism, however, only one new religion, Aum, actually espoused violence as a concomitant element in the advent of a new spiritual dawn. In this paper I will examine why different modes of millennialism in the Japanese new religions produced different (violent or non-violent) results, while drawing attention also to other cases of late twentieth century millennial violence in new religions beyond Japan, to suggest how the Japanese case might contribute to wider studies of this topic.
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Presented at the Numata Conference in Buddhist Studies / “Violence, Nonviolence, and Japanese Religions: Past, Present, and Future,” held in Honolulu, Hawaii, March 20–21, 2014
Keywords
new religious movements, postwar Japan, Agonshū, Kōfuku no Kagaku, Aum Shinrikyō, Aleph, Dravidians, millennialism, religious violence
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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs
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