The relationship of Estonian religious movements to society

The aim of the current research paper was to study the relationship to society of the four religious movements currently active in Estonia - New Apostolic Church of Estonia, Union of Congregations of Estonian Jehovah Witnesses, "Word of Life" congregations and the New Age movement.

This was done in two ways. Firstly, the teachings and the history of the movements were analysed. Secondly, the publications of the movements were analysed to find out about the attitudes of the movements to society and its problems.

Methodologically, all religious movements were analysed in the context of their history and teachings. Because of that, it is not possible to make conclusions or generalisations about other similar movements without paying proper attention to the particular circumstances surrounding the movement.

The first part of the research paper is focused on the explanation of the key terms used throughout the work. This is done because of the lack of literature on Estonian terms concerning religious movements. Different authors writing in different languages have used also different terminology and it constituted the need to clarify the terms used in current paper.

In the next chapters it is analysed how different religious organisations are related to society.

Four types of theoretical approaches are viewed: 1. the typologies of religious organisations, 2. the dynamics of religious organisations, 3. the adaptation of religious organisations to society, 4. the survival of religious organisations.

The fourth chapter focuses on the issues of how the particular religious movements were founded, how they developed and how the teachings of the movements have evolved over time. The position of the religious movements in Estonian society today is considered as well.

The fifth chapter is dedicated to the analysis of the official publications of the movements. Special attention is paid to the way how the movements speak about social institutions like state, army, educational or health care system. The method of qualitative content analysis was used to examine the official publications of the movements.

The results and conclusions obtained:

1) The New Apostolic Church is a sect, which had strong apocalyptical features and was very critical to the rest of the society when the sect was founded. Nowadays, the attitude towards the state and its institutions is more balanced and amid. Charismatic features and apocalyptical tensions are no longer prevailing. The sect is not opposed to the rest of society. Tolerance was the main feature which came out from the analysis of the publications also.

2) The movement of the Jehovah Witnesses is a sect which have had many conflicts with the rest of the society in different states over the course of history. The reason for this is in the acuteness of the apocalyptical perceptions and in a very rigid doctrine which will lead to conflicts with the institutions like education, health care, army and state. The official publications of the Jehovah Witnesses contained calls for protests against society and its institutions. However, the official publications favoured passive measures against society i.e. ignoring the society. It may be argued that Jehovah Witnesses are placing themselves outside the society, because they consider the society to be evil. It may be argued also that the society must be ready for further conflicts with Jehovah Witnesses because the movement has still the features of the sect and has not changed its views on social institutions.

3) "Word of Life" movement is a sect, which is relatively new. Despite of its novelty, it is well adapted to Estonian society. "Word of Life" is very active in all the questions related to society. The publications are reflecting it as well. "Word of Life" movement is supporting radical conservative political views. Features like economic success, patriotism, conservative family values and strict moral are considered to be valuable. In Estonia they are demanding the prohibition of abortions, claiming against the teaching of the darvinist theory at public schools and criticising the governments plan to join the European Union. Official publications are recommending the believers to take the active position in the aforementioned issues.

4) New Age is called a religious movement with certain limitations because this phenomenon can be considered to be a world view or unorganised religosity. However it was important to include this movement into analysis because of the relatively high number of adherents in Estonia. The number of adherents is partly reflected by the number of the readers of the New Age publications. In their publications the believers of New Age are not arguing against the existing society and institutions. They argue that the most important changes must happen in the peoples minds - only then the society can improve.