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"Nouveaux mouvements religieux" et "religiosité parallèle"

In Switzerland there are a certain number of "new religious movements" (NMR). Many proclaim Hindu, Buddhist or Christian roots but there are also some that have different foundations, such as Scientology or the Raelians. The importance of these movements is generally quite modest, with less than 0.1% of the population belonging to such groups. This percentage contrasts greatly with the major attention, most often critical, they receive from the media. Everyone remembers the tragedy of the Order of the Solar Temple (based in Switzerland and in Canada), whose leaders organised the murders and mass suicide of its members in 1993. This is one of the reasons why Swiss public opinion pays very close attention to the actions of the NMR (new religious movement).

Very few of these groups were founded in Switzerland, besides the Fiat Lux Order founded in 1980 in Zurich by Uriella (Erika Bertschinger) and the St. Michaelsvereinigung founded in Dozwil (canton of Thurgovia) by Paul Kuhn (who believed he was the reincarnation of the apostle Paul). The most important NMR in Switzerland is the Anthroposophical movement founded by the German, Rudolf Steiner.

The NMR, whether they are eastern or western-based, are surrounded and immersed in an environment of parallel religiosity that the English refer to as "the cultic milieu". The groups present in Switzerland are no exception. This milieu brings together in the same social system individuals with very different and syncretistic beliefs, including reincarnation, veganism, ecology or psychic energy. There is a market, in the economic sense, which offers these people products that correspond to their beliefs (astrology, eastern meditation, parapsychology, UFOs, yoga, new therapies etc.). The offer is very eclectic and the demand is growing strongly because the followers in this milieu are eager to try different products, they want to be able to switch from one therapy to another or even, from one guru to another.
This is why it is also very difficult in this case to determine how big the "cultic milieu" really is. In a recent survey, 4% of people living in Switzerland said they felt close to the “New Age”, which is virtually a synonym of parallel religiosity. This milieu is making itself more visible through esoteric bookstores, the increasing number of exhibitions on parallel religiosity (for example the Annual Esoteric Exhibition in Zurich) and esoteric magazines (Recto – Verseau in French and Spuren in German).

Source of data :
- Projet FNSRS Nr. 12-52643.97 : Religion et lien social : construction et régulation des mobilisations religieuses. Project Director : Roland J. Campiche ; Representative survey, 1999.
- Campiche, Roland and Dubach, Alfred et al., Croire en Suisse(s). Lausanne : éditions l’Age d’Homme, 1992. Base : sondage représentatif de 1989.
- Censuses of the Federal Statistics Office.

D 8 octobre 2012    AJoëlle Sanchez AJörg Stolz

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