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Religious Pluralisation and Institutional Change: The Case of the New Religious Scene in Germany

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Contrary to previous, largely quantitative, studies into the effects of religious pluralisation, this paper will focus on the qualitative changes induced by processes of pluralisation. Taking the German new religious scene as an example, it demonstrates how pluralisation of the supply structure has led to a transformation of forms of religious interaction. Relatively closed organisations, built on clear-cut relationships of affiliation and commitment, find it difficult to compete under conditions marked by pluralisation with more open, more flexible forms of religious interaction that demand less commitment of their followers. In this way relationships within religious groups and organisations gradually have been replaced by customer-oriented patterns of interaction. These new patterns have created a specific religious infrastructure, with religious participation turning away from the traditional membership-based model toward a culture built on access relationships. The access principle leads to the rise of a religious consumerism whereby religious ideas are customised to fit into episodic units which are tailored to the particular needs and circumstances of the followers.


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