Ireland's New Religious Movements
Editor: Olivia Cosgrove, Laurence Cox, Carmen Kuhling and Peter Mulholland
Date Of Publication: Jan 2011
Until recently, Irish religion has been seen as defined by Catholic power in the South and sectarianism in the North. In recent years, however, both have been shaken by widespread changes in religious practice and belief, the rise of new religious movements, the revival of magical-devotionalism, the arrival of migrant religion and the spread of New Age and alternative spirituality.
This book is the first to bring together researchers exploring all these areas in a wide-ranging overview of new religion in Ireland. Chapters explore the role of feminism, Ireland as global ‘Celtic’ homeland, the growth of Islam, understanding the New Age, evangelicals in the Republic, alternative healing, Irish interest in Buddhism, channelled teachings and religious visions.
This book will be an indispensable handbook for professionals in many fields seeking to understand Ireland’s increasingly diverse and multicultural religious landscape, as well as for students of religion, sociology, psychology, anthropology and Irish Studies. Giving an overview of the shape of new religion in Ireland today and models of the best work in the field, it is likely to remain a standard text for many years to come.
Carmen Kuhling (Senior Lecturer in Sociology, University of Limerick) is author of several books on Ireland, modernity and the New Age. Laurence Cox (Lecturer in Sociology, National University of Ireland Maynooth) is author of various pieces on the history of Irish Buddhism. Peter Mulholland (Independent Scholar) holds a PhD in anthropology from NUIM and specialises in the study of Irish religiosity. Olivia Cosgrove (PhD Candidate in Sociology, University of Limerick) is carrying out research on religion, globalisation and identity.
“For centuries to be Irish has meant that one was a Catholic. There have long been some Protestants, of course, but these are from across the water and have not always been considered really Irish. Today, however, the situation is changing, and changing rapidly. Not only has the taken-for-granted Catholic culture been severely, possibly irreparably, damaged through the exposure of the ‘Magdalene Laundries’ and of the widespread sexual abuse of young boys and girls by priests, but there has been flourishing of new religious and spiritual alternatives throughout the country.
“Until recently very little in the way of reliable knowledge was publicly available about these new religions and spiritualities, but in 2009 a conference at the National University of Ireland Maynooth brought together a number of researchers who have been exploring the changes within and alternatives to Catholicism. The papers covered an extraordinarily wide variety of groups and movements ranging from new atheisms to revivals of Celtic lore, and from the home-grown Fellowship of Isis to the American channelled ‘Course of Miracles’, interspersed with novel Irish manifestations of traditional religions from the East.
“This collection of essays that emerged from the Maynooth conference offers a unique insight into the emerging scene. The papers are well-written and informative, combining both empirical data and theoretical insight. It is a book that should be read well beyond the confines of Ireland – and it will be an enjoyable read for scholars and lay alike.”
—Prof. Eileen Barker, OBE, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, London School of Economics. Prof. Barker is one of the world’s leading experts on new religious movements and the author of many publications on the subject, including New religious movements: a practical introduction, Of Gods and men: new religious movements in the west, The making of a Moonie and Freedom and religion in Eastern Europe. She is the founder and chairperson of the UK’s INFORM (Information Network Focus on New Religious Movements), an internationally-recognised source of professional expertise on the subject.
“This scholarly collection of studies provides a comprehensive map of an area of Irish culture that has been previously ignored. It shines an important new light on the diversity of religious life in Ireland. With the decline in the significance of insititutional religions, it reveals the alternative ways in which contemporary Irish people seek to be spiritual and moral. It is a remarkable achievement.”
—Prof. Tom Inglis, Department of Sociology, University College Dublin, is the leading figure in the study of Irish religion. He is the author of many publications on globalisation, secularisation and identities, including Moral monopoly: the rise and fall of the Catholic church in modern Ireland, Truth, power and lies: Irish society and the case of the Kerry babies, Discourses of sexuality in Ireland and Global Ireland: same difference.
“Ireland’s New Religious Movements is a truly significant publication; the first of its kind to appear in Ireland. Not only does it mark the 'coming of age' of the academic study of religions in Ireland, where for too long the study of any religious topic outside the Catholic-Protestant theological nexus has been virtually unknown, it also heralds a new and very significant Irish academic voice within the big debates about new and minority religions in Europe and worldwide. As exemplified in chapters such as those on Irish Islam and Irish Buddhism, research on religions relatively new to Ireland can readily challenge knowledge about these traditions produced and consumed elsewhere. This is not because Ireland is intrinsically exceptional, special or different - although research on new and minority religions in a Catholic-majority, postcolonial European context can pose obvious challenges to theories and histories of religion from colonial, Protestant-dominated European cultures. It is, rather, because Irish contributions (both in Ireland and among the huge worldwide Irish diaspora) to the global and multifaceted history of religions new to Europe have so far remained virtually unknown, and the reason is that these topics have not - until now - been the focus of much concentrated academic research. The breadth and depth of scholarship and the wide range of topics addressed in this volume signal a new energy, resolve and spirit of co-operation among the growing ranks of scholars of religions in Ireland. This is in every sense a pioneering volume, for apart from its own merits it is undoubtedly the first of many publications in the coming years which will bring thought-provoking academic research on the whole range of religions in Ireland to the attention of a global audience.”
—Prof. Brian Bocking founded the first non-confessional department of religious studies in Ireland. Previously Professor of the Study of Religions at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, he is the author of many publications on Japanese religion, Buddhism and the Study of Religions, including The oracles of the three shrines, A popular dictionary of Shinto and Nagarjuna in China.
“With its captivating chapters on (among other subjects) Irish Buddhism and Islam, Neo-paganism, New Age groups and a generic Celtic spirituality infusing other non-institutional religious expressions, the volume, edited by Olivia Cosgrove, Laurence Cox, Carmen Kuhling and Peter Mulholland, succeeds in filling in the tapestry of contemporary Irish religion.”
—Religion Watch, March-April 2011
“Volumes such as this, by Cosgrove et al, reinforce not just the importance of taking a scholarly interest in new religious formations, but in demanding that religious phenomena be continually approached as new. [...]
The stand-out chapters of the book take the reader to the people being studied. Butler’s chapter on Irish Neo Paganism takes just this line, providing the reader with a well-informed description of the syncretistic dimensions of Irish Neo-Paganism. Most importantly, it provides the reader the voices of those being studied which helps to locate the character of the religious phenomena. [...]
“I commend Cambridge Scholars for taking up the publication of this volume, and to the editors offer thanks for the wealth of information it provides. Indeed, I would argue that any sociology of religion in Ireland would be now incomplete without a close reading of this book; its contribution is significant.”
—Alex Norman, University of Sydney
“This book will be of interest to anyone curious about new religious expressions in Ireland. And it is a useful resource for understanding the dimensions and dynamics of the local study of new religious movements.”
—Liselotte Frisk, Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, 16:3 (2013), 110-111
“Taken together, the chapters illustrate relatively recent efforts by religious studies scholars to move away from universalizing theories about religion that are based primarily in post-Famine institutional Catholicism and focused on theology.”
—Mary Farrell Bednarowski, Feminist Collections: A Quarterley Review of Women’s Studies Resources, 33:4 (2012), 1-6, p. 2
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