George D. Chryssides: Power, Empowerment and Disempowerment in Religion

Posted: October 9, 2015
Category: Keynotes, News, News Updates, Research


Power, Empowerment and Disempowerment in Religion

George D. Chryssides
The Second European Conference on Ethics, Religion and Philosophy
Keynote Address

 

George Chrysside IAFOR keynotes front cover

Power, Empowerment and Disempowerment in Religion

George D. Chryssides
The University of Birmingham

George D. Chryssides presented his keynote address “Power, Empowerment and Disempowerment in Religion” at The European Conference on Ethics, Religion and Philosophy 2015 held at Thistle Brighton, Brighton, East Sussex, United Kingdom.

Excerpt

I sometimes begin my module on new religious movements by telling students that I am the Messiah, and that I am organising a mass suicide the following day. How many of them, I ask, would like to join me? Predictably, there are no volunteers. This raises a question which has for a long time intrigued me: how did a religious leader like Marshall Herff Applewhite managed to exercise such power over 39 followers so that they were all prepared to commit collective suicide on his instruction? And how did that number of people – who, as far as we know, do not appear to have been unintelligent or mentally disturbed – become persuaded to comply? Those of us who work in higher education know only too well the problems of persuading students to undertake ordinary essential tasks, such as doing the prescribed reading for their course of study. (This raises issues relating to authority and power, which I shall discuss later: I possess the former, while Applewhite had the latter.)

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