Public lectures about religion with M. Rothstein

rothsteinMikael Rothstein, Associate Professor of the History of Religions, University of Southern Denmark (Odense Denmark), will hold two public lectures at Vytautas Magnus University (VMU) on 23-24 November.

November 23th 2016 (Wednesday) at 16:45 PM at the Faculty of Social Sciences (Jonavos st. 66-324) VMU students are invited to attend the first public lecture „The Dynamics of Religious Change: Deliberate and Forced“.

“I have been engaged in the scientific study of new religious movements for the past 30 years. During the past ten years, however, I have focused on other subjects as well, particularly indigenous peoples’ religions. My recent monograph on the nomadic hunter-gatherers of Borneo’s rainforest is a comprehensive analysis of traditional religion and cultural changes, including a study of how these people have responded to Christian mission. In essence what has happened is this: The missionaries have destroyed the old religion (and thus the Penans’ society), but the Penan have not become Christian in the way the missionaries would have liked: In effect a new religion, a mixture of traditional and new elements, has come into being. In that sense the example from the rainforest of far-away Borneo reflects developments in Europe and elsewhere where new religions have emerged. I will try to talk about some of the sociological mechanisms that direct such developments. It is not enough to see the merging of traditions simply as “syncretism”. Merging take place all the time, it is a part of the religion-phenomenon. What we need to understand is how cosmologies, rituals, religious language, mythologies and religious organization blend and form new versions. Examples from a number of new religions will be included in my presentation to cover deliberate mergings as well as those faced upon people. Students are asked to bring examples of similar phenomena and present (very briefly) these cases for comparative purposes”, Mikael Rothstein said.

November 24th 2016 (Thursday) at 15:15 PM at VMU (Gedimino st. 44-302) Professor will attend the second public lecture: “Religion in the Public Sphere in Denmark (and the rest of Scandinavia)”.

Denmark may be one of the most secularized countries in the world. “Belonging without believing” is typical to the average citizen. In Denmark you can live your life with virtually no contact to religion, if you choose to do so. However, religion at the same time is an integrated element in society, even in public institutions. Denmark actually has a kind of State Church. This strange balance is difficult to understand, even in terms of standard sociological explanations. It is a rare mixture of religion and no religion. Apart from the dominating Lutheran Christianity, a multitude of other religions spawn in Denmark; immigrants’ religions and a host of NRMs.

Mikael Rothstein is Associate Professor of the History of Religions, University of Southern Denmark. He is also tenured Visiting Professor at the Department of Sociology, Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania. He is author and editor of several volumes on new religions and comparative religion in general. Among his English-language publications are Belief Transformations (1996); Secular Theories in the Study of Religion (ed. with Tim Jensen, 2000); New Age and Globalization (ed. 2001); and Handbook of the Theosophical Current (ed. with Olav Hammer, 2012). Presently Rothstein is engaged in the study of various new religions and indigenous peoples’ religions, especially in Borneo and Hawai’i.