International Society for the Study of New Religions (ISSNR)
New Religious Movements came into being as a distinct field of study in Western countries in the 1970s. Despite the many specialists working in this field, no international membership association was ever formed for scholars of New Religions. So in 2009, a group of individuals associated with Finyar – a Swedish association devoted to the study of New Religions – and other academicians took the initiative to form the International Society for the Study of New Religions (ISSNR).
Modeled on Finyar, ISSNR was created as a network association for the exchange of research and academic cooperation, and also as an organization that could provide scholarly information about New Religions to the public and to government bodies.
Members of ISSNR come from different academic disciplines and take different approaches to New Religions. A shared goal is the desire to highlight the phenomenon objectively and impartially on the basis of scholarly perspectives.
ISSNR cooperates with Equinox Publishing to publish an academic journal and a book series on New Religions. ISSNR also organizes seminars and conferences, and plans to manage research projects.
What Are New Religions?
The term “New Religions” can be defined in several ways. ISSNR has chosen to adopt a broad definition. In the narrow sense, “New Religions” is a term applied especially to religious phenomenon that emerged in the West after the mid-1900s. More widely understood, the term can also include older religious movements or organizations such as, for example, the Theosophical Society or the Jehovah’s Witnesses – which are “new” in a specific historical context. The term encompasses organized groups such as the Church of Scientology and Eckankar, as well as less organized movements such as contemporary Paganism (Neo-Paganism). Many of these groups and movements are international and can be found in numerous countries. There are also new religious movements that are specific to a particular country or to a particular area of the world. In recent decades, new religions or new religious movements outside of the Western context have attracted attention. Additionally, the concept of New Religions includes less organized phenomena, such as the so-called New Age and alternative spirituality, as well as new expressions within established religions.