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PowersReligion as a Social and Spiritual Force$
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Meerten B. ter Borg and Jan Willem van Henten

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780823231560

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: March 2011

DOI: 10.5422/fso/9780823231560.001.0001

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The Recovery of Perverted Religion

The Recovery of Perverted Religion

Internal Power Processes and the Vicissitudes of Religious Experience

(p.23) The Recovery of Perverted Religion

André Droogers

Fordham University Press

This chapter elaborates the functions of power at the level of a cult by presenting the fictitious story of St. Esteban in Gabriel García Márquez's “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World”. The story shows how religion comes about and how religious experiences empower people. The cult has three dimensions: a transcendental dimension of the experience with the sacred, a dimension of the internal organization of the cult and the religious group, and a dimension of the external relationships of the religious group with the rest of society. Power constellations and power processes are connected with all three dimensions in different ways. Power within the religious group of the cult, for example, results from the fact that religious virtuosos are scarce. This implies that they have power over others, especially when communicating their experience as a message, directly or through spokespersons. Their tool of power is language, particularly metaphor, which may become a key trope of religion. Playfulness and the creative interaction with religious experience are reduced as religious leaders control what challenges their power structures.

Keywords:   religion, cult, religious experience, power, sacred, internal organization, external relationships, metaphor, religious group

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