Storming the gates of the Temple of Science: religion and science in three new religious movements Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2019
  • Zeller, Benjamin E.
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Religious Studies
  • This dissertation considers how three new religious movements-the Hare Krishnas, Unification Church, and Heaven's Gate-treated the concept of science and the relation of science to religion and the wider society. Each of the three religions offered a distinct position on the nature of science and how religion and science ought to interact. All of the three new religions understood their views of science as crucial to their wider theological views and social stances. And, in each of these new religious movements, the nature and meaning of science served a central role in the group's self-understanding and conceptualization. Because the roles and boundaries of science so concerned each of the groups, their founders, leaders, and ordinary members offered both implicit and explicit re-envisionings of science. These views developed out of each group's historical circumstances and theological positions, but also evolved in concert with concurrent social developments and cultural influences. Such varying factors resulted in three different perspectives on science. The Unification Church aimed to guide science and the American scientific establishment. It positioned science as a sphere separate from religion, yet at the same time attempted to direct science's ethical boundaries, methods, and even research goals. The Hare Krishnas sought to replace Western science with an alternative scientific-religious system rooted in their own Hindu religious tradition. The science of ancient Indian religious texts, they insisted, offered a more accurate and socially healthy paradigm than that of the contemporary American scientific establishment. Heaven's Gate attempted to absorb or incorporate science and scientific elements into their religious system. It looked to methodological materialism and naturalism as the ideal epistemology, and declared itself the truest form of science. Taken together, the manner in which the three new religious movements responded to the power, prestige, and place of science in America demonstrates the multiple ways that religious groups can incorporate creative tension with science into their broader intellectual positions. The three groups emerged from different cultural and historical circumstances, yet they each insisted that religion could respond to science with neither warfare nor surrender.
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  • Ariel, Yaakov
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  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
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