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"It’s not about religion, but about manipulation": Polemical discourse against sects and cults in Sweden

Chapter in book
Authors Henrik Bogdan
Published in Culture, Health, and Religion at the Millennium / Marie Demker; Yvonne Leffler; Ola Sigurdson (eds.)
Pages 77-97
ISBN 978-1-349-50116-8
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan
Place of publication New York
Publication year 2014
Published at Department of Literature, History of Ideas, and Religion
Pages 77-97
Language en
Subject categories Cultural Studies, Religious Studies, Sociology of religion


One of the key discourses of the Swedish welfare state was, and to a certain extent still is, the tolerance of religious, cultural, and ethnic minorities, and the post– World War II public debate was indeed characterized by open-mindedness toward and acceptance of non-mainstream forms of religion. Although the welfare state was, on the surface, a secular and social-democratic construct, it was firmly built upon the Protestant ethics of the Swedish state church, as discussed in the Introduction to this volume. However, as the homogeneity of Swedish society began to crack and eventually fell apart, the limits of Swedish tolerance toward groups that challenged the image of a “normal” or accepted religion became apparent. Central questions related to the place of religion in “unparadised Sweden” thus came to the fore at an increasing speed: What is the role of religion in Sweden today? Are there forms of religion that are not acceptable? Can religion be dangerous? Questions like these are often raised when the issue of “cults” and “sects” is being discussed.

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