Scientology, Satanism, and Jehovah's Witnesses take up most of our organization's time because of the number of inquiries concerning these groups. In the past couple of years, however, we have also had many inquiries about the American psychogroup, Landmark, which is associated with cults because of the high level of one-sided sales pressure that many people report. Tvind is another non-religious organization with a strong group mentality. Tongil has in the past received much negative press coverage for which they blame the Dialog Center.
Jehovah's Witnesses have attempted to become mainstream by, for example, joining in the religious debate by writing letters to newspapers about subjects not usually key issues for Jehovah's Witnesses.
The fundamentalist Bible sects, who are numerous in the USA, have little appeal in Denmark. But a ‘new’ part of the small groups of Bible sects have a major, but unknown influence inside the Pentecostal churches and other small free churches in Denmark. This influence is mainly from the faith-prosperity movement with its very problematic theology concerning speaking in tongues, prophecies, and the authority of the leadership.
Scientology once again tried to obtain marriage authority. Obtaining marriage authority is the same as being accepted as a faith community and it gives the right to tax exemption. In Denmark there is no official approval of religious communities. A “religious community” is simply a community who thinks of themselves as a religious community. There are no other requirements.
A community obtaining marriage authority is called a faith community. A “faith community” in Denmark is difficult to describe because there aren’t definite regulations or laws on how to judge whether a community is a faith community. The authorities make an individual estimate of each community trying to obtain marriage authority. It seems like the authorities look after some characteristics in the religion: Has the community faith in a transcendent god (but then again Buddhism has obtained marriage authority)? And has it a holy scripture with a history of Creation or myth? And has it some sort of priesthood and ceremonies of some kind?
In order for Scientology not to appear as persecutor they have in some cases begun to refund course payments to former members who made claims against Scientology. Because of this Scientology has obtained a great deal of publicity. However, Scientology has cancelled their application for marriage authority, but they still try to distort the debate by confusing the ideas of "faith community" and "religious community."
As far as the Satanists are concerned we find most followers to be teenagers from the lower middle class. New is that also female teenagers increasingly are attracted to this phenomenon, perhaps inspired by American films and series about witches as Satanism. Therefore belief in witches typically are confused.
The Satanists vandalizing churches and graveyards are typically younger men from the heavy metal environment. But it is difficult to tell the difference between the satanic grave desecrators and certain Communists, Neo-Nazis, and the happenings of the Autonomists (young socialist squatting empty houses) when they for instance smash up McDonald's stores for ideological reasons. Supposedly, they all seek some kind of way to legalize their need to destroy.
The most pronounced part of the Satanists are the followers of the Church of Satan who as it is known don't confess to a personal Satan but pass themselves off as atheists or otherwise non religious. Even though there apparently is only a small number of Satanists in Denmark, the Satanic Bible found in most libraries typically has a waiting list of up to one year. It is interesting to note, however, that the ideology the young are attracted by appears "scientific", rather than political or religious.
Also we see a large number of people joining groups, such as Landmark and Amway, which become controversial because of their sales practices. Landmark seems to appeal to young people between 20-35 in liberal professions who are disillusioned with or discouraged about their lives. Landmark seems to be a scientific substitute for the need of religious answers to life's fundamental questions.
In spite of that a large number of Danes participate in New Age or psychological movements while being a member of the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Folk Church (Danish National Church) in which 88% of the Danish population hold a membership. But the new and the classical religious movements (not churches), like the political parties, have experienced a huge fall in memberships.
In their personal emptiness Danes seem to seek a new identity, but they can't find it in the established religions or political parties. They seem instead to look to their professional careers. Denmark has for this reason becomes a "nation of courses" in personality development, perhaps because Danes are fully aware Denmark's raw materials is the mind.
The mechanism behind this phenomenon the Dialog Center calls "religio occulta" (hidden religion). This concept views groups as having several layers, with the religious layer hidden behind other layers. With some groups the religion is hidden by front organizations; with other groups the ‘religion’ is reframed as psychology (psychogroups). The psychogroups seem to base their work on some sort of magic or occult way of thinking that implies a capacity to manipulate the forces of nature as the followers are taught they are their own cause.
This means that those who are attracted to seemingly non-religious groups are really attracted to the hidden religious aspects of the groups that on the surface may appear to be scientific. The question then arises whether in the future psychogroups, by virtue of religio occulta, will continue to supplant the religious cults that attracted people in past years.
Cults, Psychological Manipulation & Society: An Internet Journal, 1999, Vol. 1, No. 1