Massimo Introvigne

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Massimo Introvigne

Massimo Introvigne (born June 14, 1955) is an Italian sociologist of religions. He is the founder and managing director of the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), an international network of scholars who study new religious movements.


  • China seems to have been very much similar to the West, both in the production of new religious movements and in attracting to them figures from the political left who were officially promoting the struggle against “superstition.”
    Reconstructions of “Chinese traditional culture” as “non-religious,” and of the rich Chinese religious pluralism as mere “folk religion” should be viewed as propaganda rather than history.
  • Wilson himself argued that it would be in the best interest of humanity if organized religions as we know them would disappear.
    There is, however, a misunderstanding. Wilson was not an atheist, nor was he against asking religious questions.
    Since his main interest were ants, it is to his interesting 2010 novel Anthill we should turn to understand more about his ideas on religion.
  • Obviously the obedience to the spiritual master includes the risk of abuse. However, charges of abuse should be evaluated within the context of the religious tradition. Gurus who kill or rape their followers may not hide under pretexts of religious freedom. On the other hand, “being a guru” or establishing with the disciples a special relationship of trust and obedience is not illegal. It should not be evaluated through individualist and rationalist standards by media, or even by secular courts of law who do not understand the century-old religious principle of surrendering a great part of the disciple’s liberty to a spiritual master.
  • ...Tai Ji Men refused all offers of settlement from the [National Taxation Bureau], insisting they were not guilty of tax evasion and should not pay even a single dollar for this. It may seem that this is a battle about money, but it isn’t for Tai Ji Men. They spent in legal fees only, in all these years of struggles, more than they would have paid had they settled with the NTB. They did not settle for a reason of principle. By settling, they would have admitted that they had been guilty of tax evasion, something that is both against their principles and factual truth, and in their eyes would even be a connivance with the criminal actions of some rogue officials. How can they tour the world and lecture about conscience and being good citizens, and at the same time admit they evaded taxes?
  • Tai Ji Men dizi are not professional diplomats, yet they play a diplomatic role through friendship and culture. They know that their effectiveness is rooted in self-cultivation—just as Guiguzi said so many centuries ago.
    ...We all have a lot to learn from Tai Ji Men dizi. The reference to Guiguzi shows that perhaps they are so effective in what they do because they epitomize a millennia-old Chinese tradition, and a gift Chinese culture gave to the world.
  • Conscience is desensitized by materialism, but sometimes a “digital manipulation of consciences” by media that serve corrupt powers is also at work. The second [point of relevance for the Tai Ji Men case] is the role of religion and spiritual organizations to “keep alive the flame of collective conscience,” which is a pre-requisite for fraternity and peace. The third is that “corruption in its various forms,” including by “politicians” and “corrupt officials,” is one of the main obstacles that prevent our societies from being fraternal and peaceful.
    ...When conscience is no longer the compass, corruption prevails.
    Corruption destroys fraternity and peace, tries to manipulate the consciences through slander and fake news, and produces injustices.
  • I believe that Dr. Hong [Tao-Tze, the leader of Tai Ji Men], who has made himself heard about conscience all over the world, will be remembered for having rescued conscience from the problems Svevo was immersed in when he published his novel. Conscience had been assaulted not only by Freud, but before him by Karl Marx (1818–1883) and Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900). They all suggested that rather than being something natural or native conscience has been artificially created inside us by social forces not particularly well intentioned.
    ...Dr. Hong told us a simple truth, that we should forget ideologies and come back to conscience as the moral compass. Ideologies, as we know from the tragedies of the 20th century and are experiencing again in the 21st century, by obfuscating conscience create war and destruction. Only those who recognize the central role of conscience can build a civilization of peace and love.
  • The real lesson of Romero is that there are no legitimate reasons to deny human rights.
    His government in his time believed that human rights could be somewhat “suspended” to protect El Salvador from Communist influences coming from the Soviet Union via Cuba and Nicaragua.
    Romero was certainly not an admirer of the Soviet Union, but believed there should be other ways of protecting his country, not suspending human rights.
    He taught us that those who advocate for human rights are “for” their countries, not “against” them.
    ...Romero’s key teaching, that there is no reason good enough to justify the violation of human rights, is relevant for both religious liberty and the Tai Ji Men case.
    There are governments that claim that limiting religious liberty is necessary to protect social stability or the harmony of the country.
    Romero’s message is that this is not a valid justification. Human rights protection defines what a legitimate social stability is, rather than the other way around.
  • The Ghent decision, defining as illegal the practice by the Jehovah’s Witnesses to teach that current members (with the exception of cohabiting relatives) should shun or ostracize those who have been disfellowshipped or have left their organization, is the culminating point of a process that, if left unchecked, will destroy religious liberty and the very notion of freedom as we know it.
    Basically, the Ghent judges affirmed the principle that the freedom of an organization to self-regulate itself as it deems fit is a lesser right when compared to the freedom of the individual within the organization. They also imply that a person should enjoy the same freedoms within the organization that s/he would enjoy in the society in general.
    It is not an exaggeration to argue that this deeply subverts concepts about freedom that democratic societies have accepted for centuries.
    Many have argued that the basic question of Western political philosophy is why we accept to surrender a part of our liberty to join an organization. Wouldn’t it be better to remain free?

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