Fifty years ago Soka Gakkai was an organization of a few hundred people, all of them in Japan. Today it is one of the world's most rapidly expanding religious movements with members in virtually every country in Europe, the Americas, and Australasia, in most of Asia, and in several parts of Africa. It is also increasingly well publicized, sponsoring and promoting a variety of cultural and educational causes and establishing a high profile for itself in world affairs. All of this has created a movement which is a significant social phenomenon; yet to date Soka Gakkai has received little attention from Western academics. Bryan Wilson and Karel Dobbelaere have undertaken a thorough survey of the UK membership to try to trace the source of the movement's attraction and analyse its potential. In addition to a questionnaire survey they carried out some thirty interviews with members, who were encouraged to tell their story in their own way. These interviews and the questionnaire responses are liberally quoted throughout the book and add illuminating detail to its analysis. The decline in belief in an anthropomorphic deity; the sense that traditional religious institutions have become hollow; the emphasis on the private nature of belief and on personal autonomy are all characteristic features of contemporary western values. The authors suggest that Soka Gakkai has found a ready resonance with these changing currents of thought in contemporary society and conclude that Soka Gakkai's appeal to young people in particular makes it a faith whose time may have come.
Publisher: Oxford University Press