Any discussion of the factors shaping attitudes to, and patterns of conflict over, new religious movements (NRMs) in Japan today has to be conducted in the light of the activities of Aum Shinrikyô. For Japanese society, the “Aum affair” raised the spectre of a legally registered religious organization enjoying freedom of worship, legal protection, and religious tax exemptions and yet abusing these privileges to finance the manufacture of chemical weapons and commit heinous crimes. Inevitably, the question of Aum’s position and continued existence under Japanese law became a matter of public and political debate. On the wider level, too, the Aum affair raised basic questions about the relationship between religion, society, and state in a modern, liberal society and about the extent to which such societies should offer protection to, and tolerate the existence of, religious movements that are inimical to normative social values. The affair also raised questions about the tax benefits given to religious movements and about the ways in which religious movements acquire their wealth. Such issues gave a powerful boost to the development of an anticult movement in Japan and gave added impetus to an aggressive mass media keen to expose “deviant” religious groups. The Aum affair also damaged the ability of academics in the field to offer balanced judgments on new movements and virtually silenced academic researchers in the debates that arose during the post-Aum moral panic that gripped Japan.
"Published as Consensus Shattered: Japanese Paradigm Shift and Moral Panic in the Post-Aum Era Ian Reader Nova Religio Apr 2001, Vol. 4, No. 2: 225–234. © 2001 by the Regents of the University of California. Copying and permissions notice: Authorization to copy this content beyond fair use (as specified in Sections 107 and 108 of the U. S. Copyright Law) for internal or personal use, or the internal or personal use of specific clients, is granted by the Regents of the University of California for libraries and other users, provided that they are registered with and pay the specified fee via Rightslink® on [Caliber (http://caliber.ucpress.net/)] or directly with the Copyright Clearance Center, http://www.copyright.com."