The year 2005 saw the celebration of the one hundredth anniversary of the law of 1905 concerning the separation of the Church and the State. The religious phenomenon’s socio-political issues are changing. Yet, at this time when an increasing number of people describe themselves as being «without a religion», no-one can escape the omnipresence of beliefs in our modern societies. In the future, will man loose his faith or will his «beliefs» change, creating a new form of faith? The religious landscape is changing, based on three major trends:
- Religion that focuses on the individual and/or the individualisation of methods of belief are acquiring increasing social legitimacy. Each individual can be the authority on his own belief. This leads to the erosion of any form of an organised centre and to a loss of influence amongst the traditional institutions of religious worship.
- Religion is becoming a centre of individual creation where before it was the justification of a constraint. This generates a refusal of prescriptive dogmas.
- Individuals practise their religion, using it as a means, no longer of social integration (although this form obviously still exists), but of expressing their individuality.
The «New Age» movement is the main expression of this new form of religion. This «galaxy» of ideas and beliefs is not structured by a doctrine or by principles but rather by «attitudes» or an «atmosphere» («New Age music» for example). There are quasi-totalitarian cults in the New Age movement (such as the defunct Bagwan sri Rajneesh, alias «Osho»’s cult), «rogue» beliefs that are separate from any fundamental doctrine (astrology or the power of crystals), ancient and oriental doctrines recently imported by the West (yoga, tai-chi, Qigong, Buddhism etc) and also deep philosophical reflections on religion or spirituality (Gregory Bateson, a rational, scientific thinker who finished his life in a New Age temple in Esalen is often linked to the movement).