Every Sparrow That Falls: Understanding Animal Rights Activism as Functional Religion

in Society & Animals
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Abstract

This article reports original research conducted among animal rights activists and elites in Switzerland and the United States, and the finding that activism functioned in activists' and elites' lives like religious belief. The study used reference sampling to select Swiss and American informants. Various articles and activists have identified both latent and manifest quasi-religious components in the contemporary movement. Hence, the research followed upon these data and anecdotes and tested the role of activism in adherents' lives. Using extensive interviews, the research discovered that activists and elites conform to the five necessary components of Yinger's definition of functional religion: intense and memorable conversion experiences, newfound communities of meaning, normative creeds, elaborate and well-defined codes of behavior, and cult formation. The article elaborates on that schema in the context of animal rights belief, elucidates the deeply meaningful role of activism within a filigree of meaning, and concludes that the movement is facing schismatic forces not dissimilar to redemptive and religious movements

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