Accepted Paper:

Authority in alternative spiritualities: fact or fiction?  
Austin Buscher (Claremont Graduate University)

Paper long abstract:

In alternative spiritualities, the locus of authority is frequently taken from the supernatural realm and placed within the believer's hands. The freedom which comes from this inversion brings with it a number of problems. Namely, who is in charge if everyone has equal authority? Thus, a power structure becomes necessary within the traditions of alternative spiritualities, whether formally recognized or not. However, how authority is created varies from group to group.

This paper will look at the formation of various power structures, based on field research performed in the greater Los Angeles area, and examine them through feminist theoretical critiques, through sociological theories found in Charles Taylor's A Secular Age, and through psychological methodology based on the work of Jonathan Haidt. By looking at the way in which power structures are formed in "power-less" religions, we can better understand the way in which gender plays a role in this construction.

Panel W014
Spirituality against religion: the role of gender and power