RELIGIOUS SECTS IN THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF YOUTH
In Poland, where 95% of the population 'belongs' to the Roman-Catholic Church and less than 3% to other Christian confessions, the proliferation of sects or cults of every kind and description is one of the more remarkable and individual-threatening phenomena of the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries. Each year about 12 000 young Poles run away from home or disappear. Many of them discover 'the sole truth' in one of the 300 new religious movements to be found in Poland. But that assertion does not justify drawing the erroneous conclusion that all these young people swell the ranks of religious sects. The author has conducted a survey among students of primary and secondary schools in the city of Bialystok and the law department of the local university aimed at eliciting information about young people's awareness of the religious sects phenomenon. The survey was carried out in the first quarter of 1999 and the sample analyzed comprised 100 students of the eighth grade of primary school, 100 high school seniors and 100 undergraduates. The respondents were informed of the subject and aim of the investigation, the method of completing the questionnaire and its anonymity. As regards familiarity with the religious sects phenomenon it was found to be universal and irrespective of whether the respondent was an eighth-grader, high school senior or college student. Analysis of the findings corroborated the hypothesis that youth is aware of the fact that it is the group most vulnerable to the activities of sects. Interestingly, a decided majority in each of the groups surveyed perceived the negative phenomenon of sects. Generally speaking, college students as persons with the highest level of awareness of the dangers posed by sects assessed them unfavorably. The most opposition in all the age groups studied was aroused by the idea of admitting a sect member into the family circle, the least by the possibility of having a sect adherent for a colleague. Almost all of the college students and high school seniors in the survey expressed a belief that some religious sects were breeding grounds of crime. A decided majority of the eighth-graders and high school seniors thought that the functioning of sects ought to be prohibited by law. As regards the respondents' views on the question of whether registration of religious sects should be made easier or harder there were also certain variations according to respondents' age. Among the college students and high school seniors a decided majority were in favor of impeding registration of religious sects in Poland.
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