The Brill Dictionary of Religion

Get access Subject: Religious Studies
Edited by: Kocku von Stuckrad

The impressively comprehensive Brill Dictionary of Religion (BDR) Online addresses religion as an element of daily life and public discourse, is richly illustrated and with more than 500 entries, the Brill Dictionary of Religion Online is a multi-media reference source on the many and various forms of religious commitment. The Brill Dictionary of Religion Online addresses the different theologies and doctrinal declarations of the official institutionalized religions and gives equal weight and consideration to a multiplicity of other religious phenomena. The Brill Dictionary of Religion Online helps map out and define the networks and connections created by various religions in contemporary societies, and provides models for understanding these complex phenomena.

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Collective Representations

(4,131 words)

Author(s): Berghoff, Peter
Collectives as Produced Community 1. Collectives—insofar as this concept is not used to designate all groups, communities, crowds, unions, and gatherings of individuals—denotes ‘produced communities’ whose bond need not be presented in a real assembly or physical co-presence. They may come to manifestation only indirectly, through symbols, institutions, representations, and through the processes of power and government linked with them. The concept of representation is usually applied in the meaning of ‘presentation,’ ‘display,’ ‘portrayal,’ ‘image,’ or ‘su…

Colonialism I: Economic and Political

(905 words)

Author(s): Schlatter, Gerhard
When Columbus discovered the American continent in October 1492, Latin America had to embark on a trail of sorrow that is not yet over. In 1521, with unexampled cruelty, Hernan Cortes annihilated the Aztec Empire, the city of Tenochtitlan was razed to the ground, and the population was practically exterminated. Priests and missionaries supplied the coup de grâce by assuring the devastation of all works of art and all libraries, thereby forever depriving humanity of a rich and multiform culture (’Mission). Only twelve years later, the Spanish adventurer Pizarro overcame the E…

Colonialism II: Anthropological

(905 words)

Author(s): Polzer, Claudia
1. Missionaries were often the forerunners of colonialism. Colonial encounters occurred not only with non-Christian cultures in Asia, Africa, and America, but also between Western colonialism and indigenous Christianity—as on the western coast of southern India, with the Thomasine Christians as the Portuguese arrived in 1498, or again in the Ethiopia of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as Portuguese Catholicism likewise met indigenous Christian variants. Frequently an appropriation of the…


(1,431 words)

Author(s): Grübel, Nils
The ‘Face-to-Face Society’ 1. The commune (Lat., communis, ‘common’), as a conformation of human community, is neither simple nor primordial. It is better understood as a complex process of ‘communization’ ( Vergemeinschaftung, Max Weber), in which individuals learn to connect heterogeneous feelings and ideas, and to insert themselves into a community of solidarity. A commune is a group, readily grasped as a unit, whose members are in underlying agreement in their values, interests, and inclinations, and who seek to experien…


(3,621 words)

Author(s): Thomas, Günter
Religion as Communication 1. From a communications theory perspective, religions are considered complex, structured, processes of communication, which separate themselves from other forms of communication through the development of specific ‘communication interconnections’ in space and time ( Feasts and Celebrations; Sunday/Sabbath), particular conformations, and specific themes ( Metaphysics; Heaven/Sky, Hell), and repeatedly by the acceptance of divine communication-participants. As they are comm…

Composite Beings

(225 words)

Author(s): Ahn, Gregor
Supernatural beings in composite form, whose outward appearance—in varying proportion—is partly animal and partly human, are a hardy component of the iconography of a great number of religions. Although gods are extensively encountered in human form (‘anthropomorphism’), deviations from the norm are suited to certain purposes. A multiplication of bodily parts (heads, arms), a merging of the sexes (‘androgyny’), or a combination of animal and human forms, has been a preferred stylistic means of d…

Confession (Sacramental Act)

(887 words)

Author(s): Klaus, Otto
Acknowledging Oneself 1. As a result of the loss of significance of the large churches, the meaning of ‘confession’ has only marginally to do with a public or private religious act involving the acknowledgement of guilt and sin. On the other hand, the public ‘confessions’ on talk shows, especially of sexual misdeeds on the part of celebrities, or analogous acknowledgments on the part of politicians, enjoy high public notice. Historically, with the development of the various forms of confession as spaces of religiously defined self-thematizing,1 the Christian churches in Europe …


(3,691 words)

Author(s): Pflüger, Tobias
1. Conflict is usually seen as something negative. The general understanding is that, through conflict, persons' cohabitation is disturbed. Meanwhile, conflicts are no longer seen merely negatively, but are gradually being understood as a potentially productive thing. One of the contributing factors here is research into peace and conflict. Previously, ‘conflict’ was primarily understood in the sense of international conflict, the conflict of interests between different states. Conflicts were of…


(1,231 words)

Author(s): Bumbacher, Stephan Peter
Life of Confucius 1. Confucianism is the philosophical tradition of China, coming down from Kong Qiu, later named Kong zi, or Kong fuzi, ‘Master Kong.’ In the seventeenth century, the Jesuits Latinized the name to ‘Confucius.’ Little is known about Confucius (551–479 BCE) with certitude. According to some assertions, he lived ‘without rank and in low relations’ (Lun yu, 9:6), presumably a member of the lower nobility. Nevertheless, he received an education in writing, archery, and music. He is tho…


(1,332 words)

Author(s): Kittsteiner, Heinz D.
1. The concept and functioning of conscience have always been controversial. An approach to the phenomenon of conscience in terms of cultural history emphasizes that, in conscience, a moral experience is expressed in which knowledge of a social norm is joined with the inner feeling of acknowledgment of this norm as one that imposes obligation. A survey of the modern sphere between the sixteenth and the twentieth centuries in Europe provides a point of departure in the fact that, during this period, there has always b…


(1,491 words)

Author(s): Rink, Steffen
Concept 1. Since the Enlightenment, the concept of the constitution has been equated with that of the laws that ground and organize the exercise of rule in a state. Generally, these laws are gathered into a single document of their own and placed above the other, simple, laws. Originally, ‘Constitution’ (Lat., constitutio, ‘setting together’) meant the compilation of different elements into a unified structure. Just as we speak of the constitution of a person in terms of health, the constitution of a state consisted not only in the law, but in t…


(933 words)

Author(s): Weber, Daniela
Determination of the Concept 1. ‘Conversion’ (Lat, conversio, ‘return,’ ‘transformation’) denotes a transit from one religious community to another, most often in connection with a new religious experience. Originally, in Christianity, conversi denoted non-ordained monks or women in a religious community/ order. Later, the concept was broadened to apply to Jews who had converted to Christianity, and to fallen-away Catholics who had returned to the Church. Since the Reformation, the concept has also been applied to the case of…

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(44 words)

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(1,366 words)

Author(s): Ahn, Gregor
Emergence of the World 1. Cosmogonies (Gk., kosmogonía, ‘world-origin’) are explanatory models, developed by persons of nearly all times and cultures, describing the origin of the world around them, and of the conditions of life that they find there. Inasmuch, then, as cosmogonies not only refer to the genesis of specific, individual circumstances of life, but reflect a world-encompassing linkage of functions, structures, or orders, they form an integral component of cosmologies (Gk., kosmología, ‘doctrine of the world-whole’)—that is, of concepts serving to help exp…


(250 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
When nineteenth-century scientists presented the claim that they could offer an exhaustive explanation of the world, the question of how life arose became a crucial issue. Their theories were set in competition with religious accounts. The confrontation climaxed on the horns of a dilemma: what need is there for a God if nature makes itself according to eternal rules? Or: what was there before the primordial soup, the Big Bang? To establish the nonexistence of God is no longer one of the goals of science. The creation account is simply a myth. A modern creation story, like Steven Weinberg's Th…


(1,652 words)

Author(s): Klosinski, Gunther
The word ‘crisis’ derives from the Greek, and means insecurity, hazardous situation, increasing gravity, moment of decision, turning point. In Hippocratic medicine, the concept of ‘crisis’ indicated the high point, and turning point, of the course of an illness, since either the sickness momentarily issued in catastrophe—death—or the crisis passed and there was an improvement. The more threateningly, and ‘existentially,’ a life crisis is experienced, the oftener and more ‘elementarily’ is it coupled to the religious dimension. Life Crises—Crises of Meaning—Movements of R…

Criticism of Religion

(1,496 words)

Author(s): Grätzel, Stephan
From Mythos to Logos? 1. In comparison with the various religions, philosophy and the sciences, both physical and natural, are of late appearance. As demonstrated by the emergence of Greek philosophy in the sixth century BCE, they emerged from a criticism of the religious apprehensions and praxis of their time. Philosophy, which always understands itself as, among other things, criticism of religion, sees itself confronted with the task of demythologizing the world, and of leading culture from ‘myth…


(1,217 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
The ‘Crucifix Affair’ 1. In the folk schools of Bavaria, a crucifix hangs over the chalkboard—a ‘Cross with the Nailed One,’ the suffering Christ. In 1995, a parental couple insisted that children not be required to gaze upon this mute sign of Christian faith unless they shared the faith. In the Weimar Constitution, they argued, and in the German Basic Law, the state had obliged itself to ‘neutrality of Weltanschauung,’—neutrality when it came to a worldview—so that this display of the crucifix contradicted the basic rights of every citizen. True, unlike the case…


(426 words)

Author(s): Hjelm, Titus
In its widest sense the term ‘cult’ refers to different aspects of worship within a religious tradition. Examples of this include various devotional services, both communal and private. ‘Cult’ can also be used to denote a set of beliefs and rituals surrounding a certain object of worship. In this sense it can refer to a religious cult like the cult of Virgin Mary or even a non-religious ‘cult,’ like the ones associated with famous popular music or sports icons. A more narrow meaning is used in the social scientific study of religion. In this sense ‘cult’ refers to a religi…