The Brill Dictionary of Religion

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

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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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Dalai Lama

(1,249 words)

Author(s): von Behr, Benita
Office and Institution 1. The title Dalai Lama (usually translated ‘Ocean of Wisdom,’ from the Mongolian talai, ‘Ocean wherein wisdom is enclosed,’ and the Tibetan lama, ‘teacher, master’) denotes the highest office in the political and spiritual system of Tibetan Buddhism. In 1578, it was conferred upon the third Great Lama of the Lamaistic Gelugpa (‘Yellow Caps’) by Mongolian sovereign Altan Khan, then Protective Lord of Tibet, in recognition of Buddhist teaching, and posthumously extended to both of his predecessors. In the Tibetan Buddhist con…


(2,364 words)

Author(s): Neitzke, Dietmar
Dance: Essence and Potentialities 1. The rhythmically unified body movement of dance is a universal expression of human aliveness, of human life. Dance ‘acts out’ the most fundamental human traits—corporality, and the urge to move. It shapes space and time in dynamic periods, and opens them up to sensory experience. Not only can it express feelings of gladness, sorrow, emotion, power, love, and eroticism; it can also generate and channel them. As ‘life exponentially’ (T. Berger), dance has the c…


(3,337 words)

Author(s): Bumbacher, Stephan Peter
“Ritual of Cosmic Renewal” ( Jiao) The most important religious event for the village community (or population of a city quarter) is the celebration of the “Ritual of Cosmic Renewal” ( jiao), which is to take place after temple renovations, after temple foundations and expansions, and at least once every sixty years. It is usually three days and three nights long, and it involves not only the entire village, but also associated communities, relatives, and friends from elsewhere, all of whom are invited to take part in the gre…

Death and Dying

(4,726 words)

Author(s): Hutter, Manfred
Death as a Boundary Rejected 1. a) Death and human attitudes that are to be observed in connection with it, underlie a transformation. Death concerns all human beings. The precise entry of death, and ‘life’ thereafter, has its own meaning for every culture. The scientific biological connections, the ‘itinerary’ of death, are, of course, available to documentation: Western school medicine can describe the gradation between clinical death as cessation of the circulation of the blood, as brain death, an…

Death (Personification of)

(1,333 words)

Author(s): Hutter, Manfred
1. “We must defeat death!” Arrogant illusion of an immortality to be achieved by technology? Surely. But out of the mouth of someone who is ill, it can express the conceptualization of death as a person attempting to lay hands on his victim and can lend courage for the battle against death and dying. That God will defeat death as ‘the last enemy’ is a religious proposition with a long pre-Christian history. This mythological figure is the subject that we here seek to address: death as a person. In the process of death and dying, physical death marks a caesura that can be variously …

Demise of a Religion

(1,054 words)

Author(s): Rademacher, Stefan
1. The demise of a religion is nearly always tied to the simultaneous rise of new religions or ideologies. The better term, then, would be ‘supersession’ of religions, since no empty psychosocial cultural and philosophical space remains. Often this process is bound up with an official division of a religious community into groups. The narrower concept of ‘demise’ or ‘disintegration’ may be applicable at best in the case of this kind of fragmentation of a comprehensive religious system. Elements …


(1,047 words)

Author(s): Bielefeldt, Heiner
Democracy as the Principle of the Legitimation of the Political 1. Democracy was already discussed in the philosophy of antiquity; only in modern times, however, has it become the principle of the legitimation of government. Unlike the traditional typology of the constitution, essentially molded by Aristotle, democracy today no longer posits merely one form of government among the many that might be possible; instead, it molds the modern versions in terms of the traditional concept of the ‘common good’ ( bonum commune), on which the legitimation of the political rests across…


(657 words)

Author(s): Ahn, Gregor
Daimon with the Greeks 1. The word daemon is the Latinized form of the ancient Greek daímon. In English, it has become ‘demon.’ In the Greek tradition, daímones referred to supernatural beings who intervened in the destiny of human beings, partly as bringers of luck and happiness, partly as messengers of the insalubrious. Even Plato still interprets Eros, messenger of love, as a ‘great daímon,’ in correspondence with this interpretation, and thus as a being ‘between a god and a mortal’ ( Symposium, 202d-e). In the later Plato, in the Apology, an extension of the concept sees Socrates's daímo…


(208 words)

Author(s): Weber, Daniela
Denominations(from Lat., denominare, ‘to name’) are legally equal religious bodies. Originally only Protestant communities formed in the United States were called denominations. Today the designation denotes a religious community of likeminded individuals formed on the groundwork of a common belief, even if they come from other religions, as in the case of the American Native Church. Denominations are dependent on common conceptions of value and reciprocal incumbency of duties, and require their m…


(1,859 words)

Author(s): Ahn, Gregor
Conceptualizations Unforeseeable events that radically alter persons' lives can be seen as their ‘destiny’ (Lat. de-stanare, ‘stand down,’ solidly ‘stand’) or their ‘fate’ (Lat., fatum, ‘oracle,’ from far-, ‘speak’). Since such events differentiate what happens to one person from what happens to another, in most cultures they call for an explanation. In Europe, the emergence of conceptualizations of destiny that would become traditional is first and especially inspired by Greco-Hellenistic religions. In these religions, r…


(1,011 words)

Author(s): Grätzel, Stephan
1. Determinism is a Weltanschauung or worldview that holds all processes of inanimate and animate nature, together with human acts, to be causally conditioned. In other words, inorganic, organic, cultural, and psychic life presents a tight succession of cause and effect. Between causes and effects, therefore, no objective undetermined, random uncaused moment can be introduced, and this in principle. Therefore natural, cultural, and psychic processes are basically (pre-)determinable. 2. The ancient protagonists of this theory are Democritus, Epicurus, and Lucreti…


(1,012 words)

Author(s): Dinzelbacher, Peter
1. It is the property of the mechanisms of psychic release in all cultures to project vague fears and unfulfilled aggressions on nonhuman beings. In tribal religions—as in the medieval popular belief of Europe—the dead (and various animals), as dangerous revenants, in manifold versions, become hostile demons of this kind. Devils (Gk., diáboloi, ‘pell-mell throwers’) appear in collective myths or in the ‘theologized’ form of such ( Demon/Demonology; Evil/Evil One). Hebrew Bible 2. Judaism regarded the highest of the fallen angels as the—admittedly always inferior—adv…