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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(390 words)

Author(s): Hack, Achim
Polemics and Apologetics 1. There is a rhetorical ‘attack strategy’ for quarreling: polemics (Gk., polemiké téchne), identified by irrelevantly aggressive, but overpoweringly argumentational, discourse. Its intent is the annihilation of the opponent's position, or even of his or her person. Thus, its address is to an audience that offers evaluation, but that can be fictitious, as well. The corresponding counterpart is apologetics (from Gk., apologetikós, ‘[discursively] defending’), as a technique of reacting to polemics defensively and in an attempt at just…

Political Religion

(664 words)

Author(s): Hartmann, Georg
The concept ‘political religion’ (in Fr., religion politique; religion séculière, Fr., ‘secular religion’) is used to denote totalitarian systems of the twentieth century, such as → National Socialism, Stalinism, and Maoism (→ Mao [Cult of]), under the viewpoint of a union of church and state, a condition so pregnant with consequences. It was political scientist and philosopher Eric Voegelin who offered the first systematic treatment of the theme, against the background of a strengthening National Socialism in 1938, with his essay, Die politischen Religionen (Ger., “The Politi…


(2,844 words)

Author(s): Gladigow, Burkhard
Modern Discovery of Polytheism 1. In a letter to Jacobi of January 6, 1813,1 Goethe states that as poet and artist he is a polytheist, as a natural scientist he is a pantheist, and as a moral person he is a Christian. With this sovereign religious self-classification, Goethe has allocated a relative, and at the same time positive, evaluation to the theologically negatively composed concept of “polytheism.” And there is more: to maintain that one can be at once a monotheist and a polytheist, and both of these…

Popular Culture

(2,179 words)

Author(s): Klepper, Wolfgang
1. Religion is not limited to special times and spaces. Religious elements, or corresponding strategies of interpretation, are implicit in many areas of popular culture, and outside of traditional institutions. If one takes one's point of departure from an inclusive, functional concept of religion, then → religion is everything the social order legitimizes and integrates (T. Luckmann). Thus, like art or science, religion is a matter of a symbolical meaning-world created by the human being that t…


(1,223 words)

Author(s): Welte, Frank Maurice
1. Possession umbers as one of the exceptional, hypnosis-like (hypnoid) psychic states. Like shamanic ‘ecstasy,’ it is a special case of → trance. At the close of the nineteenth century, possession still played a considerable role in Europe. Its phenomena were designated as hysteria, from which Freud's → psychoanalysis took its point of departure. The conception of possession exists in nearly all human cultures. It means that a spirit being takes possession of a human being, and exercises its co…


(1,386 words)

Author(s): Hartmann, Georg
Postmodern Positions 1. Since the 1960s, various diagnoses of the current condition of society, culture, and knowledge have been propounded and dealt with under the heading ‘postmodernity.’ First, at the end of the 1960s, the return to traditional narrative forms within American literature after James Joyce was designated as ‘postmodern.’ Charles Jencks introduced the concept into architectural theory in the 1980s, and connected with it the concept of ‘double coding’ in architectural construction.…


(1,253 words)

Author(s): Dettmar, Erika
1. Poverty is an economic condition of lack that, on an ongoing basis, endangers the satisfaction of fundamental needs in the areas of food and shelter, indeed survival itself. Oppositely, the principle of a voluntary restriction of material possessions and private consumption is a kind of ‘symbolic poverty,’ variously appraised by the religions. Few systems of belief condemn material well-being; rather, they usually encourage its distribution and/or material renunciation, positing these as a co…


(1,045 words)

Author(s): Wolf, Jürgen
Conceptualizations of Cosmic Power and Energy 1. Instead of entertaining conceptualizations of personal gods, today's independent religiosity (particularly in the → New Age religion) thinks of a religious ground in terms of cosmic power, or of a monistically understood cosmic energy, in which creation and creator are not distinguished, and the world is underlain by only one principle. As a rule, the cosmos enters into relation with the human being ‘as within, so without.’ Therefore the energies of the earth can influence human charact…


(1,682 words)

Author(s): Oberlies, Thomas
Definition 1. Prayer is one of the typically religious forms of communication. With prayer, a person turns to the gods—aloud or in a whisper, wordlessly or in thought, as an individual or in a group, for oneself or for others. The purpose is not (or at least not primarily) so that the god will make an appearance (epiphany); rather in conformity with the emphatically asymmetrical relationship between gods and human beings, prayer is usually formulated as a request, so that it frequently includes t…

Pre- and Early History

(1,645 words)

Author(s): Porr, Martin
1. The subject or object of pre- and early history is the entire section of the history of humanity that is accessible only through unwritten, material remnants of human activity. However, the presentation is usually limited to the period from the Old Stone (Paleolithic) Age to the end of the New Stone (Neolithic) Age in Europe. The time-span, then, would be from the moment of evidence of first human artifacts (stone tools), some two-and-one-half to three million years ago, to the sedentary move…


(339 words)

Author(s): Siggelkow, Ingeborg
The theological concept of predestination means divine ‘pre-determination’ to a permanent status with respect to salvation. Predestination primarily concerns the lot of the human being in the hereafter. As a concept, it is not mentioned in the Hebrew Bible but in the New Testament, in Rom 8:28–30 and Eph 1:1–14. Some theologians assume that these passages deal with an offer of salvation open to all persons. Separation into elect and damned follows only in the Last Judgment. While eternal salvation awaits the redeemed, sinners are condemned to eternal damnation. In terms of the histo…

Preface: The Conceptual Framework of the Brill Dictionary of Religion

(1,724 words)

Author(s): Stuckrad, Kocku von
1. Religion in the Twenty-First Century The End of Religion? Well into the twentieth century, it has been the expectation of the majority of scholars that religions will sooner or later disappear from the modern world. Scholars based their expectation on the assumption that in the wake of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment the rational and scientific world-view would ultimately lead to a decline of religious truth-claims. We have been told that in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the rise of mo…


(3,317 words)

Author(s): Bergmann, Werner
What is a Prejudice? 1. Prejudices, defined as stable and consistent negative attitudes toward another group, and stereotype, a complex of convictions concerning the personal characteristics of a group of persons, are intimately interrelated. All theories of prejudice hold that an attitude toward a group is connected with the perception of its attributes, whether they are seen as positive or negative. It is true that there is disagreement on the direction of the causality: the attitude of someone to…


(1,681 words)

Author(s): Vogt, Ludgera
1. What is generally understood by ‘prestige’ is an evaluation by which individuals or groups assign one another a rank in the social world. Thus, prestige stands in close connection with the concepts of honor and recognition, which likewise bear on the aspect of social evaluation, although the accents they place are not altogether the same. The concept was introduced into scientific discussion in the early twentieth century, when Ludwig Leopold (1916) undertook to outline the psychological dimensions, and Max → Weber (1922) the sociological. What is Prestige, and How Does It Fu…


(1,292 words)

Author(s): Schneider, Karin
1. Priests and priestesses (from Gk., presbýteros, ‘older person,’ ‘elder of the community’) are religious → specialists who work as cultic functionaries within a religious community. (They arethus distinguished from theologians, who, as specialists in teaching and dogma, are entrusted with, for example, the exposition of Scripture, and the means of propagation of that teaching and dogma.) The priest's task, in the broad sense, is the execution of → rituals, sacrificial acts, or entire liturgies. Prie…

Private Religion

(1,366 words)

Author(s): Knoblauch, Hubert
‘Private’ 1. The word ‘private’ derives from the Latin privatus, and means ‘belonging to,’ or ‘concerning a particular person or group; not common or general.’ In the course of the eighteenth century—through connections with ‘private property,’ and ‘private person’—the word developed into a counter-concept, first, to ‘state’ (adj.), and then, to ‘public,’ or ‘public civil,’ so that it gained the sense of ‘divided from [other] citizens,’ a state-free sphere. Private Religion 2. The Christian churches, in their self-concept, fulfill a ‘public charge.’ Indeed, they ma…


(997 words)

Author(s): Gronover, Annemarie
Religious Procession and Public Act 1. The religious procession (from Lat., processio, ‘procession,’ ‘walk in order to demonstrate a request’ or to demonstrate ‘gratitude’) today stands in the field of tension between an act of expression on the part of believers, conveyed by religion, and a secularized → ‘publicity’ or public act whose primary appeal is to popular tradition or → tourism. Processions are liturgical and corporative kinds of cult, which ‘walk’ an established topography (a stretch of a road or street, a locality, or a sacred → ‘landscape’) in…

Profession of Faith

(311 words)

Author(s): Schneider, Karin
The profession or confession of faith is the readily recalled, binding collection and affirmation of a religion's central content of faith, and announces exclusive membership in this community in distinction from other religious groups. It is known in all writing or founded religions, but not in the religions of illiterate people, whose religious and social structures are so tightly woven that it is not necessary explicitly to proclaim them; rather, membership follows by birth. A first form of t…


(1,361 words)

Author(s): Grätzel, Stephan
Progress and History 1. The successes of the natural and cultural sciences in European modernity engendered technological innovation. This led in turn to an ‘acceleration’ of culture, of its means of conveyance, and of production and communication. Rapid public transport, one's own Internet connection, or the last-minute ticket to the Maledives, provide occasion for the conceptualization that the human being is in a constant state of progress. Progress becomes not only a basic concept for an appraisal of history, but, beyond this, a basic characteristic of (modern) humanity—an anth…


(844 words)

Author(s): Görnitz, Brigitte
Psychology 1. In technological projection, a picture or image is cast onto the wall. Psychic projection, on the other hand, shifts inner images, or sensations/reactions, to the outside, such as affects and impulses, wishes, or certain conceptualizations. Projection can serve to ward off fear and to retain an acceptable self-image. In an unconscious process, other persons, or a group or society, are ‘projectively’ ascribed a feeling or → prejudice actually emerging from one's own self. Now only th…
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