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Ecstasy

(129 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
Unlike → enthusiasm, when God or the Spirit enters human beings, in ecstasy (Gk., ek-stasis, ‘standing out of’) human beings ‘leave’ themselves, so that they lose consciousness and self-control. The concept is variously differentiated. In the psychological sense, euphoria (→ Emotions/Feelings) can be included. The anthropology of religion has especially described the techniques of the release of the spirit or → soul from the body by dance, rhythm, or drugs. In a context of the history of religions, the application in Neo-Platonism is even more specific. Neo-Platonism labels the way of…

Altar

(899 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
In order that a gift may be offered in such a way that no others may use it for themselves, but rather be given—as a rule—to a god, a holy place is required. Normally the place is an elevated one, so that it can display the offering to the eyes of all. It may be a rock, for example, or a board or slab, or an arrangement of stones. Altars erected by the Greeks for their animal sacrifices stood outside the temple. They had to stretch far enough to accommodate a hundred beasts at once on the occasi…

Superstition

(68 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
The designation is a polemical one, connoting a distance taken from the acts of persons, other than oneself, which must be called religious, but which either seem exaggerated ( superstition), or are forbidden by official religion. Pastors, especially, and (other) intellectuals use it to disparage the piety of the ‘uneducated folk.’ From an atheistic viewpoint, any religion can be called superstition. → Atheism, Polemics, Religion Christoph Auffarth

Antiquity

(4,038 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
Biases of periodization 1. a) The Protestant humanists accustomed us to a tripartition of history: geographically into old world, new world, and third world; and historically into antiquity, Middle Ages, and modernity.1 This determination also provides a help in practical ordering, especially in our method of counting by centuries ( saecula), as it expresses an assessment of our times. Our enumeration of centuries begins with the ‘birth of Christ,’ runs forward and backward, and, with ‘new world’—or ‘new age’—indicates the hope of an era ‘accor…

Violence

(139 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
Theologically, it can certainly be concluded that all religions have the goal of peace. But the opposite goal can just as easily be deduced. The rejection of violence among the historical conditions of a religion's emergence says nothing as yet about the possibility, in other situations, of justifying violence, and founding it in religion. The historical experience of Christians' crusades and Islamic tolerance occasions doubts as to whether the images of the ‘sword of Islam’ and that of the ‘God…

Rebirth

(516 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
Rebirth may refer to both the idea of → reincarnation and that of being spiritually born again. Reincarnation involves a person being physically reborn into the world after having exited it through death in a previous individual existence. The previous existence cannot be consciously remembered by the individual, but still affects the person. For example, deeds and experiences in a previous life may influence the type of incarnation a person now has. Around 1900 European religious historians tended to see reincarnation as a distinguishing characteristic of what was …

Architecture, Sacred

(194 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
If religion is to be a vital institution in society, buildings are needed: from a walled approach or entranceway to a cave, to pieces of architecture reserved exclusively for religious use. Buildings for worship are places where gods are thought of as dwelling, where their images are displayed, and where persons show their reverence through gifts. The altar is not always the central point. The Greek temple is rather a treasure house for votive gifts, while the sacrifice is offered on the altar i…

Monarchy/Royalty

(1,340 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
Fascination with Another World Although functioning monarchies are very rare, the lives of royal families keep fascinating people. Even when royalty are the objects of scandal, they are regarded with a certain envy. We tend to project our dreams of an ideal life onto royal families. Whatever their lapses, they remain idols, as did Lady Diana, estranged wife of the heir to the British throne, who was fondly remembered as the ‘Queen of Hearts’ after her fatal accident in 1997. Sacredness of the King or Queen In modern societies with democratic institutions, the death of the head of…

Oral Tradition

(2,353 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
One could say that Western culture is coming to the end of a phase in its history, which has been characterized by literacy and the dominance of the written texts. Technologies like telephone and radio as well as computers controlled by speech contribute to the rise of a new type of oral tradition, as do cultural trends toward deviating from traditional prescribed texts or agendas, such as the value placed on improvisation in → music, → theater and religious services. The current emphasis on → d…

European History of Religion: Time Chart

(2,453 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
In terms of the indication of the entry above, European history of religion is bound up with an urban public character. Its orientation is to ancient discussions and methodical approaches of the logic of a quasi-Aristotelian method of ‘theo-logy,’ and the logic of the majority of religions. This situation was reache…

Creation

(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…

Theocracy

(1,051 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
1. What has occurred in → Iran and in Algeria in the last two decades of the twentieth century, in terms of deadly violence, deprivation of individual rights, and coercion to live according to the rules of religious laws, is perceived in the West with horror and revulsion, and labeled ‘theocracy.’ ‘Theocracy’ (Gk., ‘God's government’) contradicts ‘democracy’ (Gk., ‘people's government’). The former designation fuses a criticism of the religious grounding of political crimes with a criticism of r…

Holocaust

(281 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
The term ‘holocaust’ was proposed at the beginning of the 1960s by Elie Wiesel, who himself was nearly killed at Auschwitz. This term was intended to designate the unspeakable murder of six million European Jews, whose destruction was bureaucratically organized and industrially executed. Although the term originated in America, it has become current in Europe especially through the American media. The Greek word holókaustos is a translation of a term from the Hebrew Bible meaning ‘wholly burned’ or ‘burnt offering’ and describing the type of sacrifice in wh…

Exegesis

(178 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
Exegesis (Gk., ‘explanation’; etym., ‘out-leading,’ ‘ex-position’) denotes the interpretation or explanation of a text or a passage of a text, especially one from the Bible, and especially at the hands of an expert. In Greek sanctuaries, exegetes stood ready to ‘translate’ oracles of the god into human speech, or to explain to strangers the meaning of the chunks of boulder, or the tree, in the sanctuary, having to find an answer for everything. In theology, professionals concern themselves with …

Dualism

(3,801 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
We/Not-We 1. The most unambiguous and most simple way to ascertain one's own place in a complicated reality consists in dividing the world into ‘ We’ and ‘ Not-We.’ The social identity determining which individuals belong to ‘ We,’ and which as ‘ Not-We’ are to be left out, is constituted as the result of many criteria. After all, in many ways the members of a group are alike, while they are distinct in others. Culture operates precisely through the perception of difference. Since no individual case is unambiguous, dualism contributes to…

Sunday/Sabbath

(1,061 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
1. a) In most Western societies where Christianity has been the dominant religion for a long time, Sunday has a special place as a ‘day off.’ As a day of rest and pause from labor, however, Sunday is not very old. In societies defined by the sowing, cultivating, and reaping of nutrients, season and weather govern the rhythm of work and rest. Animals must always be cared for: feeding, milking, and carrying out the dung must be seen to. The farm family cannot take a ‘day off.’ The dyers had their ‘blue Monday,’ when they dried and oxidized the wool that had been steeped in dye on Sunday. The Sabbath, a …

Marginality/Liminality

(526 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
Marginality is a sociological term used to designate persons who live on the periphery of society as opposed to those who take up the central role in a society, enjoying particular privileges and access to power and influence from which marginalized persons or groups are excluded. The most influential segment of a society is not necessarily the same as the majority, nor do marginalized groups necessarily correspond to demographic minorities (e.g. blacks in the Antebellum South constituted the ma…

Blessing

(341 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
While prayer expresses wishes in one's own or another's behalf, blessing expresses God's benevolent power ( salus, ‘salvation’) upon others. The Aaronite blessing, with which Christian divine service is concluded, expresses blessing not solely as wish, but at the same time as fulfillment: the minister or priest confers it upon the other in God's name (“The Lord bless you,” Num 6:21–27). He bestows his name upon Aaron, brother of lawgiver Moses, since the former is the model for all later priests. The authoritat…

Asylum

(1,033 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
Human Right? 1. Asylum, the assuring of protection to strangers, has religious roots. Church asylum, and the sanctuary movement (in the United States), plead this ancient religious tradition. In 1949, the Federal Republic of Germany committed itself to the following human right: “Political refugees have a right to asylum” (Art. 16.2). This formulation goes much further than the (non-binding) United Nations Convention on Human Rights of December 12, 1948: “States may grant asylum to political refugees.” Nevertheless, even the German exp…
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