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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 applic…

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…

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 wors…

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, e…

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 reached with the twelfth-century ‘Renaissance.’ In contrast, the antiquity of the Eastern Mediterranean extends to the demise of urban culture with the capture of Constantinople (‘Byzantium’) in 1453 (→ “Antiquity,” Time Chart). Era 1: Europe appropriates the culture of …

Hermeneutics

(227 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
The expression “hermeneutics” (from Gk., hermeneuein, ‘to translate,’ ‘to interpret’) denotes the methods of interpretation of a text (→ Text/Textual Criticism) when seen as part of its exposition. Hermeneutics is of key importance especially for religion, when the latter is no longer temporally and locally embedded in the context in which a proposition or relation has found its Sitz im Leben. One way of ‘translating’ such a text into the present consists in expounding its ‘deeper’ sense, its meaning for times and places other than those of its original …

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…

Hereafter

(323 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
A hereafter, in the raw sense of ‘the other side,’ necessarily corresponds to the fact that a boundary is traced when a dead person must be withdrawn from the world of the living, to be buried beyond a boundary, a stream, or a cemetery wall, in a special area. Here, in ambivalent reciprocity, are both the ‘disposal of’ the corpse, lest the living suffer the peril of contamination (→ Purification/Hygiene/Bodily Grooming), and the ‘provision for’ the departed in the life after death. But the conceptualization of a life after death als…

Enthusiasm

(183 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
Even more than the ‘enthusiasm,’ as the word is used loosely, that ‘arises’ when a ‘spirit’ takes hold of an assembly or gathering, the Greek word enthousiasmos ( en-, ‘in,’ + theos, ‘god’) describes the moment at which a god ‘comes into a person.’ This phenomenon can be attributed to a ‘medium,’ as for instance in ancient prophecy; of a poet, who senses the Muse at work within; or of the God received as wine, who alters consciousness. It does not actually refer to → possession by a demon. (→ ‘Ecstasy,’ for its part, indicate…

Apologetics

(107 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
In order that theologians might be provided with arguments for the ‘defense’ of church teaching in discussions with ‘unbelievers,’ apologetics was taught as part of their education. First, in the debate with ‘scientific atheism,’ and then, in Germany, in that against National Socialism, apologetics experts gathered reports and distributed them to the pastoral clergy. Here it was, and is, necessary, first, to know the objections of opponents, and then the apposite responses to them. This process …

Humanism

(180 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
There are various nuances to the term ‘humanism’ which arise out of its diverse uses throughout European history. The Renaissance has often been characterized as the age of humanism because of its fascination with and idealization of human achievement in the literature, philosophy, and art of antiquity, which were then being re-discovered. As an ideological continuation of this trend, humanism came to signify a belief in the value and dignity of the human being and an optimistic image of humanit…

European History of Religion

(3,506 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
The Project 1. a) The project of a European history of religion is new. It is to be distinguished from two other perspectives on the same object. On the one hand, there is church history that finds religion, by definition, in the Church, with extra-ecclesial religion taken for heresy, paganism, and secularization. In such a view, any ‘religion’ is an illegitimacy. The counter-thesis presents Christianity as a late and foreign, Eastern, religion, which has suppressed “Europe's own religion” (Sigrid…

Archaism

(148 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
With the crisis of the belief in progress, in the 1880s, came a change in the models of history. Instead of an evaluation of the progress of the ages as a progress from primitive beginnings to ever loftier rungs on the ladder of humanity, one encounters a complete reversal of the conceptualization of this development. First, archaeologists came to understand that pre-classical art is more than a ‘not yet’—the incapability, so to speak, of presenting anything worthwhile at this early stage—which …

Cross/Crucifixion

(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…

Middle Ages

(1,527 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
The understanding of the Middle Ages by later ages in Europe has passed through a number of phases. Even the term ‘Middle Ages’ is a modern convention. Enlightenment thinkers tended to use the expression ‘the dark ages’ to refer to this period, in order to set it up as a gloomy foil, making the light of the new era shine all the brighter. In the confrontation of the French Revolution of 1789, both the revolutionaries, on the one hand, and the nobility and the Church, on the other, laid claim to …

Cemetery

(606 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
Surrounded by a wall, and near a church (or even partly within), and enjoying the latter's ‘immunity’ from assault lies the cemetery (Middle English cimiterie, from Lat., coemeterium, Greek koimētērion, and ultimately from koiman, ‘to put to sleep’; compare Ger., Frieden, denoting ‘peace’; cf. Friedhof, ‘cemetery’). Even fugitives seeking asylum could find safety here. The social prestige of the departed is reflected in the choice and form of the burial place. In the course of the nineteenth century, locations of burial were established …

Orthodoxy/Orthopraxis

(157 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
Orthodoxy may refer primarily either to right faith or right behavior. When we consider religion as a social phenomenon, orthodoxy as right behavior is the more relevant understanding of this term. On this understanding orthodox persons are concerned to follow certain patterns of behavior such as giving alms, praying, fasting and appearing at religious services. Conformity with these patterns identifies certain individuals as parts of a given community, while failure to conform identifies others as other—heterodox, outsiders. Orthodoxy may also be understood as referring…

Government/Rule/Politics/State

(3,689 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
Secular and Religious Power 1. a) As Jesus is interrogated before Pilate as to whether he has planned an overthrow of Roman rule, the Roman governor asks him: “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answers (in John 18:33–19:30): “My kingdom is not of this world.” The philosophically trained general presses the higher ruler of the world, as he has understood things, to defend himself; however, the latter does not see the meaning of his mission in the preservation of his life: “You would have no power …

Miracles

(1,626 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
Miracles are a basically ambivalent element of religion, as they are both expected to occur or be believed in as a part of religious life and are also liable to arouse criticism and skepticism. Miracles occur outside the course of everyday existence, provoking both belief and unbelief. Miracle Narratives Narratives about miracles serve to substantiate the activity of an otherwise invisible God in the world, whom faith and piety require to be willing and able to intervene in a crisis or to demonstrate various divine attributes. Miracle narrativ…

Religion

(6,742 words)

Author(s): Auffarth , Christoph | Mohr, Hubert
The Power of Definition 1. a) The boundary between what religion is and is not, has important effects: it excludes it from undeserved privileges, and lays out its concerns as either illegitimate or unlawful. These issues arise in the debates over ‘fundamentalism,’ Islamic religious education, or over ‘sects and cults,’ as, for example, in the disagreement over whether Scientology is a religion or a (criminal) ‘economic undertaking.’ An example may clarify the point. In December 1992, Hindus destroye…

Introduction: The Academic Study of Religion—Historical and Contemporary Issues*

(13,230 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph | Mohr, Hubert
* Introductory remark: The following survey is an attempt to present scientific trends and different schools and styles of research that have either been characteristic of the academic study of religion over the past century or that have recently entered upon the scene but have nevertheless already had an effect on religious research. This is, therefore, a study of the typical and the paradigmatic (which is not to imply that another approach would have been qualitatively inferior, this is simp…

Papacy

(1,168 words)

Author(s): Rademacher, Stephan | Auffarth, Christoph
Title and Claim 1. The pope (from Gk., papas, ‘father’) is the spiritual and secular sovereign of the Catholic Church, with his seat in Rome: he is plenipotentiary of doctrine, ordination, and leadership, including the power of sanction. His full title reads: “Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles [Peter], Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Patriarch of the West, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province [of the Church], Sovereign of Vatican City State.”1 The title contains claims meant to provide sacred a…
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