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’Religious Feelings’ vs. Secular Affects/Emotions

The working group concentrates on the question of religious as well as secular affects. The concept of “religious feeling”, as used in theology, philosophy and other disciplines, has for long be associated with individual faith and subjective religious experience as Schleiermacher defines religion to be “the sense of absolute dependence on God”. However, developments in recent studies instigated new ways of approaching religious feelings while criticizing the unilateral Protestant understanding of emotions as a personal affair. The social constitution of religious emotion can be looked at from two perspectives. On the one hand, a functionalist perspective addresses the specificity of religious emotions for individuals or collectives and the question of how religious emotions are phenomenally distinct from other emotions. On the other hand, a critical perspectiveemphasizes that what gets to be called religious emotions, in particular in contemporary Western societies, cannot be understood without the background of a contested secularity characterized by an agitated boundary-making between “the secular” and “the religious”. Crucial questions emerging from this perspective pertain to how certain emotions are framed in public discourse as “religious” and what kinds of political purposes they serve. The emerging field of “affect studies” provides a theoretical approach that, although closely linked to the concept of emotions, goes well beyond subjective feelings, rather focusing on affect as a force or intensity that links various sorts of bodies. Affect provides new perspectives on contemporary societies and may help eschewing the dominant dichotomy between the “rational secular” and the “emotional/irrational religious”. It encourages us to reflect upon the ways in which “the religious” as well as “the secular” are constituted through practices pertaining to bodies and senses. Within this framework, material, historical, and ideological backgrounds likewise play a crucial role in how actors come to understand and make sense of their affections as “religious”. 


Dr. Nur Yasemin Ural (C04)
Anna Lea Berg (C04)
Maike Haken (C02)