Is religion a form of control?
Religion and modernity
Dr. theol., born 1953; Professor of Practical Theology at the Theological Faculty of the Humboldt University in Berlin; Head of the "Program on Religion, Politics and Economics"; Member of the "Berlin Studies on Jewish Law"; HU Berlin, Unter den Linden 6, 10099 Berlin. [email protected]
Dipl.-Theol., Born 1982; Research assistant in the DFG research group "Protestantism in the ethical debates of the Federal Republic of Germany 1949–1989" at the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Theological Faculty, Platz der Göttinger Sieben 2, 37073 Göttingen. [email protected]
Of course, if one wants to continue to speak of "religion in society" - that is, not just a confusing multitude of religions or even just a private, socially insignificant religiosity - then the question arises as to whether the differentiated, pluralized, de-monopolized religious system is not but still fulfills functions that deserve the attention of society as a whole. The message of those diagnosticians of the time who predict the decline, the extinction or at least the exhaustion of the religious is in any case not to be trusted due to the worldwide data situation.
Anyone interested in the social significance of religion will be regularly and reliably informed by the "Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life".  Of the 6.9 billion people worldwide in 2010, 5.8 billion belonged to a religious community. That's 84 percent of the world's population. 32 percent profess Christianity, Islam 23 percent, Hinduism 15 percent, Buddhism 7 percent, Judaism 0.2 percent - so there are only 14 million Jews worldwide. It is hardly surprising that 99 percent of Hindus and 99 percent of Buddhists are in Asia. The Asia-Pacific region is also home to the majority of Muslims at 62 percent. Christianity is the most widespread in the world. The focus is on the North, Central and South American continents, southern Africa and Europe.
While religions are growing worldwide, the people's churches in Germany have to accept severe membership losses. The Roman Catholic Church lost more than 3.5 million members between 1990 and today, the Protestant churches organized in the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) more than 5 million. However, the number of deaths doubles the number of withdrawals. It is particularly noteworthy that the number of baptisms and re-entries even exceeds the number of people leaving the church by around a third: Between 1991 and 2008 there were 5.2 million baptisms in the EKD compared to 3.7 million in the Roman Catholic Church 4.4 million baptisms 2.3 million withdrawals. The demographic problem of aging is therefore more pressing than the exit problem. Nevertheless, the average of 250,000 people a year who leave the two churches have to make them think - for the time being, church leaders can also comfort themselves with the following figures: 60 percent of Germans still belong to one of the two large churches. However, the quota will have dropped to 50 percent in the next 20 years.
Incidentally, the churches in Germany did not suffer any financial losses as a result of the withdrawals. The church tax income of the two large churches in 2001 was 8.5 billion euros. In 2010 it was 9.2 billion euros.  Church tax revenues have increased despite the resignations and the high death rate. The social importance of the churches does not seem to suffer from the shrinking membership figures. Church members are particularly often represented in parliaments in the east of the republic - measured by the church membership quota in the local population. The incumbent Federal President used to be a Protestant pastor in Rostock and the incumbent Chancellor is a pastor's daughter. The role of the churches in education and diakonia remains important. The number of church-run private schools in and around Berlin, for example, is enormous. But also the theological faculties and denominational religious instruction enjoy stable approval.
The number of people who do not feel they belong to any religious community is given by the "Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life" at 1.1 billion. 850 million can be found in Asia, of which 700 million in China alone, 135 million in Europe, 60 million in the USA, 45 million in South America, 26 million in southern Africa and 2 million in the Middle East and Northern Africa. With these numbers one has to keep in mind that, for example, 68 percent of the "Nones" in the USA definitely believe in a God as some kind of higher power. Even 30 percent of non-denominational Europeans believe in a higher being despite their distance from the church. If you take a closer look at the attitudes of the 700 million religiously not bound in China, you also get to think about it: It goes without saying that 44 percent of these Chinese go to the grave of their ancestors on the national grave maintenance day and bring them food, drinks and money that they have produced themselves for the afterlife With.
The traditional cult of ancestors is just as little perceived as a "religion", as is the Confucian tradition of organizing the community. But religion research in Japan is also faced with the problem that the concept of religion is already understood by the Japanese as a thoroughly Western concept, so that familiar, traditional rites - such as the washing of banknotes in magical sources with the aim of increasing money - cannot be identified as religion at all. Above all, these figures make it clear that the concept of religion as a distinctive practice based on a conscious decision and forcing a certain way of life is a Western concept that has little cognitive value in other cultural contexts.
Concept of religionIt is therefore crucial to clarify the concept of religion if one is to adequately determine the role of religion in modernity. First of all, it is necessary to distinguish between religion and membership in a religious community. On the one hand, it is possible that someone formally belongs to a religious community, but his personal convictions have strayed far from it. Church affiliation cannot be used to infer the intensity of faith. On the other hand, someone can keep a strict distance from the church and still show an affinity for religion. Just one example: In the past 20 years, more church bells have been cast in Germany than in the previous 100 years. Almost without exception, these bells found their destination in the belfry of village churches in the eastern federal states. That must be surprising, because 75 percent of the East German population still does not belong to any church. Nevertheless, the people in associations for village church renewal all over the country ensure that the churches in the GDR, which have been abandoned to decay, are rebuilt - but they are far from becoming church members. When asked, the motifs are more in the civil and family religious area: The church is a widely visible symbol for the reputation of the village. It also represents the history of the local families: Grandparents and great-grandparents were baptized here, and they are buried in the cemetery. The church building no longer symbolizes the church as a denominational organization, but the family, the village and its tradition.
The question of the future of religion cannot be reduced to the question of the future of the church. With his thesis of an "invisible religion", the sociologist Thomas Luckmann has stimulated a wealth of research that set out in search of forms of religion that are practiced independently of the piety cultivated in the churches.  An example of a non-church religious practice that we are now familiar with is enthusiasm for football. What is unthinkable in German churches, succeeds in the football stadium without any problems: there is public prayer, fervent singing and courageously making a commitment to one's own club. "Schalke is my religion," it says on the white and blue scarves that fans put on on the occasion of their cultic inspections on Saturday afternoon. Football players cross themselves when entering the field and after a successful shot on goal.
A service provided by the Hamburger Sportverein (HSV) is remarkable: it offers its fans its own grave in the Altona cemetery. You enter the grave field through a soccer goal. The dead are buried with a view of the Volksparkstadion - in a lawn that (however you should imagine it) is the "original lawn" of the stadium's playing field. The grave sites can be decorated with the HSV emblem, and HSV battle chants are played at the funeral. The small transcendence experience of the Saturday struggle of the "good guys" against the "bad guys" is supplemented by the great transcendence of the transition from life to death. The football club as a church substitute.
Process of customizationThe religion of modernity is definitely one in which the choice of the individual plays a central role. The sociologist Peter Berger described this development as the emergence of a "heretical imperative".  He describes a social reality in which people are no longer born into a tradition that ascribes them a certain role. You have to choose constantly - and not just this and that, but above all and first yourself: Who do I want to be? Man is free to choose himself - and forced to do so. Everyone has to make themselves a project. In all of this, the risk of failure increases enormously. Allegedly everyone has an infinite number of options - and then their own life practice turns out to be limited. The gap between what one could have become and what one could have achieved and what one has really achieved is widening.
This finding can also be found with a view to the world of young people in Germany: "The need to find meaning is omnipresent. Meaning is found primarily in personal faith, which for many young people does not necessarily have to be conveyed through religion or church. (...) Faith is understood as something changeable and individual that one can make out with oneself (...). " At the same time, however, the pressure to have to do something with one's life increases:" Many young people are uncertain whether The big question that young people (…) ask themselves (…) is: What will become of me and when will I become one? (…) Young people assume that they will give the answer largely alone. " The process of individualization thus has enormous social effects.
The French sociologist Émile Durkheim rejected an unsociological understanding of individualization 115 years ago. So he wrote in 1898: "Not only is individualism not anarchy, but in future it is the only belief system that can secure the moral unity of the country."  The "culte de l'individu" is the religion of the future, and belief in human rights becomes the moral core of society. This individualism is in no way in conflict with Christianity, on the contrary: With the idea of the divine immediacy of the individual, it prepared the ground for the modern cult of the individual. According to Durkheim, the individualism opposed by both clerics and Marxists is not a product of egoistic whims or a capitalist invention; it is rather the belief that modern society can still integrate. But one must always keep in mind: "In reality, the religion of the individual is a social institution like all known religions." 
Today there is a whole range of indications that indicate that Durkheim was right in making this assessment. In this sense, the sociologist Hans Joas speaks of the "sacredness of the person", which is to be regarded as the civil-religious core of the concept of human rights.  But even the dispute over the Cologne circumcision ruling, which has been passionately fought over the past few months, was not simply a debate between secularists and religious people, but a debate based on a common belief in human rights: while the representatives of a circumcision ban defended the human right of the (male) Wanted to protect the child's physical integrity, the proponents of impunity for circumcision saw the human right to belong to a religious community in danger. But opponents and supporters alike agreed that the best interests of the child must be the ultimate decision-making criterion. The fact that there was more to this than a legal dispute and the professional weighing of reasons for justification shows the passion with which the debate was conducted. Collective excitement always seems to indicate debates about the profile of central civil religious dogmas.
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