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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…

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…

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…

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…

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 …

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…

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…

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 …

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…

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 …

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 …

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…

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…

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 …

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…

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…

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

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…

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…
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