Report: Seminar "Religion and Secularization in Germany"

16 May, 2008 HANEDA Masashi, Secularization, Religion, State

 A seminar titled “Religion and Secularization in Germany” took place on May 12. The speakers of the seminar were Prof. Dr. Peter Muller and his wife Dr. habil. Anita Muller-Friese. Prof. Masashi Haneda took the chair in the seminar.

 In his talk, Prof. Muller first posed a question: what defines German society today? He pointed out that the present German society continues to change in various realms. For example, the realms of education, media, and relations between people and religions or world-views are changing. Thus, what characterizes the present German society is not “Here I Stand”, but “Between”. “Between” was a keyword in this seminar. Prof Muller said that people of today are putted in a situation under which individuals must find themselves “between” various cultures, philosophies, religions and world-views, and furthermore “between” employment and unemployment, leisure and stress because of leisure, “whatever” and fundamentalism. After that, he examined the following five “between”s:

Between plurality, individuality and conformity.
Between the difficulty of overview and simple solutions.
Between capitalism and events.
Between secularization, religion and small transcendences.
Between texts and pictures.

 For example, in the discussion of “between plurality, individuality and conformity”, Prof. Muller regarded plurality as the crucial factor to interpret modern society, and saw pluralization and individualization as two sides of the same coin. In this pluralized and individualized society, the movement toward self-definition engenders a longing for “new conformity”. Prof. Muller elucidated the relationship between factors which are prima facie exclusive, and threw “the way of life” wandering between these factors into relief. This process was enough to arouse intellectual stimulation.
 Looking at such a listing of the topics, you might think that “religion and secularization”, the subject of this seminar, is just one of the topics. But this is not the case, because the discussion about “between the difficulty of overview and simple solutions” led to that about religious conviction. In addition, Prof. Muller referred to the relationship between religion and media in discussing “between texts and pictures”, indicating that the mediums of cultures considerably have changed in recent ten years; images (pictures) instead of written texts have played a role as a opinion leader of cultures.
 Of course, the discussion about “between secularization, religion and small transcendences” played a vital role in this seminar. Prof. Muller first referred to secularization in his discussion. He said that secularization means a process whereby religion lost its substance both in individuals and in societies, as the results of academic progress, economic development, political order and the technologicalization and rationalization of life. On the other hand, he emphasized that it is possible to interpret secularization as an proper consequence of Christian belief, and the nature of religion represented by the notion of “desecularization” does never mean reinforcements of the established religion--although he noted difficult situations of religion today.
 In concluding this seminar, Prof. Muller showed reliance on religion, arguing that in sitting on “between”s which were discussed from many aspects, if our position does not depend on religion, such a position will be less useful than a position based on religion.

Reported by Yoichi Isahaya

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