Religion is a very individual aspect of all cultures and societies. It is formative both for the self-conception and identity determination of individuals and for their social community formation or demarcation from other groups. In societies of Western modernity, religion has entered the tension field between forms of fluid and individual religiosity and forms of highly institutionalized religion, such as those found in the Christian churches and especially in the Catholic Church. Characteristic of institutionalized forms of religion seems to be the striving for diachronic consistency and stability, but at the same time they are in many ways both place and motors for change, which can arise from corresponding dynamics within or be induced by developments in their social and cultural environment. Finally, the relationship between religions and the societies in which they are culturally located, politically effective and institutionally anchored moves between poles of extensive convergence and strict demarcation – and these constellations are also subject to change.

Especially in parts of Europe, this change can be described as a process of dissolution of traditional Christian milieus in their respective denominational characteristics and the corresponding loss of cultural influence and social relevance of the two large Christian churches. Here, but also elsewhere, individual and syncretistic forms of religiousness with little or no institutional connection are gaining in importance. The modernization processes do not lead to the disappearance of religion, but to a profound change in its forms of belief, expression and social life. In this process, it turns out religion is a factor of social and cultural development and international politics that is as influential as it is ambivalent. Alongside and in the context of a radicalized secularization, there are also contradictory processes in Europe that are characterized by an individual search for spirituality, but also by a religiously grounded identity politics.

Such findings underline that questions about the significance of religion for individuals and societies and about the reasons and conditions for its institutionalization have by no means become obsolete today, but must rather be re-approached with new urgency – and from a global perspective. The historical dimension of religious and cultural processes of change must be included, as the current situation in its complexity and its different paths of development cannot be understood without this historical perspective. The KU Center for Religion, Church and Society in Transformation (ZRKG) at the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt addresses precisely this issue by focusing on the tension field between the three terms included in its title with an underlying academic interest in the combination of various disciplines: Religion – Church – Society. The focus here is on the transformation potential and processes that have been demonstrated in the past and present by these three phenomena and their interaction.

Go to 'Terms and Perspective'