How Much Religion Does a Pluralistic Society Need?


O. Univ.-Prof. Dr. DDr. h.c. Ulrich H.J. Körtner will give this online lecture (in German) on Friday, March 26, 2021 at 6:00 pm.

One of the shifts that have taken place since 1989 is the increased presence of religion in the public sphere. Liberation movements, also in the Arab world, that advocated a Marxist ideology in the decades after 1945 have dramatically lost relevance after 1989. Instead, religions like Islam are now emerging as a new political ideology. However, the re-theologisation of politics has also taken place in the Western world, which has been shaped by Christianity. For example, think of the religious right in the USA, whose world of thought is fed by evangelical fundamentalism.

One of the pressing questions of a society that is also pluralistic in religious terms is just what holds it together at its core when there is no longer one central religion or a majority religion. According to a much-quoted statement by the German constitutional lawyer Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde, the liberal, secularised - and that means pluralistically constituted - state lives on preconditions that cannot be guaranteed by the state itself. Whether pluralistic democracy or even the concept of a civil society remains dependent on some form of religion, i.e. a form of civil religion, is debatable. 

If the question of how much religion the secular state needs is in the background of Böckenförde's reflections, there is now an urgent debate about how much religion the modern democratic and ideologically pluralist constitutional state can tolerate. At the same time, the question arises as to how capable religions are of pluralism, i.e. to what extent they are able to open up to modernity without giving up their substance and losing their critical capabilities. This is especially true for the monotheistic religions, where confession of a one and only God traditionally leads to the assertion of an exclusive claim to validity for one's own religion. That is why religions are challenged to deal productively with the conflict-laden competition of religious claims to validity and their fundamental relativisation in modern pluralistic societies. 

The lecture will be held in German.

Link to the lecture:

Meeting-ID: 812 5341 6354
Keycode: N1MyLJ

O. Univ.-Prof. Dr. DDr. h.c. Ulrich H.J. Körtner
Systematic Theology and Religious Studies, Faculty of Protestant Theology, University of Vienna, Schenkenstraße 8–10, 1010 Vienna