Religiosity in East and West

Public evening lecture by James Spickard on “Seeing Religions with Unaccustomed Eyes”

Prof. Dr. James Spickard
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In a public evening lecture in lecture hall S9 in the Schloss Münster on Tuesday evening at 6.00 pm, sociologist of religion Prof. Dr. James Spickard, University of Redlands, USA, will talk about “Thinking Beyond the West: Seeing Religions with Unaccustomed Eyes”.

Social science was invented in the West and was shaped by Western culture. This includes its approach to religion. Scholars saw that Christians cared about people’s beliefs and about who ran their churches, so they focused on these parts of religious life. They ignored much of the rest. As a result, they had trouble understanding religions for which beliefs and church organization were less important.

Had social science arisen in other parts of the world, it would have emphasized different things. This talk explores two of these. From ancient China we get the Confucian idea of a relational self. Lǐ, or the ritual regard for the people who shape us, creates dé, or virtue. A Confucian social scientist would ask, “Who sustains the sacred relationships on which our religious communities depend?” From the traditional Navajo, we learn how rituals shape people’s inner experiences to restore their sense of the world’s beauty. A Navajo social scientist would ask, “Do rituals in other religions guide people to a sense of wholeness? If so, how?”

These non-Western ideas also have their blind spots. Even so, they let us see religion through unaccustomed eyes. (exc/sca)

Note: The public evening lecture is part of the conference “Religiosity in East and West. Conceptual and Methodological Challenges”, organised by psychologist of religion Dr. Sarah Demmrich from the Cluster of Excellence and Catholic theologian Prof. Dr. Ulrich Riegel, University of Siegen. The conference will take place in Münster from Tuesday, 25 June, to Thursday, 27 June.