The digitalization of religion

Annual theme 2023/2024 of the Cluster of Excellence

© exc/Stefan Matlik

Digitalization is transforming all areas of society, including religion and research on religion. But there has been little research so far on the relationship between digitalization and religion, which may be due to the fact that progress in digital technology has been assigned to ‘rationality’ and thought of as being the opposite of ‘religion’.

The fourth annual theme, “The digitalization of religion: Participation and belonging in a networked world”, addresses this issue from two perspectives.

Discussion focuses in the winter term of 2023/24 on the usefulness of digital tools for religion and research on religion – more specifically, on how far the digital can be seen as a new arena of religious practice, and how far it expands the study of religion.

The focus in the summer term of 2024 is on the religious in digital worlds, i.e. how far religion and spirituality can be thought of anew in the digital world. This ranges from traditional religious communities that are trying out new forms of religion on the web and social media, to new ideological movements that are spreading conspiracy theories on the internet and decorating them with religious elements.

The annual theme presents current research work from the Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics”, gives a voice to researchers from different disciplines and from outside the university, and brings them into conversation with representatives of different religious groups and with the general public. A film series “Digital and transhuman?” focuses on how pop culture addresses the interpenetration of religion and digitality. More


Programme of events in the summer term 2024

Panel and lecture series: Religious practice in digital transformation

© Stefan Matlik

Whether digital prayers, online confessionals, or fatwas available on the internet, digitalization is bringing changes to religious practice. New spaces of interaction and new forms of participation mean that the faithful have different ways to take part in religious life. While some see a new immediacy that allows the faithful to be mobilized, others fear an erosion of established structures. The validity of everyday ritual practices is sometimes the subject of fierce debate.

At the same time, the segmented public spheres of the digital world give rise to systems of meaning similar to religions that can seem to compete with traditional religions. The lectures and the panel discussion focus on how different churches and religious communities deal with the challenges of digitalization. More

Film series: Digital and transhuman?

© EXC - Stefan Matlik

Digitalization and artificial intelligence are fascinating not only for science, but also for art and popular culture, since they involve profound religious and philosophical questions: Can human beings become themselves creators – and how do they deal with their artificial creations? Will human and machine even merge with each other in the long term? Will the idea of ‘God’ become superfluous and be replaced by the human?

Cinema has always addressed such questions, with works on artificial beings, cyborgs and transhumanism going back at least to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. More recently, the advance of digitalization and new developments in artificial intelligence have fired the imagination of filmmakers, who deal with the relationship between humans and faith in times of increasing digitalization in creative, challenging and sometimes disturbing ways. More

The keyvisual of the annual theme "The Digitalization of Religion"

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© exc/Stefan Matlik


Programme of events in the winter term 2023/24

Sidetrack or fast lane?

Theological research in the tracks of the Digital Humanities
© Stefan Matlik

What fields of digital research are there in theology? How do practices of digital research affect epistemology and the philosophy of science? The opening lecture of the annual theme addresses these and other questions. More

The opening lecture on video [DE]


Citation techniques under the magnifying glass

A digital view of intertextuality in late antique letters
© Stefan Matlik

The workshop uses late antique sources – namely, letters written by the Church Father Augustine of Hippo – to introduce scholars at the Cluster of Excellence to research into digital intertextuality. More

Lecture and interview series: Public workshop reports from the Digital Humanities

© Stefan Matlik

Several research projects of the Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics” apply methods from the Digital Humanities (DH), these projects ranging from antiquity to the present. In the workshop reports, the DH teams present their specific digital approaches, and discuss findings and opportunities that arise from them. In the accompanying interviews, the researchers provide even deeper insights into the use of their respective DH methods. More                                                                                                       

Webquest on the workshop reports

© Stefan Matlik

Those interested in the themes and in working digitally are invited to do their own research on the internet. Digital tools help to solve tasks, and are an interactive way for scholars to expand their knowledge in the thematic field covered by the Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics”. Scholars can thereby discover for themselves the potentials and limits of the Digital Humanities. Webquest

Research project: Conspiracy theorists, esotericists and patchwork religions

In crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, studying groups that spread conspiracy theories on the internet is highly relevant. These groups range from the harmlessly esoteric to the dangerously anti-democratic. They often use religion to underpin their arguments, and the internet enables them to mobilize people and to achieve resonance in the social mainstream. A Cluster of Excellence research project led by Thorsten Quandt is investigating such online ideological movements with religious overtones. The annual theme will see interdisciplinary discussion of the project. More