Religious typology

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Religious typology is an approach in systematic religious studies . The attempt is made to use the findings of comparative religious phenomenology to determine common characteristics with the help of which individual religions can be classified into types of religion . Simple examples are prophetic religions , wisdom religions , religions of the book , universal religions .

Religious phenomenology and religious typology were identical until the 1960s. Only then did it develop into an independent approach to systematic comparative research. To this day, however, there is still some uncertainty about the term, which has undergone multiple changes in meaning. It is therefore not always clear whether a thesis and theory on religious typology, religious phenomenology or religious history is to be included. Many more recent typological models are fundamentally based on the design by Joachim Wach , who in turn developed older experiments from the 19th century.

Since the beginning of the religious studies, many attempts have been made to create a typological systematics from the known, reconstructed or postulated historical relationships between the different belief systems. While this is quite easy with the world religions due to the written evidence, according to Ina Wunn this has not yet succeeded convincingly for the very large number of ethnic religions - or for all religions as a whole - by today's standards.

Historical and controversial models

Evolutionist theories of religious development are based on hierarchical models that place ethnic religions on the lowest levels: They are thus devalued as undeveloped, primitive and insignificant.

Up until the beginning of the 20th century, research into so-called “ natural religions ” was shaped by the paradigm of evolutionism , which was a lawful ( teleological ), one-line and gradual religious development from an (allegedly) primitive cultural “primary” to an (allegedly) highly developed level accepted - which one saw perfected in the western world . The transfer from biological evolution to anthropology goes back primarily to Herbert Spencer .

The theory of Auguste Comte with its three-stage model (primitive religions, polytheism, monotheism) showed the trend . She had a significant influence on the famous step models of Edward Burnett Tylor and James George Frazer .

Until the 20th century, scientists have like Robert Bellah (primitive-, archaische- historic-classical-, frühmoderne- and modern religion) and Günter Dux still neoevolutionistische developed stage models on this basis. Although these scientists clearly distanced themselves from the evolutionist theories of the 19th century, their work promoted the false idea of ​​a directed religious development. Some scientists - such as Ina Wunn - therefore demand that the theory be explicitly related to the biological theory of evolution, with the aim of placing actual homologous development processes at the center of the investigation.

The best known and most widespread religious typology was developed by Nathan Söderblom at the end of the 19th century and expanded and deepened by Friedrich Heiler in the first half of the 20th century . It distinguishes mystical religions - in which the union with the deity is the highest goal - from prophetic religions - which irreconcilably separate the world from a God who reveals the “ultimate truth” to people as creator, ruler, judge and savior. This distinction is only suitable for the book religions; The scriptless religions are left out and most ancient religions can not be classified here, according to Theo Sundermeier .

Younger classifications

Kurt Goldammer relates his typology - which he regards only as an auxiliary methodological approach and not as a model - to the appearance of certain religious personalities who were decisive for the formation of types. From this he derives a division into “prophetic”, “cultic-priestly” and “mystical types of religion”. A second approach focuses on the similarities that have led to “religions of faith”, “mystical-contemplative”, “ethical-prophetic” as well as “cult and legal religions”.

Carsten Colpe's typology is based on the relationship between sacred and profane. He speaks of types according to structures, the distinction of which lies less in the actual religious but more in the historical-social area. Colpe distinguishes between the following types:

  • The environmental and language-oriented type (sacred and profane are not separated as is usual in ethnic religions)
  • The culturally disintegrated type (sacred and profane face each other independently, as in the ancient religions of the Mediterranean region)
  • The rite-oriented type (the sacred is mainly expressed in rites, even ethics is often not a religious area as in the Bon religion of Tibet)
  • The time-related type (the sacred leads to the idea of ​​a linear course of time as in early Christianity)
  • The norm-oriented type (the sacred is mainly expressed in ethics such as Confucianism)
  • The syncretistic-complex type (sacred and profane mix temporarily when different religions come into contact, as in the Afro-American religions)
  • The synthetic-complex type (permanent connection of sacred and profane elements from different religions as in today's world religions)

Problem case "ethnic religions"

Ina Wunn emphasizes that weighty observations speak against the theory of a general upward trend in religion. So-called " primitive cultures " also have a history, in the course of which their religions changed decisively.

Diversity, unconventionality and the ability to change make up the ethnic religion (s) . They subsume a wide variety of beliefs, which have some basic similarities, but are also very difficult to categorize. According to some scholars, all the religious classifications that have existed so far are unsatisfactory in various respects:

  • Too wide-meshed to allow a comparison between individual, closely related religions
  • Lack of differentiation between homologous and analog developments
  • Insufficient ethnographic source material (different priorities and interpretations)
  • Often prejudiced assessments that are controversial

So far, there are only very few traditional religions (such as the Indian ones), detailed family trees with the resulting systematics, which were prepared according to modern scientific standards.

Sundermeier points out that the scientific value of a classification of types of religion according to commonalities would not lie in the exact classification of all religions, but in a heuristic- hermeneutical comparison; in order to gain valuable knowledge about the deep structures of the religious in this way. In addition, it is crucial not to derive any evaluations from this.

As an alternative, a geographical classification (the religions of North America, Siberia, Polynesia, etc.) or a historical one (the religions of the ancient civilizations, antiquity, the Axial Ages, etc.) is usually used for the multitude of non-scripted religions, which naturally only allows very limited conclusions to admit kinship relationships. They can therefore not really be understood as a system.

Two frequently cited typologies that manage without devaluations and analogisms are the classifications according to cult practice ( Anthony FC Wallace ) and according to socio-ecological framework conditions . Both are detailed in the Classification Attempts section in the Ethnic Religion article.

Individual evidence

  1. Johann Figl (Author): Introduction to Religious Studies - Historical Aspects, Today's Expertise and Concept of Religion, in Johann Figl (Ed.): Handbook of Religious Studies: Religions and their central themes. Tyrolia, Innsbruck / Vienna 2003, ISBN 3-7022-2508-0 . Pp. 41-42.
  2. a b c Klaus Hock, Introduction to Religious Studies, 5th edition, WBG, Darmstadt 2014, ISBN 978-3-534-26410-0 . Pp. 76-78.
  3. Ina Wunn: The Evolution of Religions , Habilitation Thesis, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Hanover, 2004. pdf version . Pp. 7, 441.
  4. Ricardo Amigo, Friederike Rohrmann: Evolutionism . In: Userwikis of the Free University of Berlin, 2012, accessed on March 2, 2016.
  5. Ina Wunn: The Evolution of Religions , pp. 1, 131, 145-146.
  6. Theo Sundermeier: Religion - what is it? Religious studies in theological context; a study book . 2nd extended new edition, Otto Lembeck, Frankfurt / M. 2007, ISBN 978-3-87476-541-1 . P. 36.
  7. Ina Wunn: The Evolution of Religions, p. 97.
  8. Ina Wunn: The Evolution of Religions, p. 502.
  9. Ina Wunn: The Evolution of Religions, pp. 9-11, 447.
  10. Wolfgang Lindig et al. Mark Münzel (Ed.): The Indians. Volume 2: Mark Münzel: Central and South America , 3rd revised and expanded edition of the 1st edition from 1978, dtv, Munich 1985, ISBN 3-423-04435-7 . P. 197.
  11. David Gibbons: Atlas of Faith. The religions of the world. Translation from English, Frederking & Thaler, Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-89405-719-0 . P. 92.
  12. ^ Walter Hirschberg (founder), Wolfgang Müller (editor): Dictionary of Ethnology. New edition, 2nd edition, Reimer, Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-496-02650-2 . P. 177 (Bettina Schmidt: Höchstes Wesen ), 268 (Roland Mixture: natural religion ).
  13. Theo Sundermeier: Religion - what is it? , P. 33.
  14. Ina Wunn: The Evolution of Religions, pp. 7, 441.
  15. Theo Sundermeier: Religion - what is it? , Pp. 33, 36.
  16. Ina Wunn: The Evolution of Religions, p. 99.