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Outline map of the relative importance of religion by country. Based on the Gallup Organization 2006-2008 Global Survey .

Religiosity describes (in the German-speaking world) the universal human feeling that arises from deep reverence for order and diversity in the world , that everything is ultimately based on a holistic , but transcendent (not explainable or provable) reality. In addition, there is the ability or quality to relate to this transcendence in experience, thinking, feeling and acting; often associated with an ardent desire for enlightenment and turning to a specific religion .

Religiousness arises from the individual striving for meaningfulness, explanation of the world and an orientation towards existence and is based on the innate cognitive ability to categorize . Accordingly, it could also be called the “transcendent sense ” for the “category of the numinous ”. Like musicality or intelligence, this "sense" is one of the complex neurobiological phenomena that are inevitably linked to the question of what evolutionary advantage these phenomena brought to humans. In spite of the enormous diversity of the existing religions, universal elements of the religious can be found which are identical in all cultures and which can be traced back to the fundamental “ability to be religious” of humans. The molecular biologist Dean Hamer believes in this connection that he has found an innate cause for the religious feeling of humans in the gene VMAT2 . The validity of his theory is, however, controversial.

Since most people grow up in a certain cultural environment, religiosity is mostly related to a certain religion. In this case, belief (in this teaching) is a synonymous term for religiosity. In the sociology of religion the term is often not clearly separated from the (Christian) faith, and in theology religiosity is specifically defined Christian. The “transcendent sensation” can, however, also lead to other worldviews . The science that specifically deals with human religiosity is the psychology of religion .

The phenomenon of religiosity is the cause of the development of religions and, in this context, of the earliest ethical and moral foundations of human societies . A people without religion is not known to today's religious ethnology . All cultures have sacred objects in some form and differentiate between a sacred (sacred) and a profane (secular) area. Émile Durkheim took the view that the sacred was an expression of the veneration of collective life. In this respect, religiosity also has an important social component. History also provides countless examples that religiosity - in this sense the desire for an irrevocable divine order - makes people more accessible to ideologically abused religious interpretations. Cannibalism , the persecution of witches, or religious fundamentalism show how the accountability of the people is shifted into the numinous to justify actions that would normally not be accepted.

Attempts at definition

There is no universal definition of religiosity. For Johann Gottfried Herder , it was simply the expression of the real religious feeling .

Here are a few attempts at definition:

  • "Religiosity is the anthropological prerequisite for religion to find a place in people." Monika Jakobs (theologian, Germanist, political scientist and sociologist)
  • "Religiosity is understood here as the individual expression of a personal understanding of the world and self that is potentially possible for every human being, using religious categories that are mostly in the context of the surrounding religious culture." Ulrich Hemel (Catholic theologian)
  • "Religiosity is the human attitude towards a transcendent sense and thus takes the place of faith in the Christian religion." Stefan Tobler (Protestant theologian)
  • “Genuine religiosity [...] is based on a religious experience born of devotion, opening up, which has all the signs of spontaneity and whose basic concern is that human striving to grow beyond oneself. A religious person is therefore not someone who believes in certain dogmas or who is convinced of the truth of certain doctrines or who follows certain moral rules, but rather someone who has the strength, the ability and the will to surrender [...] to him To counteract egoism. " Anagarika Govinda (interpreter of Buddhism and Daoism )
  • "To feel that behind what we can experience something is hidden that is inaccessible to our minds, whose beauty and sublimity only reach us indirectly and in faint reflection, that is religiosity." Albert Einstein (theoretical physicist )

In addition to being equated with the concept of faith, religiosity is often used synonymously with the term spirituality (in the broader sense that encompasses denominations and religions). However, the results of interviews and surveys in which respondents describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious” or as “religious but not spiritual” speak against equating both terms. Authors close to the church claim that piety is a synonym for spirituality and that both terms are always related to specific religion (s). In fact, there are also unbound forms of spirituality that relate to religious communities, contents and forms, which are devalued by critics as “tinkering religions”. For centuries, Freemasons have advocated what is now called “spirituality”, but reject religions, religiosity and piety.

The adjective “religious” has to be seen in the respective context: It describes either “the reference to (a certain) religion” (example: “religious writings” = texts about a religion or its topics) or “the reference to a person's religiosity ".

Conceptual history

The term originated in the 18th century with the philosophical interest of the Enlightenment , idealism and romanticism to show a common basis behind all manifestations of the different religions. This tradition of homo religiosus was continued in the 20th century by the religious scholars Rudolf Otto and Mircea Eliade . In contrast, Max Weber interpreted certain religious phenomena in a decidedly more sober manner , such as that of “ascetic Protestantism”.

At present, especially in German-speaking countries, people speak of religiosity when they have a "supporting reason" (or seem to be seen from the outside), which is less and less a personal relationship with God while they are together in the Anglo-Saxon-Scandinavian area in the tradition of William James to solve the problems of meaning more oriented towards religious experiences .

Other aspects of the concept of religiosity can be shown through terms such as “ popular piety ” with a broad anchoring in customs ( “popular religion” within the “popular churches ”, “ superstition ”). This is often related to the question of a community of believers: loose meeting - individual (“nature is my church”), church - sect - state church. Using the example of the persistence of pre-Christian beliefs and practices (“superstition”) in the “Christian Occident ” it becomes clear that at no time did all “believers” actually believe everything they should have believed according to the church's view. This gives rise to the methodical problem of determining what people really believed at a certain time (especially the Inquisition , the witch hunt , more generally: the lack of religious freedom ) in a certain region.

Roots of individual religiosity

In the understanding of theology, religiosity denotes the ability of humans to turn to the idea of ​​a reality in the hereafter or the transcendent and to meet this reality with consent (see also spirituality ).

On the other hand, religiosity has in the interpretation of some scientific representatives, z. For example, those psychologists who see no great difference between religiosity and spirituality have their cause in the need to trace inexplicable phenomena back to an understandable cause with the individual knowledge of things and to explain themselves in as closed a system as possible. At the same time, people try to determine and consolidate their belonging to this group by experiencing their own religiosity in the group. It seems irrelevant to what extent the explanations recognized and used in religiosity are demonstrable or logically consistent.

Religious knowledge can not be represented or objectified by the sciences and their laws. Recently, in the dialogue between theology and science, related chairs, z. B. "Science and Religion" at universities in the USA was created.

Types of religiosity

The religiosity of people is divided into B.

  • in categories that evaluate religiosity according to whether it is determined by ideas that z. B. weaken people in their ability to resolve conflicts (neurotic religiosity) or rather strengthen them: make me stronger (humanizing religiosity),
  • or in categories that are determined by the reason for the religion: someone believes e.g. B., because he has shown the divine ( mystical religiosity ) or because he believes a person in their teachings about God ( revelation religion) or because he recognizes God as a moral postulate of reason, e.g. B. the philosophers Leibniz or Kant ( natural religion or religion of reason ).

Studies in the sociology of religion

Education: A scientific study by the European Commission published in 2005 shows a connection between the level of education and the tendency towards religiosity. In the European Union, for example, belief in a god or some other higher power is most widespread in the less educated classes and decreases with increasing education.

Demography: The interaction between religiosity and demography is also increasingly discussed: worldwide, religiously active people have on average more children than secular ones.


Believe in God

According to a representative survey by the Eurobarometer , 47% of people in Germany believed in God in 2005, another 25% believed somewhat more vaguely in a spiritual force or higher power. 25% percent of those questioned believed neither in a God nor in any other spiritual force, 3% were undecided. A study commissioned by Focus in 2011, however, came to the result that 63% of Germans believe in God. In this survey, however, there was no way of differentiating between a personal God and a rather impersonal higher power.

Youth in Germany

The 16th Shell Youth Study , published in 2010, indicates that 26% of young people in Germany (age: 12-25 years) believe in a personal God and 21% believe in a higher power. 24% of young people do not really know whether and what to believe in, 27% believe neither in a god nor in a higher power.

Importance of religion and belief

As part of the ARD theme week What do you believe in? (June 2017) the respondents in the ARD Deutschlandtrend were asked what significance do religion and belief have for you? 8% answered with very large , 29% with large , 36% with low and 27% with none at all . Women tend to attach greater importance to belief and religion than men (48% for women vs. 26% for men), as do people in western Germany (41%) than in eastern Germany (21%).

According to a representative survey from 2017, around 10% of Germans pray every day. 13% of the respondents pray at least once a month, 9% several times a year. Approx. 22% pray less than “several times a year”, 42% of those surveyed never pray (no answer: 4%).


The Worldwide Independent Network and the Gallup International Association surveyed almost 52,000 people from 57 countries about their religious attitudes between 2011 and 2012. 13% of the people surveyed described themselves as “staunch atheists”, 23% called themselves “non-religious” and 57% stated that they were religious.

In the USA, religiosity has found a special expression in the form of civil religion . On the basis of the constitutions and human rights conventions, the legal philosopher Axel Montenbruck also developed a primarily secular concept of the civil religion: "The preamble humanism can thus, as soon as one expressly acknowledges it, be interpreted as a 'substitute religion for the reasonable'."

In a 2008 survey, 82% of Americans said religion was important or very important to their lives (55% very important). 65% of women said religion was very important for their lives compared to 44% of men.

The Bertelsmann Religionsmonitor and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life in the USA offer further international comparative studies with evaluations also accessible online .

Religion in women

From a political science perspective, the question arises as to how the high and mostly strict religiosity of women is to be understood and analyzed in the context of globalization and modernity . The political scientist and psychologist Angelika Ebrecht shows different aspects: On the one hand, female religiosity can stabilize emotional bonding forces, which tend to be lost in the course of a globalized world, and on the other hand, in situations of political upheaval, as a basis for social movements that create genuine resistance carry, serve.

On the other hand, however, a political and social functionalization of religious femininity is also possible, which can lead, for example, to a strict integration of women into traditional power relations.

Anthropological research

In anthropology, cognitive science and evolutionary biology, neurological and biological causes of religiosity and spirituality are sought. The anthropologists Scott Atran and Pascal Boyer, for example, explain these as evolutionary by-products . The underlying studies indicate that it is not a single ability or a single area of ​​the brain that is responsible for the development of these phenomena, but rather several different cognitive abilities and neurological properties of humans are involved.

The heritability (heredity) of religiosity was determined by Koenig et al. (2005) for adults at 44%.

Religiousness in Medicine

Recently, the religious factor has also been scientifically investigated in medicine, and especially in psychiatry. Here, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) has been particularly well studied by various research groups in terms of quality of life and religiosity due to its clinical peculiarities (the patients are fully conscious until their last breath, mostly relatively young and not cognitively impaired). Summarizing these studies, religiosity in ALS patients could not prolong life, but significantly improve the quality of life.

Religiosity in Psychiatry

An extensive study was published in 2003 by psychiatrist Kenneth S. Kendler and coworkers. 2,616 men and women were examined, in whom 78 dimensions of religiosity were studied. Five psychiatric diagnoses were as internalizing ( depression , anxiety disorder , panic disorder , bulimia) four externalizing syndromes ( nicotine addiction , alcohol addiction , painkillers , anti-social contrasted with behavior disorder). Of the seven factors of religiosity, two are protective against both disease groups (social religiosity and gratitude), four factors are only protective against externalizing mental illnesses (general religiosity, relationship to God, forgiveness / love and God's judgment) and one factor reduced the risk for them internalizing group (unreliability). The risk reduction of addictions in general (alcohol, nicotine, tablets, drugs) through religiosity found at Kendler can be found consistently in almost all studies carried out. According to a meta-analysis by Duke University of all research on religiosity and mental health that has appeared in the world's most cited psychiatric and neurological journals since 1990, 72 percent of the relevant studies show that mental health increases with the extent to which a person is religious -spiritually engaged, increases. According to the study author Raphael Bonelli , the indications of a protective function through religiosity are sometimes extremely strong, above all in addiction, depression and suicide, but the results were also promising for dementia.

Not only in adults, but also in adolescents, religiosity could be proven as a protective factor for behavior that is problematic in terms of health: Donath and colleagues were able to show in their representative study for Germany with more than 44,000 adolescents that adolescents indicated and lived religiosity as important to them Protection factor for binge drinking was.


  • “I have never lived without religion and I couldn't live a day without it, but I got along without a church all my life.” Hermann Hesse
  • “As an enlightened scientist, can you actually believe in God? Gerhard Ertl : Yes, of course! With every step of my research, I was wondering more and more: This minimal probability that life could be created. It was perhaps the greatest conceivable coincidence that all the components interacted in such a way that our cosmos could arise in the form we know. [...] The creationism ideas of George Bush, among others, are of course pure madness for me. [...] I have hopes that what is to come will make absolute sense. [...] I am not convinced of paradise itself. Imagine, we all meet again in paradise, that would be infinitely overcrowded. That would be terrible, no longer a paradise! [...] No, my individual self will be dissolved with death, I will remain part of the whole. "
  • “Earlier I tried to formulate that the images and parables of religion are a kind of language that enables understanding about the tangible context of the world behind the phenomena, about the central order, without which we could not have ethics and no value scale could win. [...] For modern natural science, it does not start with the material thing, but the form, the mathematical symmetry ('Plato sees mathematical relationships at the bottom of reality, with which the divine Creator from chaos creates the symmetrical order, harmonious forms Heisenberg called this the 'central order', which he summarized in the formula: 'In the beginning there was symmetry'. '). [...] And since the mathematical structure is ultimately a spiritual content, one could also say with the words of Goethe's Faust: 'In the beginning there was the meaning'. "( Werner Heisenberg )

See also


  • Angelika Ebrecht: The individual whole: on the psychologism of the philosophy of life. Metzler, Stuttgart 1991, ISBN 3-476-00792-8 (dissertation FU Berlin 1990).
  • picture of science 1/2010, cover story: Why people believe.
  • Reza Hajatpour: The burning taste of freedom. Suhrkamp Verlag, F / M. 2005. ISBN 3518124099 . (trained former Shiite clergyman)
  • Gret Haller: Politics of the Gods - Europe and the new fundamentalism. Aufbau-Verlag - ISBN 3-351-02608-0 . (On the statehood and privacy of religiosity / faith groups in Europe. Your thesis is that there is no alternative for Europe to the separation between religion and politics.)
  • Michael Schmidt-Salomon: Manifesto of Evolutionary Humanism. Plea for a contemporary leading culture. Alibri Publishing House. 2005. ISBN 3-86569-010-6 .
  • Gerd Hergen Lübben : Religiosity in Marxism ? Contribution to a religious studies discussion. In: Rudolf Thomas (Ed.): Religion and Religions. Ludwig Röhrscheid Verlag, Bonn 1967, pp. 315–331.
  • Klaus-Rüdiger Mai: The return of faith. Berlin, April 2006, wjs-Verlag, ISBN 3-937989-18-8 .
  • R. Inglehart, P. Norris: Sacred and Secular. Cambridge University Press 2004, ISBN 0521548721 .
  • Wolfgang Deppert , Michael Rahnfeld (ed.): Clarity in Religious Things, Current Contributions to the Philosophy of Religion. Leipziger Universitätsverlag, Leipzig 2003, ISBN 3-936522-44-8 , ISSN  1619-3490 (Volume III of the series: Fundamental Problems of Our Time ).
  • Pascal Boyer: The Naturalness of Religious Ideas: A Cognitive Theory of Religion. University of California Press, Berkeley 1994.
  • Pascal Boyer: Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought. Basic Books, 2002, ISBN 0-465-00696-5 .
  • Scott Atran: In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion. Oxford University Press, 2002, ISBN 0-195-17803-3 .
  • Rüdiger Vaas, Michael Blume: God, genes and brain. Why belief works. The evolution of religiosity. Hirzel, Stuttgart 2008. ISBN 978-3777616346 .
  • Michael Utsch, Raphael M. Bonelli, Samuel Pfeifer: Psychotherapy and Spirituality - Dealing professionally with existential conflicts and questions of transcendence. Springer-Verlag Berlin. 2014, ISBN 978-3-642-02523-5 (228 p. 10 fig.) [1] .

Web links

Wiktionary: Religiosity  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

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