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Multiple Religious Belonging

Panel Chair: Manuela Kalsky | Thursday, August 27, 9-11 a.m.

In Western society, cultural and religious diversity increasingly leads to hybrid religiosity. Conventional science of religion paradigms have trouble interpreting this new phenomenon. Some authors describe hybrid religiosity pejoratively as religious consumerism or syncretism. In this forum, we want to join a relatively new and rapidly growing interdisciplinary field of research that approaches hybrid religiosity through the lens of ‘multiple religious belonging’. Authors in the field vary widely in their conceptions of ‘religion’, ‘belonging’, and ‘multiplicity’, and, as a consequence, in their perception of the possibility of multiple religious belonging as well as its qualitative and quantitative importance. Participants in this forum will contribute to clarify this discussion and to take it forward, by analyzing existing controversies, and proposing useful interpretations of multiple religious belonging. In addition, empirical approaches aimed at getting insight into the nature and extent of multiple religious belonging will be presented.

Catherine Cornille

The Concept of Religion in Multiple Religious Belonging

As an increasing number of individuals claim multiple religious belonging, the Western concept of religion is also undergoing certain shifts. Whereas religion was traditionally understood as a unified set of beliefs and practices relative to a transcendent reality and demanding total surrender, the availability of multiple religious systems has often led to a more piecemeal and utilitarian approach to religion, reminiscent of the way in which religion may have functioned in East-Asian countries. Religions are here judged and appropriated, less on the basis of their internal truth and coherence, than on the basis of their practical efficacy. This may be regarded as a broadening of the concept of religion. But it may also be seen as a narrowing or a diminishing of the self-understanding of most religions. The phenomenon of multiple religious belonging may thus again shed new light on an old discussion in the study of religion.

Michael von Brück

Multiple Religious Identity and Social Integration

Religions can be seen as systems consisting of rules and values that bring cohesion to individual life courses using categories of ultimate order. Religions should therefore not be seen as systems that exclude each other, but as ritually transmitted and overlapping sets of rules, influencing concrete life situations on a cognitive, emotional and intentional level. Therefore individual biographies show multiple belonging to ‘religions’. In case of contradictions, individuals choose different options in different social situations. Only on a more abstract, cognitive level contradictions are experienced that can lead to cognitive dissonance. These are mostly solved by using narrative merging and reinterpretations of rituals. Emotionally, multiple belonging can lead to loyalty conflicts, comparable to those between primary (through parents) and secondary (through others) socialization processes. Integrating multiple belonging in a religious as well as in a more general social sense is a lifelong process of maturation and cognitive and emotional agency.

Daan Oostveen

Hermeneutical Explorations on Multiple Religious Belonging

Multiple religious belonging (MRB) has recently gained a lot of attention as a new way of approaching hybrid religiosity. This topic has been approached from a wide variety of different academic disciplines, including theology, sociology, anthropology and religious and cultural studies. These disciplines often treat multiple religious belonging in a variety of ways that are not always compatible with one another. This prompts a number of questions. How do different disciplines address the phenomenon? In what ways do they talk about MRB? What are the main differences in their approaches? How can we come to a way of speaking about multiple religious belonging that captures the many facets of the phenomenon? How does multiple religious belonging transform concepts like ‘religion’, ‘multiplicity’ and ‘belonging’? My paper will outline some hermeneutic explorations in the field to arrive at new ways of understanding and speaking about MRB that capture the richness of hybrid religiosity.

Joantine Berghuijs

Multiple Religious Belonging in the Netherlands

The Dutch society is highly secularized in terms of decreasing church membership and church attendance. Meanwhile, there are many ‘religious creatives’ who fulfil their need for meaning by using multiple religious sources. This paper presents an empirical investigation into the occurrence and nature of multiple religious belonging in the Netherlands, using a representative sample of the population. The number of multiple religious belongers depends on the operationalization of the terms ‘multiple’, ‘religious’, and ‘belonging’. Central in my approach is a new interpretation of ‘belonging’, not a in an exclusive, ‘possessive’ sense (Voss Roberts, 2010), but in terms of being related and feeling at home (Kalsky, 2013). This approach leads to a number of ‘dimensions of belonging’, that can be measured per religion. We expect that the design and the results of this study will highlight the permeability of the boundaries between religions.

Participants: Catherine Cornille, Michael von Brück, Daan Oostveen, Joantine Berghuijs


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