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"Intellektuellenreligion" Reconsidered: Systems, Adaptions and Recent Trajectories

Panel Chair: Hidetaka Fukasawa | Monday, August 24, 9-11 a.m.

The concepts of religion or religiosity of intellectuals (Intellektuellenreligion/-religiosität) are still not widely used as analytical tools in the study of religions. However, it is undeniable that the phenomena designated by these terms can be observed extensively in the religious history of modernity in which both the growth of the intellectual class and the prevalence of religious knowledge as cultural resources led to the reinterpretation or new foundation of religions. Furthermore, we can find reciprocal and intrinsic relationships between the formation of religiosity of intellectuals and the rise of modern scholarship of religion. Based on the examples of modern Germany and of Japan today, the four papers in this panel attempt to discuss and clarify the religious imaginations of intellectuals in modernity.

Hidetaka Fukasawa

Georg Simmel and the Paradoxes of the Religiosity of Intellectuals

For the early German sociologists such as Max Weber and Ernst Troeltsch, the problem of the relationship between religion and the intellectual stratum of society was one of the most important themes in their sociological analysis of religion. Unlike Weber and Troeltsch, Simmel was not engaged in the historical study of religions. Nonetheless, his sociological and philosophical analysis of religion, especially his diagnostic writings of the time (Zeitdiagnose) reveal his ideas about the problem of intellectual religiosity and the paradoxical character of his own engagement with the issue. Considering the situation among the intellectual middle class of the urban milieu, he points out the existence of the “wandering” yearning for the religious. Simmel rejects the religious new formations of the intellectuals of his day as vacuous “coquetry” and claims the return to the “metaphysical” character of life (Leben) itself, which paradoxically unveils the nature of his own intellectual religiosity.

Hiroshi Kubota

Intellectuals’ Attempts to Produce and Popularize ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ in Modern Germany

In modern history of religions in German-speaking regions in the 19th and the first decades of the 20th century, ‘Christianity’ experienced a new sort of revival, despite its gradual institutional decline, in form of intellectual imaginations of ‘Jesus of Nazareth’. Hereby, a wide spectrum of intellectual and imaginary religiosity can be discerned, ranging from quests for the ‘historical Jesus’ in the field of New Testament Studies to various esoteric, occult, or racist figurations of ‘Jesus’ – such as ‘Jesus the mesmerist’, ‘Jesus the Aryan’, and so on. In this paper the analytical focus shall be directed to the mechanism that produced and popularized certain religious knowledge, especially concerning ‘Jesus’, whether in the academe or not, so that one can examine possibilities and limitations in conceptualizing these intellectual attempts to represent ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ as manifestations of ‘Intellektuellenreligion’.

Jeong-Hwa Choi

Intellectual Religiosity between Angst and Optimism as Reflected in Avant-Garde Art in German Modernity

Modernity with its belief in progress and its threat to existing religious institutions and traditions has been depicted conspicuously in German avant-garde art at the turn of the 20th century. Expressionist circles like Die Brücke and Der blaue Reiter portrayed humans and their environment in an intellectualized and abstract manner, as some of the artists involved went on a personal quest for spiritual meaning through their artistic creations. This presentation examines selected works and writings from German avant-garde art to consider the way in which this search for meaning and a new lifestyle were represented and how it can be linked with the study of religion as practiced at that time. Thereby this presentation aims at opening up a new way of interpreting the Zeitgeist of the scholarly approach to religion – being characterized by an ambiguous sense of anxiety and an optimistic belief in progress – under the catchword Intellektuellenreligiosität.

Lisette Gebhardt

Post-Fukushima-Religiosity as Anti-Intellectual Agenda

Throughout the 1980s, concepts of the religious were contrived by the Japanese publishing scene of the time, whose representatives were called “spiritual intellectuals” (reiseiteki chishikijin) by Shimazono Susumu. Today, in the post-Fukushima era, the concept of the intellectual and of intellectuality has to be re-evaluated, likewise the nature of religious argumentations in circles of Japanese scholars and artists. As example for an almost anti-intellectual agenda, I would like to discuss the Fukushima-novel “Sweet Hereafter” (2011) of the well-known author Yoshimoto Banana; while dealing with topics of an older “spirituality boom”, like near-death-experiences and ethno-esoteric excursions, it also conjures up an ideal of a spirituality by conviviality which seems to be aligning with the conservative Zeitgeist after “Fukushima”. How the cosmology or “spirituality” of the conservative will take shape in future literary representations and on the level of cultural discourses is an enthralling question for cultural sciences relating to Japan.

Christoph Auffarth


Christoph Auffarth will respond to the issues raised in this panel.


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