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The Scientification of Religion: Discursive Change via Religion-Science Relations

Panel Chair: Laura Vollmer | Tuesday, August 25, 1:30-3 p.m. | Venue

Departing from the observation that ‘religion’ is not a reified object, this panel explores the conceptualization of religious change via the social and discursive construction of ‘religion’ as it relates to ‘science.’ Engaging case studies from the nineteenth to the twenty-first centuries, the participants examine the process of the ‘scientification of religion,’ as the co-constitution of ‘religion’ and ‘science’ in relative perspective. ‘Scientification’ is variously treated as an intellectual, cultural, and discursive negotiation in which ‘science’ is self-referential rather than a signifier for a set of practices; as the discursive change of religion in scientific environments; and as the discursive construction of religion as a scientific object. The panel provides an opportunity to explore different approaches to scientification, as well as the commonality of the analysis of religious change as a relational process, whereby certain constellations of meaning, though dynamic, reveal specific structures that guide the construction of ‘religion.’

Tim Rudbøg

The Scientification of Religion in the Long Nineteenth Century

Exploring and problematizing the ‘scientification of religion,’ this paper asks which ‘religion’ and ‘science’ are being constructed in this process. The plurality of science discourses in the ‘long nineteenth century’ and how the relation between ‘religion’ and ‘science’ was negotiated are examined in three significant cases: German Idealism, the Science of Religion, and the Theosophical Society. All three cases differently merged ‘religion’ and ‘science’ in relation to the specific epistemé of their intellectual contexts, which determined their relationship. Given these different contexts and constructs what is the ‘scientification of religion’ and how do we approach the variety of constructs? In addition to directing attention to the plurality of connotations and denotations of the terms involved, this paper seeks to pose a solution to the above question and offer insight into what characterized the ‘scientification of religion’ during the long nineteenth century.

Kocku von Stuckrad

Carl Gustav Jung and the Psychologization of Religion

The institutionalization of psychology as an academic discipline at the turn of the twentieth century has led to a profound discursive change when it comes to ‘religion,’ the ‘soul,’ the ‘self,’ and related concepts. Presented and legitimated as ‘science,’ academic psychology presents a telling example of the process of the scientification of religion. The paper analyzes this process with regard to the impact of Carl Gustav Jung. In his work, Jung turned religious and esoteric concepts into psychological language and linked them to intellectual discourses of the humanities and the natural sciences. By doing so, he psychologized not only religion but also science. Looking at Jung’s collaboration with Wolfgang Pauli on ‘synchronicity’ in particular, and at Jung’s concept of ‘archetypes,’ it is demonstrated how influential the re-entanglement of psychological, religious, and scientific discourses has been for the development of religion, astrology, and alternative spiritualities in the twentieth century.

Laura Vollmer

God on the Brain: The Cognitive Scientification of Religious Experience in the Twenty-first Century

In problematizing ‘religion’ relative to ‘science,’ ‘science’ has conventionally been constructed as ‘not religion,’ employing various dichotomies (physical/spiritual, natural/supernatural, etc.) to establish such differentiation. As ‘religion’ became an object of natural scientific study, it increasingly became discursively reconstructed as ‘science,’ divorcing it from the previous signifiers. This culminated in the cognitive science of religious experience, which was largely conceived as wholly accounting for the nature, function, and significance of religion. As the notion of ‘science’ as ‘not religion’ still pervades conventional thinking, constructing religion as a scientific object—i.e. ‘religion’ as ‘science’—is to formulate religion as ‘not religion,’ in a manner of speaking, thus giving rise to the question of whether this ‘religion’ is religious. This is a reflection of the relational nature of the discursive construction of ‘religion,’ here relative to ‘science,’ providing insight on the structure of religious change.


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