The project THERE - Theory and Empiricism of Religious Evolution is funded by the DFG in the Reinhart Koselleck program line. It develops a theory of religious evolution that is firmly rooted in religious studies (German: Religionswissenschaft). At the same time, it will give consideration to both the general theory of evolution and the theory of societal differentiation. The project is led by the sociologist and scholar of religion Volkhard Krech.
Volkhard Krech, 2020: Die Evolution der Religion. Ein soziologischer Grundriss. [The Evolution of Religion. A Sociological Outline], Transcript Publishers, Bielefeld
The firmament of ideas above us, the consciousness within us, and in the between the religion as socio-cultural reality. In his novel sociological outline of the religious evolution, Volkhard Krech unfolds the understanding of religion as communication that arises and takes place between people.
In his in-depth analysis of religion's differentiation out of societal processes, he refers to the theory of evolution, systems theory, and a communication theory informed by semiotics alike, and circulates his argumentation between the present and history back and forth. In so doing, he presents religion as a form of meaning that deals with indeterminable contingencies.
Find the open acces version of the German publication here. An English translation is soon to be translated.
Part of the epistemiological background of the approach deployed in the book above are specified in Volkhard Krech's article for Sign System Studies 48 (2/4). In this article he develops a model of religion by reverting to the semiotic theory of Charles Sanders Peirce, to Niklas Luhmann's systems theory, to integrative biology and to projective geometry.
Full bibliographical data:
Volkhard Krech, 2020: "What we can learn from semiotics, systems theory, and theoretical biology to understand religious communication". Sign Systems Studies, 48 (2-4). Open-access version here.
The Research Project
The research project takes the following aspects into account:
- THERE historicizes religion without using periodization and teleological assumptions. Furthermore, it is understood as an emerging socio-cultural phenomenon – an definition that helps avoiding essentialization.
- THERE examines particularities of individual religions in the light of overarching characteristics of the history of religion, allowing the project to consider different religious forms and to unfold a generic understanding of the term religion, which opens up comparative perspectives.
- The religious studies approach is part of the cultural studies and social sciences, while at the same time it is mediated with theories from the natural sciences. This opens up alleys of inquiry for reconstructing the development of religion, without neglecting its relationships with the socio-cultural, mental, biological, and physical evolution as its environmental correlates.
In order to accomplish these goals, the project falls back to the structural sciences – particularly systems theory, semiotics and informational theory. The expected outcome of this project will be a monograph on the theory and empiricism of religious evolution. To this purpose, the present website also serves as a platform for online pre-publication of individual chapters, in a form that invites outside comments, in order to collect valuable critical feedback before producing the monograph in print.