For a long time, the focus within the history of religion was on individual case studies more than on the development of more general theories. However, current processes of globalization cast a new light on historical developments, leading to an increase of entangled and world history theories. It is this development which the research project THERE – Theory and Empiricism of Religious Evolution ties in to.
The theory to be developed within this project follows the paradigms of evolution because
- it best enables the reconstruction of historical developments without progress-oriented periodization,
- it considers different forms of religion by differentiating between variation and selection without abandoning a generic concept of religion and possibilities of comparison,
- it allows focusing on the internal developments of religions without isolating these from the broader context of societal as well as physical, organic, and psychological evolution.
Accordingly, the research project is based on the following assumptions:
- the theory of religious evolution in the context of the general theory of evolution,
- religion as an object of academic research in relation to religious self-description,
- combining approaches from religious and cultural studies and the natural sciences.