CESAR (Central European Symposium for the Academic Study of Religion)
the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies,
University of Pardubice, Czech Republic'
1st – 3rd September 2022
Through the centuries, human societies have faced various crises such as wars, famines, natural disasters, or political and economic breakdowns. Despite reactions emerging within societies can be of different origins, most of them touch basic dimensions framing society’s foundations. Among them, one of the most significant is the sphere of religion and spirituality.
In such troubled times, the legitimacy of religious worldviews is questioned. This tension has the capacity to exhibit double dynamic of spiritual alienation and unification. While crises have the capability to trigger a collapse of former value-systems and religious narratives in search for new and alternative ones, they can also result in various kinds of reviving processes and spiritual activities, thus countering the development of alienation. Well-established religions remind their warnings and prospects in hope of connecting with those who seek solace. New distinguished spiritual personalities share their ideas and offers of salvation. Multiple conspiracy-beliefs share their perspectives with the broader secular public reacting to all the above by either approval or denial.
During this double process of transformation of belief systems, tensions resulting in debates on human behaviour and co-existence in the world emerge among societal sub-groups. In other words, questions of ethics and morals gain a crucial importance. How to understand others and ourselves? How shall we go about relationships among individuals and communities? Should we be thinking in terms of a shared humanity or rather in that of societies fragmented into particular unrelated groups? What kinds of behaviour can be observed as results of these standpoints? To name just a few.
Shall these rather general problems be seen from the Study of religion perspective, following questions arise: How different religious groups perceive each other in times of crises? Do they favour ideas concerning shared core among religions or rather emphasise each one’s uniqueness? What reactions can be observed among these groups? In this process, tensions between religious and secular domains about human behaviour and co-existence in the world grow stronger. Religious communities’ question scientific reliability, while at the same time scientific approaches discredit religious narratives and imperatives. However, countering this, a cooperation of religious and secular spheres can be observed as well.
These and similar problems are not of course limited to the contemporary era alone but stretch across history. To name just few examples, one can think of destructions of important religious places such as the Jewish First and the Second Temples, the Christian Church of Holy Sepulchre or north Indian Nalanda monastic university causing immense turns in specific cultural settings. A spread of plagues in mediaeval Europe affected religious milieus of the time by new challenges for the church to overcome such as a question of role of lay-women in parishes or how to answer flagellant movements. Contemporary COVID-19 pandemic provokes a comparison of human reactions to challenges imposed by the current pandemic and the medieval ones while today the situation is accelerated by vital spread of information via social media. Political upheavals are often linked with turbulent religious changes as observable in Spanish history with the collapse of Cordoba caliphate and subsequent Reconquista period, in modern Sri Lanka where Tamils and Singhalese use Hindu and Buddhist motives to defend their stands and in China whose strong communist regime discredits any traditional communities whether Tibetan, Uyghur or others.
The conference aims to open a symposium where topics concerning transformations of religions during times of crises are discussed with a special focus on religions’ responses to the dynamics of spiritual alienation and unification, which often results in rethinking of ethics.
We welcome papers from PhD students as well as from advanced MA and early career researchers that focus on but are not limited to questions such as:
- How do different religions or spiritualities interact with each other in times of crisis?
- How is religion transformed during the times of crisis from a historical perspective?
- How religious narratives can change our perception of the world, by a process of either uniting or alienating?
- What kinds of behaviours can be observed in religious communities in times of spiritual alienation or crises?
- How spiritual alienation affects both social and religious systems around the world?
- What kinds of behaviours are called for by significant spiritual/religious personalities in troubled times?
- How secular society views the role of religiosity in times of crises?
- Can we observe religious or spiritual dimensions in more secular reactions to the crises?
- Are scientific/secular recommendations and activities perceived as ethical by religious communities in times of crises?
- Et vice versa, do scientific/secular communities perceive religious recommendations and activities as ethical in times of crises?
- What is a role of social media and how do they affect the double dynamic of spiritual alienation and unification?