For some people, religions are the only stable element in a world of permanent change as they relate them to which is transcendent to this world and therefore untouched by changes. But is this really true? Is the transcendent really beyond and without change? And are the religions, even if they relate people to an unchangeable transcendence, then also unchangeable or not rather themselves subject to changes as everybody else in the world? In most religions, traditions with their practices and holy texts are very important and faithfulness to these traditions seem to give the religions the character of unchangeability. But at the same time, all religions have a rich practice of interpretation of the texts in holy books and ritual practices and also of the activities within the religious practices. Often is the emphasis on traditions or on the original meaning of texts the basis for change. How can these hermeneutical processes be described and how are they related to changes within religions and changes in society caused by religions? 

The Münster conference of the European Academy of Religion will discuss these and many more questions which are raised when studying the relation of religion and change. Besides the many panels and discussions on all possible topics and problems in the diverse field of the study of religion and research on religion within the EuARe conference, some core lectures and discussions will be dedicated to the discussion of the relation of religion and change. These lectures and discussions will contribute to a clarification of this relation into two main directions. One direction will be the change and transformation of religion itself; another direction will be the changes and transformations caused by religion.

Within these two directions, a whole bouquet of diverse issues and questions will be discussed.
1. Change and transformation of Religion (in the history of religion). Has there been a development of religion within history? Do religions stand for a solid and substantial metaphysical order of natural and moral reality amidst a world which is permanently changing, or are religions themselves in a process of inner (essential) change, reform and transformation? How do religions integrate the concepts of change, reform and transformation in their own doctrines? How is religion related to history and change? How does the differentiation of religious symbol systems proceed? 
2. Evolution and Religion. In what sense do we have to understand religion as being part of the evolution of humankind (of evolutionary history)? What follows from such an analysis of the origin of religion? What kind of critique of religion emerges from this understanding (for example, a genetic critique of religion)? What is the significance of such a critique for a contemporary concept of religion?
3. Hermeneutics and Religious Traditions, Texts and Practices. Is Interpretation the key to understand the relation between religion and change? Is there a specific hermeneutics in respect to the holy texts and practices of religions? What models of relating the holy texts and practices of a religious tradition to the present day and its challenges in diverse contexts are available and used in the religions? 
4. Dynamics of change. How can religions contribute to transformations, development and progress in societies? Does religion restrain or promote transformation, development and progress in societies? Can and do religions include a dynamic of their own transformation and development?

Hans Peter Grosshans, President of the European Academy of Religion

WWU Münster

Keynote Lectures for 2021 will be:

  • Azza Karam (Religions for Peace), Complimenting the Divine: the Multi-Religious as the Poetics of Resilience

  • Vassilis Saroglou (UCLouvain), Sameness though claiming adaptation or change by pretending continuity? A psychology of religion perspective

  • Guy Stroumsa (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), The Study of Religion and the Spirit of Orientalism: Cultural Transformations and Scholarly Shifts

  • Rowan Williams (University of Cambridge), Tradition, traditionalism and culture wars

  • Judith Wolfe (University of St. Andrews), Reading the Signs of the Times: Theology and the Question of Progress


More information about the lecturers will be announced on this page in the next months.