Religion as a fact in human experience, culture, and history

Evidences of religious attitudes and loyalties exist in every sector of human life--in human experience in general; in "culture," the complex interweaving of attitudes, concerns, and views; and in history, the record of social and personal behaviour.

The findings of psychology

Religion incorporates certain characteristic feelings and emotions such as wonder, awe, and reverence. The religious person tends to show a concern for values, moral and aesthetic, and to seek appropriate action to embody these values. He is likely to characterize behaviour not only as good or evil but also as holy or unholy and people as not only virtuous or unvirtuous but also as godly or ungodly.

As a feature of human existence, religious life can be studied, for example, in terms of psychology, sociology, and history. Among the first books in the psychology of religion were two by Jonathan Edwards, an 18th-century American theologian: A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God (1737) and A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections (1746). About a century later, during a period of religious "revivals," interest developed concerning the age at which conversions most often took place--the period of adolescence. Reflections on such facts, and in this sense the psychology of religion, only came, however, with the works of two American psychologists: Edwin Diller Starbuck's Psychology of Religion (1889) and the classical treatment by William James's Varieties of Religious Experience (1902). Generally, the psychology of religion has shown that though religion for some is a crisis experience, for others it is a natural growth.

As psychology became more analytical it became more interested in the abnormal, in neuroses and dreams, in the techniques of hypnosis, and in the kinds of experience induced by drugs. When Freud spoke of religion as an illusion, he maintained that it is a fantasy structure from which a man must be set free if he is to grow to maturity; and in his treatment of the unconscious he moved toward atheism. The study of the unconscious by the Swiss psychiatrist Jung, however, suggested that dominant archetypes (implying innate tendencies to form symbolic images) are supplied by a racial unconscious, thus providing a psychological approach to belief in God.

In classifying individuals into different types, psychology has distinguished between religious people who are: "extrovert" or "introvert" (Jung), "healthy minded" or "sick" (William James), and "objective" or "subjective" worshippers (J.B. Pratt). There is always the danger, however, that psychological distinctions may beg too many philosophical questions.

One of the most widely accepted studies of religious experience in regard to feelings was written by the modern German Protestant theologian Rudolf Otto. In his Idea of the Holy, Otto analyzed what is distinctively religious in terms of the unique concept of the "numinous"; i.e., something both awesome and appealing, both fearful and attractive.

Psychology, however, is concerned not only with individuals but also with what is known about group behaviour, which can also be of importance in any study of the Christian Church or other religious institutions regarded as communities of religious people. The authority of a religious leader, like that of all leaders, is derived from his symbolic character and the extent to which the leader and his followers share a common ideal.

The findings of sociology

The ideas and images of a religion are much influenced by the social culture in which it emerges. Some of the oldest social institutions and practices, such as those concerning birth and death, marriage and the family, and art and music, have developed in a religious context. Religion has often been a driving force in the reform of social abuses, but also it has been associated with reaction and oppression. More recently, the sociology of religion--influenced by contemporary sociology--has been concerned with making use of sociological criteria and of demographical and statistical studies in planning the church's mission and appraising its significance.

The findings of the history of religions

Conclusions in the history of religions have been largely determined by the particular ideas of man or history with which the study was approached. Some scholars have supposed that at the dawn of human existence there was a belief in a single god and that only later there occurred a development into a belief in many gods as well as animism (a belief in souls or spirits in man and other aspects of nature). Other scholars have supposed an evolutionary development of religion, which only reached monotheism--considered to be the highest form of religious belief--after a long period of purification. The two approaches sponsor, respectively, two contrasting myths about primitive man. According to the one, there was once a golden age of innocence and harmony; according to the other, the life of the earliest man was nasty, brutish, and short.

Granted the ubiquity of religion and its diversity, historians have found no universal essence expressible in terms of common beliefs. What is probably common to all religions is nothing more than the claim that reality is not restricted solely to what is yielded by sense experience itself.

 Rudolf Otto and the Concept of Holiness

Melissa Raphael presents a critical examination of the central contribution to the 20th-century concept of holiness made by the German Protestant Rudolf Otto (1869-1937). Whereas Otto's work has usually been studied from a phenomenological perspective, this book is original in offering theological arguments for Otto's idea of the holy becoming an anchor concept of contemporary theistic discourse. This volume analyses the scholarly context that shaped Otto's concept of holiness and, finding that the theological significance of the latter has been overlooked, discusses the relation of the numinous and the holy to the divine personality, morality, religious experience, and emancipatory theology.

Autobiographical and Social EssaysTable of Contents
1. Otto's scholarship
2. Otto among the theologians 3. Otto and the humanistic science of religion
4. Otto's humanistic critics
5. The present collection
A. Autobiographical fragments
1. My life (1891, 1898)
2. Letters from North Africa (1911) (Selections)
3. Letters from India and Egypt (1927-1928 [1938])
4. A Letter from Greece (1891[1941])
B. Politics and society
5. Early Political Involvement (1903[1938])
6. Germany as a cultural colonial power (1912)
7. Rudolf Otto, National Liberal candidate (1913)
8. Election reform (1918)

9. A League of Nations is not enough
(1920, 1921, 1923)
10. A service to celebrate the fatherland (1925)
C. The academy and the study of religions
11. The idea of the modern university (1927)
12. Zinzendorf discovered the sensus numinis (1932)
13. Buddhism, Islam, and the irrational (1932)
14. Gandhi, saint and statesman (1933)
D. The work of the church
15. Establish church offices for women (1903)
16. Liberal Protestants need practice in
ministry, too (1910, 1911)
17. The creed set to music (1911, 1913)
18. The church's mission in a secular society (1919)
E. Ethical reflections
19. On feeling guilty (1931)
20. The autonomy of values and theonomy (posthumous)
A bibliography of Otto in English


ISBN 90-807300-1-7

J. W. Dippel

redactionele adviezen:
Gerardus van der Leeuw


1e druk 1927
2e druk 1963

3e druk 2002

Prijs: Euro 22,50

264 pagina's
genaaid gebrocheerd

folder beschikbaar: najaar 2002