The International Conference “Tell me Europe, how do you feel about religion?“ made visible Europe’s political and academic trouble with religion.
Religion, once considered to be disappear in Europe, has become heatedly disputed again. Growing religious pluralism, also due to migration, and hardened fronts in identity politics cause serious questions and problems which must be faced by academia too. Thus Michaela Neulinger (Institute for Systematic Theolgy) and Marie-Luisa Frick (Institute for Philosophy), kindly supported by BritInn, invited philosophers, theologians, ethicists and sociologists for the interdisciplinary conference “Tell me Europe, how do you feel about religion?” to frankly discuss from various perspectives the locus of religion in contemporary Europe. On 24 – 25 May 2018 scholars from Austria, Britain, the Netherlands, Germany and the US analysed and discussed the relationship between actual Europe, constructions of what this “Europe” ought to be and religious pluralism. The goal was to open up a forum for free academic speech and to bring together different traditions and thought schools, something which is hardly practised in times of polemics and heated conflicts. The conference proved to be an authentic space for thorough discussions about “islamophobia” versus possibly reasoned fears of Islam, the normativity of human rights in the face of religions and growing alliances between conservative religious actors and populist political parties against liberalism and a liberal Europe.
The conference revealed very diverse epistemic backgrounds in the academic debates about religion, but also conflicts about power and authority. Who has the power and authority to identifiy religious symbols and religion as such, to interpret them? How can religions actually unfold their positive creativity and contribution to liberal democracies? Can, should or even must the state interfere in theological debates? Is there a legitimate critical potential of religions against the power of the state? The debates definitely showed the necessity of a further sincere, but respectful dialogue between academic schools and disciplines, but particularly between university, politics and religion.
BritInn Fund Report